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View Full Version : Life's too short for thousand-page novels



bsolah
06-16-2009, 09:44 AM
I read this article in The Guardian - http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/may/27/fiction - in which the writer says:


...I am saying that we are living in an era where novels of epic length are unlikely to be of interest to most readers. In part, it's about the way that we live and read. Rather, I think it is important to remember that Eliot and Dickens and other writers who produced our best-loved 1,000-pagers were writing in a time when they were not only often getting paid by the word, but in which they had little competition for their reader's attention.

I really agree with this. I find a lot of longer novels are padded with over described scenes, they make me impatient, and they fail to hold my attention.

Some of my favourite novels are the shorter one like Fight Club.

Lyra Jean
06-16-2009, 09:46 AM
I love the Otherland series by Tad Williams. It a series of 4 books and each one is between 800-900 pages long (paperback). Good story, good description, fun read. Yeah it's a door stopper.

Vincent
06-16-2009, 09:50 AM
I love the Otherland series by Tad Williams. It a series of 4 books and each one is between 800-900 pages long (paperback). Good story, good description, fun read. Yeah it's a door stopper.
Seconded. His Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy is just as massive. In fact, the third book is so big they had to split it in two to fit into paperback.

And I enjoyed every word.

bsolah
06-16-2009, 09:50 AM
I guess there's always going to be exceptions. Some novels, and indeed depending on the reader, will be worth the longer read.

But I can't help but feel a lot of people read longer novels for the status. It seems you're a better reader, more cultured if you can plough through tomes. Again, not saying this is everyone and every case, but I have gotten that feel from some people.

Fokker Aeroplanbau
06-16-2009, 09:51 AM
Longer it is, the better it is. Sorry, but that's how I feel.

willietheshakes
06-16-2009, 09:54 AM
Fuck. That.

That's all I'm sayin.

HelloKiddo
06-16-2009, 09:55 AM
Aside from the challenge of ignoring all the digital noise, even the most Luddite readers have finite lifetimes to devote to reading. And when there are so many thousands of books to enjoy, it seems inefficient to read a single volume of 200,000 words if there's any risk that it won't be a work of staggering genius (more often than not – yes, I'm going to say it – they're boring, or at least intercut with seriously boring chunks) when the time could be equally spent enjoying a diversity of works from several different writers.

Yep. That's how I feel. When I see a massive tome with a thousand pages I realize that I could read three other books in the time it takes me to read that one.

As my logic goes, that means that book has to be good enough to be worth replacing three other novels with. Most books aren't IMO. I usually skip very long books.

Fokker Aeroplanbau
06-16-2009, 10:09 AM
Well look at Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, or Tolkien's Trilogy + Hobbit, or Stephen King's Gunslinger, or Ludwig von Mises' Human Action, or Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, or J.K Rowling's Harry Potter, Stephen King's (again) The Stand, or any manner of in-depth history books (Perlstein's Nixonland was long, as well as his Barry Goldwater biography) that are acclaimed. The closer you get to a 1000 and especially past 1000 pages the quality the work is considered goes up dramatically.

The dramatic majority of novels that are above or close to 1000 out shine the majority of the novels (even acclaimed) that are below 500. 1984, Animal Farm, Catcher in the Rye? Children's books we read in high school because they were short; it's not a snobbery manner that you read long books but because you love them. The author loved them and the publisher loved them. A cheesy, half short story, novel just doesn't cut it.

blacbird
06-16-2009, 10:12 AM
I tried reading A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth. Three or four times. I really really really did. Couldn't get past about page twelve. If it had been 100 pages, instead of 1000, I still wouldn't have finished it.

My wife adored every bloody page of it.

caw

virtue_summer
06-16-2009, 11:11 AM
I don't care so much about how long it is. I care about how long it seems. I've read long books that intrigued me so much I hardly noticed so many pages were flying by. And I've started reading short books that were so mind numbing I couldn't get past page five. Judging a book's quality based on its length? That's ridiculous. Yes there are a lot of badly written epics. There are just as many badly written shorter books. In fact I'd say there are more shorter ones that are badly written simply because there are more shorter ones in the first place. Actually I would posit that the success of series and trilogies shows that a number of readers enjoy lengthy stories. They're just daunted sometimes when it appears all at once.

SharkGelli
06-16-2009, 11:30 AM
I wonder if we're looking at this the wrong way. Consider this: long novels are almost guaranteed to be good.

If readers don't have much time to read books, then certainly editors and agents have even less time. Because editors and agents have less time to read books, they'll be more selective about what they read, meaning that they'll either read books that are short, or books that are obviously good. If an incredibly lengthy novel isn't obviously good, I'd guess that the editors and agents would be more willing to read a more manageable novel instead.

Granted, this is speculation and I know disgustingly little about what editors and agents actually do, but it's an idea.

megan_d
06-16-2009, 11:33 AM
I too wish there were more long novels. The title, the cover art, the authors name, forget all that. It's a name thick spine that makes me pull a book of the shelf for a closer look.

blacbird
06-16-2009, 11:48 AM
Consider this: long novels are almost guaranteed to be good.

You buy shamwows, don't you?

caw

Alitriona
06-16-2009, 12:14 PM
All the books I've read so far this year bar two have been part a series, each had three or more books and still it was never enough. I have no problem picking up a book that is over 1,000 pages,many people don't but publishers don't print enough of them.

ccv707
06-16-2009, 12:42 PM
There have been great 1000 page novels written, some being considered the greatest novels ever written. Just the same, there have been absolutely horrible 1000 page pieces of crap. If it's good, then so be it. If the story calls for it, then so be it. Like most people will say, a story should be as long as it needs to be. No more, no less.

BTW, Shogun is one of my favorite books of all time. I loved every page of it, though it started a little slow. Read the whole thing cover to cover in just under four days. One of the true epics of twentieth century literature.

