Title: The Newton Letter
Author: John Banville
Publisher: David R. Godine
Length: 81 pages
After publishing my novella (roughly 130 pages long), my editor and I decided to make the sequel to my novella much longer. The publisher wants a full length novel, but in our attempt for length we started to believe that length would equate higher quality.
Reading through drafts we found that for the sake of propelling the story and actually achieving the higher quality work we were looking for, large chunks of filler might have to be scrapped. So I set out to read some great short work, to make myself feel better about not being Kate Morton. And though I am no where near ever going to have the talent of John Banville, Panlo De Santis, John Steinbeck, or William Kennedy, there’s something to be said about reading these and knowing that a finished product is all about quality over quantity.
“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.” – Stephen King, “The Horror Writer Market and the Ten Bears,” November 1973 WD
John Banville makes me crazy jealous. I want his brain in my brain ever so briefly… just long enough to write something amazing. Because everything he touches is amazing. Even just an 80 page bit of story written before I was born reads like his full length prize winners.
The lesson in this for me (because almost every book I read teaches me something) is that while doing these edits for the second edition of my novella, I also need to edit in some breaks between paragraphs. Visually there are some things that don’t flow. I can thank my first edition readers for pointing this out. Even if I pout a little bit, I am so grateful for all the criticism on my first work. I’m pouting that I wasn’t more diligent about catching these things before you read it, not that you caught these things. Anything any reader of mine tells me is something I truly do ponder in great detail.
“The worst advice? ‘Don’t listen to the critics.’ I think that you really ought to listen to the critics, because sometimes they’re telling you something is broken that you can fix.” – Stephen King
I want even my first work to be better. I want my second work to be even better than the first. Whether I achieve the length of a traditional novel or not, I hope the second book achieves the complete story arch of a traditional novel. Hopefully, one day, when I’m old and gray, I can write something I’m happy with. It won’t be John Banville, because I’m not him, but in the meantime I can adore him a lot and work a lot harder.