Reader Attention Span

In today’s Journal

* Reminder
* A New Story
* Update on Yesterday’s Kindle Vella Caution
* Reader Attention Span
* Of Interest
* The Numbers


You folks writing for the Bradbury Challenge, get your stories in before midnight tomorrow (Sunday).

A New Story

“Mr. Sloan and the Crone” published yesterday on my Stanbrough Writes Substack. I think it’s kind of a PI metaphysical romance thing, but I don’t know. I do know it contains a few typos, including a shift at one place from first to third person. (grin)

Email me at with any of those typos and you get a free novel.

If you would like to subscribe, click the link to the story and then the Subscribe button at the end of the story. You’ll receive a new short story every Friday, and it’s free.

Below the Subscribe button, there are other short stories you can read in most genres. Enjoy!

Update on Yesterday’s Kindle Vella Caution

Three updates actually.

Vin Zandri let me know via email you can publish your complete book 30 days after the last episode goes live on Vella.

In a comment on yesterday’s post, he also wrote, “I’m not sure Vella is here to stay for very long. It’s been 3 years and nothing about the beta version has changed very much other than they don’t pay much in the way of author bonuses anymore. They’ve failed to expand into the Asian market which is where they need to be. I wouldn’t be surprised if at the start of the year no more Vella.”

Then Jill of KDP support wrote to say she had made an exception and unpublished the episodes I’d posted (in my haste) of my newest book, Blackwell Ops 11, since it had garnered “less than three readers in the last month.”

Well, I suspect there WERE fewer than three readers. Like zero, since the first episode wouldn’t have gone live until October 13. (grin)

Anyway, good on Jill for granting an exception to an old man who acted too quickly.

For the previous novel, Blackwell Ops 10, I’ll take my licks and publish it (wide) in mid-November, 30 days after the last episode goes live on October 12. Going with KDP Select would be less than fair to readers who enjoy the Blackwell Ops series but shop elsewhere.

Like all my novels, the current Blackwell Ops 11 is standalone, but to give the readers the full story in one shot, I’ll wait to publish it until a few days after I publish Blackwell Ops 10.

For me, this is a really strange situation from a publishing standpoint. And I don’t mean only the delay. My fault, and that’s fine. Besides, strange situations mean opportunity and room for innovation. (grin)

For example, there’s a very good chance my next novel, tentatively titled A Circle of Doubt (or Fear), a psychological suspense thriller, will be written and published before Blackwell Ops 10 and 11 are even published. (grin)

For that matter, I’ll probably squeeze-in the novel AFTER A Circle of (whatever) too. (grin) Hey, maybe I’ll get to write a whole seies of A Circle of novels. (This was a brand new realization and the catalyst for tomorrow’s Journal post, which I just wrote. (grin))

Such are the “problems” of a professional fiction writer who both knows the craft and writes into the dark. Just as you can, if you want to.

Reader Attention Span

Yesterday I wrote, “Don’t allow the allegedly stunted ‘attention span’ issues of younger readers affect your decision to publish (or not) through Kindle Vella or elsewhere in chapters or episodes.”

Thanks to a comment by Philip S, I thought I would expand on that thought.

The effect of your work on the attention span of ANY readers of ANY age group is strictly up to you as a writer. It is a direct function of your skills as a writer. Yup. If you can’t pull ’em into your story, that’s on you, not the readers.

I still don’t agree with the nonsense about “reader taste” either. Saying your sales are lagging strictly because of reader taste is a cop-out. It’s a way to set yourself up as blameless even though you’re the one who wrote the story in the first place.

Yes, readers have particular tastes when it comes to reading material. But reader taste ends at genre. Even if the reader enjoys reading work in your chosen genre(s), you still have to pull them down into the story and then keep them there.

I love psychological suspense, action-adventure and thriller novels. But James Patterson’s work, both before and after he started simply outlining and then having others write the story, leaves me flat. Not one of his books has ever pulled me into the story.

I do admit the guy’s a master at marketing. Hence his millions. But then, back in the day he worked for J. Walter Thompson, a premier (maybe THE premier) marketing and advertising firm in NYC.

