But, as much as I want to write the unputdownable novel, I do feel a pang of sadness at the idea that my book might be tossed away so quickly. With children’s authors averaging one novel a year, that’s a long time to wait before my next one comes out. Will a young reader even remember my name once that new book makes it to the marketplace? It’s true that this problem becomes lessened as a writer’s career progresses – if I love the new Marcus Sedgwick novel, for instance, he has a ten-year back catalogue for me to peruse. But for a debut author, it’s tough to make a reputation that will stick.
Looking back over the comments on that earlier post, I saw one mentioning rereadability, which I thought was an excellent way to keep your work alive in the reader’s mind. Imagine if, in that year, a teenager reread your book four or five times? Then they would certainly remember you. But then I hit a deeper problem – what makes a book rereadable? Is it just the fact that it was readable in the first place? So I don’t claim to have any answers on this one – consider what follows as discussion points rather than hard-and-fast rules.
- Brevity - A short book is going to be quicker to read, and reread. Certainly, when I’m selecting a book or a film from my shelf, I’m always drawn to the shorter ones. But is that only a time-poor adult problem? My daughter has just reread Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the third time in six months!
- Being Either Really Memorable or Totally Forgettable - I’m certainly more likely to reread a book if I remember bits from it I really liked. Memorable characters, dialogue and scenes draw me in a second time. Paradoxically, though, I’m also likely to reread a book if I don’t remember anything about it – that’s like experiencing the whole thing anew. Sadly, in the latter case, I may get halfway through and remember why I put it down the first time.
- Clever Plot Construction - Much is made of films like The Sixth Sense and Inception, of which the posters will say: “You just have to see it a second time!” By having a massive twist or a mind-bendingly complex plot, such films ensure that patrons will buy another ticket so they can explore what they missed on the first viewing. Of course, you can do this with books too, but I think it’s a harder trick to pull off. Readers are very adept at flicking back and forth through a book, picking out those little clues that you thought were so carefully buried. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t books with an amazing twist at the end that makes you see the whole story in a different light. Please feel free to suggest some in the comments.
- The Feelgood Factor - Books that make you laugh or feel good are definitely going to promote rereadability. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of days when I feel like something weighty, but a comedy will always hit the spot, regardless of whether I’m feeling up or down. Again, this is maybe an adult thing – teenagers seem to have an endless appetite for darkness and death at the moment.
- A Terrific Ending - I can’t stress how important it is to end a book well, especially when you consider rereadability. No-one is going to wade through the whole thing again if the resolution isn’t rewarding. I wonder, for instance, how many people read The Knife of Never Letting Go when it first came out, and then didn’t look at it again until Patrick Ness had finished the trilogy?
Ok, there’s your starter for ten. Is there a formula for rereadability? Or is it simply a case of writing a completely brilliant book in the first place? Your comments, please.