unnecessary wafflage

I abandoned writing yesterday in order to start reading 1Q84, which I am enjoying so far. It doesn’t have the immediacy and instant ahhh of his other novels (except for After Dark, which I loathed), but then again it is a MASSIVE book. I know this probably makes me sound shallow, but I do prefer a smaller novel. Under 100K suits me fine. Does this particular story need 900+ pages? Perhaps. But already I am seeing bits I think would benefit from the red pencil treatment.

However, I am reserving judgement until I get a bit further in. Perhaps those flabby bits of meandering detail will turn out to be vitally important to the plot.

Some writers overwrite, some underwrite. I am definitely one of the latter. I assume it must be easier to cut stuff out rather than try to shoehorn it in later on, when I’ve already found some elegantly economic way of saying what I mean – regardless of the fact that it’s so elliptical no one else has a chance of working out what I’m saying. Maybe blogging will help in that regard – I don’t seem to have any problem typing on and on and on…

Do you write too much or not enough? Do you suspect all long novels of self-indulgence and unnecessary wafflage? Discuss!

4 Replies to “unnecessary wafflage”

  1. I officially don’t have time in my life for long books. It was Suzannah Clarke who broke me in that regard. 1000 pages in and then she decided we needed a detour to the Napoleonic Wars. We SO did not. Now, if a book is taking too long to read I start to fret about it, about the amount of other useful things I could be spending the time on (or books I could be reading).

    Personally, I used to be an overwriter, but have trained myself to pare it down, pare it down. Possibly to a fault. The difficulty is that the vast majority of readers are not writers, and many of them enjoy lush descriptions, abundantly sprouting descriptors and other elements of story foliage that make some writers instinctively reach for the secateurs. And it’s the readers’ opinions that count, isn’t it?

  2. Hi Neil. I like it when people agree with me! I do like novels where there is lots of imaginative room left for the reader – Thursbitch, by Alan Garner springs to mind. Or Gazelle, by Rikki Ducornet. Nice, slim novels that you can read in a day or so. Stories that stay with you.

    I’ll make an exception for Murakami, as I’ve always been a fan. Otherwise, a book this length would definitely not appeal.

  3. I completely agree with your entire first paragraph of this post, haha. I didn’t like After Dark much either, I am enjoying IQ84 but I am only 150 pages and very interested to see where it goes. I will be patient for Murakami and do my best not to judge until I know the whole story.

    Actually, I pretty much agree with everything you wrote here haha. I overwrite when I’m not thinking about it too much. Which I think is better than underwriting for the reason you mentioned. A lot of the time I fret and obsess over what I’m going to write and end up writing very little because I don’t want to ‘ruin’ anything. But if I can leave that obsessiveness behind and just /write/, then I will overwrite and not have too much trouble eliminating stuff. As for long novels, sometimes a story has to be long…I guess. I’ve never read a 900 page novel ,though , and I think that might be pushing some limits…it was originally published in three volumes, I think, and he hadn’t really planned on the third part (I should look this up…)? Well, we’ll see how I feel about the whole thing once I finally get through it 😛

  4. Hey Reno! 🙂

    Well, I just finished Book One, and it seems like the story is just getting started. There have been a few unnecessary diversions, but so far it feels like he’s telling the story – just very slowly. I’m kind of enjoying it, although I feel like I haven’t totally got a handle on the characters yet. I’m interested in some of the themes he explores, like sexuality, abuse and rape – I haven’t seen any reviewers really talk about those aspects of the book.

    I know what you mean about obsessive caution. You have to throw it to the wind, though!

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