I can’t teach you marketing. But I can teach you right now how to pull readers down into the story and then keep them there:

1. You pull readers into the story, ground them in the story, with your opening, during which the POV character describes the setting and characters. You think you know bestselling novels that have started with action?

Go back and read the opening again. You’ll find setting and character description ahead of the action.

That’s exactly why I advised yesterday to start with the action if you want, then back up and and write the setting and character(s) and what happened just before the action happened or started.

This is “Depth” or “Deep POV,” and you can write it in either first- or third-person, doesn’t matter. But everything MUST go through the POV character’s physical and emotional senses.

Anything the POV character notices and describes is necessary to the story. Anything you, the writer, “think” should be added is excess. Don’t do it.

2. And you keep readers in the story, and keep them turning pages, with pacing and with good scene and chapter cliffhangers coupled with good scene and chapter hooks plus the opening of the next scene or chapter.

Period. That’s the whole thing.

If you study enough and absorb enough, and if you then apply that by practicing enough (practice, n. putting new new words on the page), your story or novel WILL hold the reader’s attention.

Because it’s no longer up to them. It’s up to you.

The more often you practice what you’ve learned about the craft, the more quickly you’ll begin to apply it without thinking about it.

You already do that with periods and question marks and quotation marks around dialogue. Do you have to think about those things before you apply them?

Of course not. The same goes for the bits and pieces of the writing craft. Learn, absorb, then trust what you know and just write.

I continually learn or realize new things and I continually practice.

In fact, the beginning of Blackwell Ops 11 is vastly different than the beginning of Blackwell Ops 10. The difference is a craft technique I realized after I’d finished 10 and before I started 11.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

Note: Owing to a slow news day, the items below are repeated from a couple of days ago.

AI Update: Copyright And Other Things Royalty-free photo site CanStock is closing. All due to AI. And there’s a great deal more. READ THIS.

Canada’s Wattpad Updates Its Paid Program: ‘Originals’ If you use or have thought of using Wattpad, read this, especially PG’s take.

The Flashback: A Greatly Misunderstood Storytelling Device

Troy Lambert talks the writing life and balancing marketing with creativity

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 1210

Writing of Blackwell Ops 11: More Jeremy Stiles (novel)

Day 1…… 5214 words. To date…… 5214
Day 2…… 2657 words. To date…… 7871
Day 3…… 2481 words. To date…… 10352
Day 4…… 0923 words. To date…… 11275
Day 5…… 3424 words. To date…… 14699
Day 6…… 3649 words. To date…… 18348
Day 7…… 3334 words. To date…… 21682

Fiction for October…………………… 13811
Fiction for 2023………………………… 231353
Fiction since August 1………………… 116806
Nonfiction for October……………… 6270
Nonfiction for the year……………… 204610
Annual consumable words………… 435903

2023 Novels to Date……………………… 4
2023 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2023 Short Stories to Date……………… 6
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 75
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)…… 234
Short story collections…………………… 31

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Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

4 thoughts on “Reader Attention Span”

  1. Everyone says it is more difficult for people to focus on one thing or to focus for a long time. We talked about 3 or 4 hours long movies, and we didn’t understand why there so many of them… We don’t go to a boring movie this long. And here is the main thing: if a movie is exciting, it doesn’t matter how long it is. Lord of the rings movies were also 3-4 hours long, and nobody complained. Not even me.
    There are people who doesn’t read. They would find even a short story dull. Any short story. But those who read always ready for a good novel/short story/series etc. We just need to write as good as we can.

      • Well, it does matter how long a movie is, thanks to the limits of the human bladder. But some movies (see, e.g., Branagh’s HAMLET of umpty years ago) have an intermission built in for that purpose.

        Novels don’t have that restriction. GRIN

        • Peggy! 🙂

          “it does matter how long a movie is, thanks to the limits of the human bladder.” I hear you. But then, that’s why God created the pause button. (grin)

          And thank you for this, seriously (you’ll see why in a moment): “Novels don’t have that restriction.”

          They do if they’re well-enough written. (grin) My goal is to eventually have a reader tell me he tinkled himself rather than putting down my novel to get to the bathroom in time.

          Thanks for playing. (grin)

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