Tricky question: when is it time to re-think?

Not open for further replies.

Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
I've just finished reading a well-reviewed crime novel called Palm Beach, Finland by Antti Tuomainen. It's the first book by him I've tried and I enjoyed it, though it's less a crime caper and more of an offbeat tale of eccentric losers muddling through life in a holiday resort. It's laced with dark Scandinavian humour, which took me a while to adjust to, though the silliness of what was happening carried me along.

I was glad to see that the author had written a short afterword, explaining his thinking on how he'd tackled the writing of his latest novel, which apparently is much lighter in tone than his previous work. I think that he may have done so, to pacify his fans who might have been expecting violent thrills.

Henning Mankell's An Event In Autumn, a Kurt Wallander thriller includes a 14-page afterword, in which the author reflects on how he came to start writing novels about a Swedish detective.

An afterword can be an effective way of communicating with readers, letting them into your world, making them a part of the process and fostering loyalty. In a way, they act like a self-interview, similar to how sports competitors, film stars and musicians talk about what they've just done.

Various features can appear after The End is typed in a work of fiction, including a taster of the next book in a series via the gripping first chapter, a list of thanks by the author to friends, family and publishing staff, and an afterword.

We've previously discussed epilogues in a thread started by @Matnov. Epilogues are also called postscripts, but they're different to an afterword, for they're a part of the narrative, a tidying-up of what happened after the main thrust of the story ended. I felt compelled to write an epilogue to my first Cornish Detective novel, as there were so many bodies lying around and my protagonist detective was in such a fragile mental state that I couldn't just abandon him! :rolleyes: I have a feeling that the epilogue will be the first thing to be excised by a professional editor....

An afterword is a comment by the author, or even someone else, discussing aspects of the story. The same thing can be said of the difference between a prologue and a forward.

I've also written what could become afterwords to the stories in my series, though I penned them partly as an exercise to provide material for interviews, elevator pitches, cover blurb and marketing bumph. They also served to cleanse my palate, as it were, as I sometimes found that I'd written about themes I hadn't considered when I started out. As American playwright Edward Albee said: "I write to find out what I'm talking about."

No doubt, publishers' attitudes towards afterwords vary, and I have a feeling that they'd only allow them if the author had an existing track record of good sales with loyal fans. If you're self-publishing and have interacted with your readers via social media, then an afterword continues this relationship.

Have any of you written afterwords?

Do you appreciate them in a book you're reading?

Or, do you think that they're a waste of time...too self-indulgent and an unnecessary tearing down of the fourth wall?


(Not me...!)
Historical novels often have an afterword explaining how accurate the story is (or not). I sometimes feel disappointed to learn that a story isn't true, or that terrible liberties have been taken. All the same I'll probably write one - I suppose it's a way of covering yourself against accusations of ignorance.
I'm not sure what I think about effusive afterwords thanking agents, editors, publishers. When I was an academic you had to acknowledge all help. But novels haven't done that till recently. To me, it rather spoils the illusion that this wonderful thing has appeared magically out of thin air.
It seems like a good way of connecting if you're self published though.
Self publishing, I guess, you can do what you want. In which case an Afterword like a Forward is a good place to get "contact" with your readers.
Some Afterwords are just a boring list of people that the reader has never heard of that the writer wants to thank. I suppose that it interests those that are mentioned but some writers can over do it. It comes across sounding like an Oscars acceptance speech and about as interesting.
Other afterwords however can be very interesting and entertaining. Ones where the writer gives more information about their works and characters and how they come by their ideas can be very revealing. I don't think they detract from the work and help to reduce the distance between writer and reader.
Some however over do it and can come across as a literary equivalent of the "The Making of ..." film bonus disk, and I sometime wonder if the writer isn't just trying to say, "Hey look how fantastic a writer I am!".
Unless there's a very particular first hand story behind how the book came to be written, I'd rather not have the fourth wall broken.

I'm inclined to agree with you, Katie-Ellen, but I believe that afterwords will become more common, especially in digital versions of the book. It's all a part of building up a relationship with our readers, further communicating with them after all of the things we've already blogged, tweeted and posted about on social media. Readers are sometimes desperate to get into a writer's mind to see what makes them tick...which is an invasion of privacy, but if it helps to sell books we may be forced into selling ourselves as well as our books.
Not open for further replies.

Tricky question: when is it time to re-think?