Charmaine Craig on “Working in Miniature” and the Value of Concision
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl
Charmaine Craig is the guest. Her new book, My Nemesis, is out now from Grove Press.
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From the episode:
Brad Listi: Have you heard from people, especially people you don’t know, about the book? I would love to hear what the response is like out on book tour because I have a feeling you’re going to hear interesting things. I think it’s going to activate people and it’s going to cause them to ramble at you as I have been doing, trying to sort it out. It has an odd effect on the reader, which distinguishes it. And that’s a compliment to you and to the deep thinking that you’re doing in this book.
This is not a long book, and yet there’s so much in it. There’s a lot happening. Did you write lots of pages that got cut? I always wonder how people get to these really efficient novels. Did you overwrite it and then bring it back, or did you just go slowly?
Charmaine Craig: You know, my two previous books are like really long—500-page manuscript type books, dense. I knew with this one, I wanted it to be short because of a variety of things. Some I mentioned, but one I haven’t mentioned is that I just love shorter books. It’s what I could do during the pandemic. I think everyone’s attention span was less in the beginning, at least. And so I had this idea in my head, fairly early on, that the perfect length for a novel was like 50,000 words.
And I was like, okay, how can I structure the whole book to be 50,000 words? It’s not like I went and I wrote an outline. I didn’t. But I went into writing the book with the intention of writing something between 45,000 and 50,000 words. It’s not that things weren’t cut. I did cut some material, after I’d sold the book, when I got feedback from my editor. But it was only like 3,000 words that I cut. So it was just a more laborious kind of working in miniature from the beginning.
Charmaine Craig is the author of the novel My Nemesis, available from Grove Press. Craig is the author of the novels Miss Burma, longlisted for the National Book Award and the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and The Good Men. Formerly an actor, she teaches in the program in fiction at UC Riverside and lives in Los Angeles.