Lisa Cox
06-16-2009, 01:31 PM
A quality of a book has nothing to do with the length. There are abysmal 75k books and incredible 1000k epics, and vice versa. I'm just as likely to pick up a long book from the shelf as I am a short one. If the back cover hooks me and the first few pages are well-written, I'm sold.

...but then, I'm a book-whore. I'll buy any book that gives me that metaphorical sultry smirk. ;)

KTC
06-16-2009, 02:20 PM
I shy away from long books. I read Stephen King's The Stand a year or so ago...and it took me forever. I am the world's slowest reader. I have documented evidence to prove it. I'm in the Guinness Records. My son read faster than me when he was 9. I read every word...even 'the' and 'and'...I don't know how to glance over a page and absorb it all. If I'm going to read a large book I need to make a major commitment. I have to really want to read it. Otherwise, it would take up too much of my reading time (a month or sometimes more).

JJ Cooper
06-16-2009, 02:25 PM
We live in a fast paced world. I figure readers have limited time time to put aside in their hectic shedules to have a go at a book. Keep it short, concise and let the reader use their imagination over the limited time they have.

JJ

megan_d
06-16-2009, 03:07 PM
KTC makes a good point. I'm not the fastest reader, but I am young and childless with a fairly stress free job, which equals plenty of free time to devote to reading (and writing of course). If I had limited time to read I'd be much more picky of my book choices. But having said that, I still think I'd go for the epic long ones.

Kurtz
06-16-2009, 03:21 PM
If you can't tell your story in less than a 300 pages you are a bad writer.

Lisa Cox
06-16-2009, 03:23 PM
If you can't tell your story in less than a 300 pages you are a bad writer.

Uh... really? I'm going to go with the safe assumption that your statement there is sarcasm. o.0

KTC
06-16-2009, 03:23 PM
If you can't tell your story in less than a 300 pages you are a bad writer.

That's not true. There are some fantastically written stories that need more than 300 pages. I really hope you're kidding with this kind of a blanket statement (though I see no smilies to suggest humor).

raburrell
06-16-2009, 03:24 PM
If you can't tell your story in less than a 300 pages you are a bad writer.

M'kay dude... We'll inform Tolstoy for you...

JJ Cooper
06-16-2009, 03:32 PM
I come in at 320 odd, but the publisher used bigger font than I'd agreed to.

JJ

KTC
06-16-2009, 03:37 PM
I come in at 320 odd, but the publisher used bigger font than I'd agreed to.

JJ

Well, I'll read the first 299 pages. The rest is superfluous. (-;

Kurtz
06-16-2009, 03:42 PM
M'kay dude... We'll inform Tolstoy for you...

Of all the examples of good long books you decide to bring out "300 dress ball scenes with every character having at least 6 names whingeing and whining and dragging on and on and on and on"

Crime and Punishment is better and much shorter, as with Moby Dick, and of course Ulysses.

I'll revise my statement to say that 99% of stories written now can be told and should be in less than 300 pages. Foucalt's Pendulum is a noticeable exception.

When you mention over 1000 page books I immediatley get the image of cliched, horrible, turgid fantasy 'epics' that drag on for ten, twelve books. A Song of Ice and Fire, Wheel of Time, all those. I blame Tolkien.

raburrell
06-16-2009, 03:43 PM
Of all the examples of good long books you decide to bring out "300 dress ball scenes with every character having at least 6 names whingeing and whining and dragging on and on and on and on"


I generally don't bring my best material for flame-bait blanket statement posts ;)

JJ Cooper
06-16-2009, 03:50 PM
Well, I'll read the first 299 pages. The rest is superfluous. (-;

I just checked. Page 299 has the MC facing the final confrontation point. After all he's been through and he is about to get ...

JJ

KTC
06-16-2009, 03:56 PM
I just checked. Page 299 has the MC facing the final confrontation point. After all he's been through and he is about to get ...

JJ


Okay...I'll skip 20 pages somewhere along the way and read the last 20. That should work. (-;

JJ Cooper
06-16-2009, 04:14 PM
No worries mate. I reckon my editor made me add about 20 pages of backstory anyway. All about characterisation or something like that. You could probably get away with reading every second page and still pick up the story.

JJ

scarletpeaches
06-16-2009, 04:16 PM
If you can't tell your story in less than a 300 pages you are a bad writer.

Oh bollocks.

Note to mods: I'm not trying to be provocative or offensive here and I'm desperately trying to respect my fellow writer...

But this is just a heap of shite.

Calling someone a bad writer for using up more than 300 pages is disrespect. Unless it was a joke, in which case it's a bad one.

Margo_U
06-16-2009, 04:21 PM
I've got to confess, here. If I have $20 in my pocket, and I'm trying to decide which of 2-3 books to buy, I'll always grab the longer one. It's not that I don't think the shorter books will be good. I just like the idea of spending more time in the world that the author has created. There are great books that are long, and great books that are short. But I'm almost always going to look for the longer books. More reading time for my dollar. I'm cheap that way.

Kurtz
06-16-2009, 04:23 PM
Oh bollocks.

Note to mods: I'm not trying to be provocative or offensive here and I'm desperately trying to respect my fellow writer...

But this is just a heap of shite.

Calling someone a bad writer for using up more than 300 pages is disrespect. Unless it was a joke, in which case it's a bad one.

Did you even read my second post or did the OUTRAGE just hit in too fast?

scarletpeaches
06-16-2009, 04:25 PM
I read threads backwards.

KTC
06-16-2009, 04:25 PM
Did you even read my second post or did the OUTRAGE just hit in too fast?

I don't know if she would be any less outraged because of your 1% allowance. Just saying.

scarletpeaches
06-16-2009, 04:27 PM
Yep, yep, read it now.

Still say it's shite.

Many books CAN be written as short stories. Doesn't mean they SHOULD be.

So, my outrage stands.

