America is overweight…but not its manuscripts.
I don’t mean that there’s a shortage of manuscripts. God knows, there’s not. Some days it feels like the network arteries in my office are utterly clogged.
Nor do I mean that manuscripts aren’t fat enough. God knows, nowadays we hardly blink when the bottom of the screen tells us that the manuscript we just opened tops out at 600-plus pages. That’s routine.
No, what I mean is that most manuscripts are starved for story. They’re thin, wasting away. There are plenty of words but little weight. These anorexic tales feel like they could blow away in a light breeze.
It’s a condition that I notice constantly at the workshops I teach: However good a novel’s premise may be, the middle drags. Not enough seems to be happening. We describe this as a “slow” read, but what that really means (in part) is that there aren’t enough narrative events.
Why is that? [Read more…]