Monday, May 2, 2011

In Defense of the Long-Form Novelist - My Story


So my Twitter profile (twitter.com/ahpellett) describes me as a long-form novelist. One might ask, how I came up with that?

The answer is fairly simple ... I have submitted query letters to countless agents and publishers for two novels over the past 5 - 7 years and been denied by many because the simple fact that my word counts - included in the query letters by request - were too high for both novels to be even considered for evaluation.

Naturally I was disappointed and seriously considered tearing fleshy chunks out of my literary babies to serve the system, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew I could not. I wrote both novels following a rule-of-thumb I learned long ago - only include that which is critical to the story, leave everything else out.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not the type that is hard to work with, who must have their own way or the highway. I understand the reason that a long word count is not a good thing for a debut novelist whose success not "a sure thing". Extra costs for editing, proof reading, paper, print run costs, shipping, etc. don't help anyone; even for bestselling novelists. These costs all add up sucking away any potential profit. And even I must admit the reader market is smaller for the longer novel - remember when you were a kid and tossed aside anything with small type and/or lots of pages? Apparently, in this attention-starved world, grownups now do that as well, though I suspect some always did.

So am I just stubborn? I don't want to think I that is true. I have seriously considered it and I've cut things out - like any good editor would have me - yet this is what I have left; still too many words, but each crucial to its story. In my own defense, my novels are long, but both are very readable.

I guess my own bias toward long-form novels comes from my own enjoyment in reading them. I love to get immersed in a good story where the characters develop over time, with implications therein. What might happen next and next again, and even after that, where all can be connected and looped back. The reader's physical time is of little concern because he or she is not in the real world but in the story. Most of all, I hate it when they end. In summary, long-form novels deliver in ways lesser ones can not. I like to think mine are of that genre, antiquated in form as they may be. Perhaps I should have lived in the era of the serial novel (think Dickens ... No, I would never dare compare myself to that level of artistry).

I do still want to publish to paper - for an actual bookshelf copy as much as anything. Some day I'll write to that formula, and I suppose I'll be as proud of that work as any. But in the mean time, I'm not going to give up. I'll have to seek alternatives where the long-formula is not taboo. Ebooks are certainly a path worth investigating, though the editing will still cost more. Some independent publishers who have risked and won the lottery on long-form novels might be another track, though that direction has it's own drawbacks, and I must be realistic that my chances there are slim without an agent who believes in me.  Maybe there is an undiscovered market in ebooks for serials once again? Time will tell, and I like that.

So this is how I came up with my title. Having received professional recognition that my novels are too long, I have dubbed myself, a "long-form novelist". It's kind of catchy, isn't it? A little snobby too ; .