JJ Cooper
06-16-2009, 04:29 PM
I've got to confess, here. If I have $20 in my pocket, and I'm trying to decide which of 2-3 books to buy, I'll always grab the longer one. It's not that I don't think the shorter books will be good. I just like the idea of spending more time in the world that the author has created. There are great books that are long, and great books that are short. But I'm almost always going to look for the longer books. More reading time for my dollar. I'm cheap that way.

For $20 go to the bargain bin and grab a few. That way you'll get the chance to explore different types of writing if you so desire. $20 for one 'long' book may have you putting it down at page 20. At least with a choice you may find a writer you enjoy and will continue to read.

JJ

seun
06-16-2009, 04:48 PM
For $20 go to the bargain bin and grab a few.

Or go to the library and give me the money.

Anyway, what's all this about size? I thought it didn't matter.

Phaeal
06-16-2009, 05:17 PM
Um, I so don't get the "readers today don't have TIME to read long books" argument. How many people read a book at one sitting? Do they not have bookmarks or what? Jeez.

I love long books, and short books, and in-between books. So long as a book has enough pages to get from the beginning of the story to the end of the story, I'm good.

NeuroFizz
06-16-2009, 05:25 PM
If a story is so interesting it keeps me turning pages, the final page count doesn't matter. If a story is not interesting, it is put down before it is finished, so the final page count doesn't matter.

The lesson for writers--write damn good stories that keep the readers turning pages. Period. Agents and editors may have something to say about book length, but that say will come after they consider the story to be publication worthy (i.e. a damn good story).

megan_d
06-16-2009, 05:31 PM
When you mention over 1000 page books I immediatley get the image of cliched, horrible, turgid fantasy 'epics' that drag on for ten, twelve books. A Song of Ice and Fire, Wheel of Time, all those. I blame Tolkien.

So, what, because you're clearly not a fan of epic fantasy that makes them cliched? Have you even read any of the books you so lightly toss aside there? Not to mention that epic fantasy is not the only genre of book allowed to be long.

Argh, sorry, but your comments have really annoyed me. Personally I strongly dislike romance novels, but I don't dismiss them as cliched because of it.

Calla Lily
06-16-2009, 05:32 PM
If a story is so interesting it keeps me turning pages, the final page count doesn't matter. If a story is not interesting, it is put down before it is finished, so the final page count doesn't matter.

The lesson for writers--write damn good stories that keep the readers turning pages. Period. Agents and editors may have something to say about book length, but that say will come after they consider the story to be publication worthy (i.e. a damn good story).

QFT.

CaroGirl
06-16-2009, 05:32 PM
Novels should be as long as it takes to tell the story. No more, no less. There's a scene in the Mozart biopic Amadeus where Mozart shows his work to...the king, I think, and he says, "There are too many notes." Mozart the Genius, of course, is baffled. There are neither too many nor not enough. There are just the right number of notes.

Lyra Jean
06-16-2009, 06:21 PM
A story is done when a story is done. When I read the Otherland series by Tad Williams I didn't feel bored by any of it and those are roughly 850 pages each and it is four books long. The only problem I had was with the first one it just kind of cuts off at the end. If you read I think it's the author's note in the second book he addresses that issue because a lot of readers wrote him about it. He fixed it so that each book had it's own ending without just cutting it off and leaving no sense of closure.

Lord of the Rings, which I personally didn't care for, was originally one long book but Tolkien was told to split it up into three books just to make it more sellable. As popular as it became he probably could have gotten away with leaving it one whole book.

If you don't like long novels stick with Hemingway.

donroc
06-16-2009, 06:43 PM
Logic alert. If some read several books a week, it is the same as reading one good big meaty one, especially Historical Fiction. Mine would have been a mere 500 pages, but we ran chapters continually instead of starting them on fresh pages and cut it to 404 pages.

Kurtz
06-16-2009, 07:57 PM
So, what, because you're clearly not a fan of epic fantasy that makes them cliched? Have you even read any of the books you so lightly toss aside there? Not to mention that epic fantasy is not the only genre of book allowed to be long.

Argh, sorry, but your comments have really annoyed me. Personally I strongly dislike romance novels, but I don't dismiss them as cliched because of it.

Look at the state of modern literature. The vast majority of these behemoths is, as you called them 'epic fantasy'. I have no problem with fantasy, in fact its probably my favorite genre. I breathe Borges, Marquez, Akutagawa and Kafka. The first book I ever read was the Popol Vuh, which is nothing if not fantasy. As for romance, I quite liked The Fairie Queene, but again, it did go on for a long time, it made cliches, and making cliches is something to be proud of.

But ever since Tolkein cast his baleful eye over the genre the whole thing has stratified. Knights and orcs fight over dragons and beautiful princesses in a pseudo medieval period that does little other than belie the fact that the writer knows nothing about the middle ages. Where once the genre was used to ask the fundamental questions about the nature of reality and mans place within it, it has become escapist garbage.

I've read the first few books of A Song of Ice and Whatever, as well as the first book of the Wheel of Time. Neither were well written, neither had believeable characters, both were very cliched. There was the paragon of total virtue who can do no wrong, the witty underdog who isn't very attractive but is totally smart and not a mary sue in the slightest, and the girl. GRRRRRRRRMartin gets creativity points though for some really horrible sex scenes. I know that sometimes paedophilia can be used in a story (Lolita, the only genuine love story of the 20th century), but, my god Martin revelled in it. Misogyny is fun, especially when dressed up in 'oh it's okay, because it's just how it was back then!'

Both are very guilty for dragging on. Pages and pages where nothing really happens. I counted in Ice and Fire the amount of pages that passed until the story actually started. It was about 150. It may be called 'setting the scene', but you can do that and have interesting things happening as well.

Of course, Tolkein gets away from this. You can't really hate the man for making all these cliches, it shows the Lord of the Rings was very good. It's not a very good novel, but in terms of world building it is unparralled. If he came and read the stuff ike Goodkind or whatever, the stuff that is still ripping off his stories 40 years later I'm pretty sure he would be very pissed off.

