Helen Garner gave a terrific speech at the Stella Awards lamenting the consequences of awarding prizes to some books and not to others. She talks of the difficulties committees have in trying to arrive at consensus.
Publishing is a business, and when a book wins a major prize it sells in alarming proportions while other books that might be are just as good die a quiet death. So in the end it is all about economics.
I have formulated the idea that LONG books tend to win, as if the more the writer creates the better it is. Can I coin a new term, ‘the pinch test’ for novels? Surely less is usually best. The hardest things to write are haiku and children’s story picture books. All has to be said in so few words. Thank goodness the novella is coming back into its own.
It is too often assumed that children’s books must be easier to write because they are shorter. Can I suggest that any book written for kids that spends too long on description and analysis without a good narrative flow will usually lose readers? If only the same could be said for many novels written for adults. I have been bored witless by too many recent books that have won major prizes. In the main they are repetitive, overly drawn out, and if they are historical fiction, too much research is on display.
What about placing overweight books on a diet? Limit the number of pages and words. Force the writer to read it with a stranger’s eyes, a stranger that only has a limited amount of time.
My advice to emerging authors, for what it’s worth, is PRUNE!