Lesson Twenty-Three from a Manuscript Red Line: Kindle Syndrome

Does your novel have Kindle Syndrome?

Would you be able to recognize it if it did?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

I read right over this comment at least five times.  I do not own a kindle, so I didn’t understand what the publisher was saying.  This past weekend, I messed around with my sister’s Kindle.  Now this makes sense.  Let me explain…

The publisher said:  “This is a very long section that takes up two kindle pages of material.  Break it up with action and reaction.”

I believe I’ve already blogged about the overall problem of info dumps that go on too long, but this time when I read this comment, the “Kindle” word jumped out at me.

It would be foolhardy for anyone to think that their novels are going to be read 100 % in printed form.  In this new era, it’s just not feasible.  As we all know, technology has finally taken over the publishing world.

When I beta-read novels, I sometimes blow up the pages and just look at them.  If it looks like a text-book, I know there is a problem.  People want white-space when they read recreationally.  A dense page seems like too much work, right?

Now think about the Kindle (or choose your e-reader)…  What does it look like?  Do you see a full page like in a book?  Unless you are reading on something large, the screen is much smaller than an actual page.  A Kindle reader may press the forward button 2-3 times to get through a printed page of material.  I checked the word count on the section that they were talking about, and it was 230 words.  That’s about one page in a standard book.  If you change the type font and make it larger, there would be even more clicks to your page.

Do you really want your reader to click forward 3-4 times and have them still skimming reading the same description?

This is what I am getting at… The importance of White Space

White space is when you can “see the paper” behind your words.  White space can be achieved by new paragraphs, but it is done most effectively with dialog sequences.  Open up a few novels.  You should be able to see what I mean.  Your novel should not look like a text-book.  If there is dialog, it will look more “interactive”

I know as a reader I like white space.  It makes me feel accomplished.  True, on a kindle you cannot feel yourself getting to the end of a novel.  You might not even know you are at the end until you are there, since there are no page numbers (at least on the one my sister showed me)—so feeling accomplished while reading one must be hard…  But because of this, your reader will be effected EVEN MORE by lack of white space, because it will be so much more dramatic on a kindle screen rather than on paper.

I know a lot of you might not care… but I thought this would be worth mentioning.  We are living in a new world.  We have to consider what your novel will look like on the new media.   One or two long dense paragraphs might be fine once in a while, but make sure your scenes are broken up not only for pacing, but to get some of that “all so important” white space.

Amendment:  Since writing this post, I was given a Kindle Fire by my wonderful husband, and I am now 75% through my first novel.  Now that I am in this “electronic world,” I have to admit that everything I said up above really does apply.  Some of the description in the novel I am reading go on for 5 or more kindle pages of dense text.  The prose is beautiful, and well written, but to be honest I always start skimming somewhere in the middle of the second kindle page, which is far sooner than I would have on paper.

Also, on the Kindle Fire there are no page numbers, but it does tell you “percentage read” so you do see yourself getting to the end.

For me though, it makes the long descriptions even more monotonous because I like to feel accomplished.  I try to read a certain percentage each night, and I don’t know how many pages I have to read to achieve another “percent” read.

Yeah, I’m a nut.  But I am sure I am not alone!  Have mercy on a nutty reader.  Avoid Kindle Syndrome.

Jennifer Eaton

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19 responses to “Lesson Twenty-Three from a Manuscript Red Line: Kindle Syndrome

  1. This is very useful information, stuff I never would have thought about. While my books are not in e-formats, yet, it is something I will have to consider for future work. Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the great post. I am a Kindle app user (on my ipad) but haven’t thought about the white space issue.

  3. I don’t YET own a Kindle or Nook (despite outrageous hints leading up to the holidays.)

    I have downloaded Kindle for PC and understand the points you make. The long paragraphs beg to be skimmed when I read printed books. They scream to be skimmed in e-reader format.

    Fortunately, white space is not one of my “risky writing business” points. My voice lends itself to lots of white space. And enough sentence frags to warrant earmuffs for English teachers in any crit group I attend.

    Margie Lawson is HUGE on white space to maintain cadence and pace. I am a fan-addict of her EDIT system and rhetorical devices.

    Great post again, Jennifer. You get 5 stars from me!

  4. So true. I’ve always been taught the white space on the page–never thought about that on a kindle. Thanks! It has become even more important now to make sure that my pages aren’t “overfilled.’

    • I am reading “Throne” right now on my kindle, and I can tap it three times to advance pages, and the character is still describing the street. Excellant imagery, but annoying because of the “tap factor”

  5. This is so true, Jennifer. I write fairly short paragraphs and I was shocked to see how huge they looked on the Kindle.

    Thanks for the great post!

  6. Julie Catherine

    I only have kindle for my pc, but I see exactly what you mean. I, too, love description; reading and writing it. I can see I’ll need to go through my manuscript again carefully with this in mind. Thanks so much for the tip. ~ Julie 🙂

  7. i’m also finding I prefer shorter books on my kindle. i’ve never enjoyed novellas, but now I am. i need to find out why the change.

  8. I fall somewhere in between. I love description. Then again, I love fantasy and most fantasy novels I read are full of description mixed with action and light on the dialog. Until I read YA fantasy. That becomes a whole different can of worms. Great post, Jen!

    • Thanks, Jenny! Description if fine. I think it brings a lot to a novel… as long as it does not go on for three pages. Demons fighting int he street… I get it. I got it three pages ago. Can we get on with it…. PLEASEEEE?

      (Sorry, my brain just talked to my current Kindle Novel)

  9. I agree with you. I have put a couple books down because the descriptions were so detailed and went on for paragraphs. I like the text broken up.
    I like to feel I am getting somewhere.
    Awesome post.