But this is getting away from the topic at hand.

EDIT- I also realise that arguing for brevity in literature with a post this size is ironic.

BenPanced
06-16-2009, 08:03 PM
It's getting difficult for me to read longer books because of physical limitations. If it's what I call a "wrist wrecker", meaning no matter what position I hold the book in, short of using a lap desk, and it fatigues my wrists, I'll regretfully have to pass.

That, and if the story's sucktacularly sucktastic, I won't bother.

ChristineR
06-16-2009, 10:13 PM
I like longer books. That's mostly just my preference, many people share it, many don't. However there's no doubt in my mind that the publishing and writing industry has a prejudice against long books. Just read through some of the comments on this and similar threads.

To me, many modern short books are not books. They're long short stories. They're more padded than War and Peace. War and Peace covers years and has multiple complex story lines. You can't jam a good story with multiple interlocking complex characters and months or years of interaction into 300 pages.

MelodyO
06-16-2009, 10:32 PM
When a book is bad, 100 pages are too many. When a book is wonderful, 1000 pages aren't enough.

Cranky
06-16-2009, 10:45 PM
I'm with SP on this. And I *write* short. But I love me a good long novel (note the qualifier "good"), and I'm willing to invest the time necessary to read one. Then again, I can read two "regular" sized novels in a day, so perhaps my perspective is somewhat skewed.

That said, length doesn't imply quality in any way. I've read some short books that blew away some of the longer ones I've read. I don't understand how people can place a value judgement on a piece of writing based solely on it's length. If you're pressed for time, sure you might pick up a shorter novel instead of the longer one. But that doesn't make the shorter novel better.

ETA: Or what Melody said. :D

Alitriona
06-16-2009, 10:58 PM
Did you even read my second post or did the OUTRAGE just hit in too fast?

The second post didn't really sound much better than the first. A book can be good or bad with any amount of pages.

A good writer shouldn't be limited by word count.

SharkGelli
06-16-2009, 11:41 PM
You buy shamwows, don't you?

caw
I should. I keep buying books, though, and books don't seem to soak up a lot of water. *sigh*

Red-Green
06-16-2009, 11:44 PM
Sure...fall back on the "bigger font" excuse. :D


I come in at 320 odd, but the publisher used bigger font than I'd agreed to.

JJ

ccv707
06-17-2009, 12:49 AM
If you can't tell your story in less than a 300 pages you are a bad writer.

I guess Tolstoy SUCKS then.....

...and Victor Hugo.

The standard for measuring book length is word count anyhow, not page count.

That is just about as ignorant a statement as I've heard on my time on this forum.

How could the entire story of LoTR have been told in so little space? Some stories take more time to tell, that's simply the nature of storytelling.

Perle_Rare
06-17-2009, 01:00 AM
When I pick books off the shelf, I always go for the thickest first. I'm a fast reader so if the story's good, I like to remain immersed in it as long as possible while devouring the book as fast as possible.

Like anything else, there are long books I didn't like and short books I truly enjoyed.

blacbird
06-17-2009, 01:09 AM
Really thick books are the best for smashing spiders.

caw

RickN
06-17-2009, 01:17 AM
Some of my all-time favorites have been long books: The Stand, Pillars of the Earth...

I'm gonna read 30-60 minutes a day, every day, so it doesn't matter if I'm reading chunks of a 300-page novel or a 1200-page novel. I can't finish either in an hour.

ccv707
06-17-2009, 01:24 AM
Really thick books are the best for smashing spiders.

caw

I HATE spiders!!! Scar-ree.

When I sit down to read, I take 2 or 3 hours, enough time to get through a significant chunk. If I'm really into it, especially on the weekends, I might read for up to 12 hours. Like I said before, when I was reading Shogun I couldn't put it down. I these terms, I really doesn't matter how long or short it is; getting through an entire story is satisfying all the same.

Fade
06-17-2009, 01:40 AM
When a book is bad, 100 pages are too many. When a book is wonderful, 1000 pages aren't enough.

I definitely agree.

I don't care how many words a book has so long as most of them are used to advance the plot and hold my interest.

aadams73
06-17-2009, 02:21 AM
I love sinking my teeth into a good, long novel.

scarletpeaches
06-17-2009, 02:24 AM
I love sinking my teeth into a good, long turnip.

Fixed it for ya.

Cassiopeia
06-17-2009, 02:44 AM
Someone get the smelling salts cos SP is gonna pass out when I continue.


If you can't tell your story in less than a 300 pages you are a bad writer.Do YOU, have any idea how offensive what you posted is? So you mean to tell the rest of us that the great works of literature that well surpass your number count are badly written because you are used to getting what you want quickly?


Oh bollocks.

Note to mods: I'm not trying to be provocative or offensive here and I'm desperately trying to respect my fellow writer...

But this is just a heap of shite.

Calling someone a bad writer for using up more than 300 pages is disrespect. Unless it was a joke, in which case it's a bad one.I think respecting your fellow writer needs to be contingent upon their respecting us too.


Did you even read my second post or did the OUTRAGE just hit in too fast?I went right to outrage. You lost my attention and anything you had to say after that fails to interest me. You want to cast aspersions on others talent because of a page count...knock yourself out.

I, however, will write the story for the length it is. I will read the story until it is played out. I have read so many books that go well over 700 pages and when it was done I wanted more.

scarletpeaches
06-17-2009, 02:48 AM
ZOMG YOU AGREED WITH ME!!!

FETCH ME MAH SMELLIN SALTZ!!!

:Jaw:

Cassiopeia
06-17-2009, 02:49 AM
ZOMG YOU AGREED WITH ME!!!

FETCH ME MAH SMELLIN SALTZ!!!

