Dickens, of course, wrote it to make money. He was in debt to his publisher and needed a hit. That’s how life works.
Here’s the beginning of A Christmas Carol. Was there anyone as good at beginning a novel as Dickens?
Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Here’s a nice article about its covers through the years. The original cover was pretty meh:
I used to read a lot; now I don’t. Writing gets in the way. (Also working for a living.) And when I read nowadays, I often get cranky. Here are two very different books that made me cranky recently.
The Outsider is the first Stephen King book I’ve read in decades. He just wrote too damn much, and I couldn’t keep up, so I stopped trying. King has his strengths and his weaknesses, but I always thought the strengths outweighed the weaknesses. But I didn’t enjoy The Outsider. The setup annoyed me: It’s structured as a police procedural, but the police procedures don’t work because the actual perp happens to be some kind of shape-shifting life-force-sucking evil monster, not the poor suspect whose body and DNA he replicated. So all the police work falls apart. Then everyone goes into monster-hunting mode, and King expends a lot of effort setting up the ground-rules about what powers the monster has. These ground-rules seemed utterly arbitrary to me–put in place so he could give us a thrilling climax. I wasn’t thrilled. Meh.
On the other end of the spectrum is Wuthering Heights, which is one of those novels that any self-respecting English major should have read before graduating from college. But I didn’t get around to it till last month. Here’s a list of the 100 greatest novels of all time where it shows up at #46; this seems pretty typical. If I’d been younger when I read it, I probably would have contemplated Bronte’s depth of characterization and reinvention of the novel’s form and maybe ignored the fact that everyone in this novel is freaking insane. The me who read the book on his well-earned vacation got increasingly annoyed at this fact.
I’m pondering creating a “boxed set” of the ebooks for The Last P.I. series; it would sell for less than the three books sold individually.The mechanism is fairly straightforward; the only real extra work (and expense) is to create a new cover. There’s lots of this going on nowadays. My publisher says that it would make the series more attractive to Bookbub, which is the main advertising channel for ebooks nowadays. One more way to get the word out.
I read through my third draft, picking up more stuff along the way. The stuff keeps getting more and more trivial, but it’s real. Why did I type “here” instead of “hear” in one place? Why did I add the “ue” to “Epilogue” but not to “Prolog”? Why did I refer to the city as “Roma” everywhere but in one place, where I used “Rome”? Why did I waver between “goodbye” and “good-bye”?
More important, reading straight through let me spot places where I repeated a point I’d already made and places where I failed to make a point I wanted to make. The text feels smoother now. Somehow I managed to add another thousand words. Well, I guess I needed them.
Most important, I made final decisions about a few niggling issues that were bothering me. In a large, multi-viewpoint novel, you wonder if you have too many viewpoints, or not enough. Does the story hang together as you shift and shift and shift between viewpoints? In a novel that carries the story forward from two previous novels, have you resolved enough of the questions, have you provided satisfactory resolutions for enough of the characters?
Well, you’re never certain, but I’m pretty sure I’m done with this novel, except for a final proofing. Which means I now leave the characters, and the world, behind.
After leaving the novel to simmer for a while while I stared at busts of Roman emperors, I’ve finally started the third draft. So far, it’s going quickly–nothing like the second draft. I think that I’ve basically gotten it right.
Finally identifying a couple of chapters I could just cut entirely has certainly helped progress — it’s easier to increase a percentage by lowering the denominator!
I’ve done a lot more reorganization than usual in this rewrite; the plot just seemed to work better with a different sequence of chapters. I’ve also changed my point-of-view character a good bit, and that basically involves an entire rewrite of the scene.
Still hoping to be done with the draft by the end of April. Seems like a bit of a stretch, though.
I read all of Dickens’s novels when I was in college and wrote my undergraduate thesis on them. I’ve only reread a couple of them since then, but the time may be coming to dip into them again. There was no one like him.
I’m about a quarter of the way through the rewrite of my novel. My goal has been to shorten it. I’m proud to say that, so far, I have shortened it by approximately zero percent. Appreciate the congrats!
I have managed to tighten a lot of the existing chapters. But it appears that I’m required to write an additional subplot. So that isn’t helping. I think I may be stuck at around 123,000 words. Still seems like too many to me.
Also, I’ve changed the title. But maybe I need to change it again.