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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fast Reads

When I used James Patterson’s magic formula for fast-paced thriller fiction—lots of dialogue, short one-sentence paragraphs, and two-to-five-page chapters—critics were all over me like flies on excrement. One critic wrote he’d bought the book at an airport newsstand and finished it by the time he landed at his destination. He had nothing bad to say about the plot or characters. What pissed him off was paying for a novel that satisfied his hunger about as long as Chinese takeout.

We expect series novels to be fast reads. When you finish one, you are ready for another. That’s what keeps series writers in egg rolls. We want you to hunger for more of the same.

Unfortunately, I listened to critics in those days before James Patterson. I began to craft elaborate narratives with long, complex poetic sentences. My chapters became twenty or more pages long, and my dialogues sounded like university lectures or Shakespearean soliloquies. Those novels got better reviews, but sold far fewer copies. I had plots and subplots coming out the ying-yang.

If I want people to read my novels—and I do—I need to make my novels more accessible to modern readers. Our attention spans have narrowed dramatically, and we prefer sound-bites to in-depth analyses. I appreciate quick reads as much as the next guy.

I’m going to experiment with fast reads and see if I can create a series people will want to buy because, even if they can’t put the book down, there will be an end within easy reach. Then, if they hunger for more, they can buy my next novel.

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