Writing to size

Thanks to The Passive Voice for linking me to a New York Times article on how reading habits can now be analyzed. Here are some notes that caught my attention:

  "...The longer a mystery novel is, the more likely readers are to jump to the end to see who done it. People are more likely to finish biographies than business titles, but a chapter of a yoga book is all they need. They speed through romances faster than religious titles, and erotica fastest of all....
"Oyster data shows that readers are 25 percent more likely to finish books that are broken up into shorter chapters. That is an inevitable consequence of people reading in short sessions during the day on an iPhone." 
   Coincidentally, I recently read Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! which, according to the Guinness Book of World records, contains the longest sentence ever written, 1,288 words. I wonder how that would look on an IPhone. A better fit might be the roughly 2500 word chapters in the contemporary novel I started yesterday. Muddling in the conceptual stage of a new work, it is interesting to contemplate reading preferences. The size of a page was not a concern before now, nor was the size of a chapter. Not to me. As I insisted to a friend, the work determines the length of a chapter. It's a breath thing.

What does it mean this new size/length concern? Are the short chapters bits of action, bits of plot? Character cameos? If it is still a matter of breath, do shorter chapters mean that readers are panting through novels? We would not want that sort of experience for every book, which makes me wonder, what sort of novel works best in the digital form? Will readers' preferences end up changing the type of literature produced today?

Shinny's Girls (the novella), re-revisited

I missed many things on the first edit (including whole pages) of the scanned in novella. Now, on my desktop computer I am seeing errors more easily and feeling that I might not write that book today, not in the same way. Yet, I am attached to the character. To be true to my original idea of re-publishing originals, I have to look at it as a historical novel to some extent. Writing style, content. The history of me as a writer and the history of my characters in the late 80's. Cannot resist making improvements, however. As my friend and e-mentor Steve has reminded me, an ebook remains a live document. The writer can make changes any time. Whew! The eternal writing process?

Reaching an audience

Notes from a talk to Le Groupe Esperanza, Le Cercle de la Garnison (Garrison Club), Quebec City, 2/12/13

(After describing how my work borrows from experience while not being autobiographical, I introduced my new project:

"Meantime, since my first book was published in 1986, the world has changed. As most of you know, the publishing world is not what it was. Fewer books are being published in the conventional way, more as e-books. A friend and colleague convinced me that I should embrace this new culture, and so, with his help, I am preparing the Shinny's Girls trilogy for ebook publication this summer. It was a very interesting process of scanning in the text from the two previously published novels, and revising old work. I found that I wanted to rewrite parts of the first, to improve the quality of the writing, for though it was my best selling book, it was not as well written as Flashing Yellow; but I made some changes to the text of that novel, too.
We are about midway through the process of preparing the trilogy for publication, with several aspects to explore. But the popular Canadian/British writer Cory Doctorow has provided a wonderful template regarding distribution, where he offers his books at different price points, from free-downloadable, to print on demand, to traditional hardcover, high-quality – a real work of art for a significantly higher price. Finally, stories that are custom written. He has pioneered in literature what has been happening to the way people consume news, for example, or entertainment such as videos. Instead of everyone tuning into CBC's The National at the same time each day, people customize their news consumption. Perhaps watch the National on TV; perhaps download it to watch when they want; perhaps seek other sources of news, Al Jazeera or BBC via the internet. It is no longer so much the case that the entire country is riveted on a single TV series, such as Dallas... who shot J galvanizing water cooler talk. I might order a TV series from Netflix, you might order another. What we watch and listen to, and read is becoming more finely tuned to individual tastes, through the Internet.
And so, in this new world, readers who have read my trilogy, may request that I continue the story about one or more characters. Someone may want to know what happened to Shinny, or Elfie, or Matthew, or Annette and her goats, and for a considerable sum, I would write that story for them."