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Novel Writing In The Age Of Internet

by René Junge 8 months ago in literature

I was always a massive fan of Stephen King. I especially loved his way of building a story slowly and gradually increasing the tension. Today I write novels myself, but I do not write like Stephen King. If I did, I would have no chance in the market. The Internet has changed the way people consume content. As writers, we need to know that.

Photo by Vikas Pawar on Unsplash

When was the last time you noticed that your attention span had dropped in recent years? Have you ever noticed it?

I notice it every day. The sheer abundance of information, series, films, and books have changed something in me over the years.

My attention span is shorter today than it used to be. I especially feel it when I read. Reading is the most active and, at the same time, the slowest way of absorbing information. Unlike watching a film, reading requires concentration. While we are reading, there is nothing else we can do.

Attention needs time

When the pace of life is getting faster and faster, but the hours of the day are not getting longer, we get under stress. A thousand things cry out for our attention and, thus, for a part of our time.

So when we, as writers, compete for readers, we are directly competing with the rest of their lives. We compete with the news, with Netflix, with YouTube, Twitter, and the personal obligations that every reader has to fulfill.

The highest price that readers pay for our books is not the purchase price, but the time invested in reading. Money, at least in theory, can be multiplied indefinitely. Time is forever lost for other things if we dedicate it to a particular item.

So as authors, we demand a lot from our readers. How do we convince them to give us the time we want them to provide us with?

What added value do we offer with our books? Can a novel be more exciting than the latest breaking news?

These are the questions we have to answer when we write for the Internet generation.

Everyone belongs to the Internet generation

This article is not about digital natives. It's about people living in the Internet age, who are continually being socialized in this world.

I was born in 1973 and grew up with only three television programs until my puberty. The days seemed endless to me, and a thick book could fight what was worst: the extended boredom.

The feeling of having time then got lost more and more. This was not because of the well-known effect that time seems to pass faster the older we get, but because there were more and more things I could fill my time with.

Today I just scan most blog articles and read books at least twice as fast as I used to. And I know that I am not alone in this.

Many older people have also adapted to the constant availability of almost everything and are becoming increasingly impatient and stressed.

The Internet generation is all of us. And if that is so, our readers are part of it, too, whether we write romance or horror.

Get to the point faster

Stephen King would probably not get a publishing contract today. A newcomer who allows himself to develop his stories so slowly and to introduce each secondary character in a separate chapter would be unsaleable.

Today, readers decide whether to buy a book after looking at the electronic reading sample in the online bookstore. If something gripping doesn't happen immediately on the first few pages, the customer is gone and clicks on the next book.

Getting to the point quickly has always been important when writing, but today it is the most important thing of all. Writing for the Internet generation is like writing according to old rules on speed.

Late in, early out is one such rule. We only describe the scene that directly drives the action. We start with the murder and leave out the walk through the dark forest where the victim meets his killer.

Show, don't tell is another old rule that is more important today than ever. Today, the narrative has to focus much more on immediate events, instead of explaining backgrounds or reproducing inner monologues of the main characters.

The film as a reference

There are many more people who watch movies than people who read books. But readers also like to watch films and therefore they develop the same reception expectations as those who only watch films.

Today we expect constant scene changes, fast cuts, dialogues that are on point, and lots of drama.

The three-act structure with beginning, middle, and end has not been displaced by the film but has been made the standard of every story.

No blockbuster can do without the heroic journey in the classic three-act structure.

Of course, the reader expects this structure in our books as well. But unlike twenty or thirty years ago, the hero's journey in three acts alone is no longer enough. It has to come along in the guise of a blockbuster.

Readers want the huge themes told at breathtaking speed and enriched with cinematic stylistic devices. They want changes of perspective, switches between zoom and long shot, and they want one arc of suspense after the other.

The reader is like us

If we are honest with ourselves and look closely at how we read and what we stop when and why we learn all we need to know about our readers.

You don't finish an article because it either repeats too much of the old stuff or because it is so far away from your reading expectations that your brain refuses to deal with it.

That's the same with readers of books. You should write genre literature if you want to live from writing, no question. But within your genre, you have to walk the tightrope to meet the specific reader expectations of your genre while being original.

We have been corrupted by the Internet, so we can hardly read a newspaper from cover to cover without nervously bobbing our feet. We could complain about it, but who would listen to us?

We are authors, and we want to make a living by writing. So we have no choice but to see the truth and act accordingly.

Write fast, tell fast, be precise, and original.

Your book needs you not only as a writer. It also requires you as a director.


René Junge

Thriller-author from Hamburg, Germany. Sold over 200.000 E-Books. get informed about new articles:

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