:Jaw:You see, I know my girl. :)

bsolah
06-17-2009, 03:08 AM
Really thick books are the best for smashing spiders.

caw

I don't know if I should be scared. Perhaps that's my subconscious reason for not liking long novels.

For the record, I don't agree with Kurtz except for a few bits in his last post.

I personally feel that a lot of novels could be told better in less pages.

Yes, there are numerous examples to the contrary, I loved IT by Stephen King. But I certainly agree with those who said they don't have time to read longer novels. You invest so much time toward a long story so it better be good for me to keep reading.

And can't help but feel there's a certain amount of ego-stroking when people claim they love reading long novels.

Synonym
06-17-2009, 03:43 AM
May I suggest, if you ever find a book that's over 300 pages and (God forbid!) you like it... Rip the damn thing into 300 page chunks so you'll be comfortable sticking to your page limit. We have such a wonderful variety of literature to chose from and just as many readers who want that variety.

The writer of the original article seems to have made the assumption that Sayle's book is too long to merit publishing in our present day world of fast living and short attention spans. So, big books are out.

Perhaps the author (Sayles) just wrote a stinker of a book and spent ten long years doing it. If it merited publishing, wouldn't they find a way to split it into a series and make some money? (If length was truly the problem?) I find the premise of the book blog flawed.

Cassiopeia
06-17-2009, 03:51 AM
I don't know if I should be scared. Perhaps that's my subconscious reason for not liking long novels.

For the record, I don't agree with Kurtz except for a few bits in his last post.

I personally feel that a lot of novels could be told better in less pages.

Yes, there are numerous examples to the contrary, I loved IT by Stephen King. But I certainly agree with those who said they don't have time to read longer novels. You invest so much time toward a long story so it better be good for me to keep reading.

And can't help but feel there's a certain amount of ego-stroking when people claim they love reading long novels.excuse me? are you calling me a liar? just who's ego am I stroking?

bsolah
06-17-2009, 03:54 AM
excuse me? are you calling me a liar? just who's ego am I stroking?

No, not calling you a liar. That statement should have read some people. And it's probably not most people in this thread.

I've just met some people who look down at you for not having read the fat classics, and seem to think themselves higher and more educated for having done so.

scarletpeaches
06-17-2009, 03:58 AM
It's not just classics which hit 1,000 pages.

Take Gone with the Wind which I have read twice...maybe three times, can't remember. Well over 1k pages.

Forever Amber? At least three times. Nearly 1,000 pages in my edition.

Diana Gabaldon's novels. Read them multiple times. Child of the Phoenix by Barbara Eskine. Likewise.

Cassiopeia
06-17-2009, 04:02 AM
No, not calling you a liar. That statement should have read some people. And it's probably not most people in this thread.

I've just met some people who look down at you for not having read the fat classics, and seem to think themselves higher and more educated for having done so.Well, I don't see any of that going on here. And I don't see ANY sucking up going on. What I do see is someone casting aspersions on a writer's talent for having a page count over 300.

If people in your life want to condescend to you tell them to bug off. If someone can write a perfectly good story in under 300 words, good on them! That's terrific but to slander people for having a lengthy novel by saying it's bad writing is disrespectful and I'm going to stand my ground on that.

I'd like to know who is sucking up. I certainly don't see any of that.

Cassiopeia
06-17-2009, 04:02 AM
It's not just classics which hit 1,000 pages.

Take Gone with the Wind which I have read twice...maybe three times, can't remember. Well over 1k pages.

Forever Amber? At least three times. Nearly 1,000 pages in my edition.

Diana Gabaldon's novels. Read them multiple times. Child of the Phoenix by Barbara Eskine. Likewise.I think Gone with the Wind falls in the classic section now.

Diana Gabaldon's books are some of my favorites.

scarletpeaches
06-17-2009, 04:04 AM
I love 1k-page novels. Absolutely adore them. If I have an entire weekend free, I stock up on sweets, teabags and cake. Lock the door, switch off the mobile and ignore the outside world 'til I'm done.

bsolah
06-17-2009, 04:05 AM
That's terrific but to slander people for having a lengthy novel by saying it's bad writing is disrespectful and I'm going to stand my ground on that.

I didn't say that. Someone else did and I said I didn't agree with them.

I said I think some novels could be written better if they weren't so long, and I'm more likely to read short snappy novels. And I was more railing against this idea that longer is always better.

ccv707
06-17-2009, 04:46 AM
I've just met some people who look down at you for not having read the fat classics, and seem to think themselves higher and more educated for having done so.

If you've had that experience, than I feel for you. But the discussion at hand is quite the opposite--Kurtz is saying anything above 300 pages is bad, and whoever write such a story is a bad writer. It's an ignorant statement, completely out of touch with reality. Some stories require more space to be completely fleshed out. If you think Lord of the Rings or War and Peace or Les Miserables could have been told in under 300 pages, go ahead and do so yourself; write a sweeping epic with dozens upon dozens of characters and do it within a limited frame.

The fact is, there is no specific way stories HAVE to be told. They come from our imagination, and we make them up...where does this absolute lie that says a story that takes more time to tell than another is horrible? And the door swings both ways--a short novel, say The Great Gatsby, needs no more words to tell the story it is trying to tell. There are good and bad long novels, just as there are good and bad short ones. If it's well written, you're not going to mind how long it is, because you become engrossed in what's happening on the page. The very fact that these stories come from our imagination should disallow an existence of any so-called rules. Sure, good and bad stories exist, but such opinions are just that--opinions. And opinions, by nature and definition, are subjective perceptions.

We're supposed to be writers, people! Some of us are published, many of us are struggling (some both)...we belong in the same relative fraternity of people who want to explore the infinitely varying aspects of the world around us. We ask questions that have gone debated for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. We should never want to censor ourselves or each other because of how we choose to tell our stories. Sure, Kurtz is entitled to his opinion, one I believe very few writers agree with (in fact, I can only see one or two people posting in this thread that seem to even partially agree with him). As Voltaire said, "I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

Speaking about it in relation to present-day society and our desire for instant gratification is another discussion altogether. To immediately disregard a book because it is told in a different manner than another makes no sense to me...it's asinine. This is a matter of prejudice. If all stories were written in EXACTLY the same way as everyone else, what would be the interest in writing and, as a result, reading?

