books · writing

Writers Breaking the Rules: Alan Moore’s ‘Jerusalem’

jerusalem

In publishing, there are written and unwritten rules that authors must follow. These standards include genre specific word counts, paragraph lengths, font styles, and other assorted information. As much as authors may want to break from canon – what if this a romance needs to be 250,000 words? – doing so will greatly diminish the likelihood that a manuscript will be published.

But there are always a few rule breakers. Alan Moore is one of them.

Today is the official US release date of Alan Moore’s magnum opus Jerusalem. Reviewers describe the book as “epic” and “stupefying in scope”, and they aren’t wrong. The work is over 1200 pages and 600,000 words long, which is about six times the length of a standard novel. (To compare, Jerusalem towers over even other long titles; J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is 257,045 words, and George R.R. Martin’s  A Storm of Swords is 424,000 words.) Moore has divided the book into three parts each of which contains eleven chapters. Though the book is intended to be read as a single work of literature, the Knockabout, the book’s UK publisher, has divided the work into three simply because it is difficult to hold a 1200 page book.

jerusalem_three-parts

The contents of the book are just as vast as its production values.  In it, Moore creates an alternate mythology set in Northampton, UK where, as the official summary puts it, “eternity is loitering between the firetrap housing projects. Embedded in the grubby amber of the district’s narrative among its saints, kings, prostitutes, and derelicts, a different kind of human time is happening, a soiled simultaneity that does not differentiate between the petrol-colored puddles and the fractured dreams of those who navigate them.” If a typical author sent a manuscript like this to most publishers, they would laugh in his or her face.

But Alan Moore isn’t a typical author.

Alan Moore (1953-) has been publishing works for nearly 50 years. He has found massive success with comic books such as Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, all of which were made into successful films. As a result, Moore has an extensive fan base, and his works are almost guaranteed to be successful. With the recent announcement of Moore’s retirement from comics, people are even more interested in Jerusalem. Moore can break the rules because he has proven himself to be a successful, money making creator.

I am a little jealous of that. I think authors like to believe that whatever we are writing is grand enough that we can afford to push the envelope of what is considered acceptable, but the reality is that unless we are among the Alan Moores of the world, writers who break the rules rarely have a chance to publish their works.

With that in mind, today I raise my coffee cup to Alan Moore. He put in his dues as a writer, and because of those dues, he can stretch his limits. May we all be so lucky someday.

Now I suppose I should get to work on making it through those 600,000 words. It may take me a while.

jerusalem_moore

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15 thoughts on “Writers Breaking the Rules: Alan Moore’s ‘Jerusalem’

  1. Gosh! That is really amazing, but the key is that he is an established author. People know him. He’s been publishing for some time. Most importantly, he has a fan base who will read his books simply because he wrote them. Plain and simple. It’s harsh to the new writer who hasn’t been published yet, but the truth is we have to get our foot in the door and get ourselves known before we can push the bar. Honestly… we have to be… average before we can be extraordinary. Isn’t that kind of crazy? :p

    Though, forcing ourselves to stay within guidelines for length is a HUGE factor when determining a good writer versus an inexperienced one. It’s basically tell us to be choice with our words. We have to prove that we can be good writers and keep the important parts before we’re allowed to flourish with the beautiful, intricate details. It’s… kind of like the ultimate test of being a writer. :p (One I’m REALLY hoping to pass here soon. Hee hee!)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I absolutely agree with your comment -have to be average before we can be extraordinary. I know that as writers we are not typical readers but the truth is all my best loved books are entirely extraordinary. I might read average but often I forget them as soon as they are read. Sometimes, I must confess I also abandon them because something decidedly less average comes along when I’m half way through one.
      I do like your conclusion though – we do need to play by the rules. So lets keep the length average and just the content extraordinary…Does that sound like a fair compromise?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As an avid, devoted comics reader I have been a fan of Mr. Moore for at least a couple of decades. In recent years I’ve been really fond of his efforts to promote literacy and defend and preserve libraries. And those interviews where you can hear his voice and that strong accent! It’s great. I think I have a video or two buried on my site somewhere.

    Anyway, regarding Jerusalem, I saw a copy at the local comic shop yesterday and I have no earthly idea when I will find the time for such a tome, but I hope it’s wildly successful for him for all the right reasons. Hed been writing it for at least a decade.

    Thanks for this great post, Kirsten.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Alan Moore really is a compelling guy. Some authors fade into the background, but he uses his voice and popularity for good. I appreciate that about him.

      I can’t imagine spending a decade writing something before releasing it into the world like he has. He must have such an attachment to it, but judging from initial responses to it, the wait made the work all the better.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And lucky for him it wasn’t his only work while he was working on it. Nice to have plenty of new and old works in print paying the bills while you pen your magnum opus! Another example of those established author privileges haha. Seriously tho, imagine being in the carefree position of writing with nothing to lose, so to speak. Ah, the freedom!

        Liked by 1 person

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