Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Results Not Typical

Adam Levin's debut novel is hitting the bookstores and every wannabe author who has penned a brick of a book will boldly declare that publishers are buying massive manuscripts from first-timers.

These results are not typical.

Mr. Levin studied creative writing at Syracuse University under George Saunders, who's a bit of a well-known author himself. No worries about the size of the debut novel, according to him. His former pupil has big ideas with lots to say.

You, the amateur and unschooled, have no one of equal importance to speak up for your massive collection of words.

The Instructions  covers but a few days in its many, many pages, detailing the antics of a young man who believes he is the Messiah.

No, it's not Christian fiction. The 10-year-old protagonist is Jewish, a Torah scholar.

According to Mr. Saunders, his student's writing and personality were as one, an important element to successful authorship. At over one thousand pages, you'd have to guess that Mr. Levin's a bit long-winded in real life.

The bottom line on this debut is one that doesn't apply to most writers. The author has solid credentials that give him more leeway in word count. He's a University of Chicago grad who went on to become one of only eight accepted writing students at Syracuse. By implication, he has to be good if he made it that far.

Don't think that you can get away with a similar mountain of pages with your debut novel. Publishing doesn't work that way. For you, a high word count suggests purple prose, verbosity and over-writing that the literary agent won't even bother to examine.

Want to write big books? You'd need a Master of Fine Arts or respected writers recommending your work.

Otherwise, it's revise and edit and cut and slice. With luck, your first book will get picked up, like J.K. Rowling, and then you can dream big.

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