To say that there are absolute "rules" to writing is ignorant and, at the very least, supremely closed-minded.

Cassiopeia
06-17-2009, 04:52 AM
I didn't say that. Someone else did and I said I didn't agree with them.

I said I think some novels could be written better if they weren't so long, and I'm more likely to read short snappy novels. And I was more railing against this idea that longer is always better.


I don't see anyone saying longer is better. And you still haven't answered my question which is really what I find offensive when you said:

And can't help but feel there's a certain amount of ego-stroking when people claim they love reading long novels.

Who is stroking who's ego here? Who is sucking up? I don't appreciate the implication of that statement, bsloah.

bsolah
06-17-2009, 04:55 AM
I don't see anyone saying longer is better. And you still haven't answered my question which is really what I find offensive when you said:


Who is stroking who's ego here? Who is sucking up? I don't appreciate the implication of that statement, bsloah.

I said this wasn't directed at anyone in this thread.

I was saying I have met people who think they're better for having read longer novels, as if they're 'better' readers. The implication is that people who prefer shorter novels (which I do) are stupid or lazy readers.

ChristineR
06-17-2009, 04:56 AM
I've meant many, many people who sneer at people who prefer the classics and the long style of storytelling in general. Some of them are even here on this board. Maybe if I was someone who preferred short and fast-moving books, I would feel like people who liked the classics were sneering at me, but honestly, when the majority are voting for short novels and even complaining that they're being picked on for liking short novels, I think that's a sign that short novels are in the ascendancy.

icerose
06-17-2009, 04:56 AM
Thank goodness, I'm lucky if I get 300 pages in a novel. :D

Cassiopeia
06-17-2009, 04:58 AM
I said this wasn't directed at anyone in this thread.

I was saying I have met people who think they're better for having read longer novels, as if they're 'better' readers. The implication is that people who prefer shorter novels (which I do) are stupid or lazy readers.Can you understand my confusion? You made no mention of "those people" but are directing your comments on a thread on a forum. It is natural to assume you are speaking to those of us on this thread who objected to a number count of under 300 to be requisite of a novel being well written.

Cassiopeia
06-17-2009, 04:59 AM
Thank goodness, I'm lucky if I get 300 pages in a novel. :Dheck, I am just trying to finish ONE novel, let alone imagine one over 300 pages? LOL

bsolah
06-17-2009, 05:00 AM
Well I apologise if that was the assumption but that wasn't my intent.

It's more a criticism of literary circles in general, which aren't necessarily the same circles other AW members move in.

Kris
06-17-2009, 05:03 AM
Don't any of you people love Neal Stephenson as much as I do? I don't think Cryptonomicon would have have been better if it had been shorter.... I was sad when it ended, actually. I'm surprised his name hasn't come up before in this thread.

FWIW, I wouldn't have edited one word out of "War and Peace," nor added one word to "Carrie" or "The Stepford Wives."

But I'm a writer, not an editor.

ChristineR
06-17-2009, 05:11 AM
There are short books that are too long, and long books that are too short...but I don't know, in general I prefer long books. I think it's a stylistic thing--large casts, lots of events, events at the beginning of the book that turn out to mean something very different at the end of the book because the context has changed. I'm not sure I buy the argument that people like shorter books because of television and the Internet either. What's the difference between reading three 300 page books and one 900 page book? How would that relate to being able to sit down and turn on the TV? It certainly doesn't make one choice lazy or stupid.

Cassiopeia
06-17-2009, 05:11 AM
Oy! I couldn't get my head around War and Peace. :)

I do think that the problem arises with people used to accessing an entire story on a movie or TV screen in short amounts of time. 3 hours is not long to live through a story.

So the shorter the novel, the more likely someone is to get through it without putting it down. At least that's what a publisher/editor/writer said at my last writer's group. She said that people want to finish it now, don't give them a reason to put it down and longer books aren't as popular. However, look at them on the shelves and you know there's no absolute on this subject.

ChristineR
06-17-2009, 05:34 AM
Well, I would expect someone to take at least three hours to finish a 180 page (45,000 word) novella, and anything longer than that is going to require a break of some sort, so I don't really see that argument. Most people don't have three hours off for uninterrupted reading on weekdays. And long format TV shows that stretch plot over years seem to be doing pretty well also.

I really just think it's changing tastes, and that people create these arguments to try and explain it.

Cassiopeia
06-17-2009, 05:42 AM
Well, I would expect someone to take at least three hours to finish a 180 page (45,000 word) novella, and anything longer than that is going to require a break of some sort, so I don't really see that argument. Most people don't have three hours off for uninterrupted reading on weekdays. And long format TV shows that stretch plot over years seem to be doing pretty well also.

I really just think it's changing tastes, and that people create these arguments to try and explain it.But reading also doesn't have really good looking actors and amazing graphic images where the others do. I can't read 180 pages in three hours. I'm a slow reader. So the argument does hold for some like myself.

bsolah
06-17-2009, 05:44 AM
I don't think I've read a novel in one sitting, 200 pager or 1,000 pager.

scarletpeaches
06-17-2009, 05:46 AM
I could easily read 180 pages in three hours. The most I've read in one sitting was an 800-and-something-page novel. Overnight. Gotta love insomnia.

dolores haze
06-17-2009, 05:53 AM
I tried reading A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth. Three or four times. I really really really did. Couldn't get past about page twelve. If it had been 100 pages, instead of 1000, I still wouldn't have finished it.

My wife adored every bloody page of it.

caw

Ha! I adored it. My hubby couldn't get into it. My theory is that it's the longest romance novel ever written.

