Writers are being forced to think too much these days (I think), and they are facing a danger that is both very real and damaging to the relationship between reader and writer.
Because of the changes in how we spend our time reading stories, not to mention how we read them in the first place, writers are working desperately to keep a captive audience — not an easy thing to do with so much writing now available so freely and immediately.
Do I focus on search-engine optimization (SEO)? What about word count? What does my target audience (who is that anyway anymore?) really want? What is going to hold my reader more than 90 seconds, when their finger is perched precariously on the tip of the mouse, ready to click me into oblivion as the search continues for something more entertaining?
With the exception of SEO and the ease of maneuvering from one piece of writing to the next, all with a click of the mouse, the questions I pose for writers above are no different than what writers have been asking themselves for decades. We still want to write for an audience that understands what we are saying, even if they don’t necessarily agree with it.
But how to do that?
It is precisely due to the ease of leaving your work that makes writers more desperate to hold on to your attention. Before blogs and search engines and RSS feeds, we just had to tease them enough to buy the darn thing. Once they got it in their hands, they gave us a fair chance — maybe a few chapters or up to 100 pages — before they made a decision to keep on reading or line the birdcage with its ripped-out pages.
In that desperation, I think we are sacrificing sensibility, the very essence of a writer’s passion for writing the piece in the first place. We are so concerned about getting to the point very quickly that we do not allow our purpose, our intent, to build in the story.
This is why, I think, we are seeing “flash fiction” and similar nonfiction subgenres continuing to emerge as a legitimate form of writing. How quickly can you get to your point and share that sensibility before you reach your last-allowed 750th word? At times, I feel like I’m reading stories that are more suited to fit in the microwave-ready Lean Cuisine dish.
Sure, these stories/meals are good on-the-go, but is it really possible to establish and sustain long-lasting and filling themes with such a diet?
As I wrap up the final edits on my book that goes to the printer next week for a December 9th release, I know that one of the best things going for me is that the story is short — a mere 51,000 words that barely pushes the 200-page mark.
But I am also making sure that, to the best of my ability, I didn’t compromise sensibility in keeping it short.
I guess it comes down to this. Go ahead and microwave my story, but please set aside the afternoon to enjoy the sliced turkey and corn niblets. I hope that what I have to share takes a little time to digest. 🙂