Another favorite from a little further down the line is Westlake, especially his work under his Richard Stark pen name. Man, his Parker novels just tick down like a freight train, lean and mean. I love that.
I’ve been trying to write lean for this past half year or so. My first novel was 125k words, Angel Odyssey was at 140k last time I tried editing it. (Need to do that again, soon) But I got The Mageborn Mechanic in at 50k. Which gets me wondering if it’s TOO lean. The proof of that will be when I get off my hinder and solicit feedback from beta readers, I guess. But I did do a little readthrough last night and found some places for expansion.
Terse writing is like…dialog, I guess. It works but you can’t do page after page of minimalist prose, I don’t think. You need to break it up, just like dialog. For example:
“Hey,” Josh said, as Vidal came into the shared office room.
“What’s up?” Vidal asked.
“Got a report from Ceylon. Doesn’t look good.”
“Oh yeah? How fresh?”
“Forty, give or take. Raw feed is going through Analysis now but I think we’re looking at an Incursion.”
Now do that for page after page. No physical movement, no setting description…it would get dull, reader brains will shut off. We need to vary the pace and length of sentences and vary the level of detail we provide. It doesn’t mean shoveling in exposition willy-nilly, but rather finding a balance.
That’s what I’m wondering about with Mageborn Mechanic, how far over the line am I? Am I too terse? What does my audience NEED to know? What do they want to know?
Sigh. Yeah, I know. The only way to find out is to put in front of people. Rabble.