Forums Club Ed Book Club All the Light We Cannot See discussion Reply To: All the Light We Cannot See discussion

Jennifer Lawler

I think being a short fiction writer is not the advantage in writing a novel that a lot of people seem to think it is! You can get away with being a terrific prose stylist in short fiction even if you don’t have a solid grasp of storytelling, but not in a novel.

This is not to discount the difficulty and beauty of writing evocative language. Often what we remember about a story is not what happened but what we felt about what happened, and often that is tied to the way the moment is written about. And even just a well-phrased image will stay with us and affect us. That’s very powerful.

So, for a lot of people, that is enough. That’s how books like this get readers and win awards. Publishing has kind of a herd mentality, too, and it’s safe(r) to like what other people like. And of course this means that the same kinds of narratives by the same kinds of people are rewarded again and again, when more exceptional work gets little attention.

The quality of editing varies widely in publishing, but the bigger the deal, the less likely any editing of significance will be done. Think of the last Harry Potter installment. If ever a book cried out for a fearless DE, that was one! But who would stand up to JK Rowling and say, “Are you freakin’ kidding me? Harry Potter spends nine months and a hundred thousand words wandering around in the woods?”

And of course ultimately it’s up to the author to decide what edits to accept and reject. Publishers can cancel books that haven’t been revised to their expectations but that’s very rare and is almost never going to happen on a novel that has any significant advance, publicity, etc. riding on it.