The Great American Novel is Unpublishable

Ö at least not in print. The print market demands high sales volume, and this isnít amenable to good writing techniques.

Artificial devices that boost sales by making exciting page turners hinder good form.

The opening hook is a must for selling a novel to a publisher. It makes good sales sense. The modern reader expects immediate gratification. The digital age offers fast stimuli and something that slows the mind may bore the reader. With so many books available for the reader to choose from, each book competes for attention. If the reader isnít hooked in the first line or two, the reader may move on to the next book. However, the great American novel may need development of scene or character or plot. Pasternak, Tolstoy, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Kafka, Goethe, et cetera (okay, those aren't American examples) didnít always start off with murder or mayhem in the first line. They didnít try to build suspense in the first paragraph. If a modern writer wrote as the great authors of the past, the first novel would unlikely get published.

The chapterís demise helps sell a novel to a publisher. Dean Koontz is a great novelist. I love his Odd Thomas books. And he knows how to write books that sell. He is a master of the new technique of chapter murder. Once upon a time: a phrase was a succinct thought, a sentence was a thought, a paragraph was a collection of thoughts with a theme, and a chapter was a collection of thoughts and themes organized into a coherent group. Novels were divided into chapters which set apart scenes, time periods, actions, or events. The reader knew to read to the end of the chapter and that would be where to place the book mark at the end of a nightís reading. Not so today. Look at a Koontz chapter which ends at an exciting point in action Ö a hook. The next chapter begins with the next sentence. This device keeps the reader turning pages. But I do not think it will work for long because as readers lose the concept of chapter, they will then learn to put the bookmark at the end of scenes within a chapter. In the long run, this device may be counterproductive. ďIn the olden daysĒ of proper chapter organization, a reader would continue through the boring parts because they knew the end of the chapter was coming. Today, the reader sticks the bookmark wherever scenes change or the pace slows down.