A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post highlighting my favorite novels from 2015. The list included the venerable George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss. I am currently reading the third Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind. Followers of this blog will know that I hold Terry Brooks, Christopher Paolini, and Robert Jordan in high regard, and that I am somewhat obsessed with a certain Oxford professor.
What do they share in common? Okay – they are wildly successful and have dedicated hordes of followers – no need to rub it in. But I am referring to their writing styles. All these authors write slow-paced novels with intricate details about characters, their actions and personifications, and the world they exist in. Each writes thick tomes that you need to make a commitment to reading.
The industry, so the experts expound, believes novels should be fast-paced. They demand that we hit the ground running: “Show me a hook!” we demand in our writer’s group. “You only have 20 pages to grab your reader,” “10 pages,” “5.” Sometimes it is the first paragraph or sentence.
If you look at the reviews of my Wycaan Master series, you will see compliments such as:
– The plot and action keep you turning pages
– It’s fast paced
– Shalev delivers a well-paced novel
And my favorite:
– Fantasy that moves at a blistering pace
I am proud of these reviews because this was my intention. I wrote the series fast because I believed that is what the industry (which purports to know the readers) demands.
But I am having my doubts. I want to add the layers that the aforementioned wrote and I believe that a large segment of epic fantasy readers crave this too. I want to create a rich world in which the readers lose themselves. I want to offer a deeper insight into the mores of the society and analyze the intricacies and inconsistencies of my characters.
Tolkein spends three pages describing Mirkwood. I probably skimmed over it when I first read The Hobbit, but as I have grown older, I seem to enjoy it, thrive on it even.
I see how this does not pan out on the screen. I have watched all fifty episodes of Game of Thrones, and am now enthralled with The Shannara Chronicles. But if I were to be critical (perish the thought), I would say they have missed out so much. Of course, this would mean that each GoT season would last a couple of years but hey, you won’t hear any complaints from me!
But back to the world of novels: What do you prefer between the fast-paced, action-packed novels and those that take their time?
Love to hear.
Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree, and three more novels in the Wycaan Master Series – all released by Tourmaline Books. From Ashes They Rose, is the latest in the series. The story continues.
Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+
I enjoyed your post and thought that you brought up a good point. To answer your question, each one has it’s attractions. I like how a fast-paced novel grabs you and compels you to keep reading into the wee hours, though you should be sleeping (or writing), like a race car: fast and exciting. I also like reading a novel over a period of weeks savoring the richness of detail, the unfolding of the characters’ lives and the world they inhabit. But if the story lingers there too long, I become restless for action.
In fact, I’ve been thinking about this very topic this week in relation to my own writing. I feel as though I’m skimming merrily upon the surface of a lake like a water strider knowing that there is so much more beneath the surface if only I could take the plunge. Perhaps I’ll fix that in post, a.k.a., The Rewrite.
Reblogged this on Thornton Berry Shire Press.
I do want something to grab my attention right away…then once it’s got me, if I’m hooked and it’s written well, all that other stuff doesn’t matter. I’ll read until it’s done. When the characters are believable and have humor, or depth, whatever brings you in more, than it’s lovely to read more about them. As long as you thread a little juice in between to keep my thrill, I’m all yours.
We do need a hook at the beginning. So true. Thanks June.
I too love the shannara chronicles, Tolkein, and Goodkind. Sword of truth is probably my favourite fantasy series (Wycaan master aside!). For me, being able to enjoy fast paced and slow, careful reveal, styles is a bonus. It all depends what mood I’m in. I agree that the pressure is on to always hit-the-ground-running but we must resist! Write as we want.
As long as there is enough “plot and action” to keep you engaged and “turning pages” (like your book review accolade), I think you’re good. I believe the younger generation of Millenials, especially, are more about “instant” everything (including gratification) so I wouldn’t meander too long for fear of losing them. J.K. Rowling certainly knows how keep young readers engaged for longer journeys.
I completely agree with your point. Personally i loved reading wheel of time, and sword of truth series. The attention to detail helps a reader immerse themselves in the story.
The negative of writing like that is the amount of time between books. if i have to wait 2 years before a next book comes out, i will either forget most of the plotlines, or i dont even bother buying the book. Personally i try to find finished series, so that i dont have to wait until the final book comes out.
[…] writing in today’s Twitter and SnapChat world. Alon Shalev at ElfWriter.com takes a look at The Changing Pace of Novels, where new writers are constantly told to hook the reader in the first page/paragraph/sentence and […]
I own these books – Patrick Rothfuss, GRR Martin and about 8 books in the Sword of Truth series – Terry Goodkind. They are just too long for me to fit in at the moment.
I actually cleared them off my bookcase two weeks ago and put them in the loft, for when I retire or something (do writers ever retire?).
I would like to attempt them one day, but at the moment I want a fast paced, quick reads I can fit into my life.
I don’t want to read a story that takes books to tell, and I wouldn’t want to write that way either.
Thank you, Suzanne. I appreciate your comment. I think the only reason I manage such tomes is that I listen on audio book – commuting, walking the dog, working out etc.
I just bought Patrick Rothfuss for audio in the hopes I’ll get fit on the cross trainer whilst I listen to it!