A Masterful Flop

It’s a catchy title – “Flop Masterpiece” – and enough to make you want to see it. “An ambitious, budget-busting adventure-thriller set in a South American oil refinery town and its surrounding mountainous jungle, Sorcerer was intended as a loose remake of Henri-Georges Cluozot’s undisputed 1951 classic Wages of Fear. It was also well-poised to be a gargantuan flop when it was released the same summer weekend as George Lucas’ much more straightforward blockbuster Star Wars.” [source: BBC]. So, until Star Wars came along and took the limelight, Sorcerer was a masterpiece? I love the oxymoron, but I guess that, at the end of a long day, I am NOT inclined to want to see a “flop masterpiece.”

Which raises the question, “how do you know if your book is going to be a best-seller?” And, as an author, should I care? The key here, is to touch a nerve—a major social nerve; a nerve shared by millions. And that, my dear reader, is the nerve I hope to touch ever so lightly in my new thriller, or perhaps not so lightly. A masterpiece will be viewed as artistic and enduring; engaging across generations and genres. A masterpiece is never written by a young writer; it emerges from decades of experience and discovery, and years of refined editing? A masterpiece may be forgiven for having a simple plot, stretched to breaking point. Hemingway writes about an old man catching a big fish, but it is more than a well-written fishing story. The Old Man and the Sea goes beyond the sea, which helps its immortality. To quote a comment, “(The Old Man and the Sea) succinctly presents a challenging question while exploring several themes that provide insight to man’s role, suffering without complaint, and humanity’s place in the world.” Perhaps exploring the human condition is what elevates writing above the ordinary and helps it soar into the heights. 

Average Book Length is Hardly Average

In an earlier post, I discussed book lengths. An interesting aside—when researching this topic on the internet, pay close attention to the date of the article or discussion. Here’s why:

You will notice that this research, based on the New York Bestseller list (see full article here) shows a very clear trend down from 467pp (in 2011) to 273 (in 2017)! In my new thriller, my draft manuscript hovered around 74,000 words. Now, following severe editing and adding critical plot and character details, it is sitting at 82,000 words. At this count, the book feels ‘right’. What do I mean by feel? I mean exactly that. Pick up a 74,000 word book and it feels a bit on the thin side. Now, try the 82,000 word novel and it has a good heft; a sense of substance, and I know I will be reading a story with a well—developed plot and depth of detail. Of course, this assumes that the story is well—written, and the plot exciting, with many twists and turns.

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