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  • Writer's pictureTantra Bensko

Must Be Paid by the Word?

I'd never read a novel by the beautiful lady, Danielle Steel, who has published 165 novels and broken the best seller charts and helps out worthy charities. The idea of Hotel Vendome was appealing at the beginning, with a charming little girl and her devoted father.

I was surprised by how the beginning was so static, using conventions of expository backstory not used in published fiction for a long time. It went on and on describing life in the hotel before any conflict or action appeared. I read First Time in Paperback and thought that explained it. It must have been in ebook form only back when ebooks were first invented. But no, it really did come out in 2011. Sometimes authors who gained success long ago are able to keep writing in the old style of Omniscient POV with lots of expository prose (telling rather than showing.) It worked for them then, it works for them now to bring in cash, so why bother noticing changing trends have passed them by.

What I don't understand is, as she's wealthy, why is she so attached to making the novel twice as many words as it needs to be? Is it some kind of bizarre fetish? Do her publishers give her word counts she must fulfill but she can't figure out how to lengthen the plot so she just keeps adding words at the end of each paragraph to say the same thing once again? If so, it's seems like she and the publishers and editors would get a handle on how badly that plays. Are the editors intimidated by her? Perhaps she has the beginning of dementia and doesn't remember she just said something the sentence previously.

I looked at the reviews of the novel and many people are responding the way I am. I looked at descriptions of her prose: she received criticism all along for redundancy and narrative distance, telling rather than showing, and padding. So, why does she persist? It's a mystery. I didn't care for the way the novel continually jumps ahead in time and tries to cover too much ground. Other reviewers felt the same way.

I wouldn't let my absolute beginning writing students write this poorly. I wanted to have fun reading the book, and I did enjoy the colorful hotel setting and focus on the little girl. When the hotel flooded, finally the action broke the static state and it would have been interesting if not for her writing style. But I couldn't get far into the book because I was too distracted by mentally keeping track. Yes, each paragraph she actually did just sum up what she just said, which was already obvious. Then, she went on to say the same thing again later. Amazing.

She puts out several books a year and works on many at a time. I don't see why that's required of her. Obviously it's too much, and she needs to be allowed to take a break and recup.

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