Saturday, July 11, 2009

A non-rambling post with a rambling title in which the author wonders about the usefulness of rambling

Yikes! Isn't that title too long? Did you read it enitrely, or only half-way through? Does it clarify my intentions here, or obscure them?

I'm reading a novel where the author "rambles" about characters' backgrounds, attitudes, goals, etc... By this I mean the writing is long-winded and repetitive - the very opposite, in fact, of what I thought good writing was supposed to be. But it's easy to read, and not (I think) overly tedious, and it does make the characters memorable and very clear.

All of this has me wondering about the benefits of this kind of "rambling" in developing long fiction. I don't think I write that way myself, and maybe that's why I enjoy writing short stories rather than novels. Evidently, I need to practice my rambling skills (but lucky for you, not in this post!)

So, how do you write backstory, attitute, and character goals? Is your writing concise, like a good short story, or rambling, like the successful novel I'm reading which has been reprinted many times?


  1. So, your reading a Stephen King novel? (Lol, I love King, but a lot of times that describes him to a tee.) For me I think that I don't ramble enough. I actually think I like the novella or novelette format better than the short story or the full novel. Mostly I say this because if I want to write something short it turns out to be 12k long and if I want to write something long it turns out to be 45k long. Neither is short story length or novel length. I guess I have to work on the conciseness of my short stories and my rambling for novels.

  2. You know, I was just commenting about this very thing to friend the other day. I've read several books of late that do a lot of this "rambling". I find my eyes glazing over and skimming the words until I get to something interesting, and I have to wonder ... is this a new trend? I was always taught to keep the writing taut, stay on target, etc., but I have to admit, I wrestle with dumping backstory in my own writing. It used to be you could toss in a prologue to take care of that, but now I read everywhere that prologues are passe with agents, editors, and publishing PTBs, so what's a writer to do? Frankly, I'd prefer a prologue to bogging down the story with info dumps midstream.

  3. I hear you, Diane. I just finished Paul Auster's Man in the Dark. Short book, 180 pages, and awfully good in spots, but it did ramble slightly. Auster is one of my favorites, but he'd written many novels before this one, and I have to think that, once you've established yourself, the rambling tends to stay in, as editors/proofreaders tend to get softer perhaps. Man in the Dark, while very powerful, could have easily been a very tight 100 pages, but for some reason publishers haven't caught on that there is a whole generation of readers who search specifically for very short books/novellas. I really wish there were more out there.

  4. hmmm...i guess i -- like Amanda -- skim rambling until something "important" (to the plot) catches my eye. I read some books just for fun, for mind-numbing, for escape. I would prefer they had better writing, of course, but sometimes with better writing comes a certain slant of denseness (of content, usually) that I'm consciously avoiding. :D

  5. I skim too. In case anyone was wondering, the novel was Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. I finished it and liked it a lot, but yes, parts were skimmed. Thanks for all your comments.


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