I love big books. There's no feeling more satisfying than to be in the grip of a great story, and to run your fingers over the pages yet to be read and know that there's still so much more left to come.

archerjoe
06-17-2009, 05:53 AM
I read No Country for Old Men and The Old Man and the Sea in one sitting but other books take me longer. I'm a reasonably fast reader and if I catch my self skimming, I go back and re-read. Some of the books that took the longest are Midnight's Children and Poisonwood Bible. The Stand zipped by pretty quickly as did the Dark Tower series. I think Stephen King has mastered the art of moving the story along. I savored Annie Dunne for the writing style and look forward to more Sebastian Barry.

maestrowork
06-17-2009, 06:01 AM
If you can't tell your story in less than a 300 pages you are a bad writer.

My novel is 234 pages long.

I must be a great writer. ;)

Seriously, some stories require epic treatment and epic lengths. Some don't. Regardless of length, a good story is a good story.

That said, I'm a slow reader and I prefer shorter novels which I can finish in a day or two. I used to read long books (stayed up overnight, to my parents' chagrin), but I can't stay up to read a book anymore. My attention span is that of a 6yo. I have plenty of longer novels next to my bed, but I doubt I would ever finish reading them. If you have a 1000-pager, it'd better be super exciting and super good to keep me interested long enough to finish reading it.

mario_c
06-17-2009, 06:15 AM
Remember, you don't have to read all of it at once. It's like gardening, it's supposed to take time. I am fairly certain that one day I will finish Dune or The Stand, but getting there is half the fun. (Don't care at this point if I ever finish The Satanic Verses, really.)

bsolah
06-17-2009, 06:19 AM
That said, I'm a slow reader and I prefer shorter novels which I can finish in a day or two. I used to read long books (stayed up overnight, to my parents' chagrin), but I can't stay up to read a book anymore. My attention span is that of a 6yo. I have plenty of longer novels next to my bed, but I doubt I would ever finish reading them. If you have a 1000-pager, it'd better be super exciting and super good to keep me interested long enough to finish reading it.

That's almost me exactly.

megan_d
06-17-2009, 06:22 AM
I love setting aside an entire day to read a long book in one satisfying go. I even took a day off work when the last few harry potter books came out to do just that.

raburrell
06-17-2009, 06:27 AM
What I really want is a story that outlasts its pages, be they 300 or 1000 in number.

Matera the Mad
06-17-2009, 07:05 AM
There are people who hate to see a story end. *shrug* I'll read anything to the end that puls me into it.

Alitriona
06-17-2009, 09:16 AM
In SYW, the first thing I was told was 120,000 was too long for a YA and it would put agents and publishers off. Now while in my case it is too long, basically because my work isn't very good, it's an assumption that a story isn't good bacause it doesn't fit into a certain number of pages. So I think the rise in the number of shorter books has more to do with printing costs and bookshelf space than the work.

I read fast and longer is better for me and I don't want a writer going easy on details to keep the word count down. If I want to use my imagination, I write. When I'm reading I want the picture painted to the last bat of an eyelash. I want the story to suck me in and hold me there for as long as possible.

blacbird
06-17-2009, 09:40 AM
I want the story to suck

Okay. I'll send you a couple of mine.

caw

Ken
06-17-2009, 09:56 AM
... I like novels to be precisely 359 pages. Ones with more pages than this or less, I simply refuse to read.

cooeedownunder
06-17-2009, 10:02 AM
I will read either, but there is nothing worst then screaming through a book in a day and it ends and I am left wondering where the rest of the story is.

Cassiopeia
06-17-2009, 10:03 AM
I will read either, but there is nothing worst then screaming through a book in a day and it ends and I am left wondering where the rest of the story is.Wow, so like..does your family, neighbors and friends get freaked out when the screaming begins? ;)

seun
06-17-2009, 04:21 PM
We all know no book should be any longer than 100,000 words. Any longer than that and you risk destroying the space time continuum.

ccv707
06-17-2009, 04:43 PM
We all know no book should be any longer than 100,000 words. Any longer than that and you risk destroying the space time continuum.

Oh, thank goodness, because I've never writ.....oh shit!!!

ChaosTitan
06-17-2009, 05:57 PM
In SYW, the first thing I was told was 120,000 was too long for a YA and it would put agents and publishers off. Now while in my case it is too long, basically because my work isn't very good, it's an assumption that a story isn't good bacause it doesn't fit into a certain number of pages.

Well, no, it's not an assumption that the story isn't good because it doesn't fit within a certain number of pages. It's assumed the agents and editors will be put off because you are unable to tell your story within the accepted guidelines of a particular genre. Of the vast number of YA novels published a year, very few of them come close to 120k. The accepted standard is much lower than that.

If the story is amazing and the writing is good, it'll get an agent/editor no matter the word count. But it's going to be an uphill battle the entire way, especially for an unpublished writer.

Erm...sorry, slight derail... Where were we?



If you can't tell your story in less than a 300 pages you are a bad writer.

Oh right, this.

Manuscripts are judged by word count, not page count. So quite frankly, any sized novel can be printed in 300 pages. You just have to tweak the formatting and font.

Duh. ;)

scarletpeaches
06-17-2009, 06:04 PM
We all know no book should be any longer than 100,000 words. Any longer than that and you risk destroying the space time continuum.

Arse. That means I've got 5k left to wrap up this WIP then.

Phaeal
06-17-2009, 06:22 PM
You guys still fighting about this? Okay, just this once I'll repeat the mystical formula:

X = # of pgs needed to tell a good story
Y = extra tasty stuff (optional)
Z = good book

X + Y = Z

K? Got it?

Good. Back to work.

SharkGelli
06-17-2009, 08:41 PM
You guys still fighting about this? Okay, just this once I'll repeat the mystical formula:

X = # of pgs needed to tell a good story
Y = extra tasty stuff (optional)
Z = good book

X + Y = Z

K? Got it?

