Of Length

In the 1990s and early 00s, the fantasy genre grew out of control; the average epic fantasy novel was something like 300,000 words, with a single story spread over multiple volumes of that length.  Increasingly, however, booksellers are growing frustrated with the genre: they are forced to devote a whole lot of rack space to a small number of books; and there’s only so much you can charge for a single book.

From the beginning, I intended THE SPIRIT-WEAVER to run counter to that trend; I wanted something that was short by fantasy standards, with a lot of punch in that short space.  That was my guiding light when I started, and it still is.  The compiled notes and sketches for the book, herded into binders for easy access and reference, are over 600 pages of handwritten text and single-spaced type.  But, as I write, I find myself using only about a quarter of that material directly; roughly another quarter is merely implied, and the rest gets stamped with a big red A, meaning I intend to remove that material to the inevitable appendices.  The writing process is every bit as much about deciding what to omit as it is about deciding what makes it to the page.  That, to my mind, makes for a better and denser book; by stripping the story down to its dramatic core, and cutting the stuff that adds little or nothing, you get a more powerful final product.  It’s like refining uranium ore.  And that end product is shaping up into a very sharp, intense experience, for me as a writer–and, I hope, eventually for readers.


About this entry