There’s much debate at the moment about what can only be called the flabbiness of some recent commercial fiction. Inspired, it seems, by our tendency to get hooked on Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions and binge-watching series. For TV, what used to be the norm of waiting a week between episodes and sometimes up to a year between repeats has been replaced by an appetite for an all-you-can-eat option, which means potentially watching an entire show for days on end. Different business models require different deliverables.
So has the same happened for published fiction? Have we said goodbye forever to Graham Greene’s perfect little ‘entertainments’ (and were the length of these really dictated by the then rationing of paper or is that an apocryphal tale?). From where we are sitting at whitefox, the relationship between the editor and writer is as robust as ever. There may be some supermarket stalwart brands who see their books in direct competition on the shelves with TV box sets and who measure their word count in hours of engagement. But not many, surely. And all of this won’t end well, will it? You read a book like the dystopian masterpiece that is The Handmaid’s Tale and marvel at its perfectly judged narrative arc. And then see what happens when the award-winning TV adaptation requires the commissioning of multiple series, taking you way beyond Margaret Atwood’s original vision. Less is usually more.
As we say at whitefox: write, edit, repeat.
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