The Fiery Cross is the fifth book in Arizona (woot) author Diana Gabaldon’s time-traveling historical fiction saga. I have enjoyed all the books up until this one, some with reservations, but still enjoyed. They all felt like they had strong backbones, and even though they were long, most of the stuff stuffed up in there had a point. Not so with this fucker.
Since the book is soooooo looooooong, I’m going to respond by being more concise than I would usually, just to get my point across here.
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HOW TO WRITE A TURGID HOT MESS OF A BOOK, IN FIVE EASY STEPS!
1. Don’t have an outline or any other sort of plan going in. Narrative arcs are not important, and neither is change. Just have your characters do thing after thing after important thing for a whole novel and it doesn’t matter if you have something to tie it all together by the end. You can even switch genres halfway through your novel. It will totally not be confusing or frustrating at all! It is totally okay, even encouraged! to have your reader not be able to identify more than three or four parts that were actually important and relevant.
2. Describe in great detail meals, bowel movements, sweaty clothing, every poopy diaper, regular updates on the breasts of a character who is breastfeeding (a little swollen, leaking milk, rock hard, empty, etc.). Include extended excerpts from dream journals that hint at character arcs but never actually turn into anything. No detail is too small or insignificant. (DON’T EVEN MISS ONE!) EVERY SMALL DETAIL AND ACTION YOU CAN HAVE YOUR CHARACTERS DO WILL MAKE YOUR NOVEL EVEN LONGER AND HOTTER AND MESSIER. Don’t listen to those people who tell you that most of the things in your novel should connect to the central storyline or theme. Don’t listen to the people, even your readers, who will tell you that these moments are nice every now and again, but not all the time. Your novel should be mostly these moments, like we’re following your characters around in a neverending documentary of their every waking moment over a period of years.
3. Make your novel as long as possible. Longer=better. More=better. Drown these people in words. Their hands should be black with ink and their wrists ache by the time they’re finished. Never mind that pesky writing advice that says the more times you do something, the less impact it will have. Never mind all those people who praise concise writing, or get off on variation. Your characters are special, and the more time you let your readers spend with them, well, they should just be grateful, dammit.
4. When you’re at the thousandth page of your manuscript and have been teasing your reader mercilessly with the promise of a plot for hundreds of pages by this point, make sure to take one last completely pointless trip into the woods so your characters can deal with a mystical fucking white ghost bear* because in previous books the natives had given them portentous names like The White Raven and Bear-Killer, so they’re the only ones who can help, obvs. Have the bear be killed in a freak storm by a giant bolt of lightning while your characters coincidentally watch. The whole episode should take up at least seventy-five pages and have no bearing on the plot whatsoever.
*Or equivalent thereof.
5. Make sure to fit in the actual important bits towards the absolute end of the novel, after your reader has already checked out emotionally from the book and couldn’t actually give a flying saucer about any of it anymore. Just really make sure to bury completely the really interesting bits of your novel in absolute mundane as shit stuff so your reader can’t even find it!
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Voila! Follow this formula, and even your most diehard reader will think twice next time about purchasing your books. Again, don’t listen to those people with common sense. Turning away readers is an excellent way to make money.