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July 02, 2013

How many pages are in a chapter?

Chapters have been getting shorter over the years in certain kinds of books as the pacing of those books has quickened. Moralist fogeys like to point at this and say KIDS THESE DAYS and mumble about leisure and lack of appreciation. But the actual research done by scientists who aren't just fogeys railing at imagined slacker teens slackity slacking at the library suggests that today's youth are simply better readers and enjoy more complex plots, more things happening. Much like the pacing in tv shows or movies, a greater degree of sophistication in the viewer leads to a denser, faster experience. David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants—How Long Is a Chapter?
Over the past few years, the standard length of chapters has been shrinking in many genres. If you picked up a novel thirty years ago, twenty manuscript pages seemed to be pretty standard. If you picked up a thriller five years ago, ten pages would do. Now, for most thrillers and young adult novels, eight pages seems to be more normal. In fact, if you look at James Patterson’s Maximum Ride, I don’t see any chapters that are over about four pages. Now, I understand why this was done. Patterson recognized that young readers who watch television and play videogames are taught to take their stories in “bites.” Just as television and radio hosts want you to speak in pithy “sound bites,” modern audiences are looking for the same experience in their stories. There used to be a time—a hundred years ago--when books were considered a “relaxing” medium. Thus, the opening of a story could take many pages before you reached the “inciting incident,” that moment when a major conflict was introduced and the story took off. When I read Lord of the Rings as a teen, I was a bit troubled by the fact that it took some 92 pages before I felt that the story took off. You can see the same pattern in many novels written back in the 19th century. It wasn’t a weakness in storytelling, by the way, it was just the fashion of that time. In a day when people were less traveled than now, the author was expected to take some time creating the world, introducing the characters, and so on. Modern audiences, though, tend to demand instant gratification. . . .

July 01, 2013

Revising literature is only as old as the typewriter and the Modernists

Revising your writing again? Blame the Modernists - How self-editing became the first commandment of literature | The Passive Voice | Writers, Writing, Self-Publishing, Disruptive Innovation and the Universe
It’s easy to assume that history’s greatest authors have been history’s greatest revisers. But that wasn’t always how it worked. Until about a century ago, according to various biographers and critics, literature proceeded through handwritten manuscripts that underwent mostly small-scale revisions. Then something changed. In a new book, “The Work of Revision,” Hannah Sullivan, an English professor at Oxford University, argues that revision as we now understand it—where authors, before they publish anything, will spend weeks tearing it down and putting it back together again—is a creation of the 20th century. It was only under Modernist luminaries like Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and Virginia Woolf that the practice came to seem truly essential to creating good literature. . . . . In the age of Shakespeare and Milton, paper was an expensive luxury; blotting out a few lines was one thing, but producing draft after draft would have been quite another. Writers didn’t get to revise during the publishing process, either. Printing was slow and messy, and in the rare case a writer got to see a proof of his work—that is, a printed sample of the text, laid out like a book—he had to travel in person to a publishing center like London. All of these factors suggest that revision was not something that happened on the page. Indeed, during the 19th century, the Romantics made resisting revision a virtue. The best literature, they believed, flowed from spontaneous and organic creative acts. “I am like the tyger (in poesy),” Lord Byron wrote in a letter. “If I miss my first spring—I go growling back to my Jungle. There is no second. I can’t correct.”

CUNY is Paying Disgraced General David Petraeus $200,000 to Work Three Hours a Week

CUNY is Paying David Petraeus $200,000 to Work Three Hours a Week
A first-time adjunct professor teaching a full course load at the City University of New York can expect to pull in around $25,000 per year. If you recently resigned as C.I.A. director over a long-time affair with your biographer, however, you can expect to be paid eight times as much for a fraction of the work. In April, CUNY announced that Petraeus would do a stint as a visiting professor of public policy at the school's Macaulay Honors College, leading a seminar on "developments that could position the United States...to lead the world out of the current global economic slowdown." According to documents Gawker obtained from CUNY via a Freedom of Information Law request, the fallen war architect will net a whopping $200,000 a year for the course, which will total about three hours of work, aided by a group of graduate students to take care of "course research, administration, and grading." (He will also throw in two lectures.)