Anne R. Allen observes that the art of fiction is constantly evolving, and that the alert writer must adapt to the times:
Fiction writing has gone through vast changes since Tolstoy’s day.
In fact, it has changed a good deal in the last decade.
Amy Collins at The Book Designer reports the average NYT Bestseller is now half as long as it was in 2011.
And the brand new Smashwords survey shows bestselling romance novels have decreased by 20,000 words since 2012.
The fastest growing fiction form right now is the novella.
If you want to sell books in the 21st century, you need to write books for the 21st century reader.
Whether we want to write potboilers or a future classic, we all want more people to read our work. So it only makes sense to learn what folks want to read. e.e. cummings once noted that poets not only have to compete with other fine poets for their readers’ attention, but also with “flowers and balloons and mud puddles and train rides.” And in the Internet Age, there are countless other contenders for increasingly brief attention spans, so Anne’s advice is crucial.
And there’s an added benefit to learning to say more with less: It makes you a better writer. Writing short stories, and then flash fiction — a form I once thought I’d never enjoy reading, much less enjoy writing — no doubt taught me to make every word count. And this week, I tried my hand at microfiction, with a story weighing in at less than 500 words. The process of selecting and marshalling your words within strict restraints is a demanding challenge and illuminating joy. Try it!
By the way, you’ll want to read all of Anne’s great article. As usual, she’s peppered it with links to fantastic resources and examples for both the beginning and seasoned writer.