Good. Back to work.
Assume Hemingway's Postulate (for sale baby shoes never worn). Also assume that this can be written in one page. We can then deduce X = 1:

1 + Y = Z

Also note that Y is optional, thus:

1 = Z

Therefore, it should only take one page to produce a good book. Therefore, any books larger than one page are not as good as they could be.

Phaeal
06-17-2009, 09:09 PM
That don't make no sense, as Pete says in Brother Where Art Thou?

Claudia Gray
06-17-2009, 10:45 PM
Keep in mind that page counts are not arbitrarily set. If you're a publisher who puts out bound books (as opposed to ebooks), then you have to figure on real costs: binding, paper, shipping weight, etc. You also have only so much shelf space you're going to get; do you want to put up five different books at 200 pages each (with five different chances to hook a buyer) or one 1,000-page book? YA runs shorter as a general rule, and the projected expenses are figured accordingly.

You can publish a 120,000-word YA, but for every 5K you move beyond the genre guidelines, the number of sales you'll have to earn to make a profit rises. So the publishers are going to be pickier and pickier after that length. If you have the quality and the hook, go for it! But just remember that the numbers aren't arbitrary; the marketplace is real, and limited in ways that have nothing to do with authorial (or even publisher) vision.

(It will be interesting to see what happens to word counts after ebooks become standard.)

scarletpeaches
06-17-2009, 10:54 PM
I hope they never do.

Salis
06-17-2009, 10:56 PM
Life's too long for tiny books.

BAM.

seun
06-17-2009, 10:58 PM
I hope they never do.

Seconded.

Lyra Jean
06-18-2009, 08:36 AM
So are series books out since it's really all just one long story broke up into usually 3 books or more or is it okay if each book in the series is under 300 pages.

What if I have a short story that is 2000 words long and the publishers decide to print in a format where there is one word on each page? Does that make it a bad story since it's 2000 words long?

;)

SharkGelli
06-18-2009, 09:01 AM
So are series books out since it's really all just one long story broke up into usually 3 books or more or is it okay if each book in the series is under 300 pages.

What if I have a short story that is 2000 words long and the publishers decide to print in a format where there is one word on each page? Does that make it a bad story since it's 2000 words long?

;)
You mean things like one sentence per page (http://www.amazon.com/This-Water-Delivered-Significant-Compassionate/dp/0316068225/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245301227&sr=8-1)?

Saint Fool
06-18-2009, 09:04 AM
If e-books become the norm, I'm gonna be a very cranky old lady muttering about the good old days when pages were turned, dammit!

I love a weekend with a good, long book (classic or modern - Bleak House is my current big read and there is no way that the plot, characters and atmosphere of that book could have been written in 300 pages). It's not the page count, it's how well the story is told.

But because I can get lost in a book - I usually stick to shorter during the work week. I can still get up and go to work, if I finish the book by one or two AM. It's the discovering that it's 3 or 4 in the morning that kills me nowadays.

And this XYZ stuff confuses me. Maths? Thwfffft.

Alitriona
06-18-2009, 12:29 PM
Well, no, it's not an assumption that the story isn't good because it doesn't fit within a certain number of pages. It's assumed the agents and editors will be put off because you are unable to tell your story within the accepted guidelines of a particular genre.



Publishers are the ones setting the guidelines and it all comes down to cost of printing, not what the readers want. I can't go into a book shop a and buy a 1,000 page book if they aren't being printed.

Long books can be good or bad so can short books. It would be nice for publishers to cater for both preferences in new books.

As for ebooks, I can't imagine a world without the sound and smell of opening a new book at the first page.

icerose
06-18-2009, 05:51 PM
What I want to know, now that I've finally read this entire thread, is Kurtz, you do realize most publishers won't even read any books under 100,000 words, right? That's about 400 pages on your word processor. I have a shorter novel, it's fantasy, it's just under 300 pages, the only guidelines it fits is young adult partially due to the size! So you want these fantasticly short books, but who's going to publish them? Certainly not fantasy publishers, they WANT and REQUIRE longer books than a mere 300 pages. Besides, the idea that something is bad because you don't agree with the length just for number crunching purposes is rather ridiculous. Some of my favorite books are rather long and they held onto me for every single page.

NeuroFizz
06-18-2009, 06:26 PM
Keep in mind that page counts are not arbitrarily set. If you're a publisher who puts out bound books (as opposed to ebooks), then you have to figure on real costs: binding, paper, shipping weight, etc. You also have only so much shelf space you're going to get; do you want to put up five different books at 200 pages each (with five different chances to hook a buyer) or one 1,000-page book? YA runs shorter as a general rule, and the projected expenses are figured accordingly.

You can publish a 120,000-word YA, but for every 5K you move beyond the genre guidelines, the number of sales you'll have to earn to make a profit rises. So the publishers are going to be pickier and pickier after that length. If you have the quality and the hook, go for it! But just remember that the numbers aren't arbitrary; the marketplace is real, and limited in ways that have nothing to do with authorial (or even publisher) vision.

(It will be interesting to see what happens to word counts after ebooks become standard.)
As much as it may bother us, Claudia has just reminded us that writing (publishing) is a business. This means we sometimes have to adjust our creativity to fit into certain limits imposed by publishers.

As for e-publishing, I want people to read my books and the books of my fellow authors (y'all). As long as readers continue to do read, and to lay their money down to do it, I don't really care what medium they choose. I doubt print books will fall out of fashion in our lifetimes, but as writers, we have to remain flexible about current and future directions in the publishing industry. I agree. I much prefer print books, and I hope they stay. But I won't slit my wrists if I'm wrong about my statement about our lifetimes. And it won't make me quit writing.

Alpha Echo
06-18-2009, 06:39 PM
I too wish there were more long novels. The title, the cover art, the authors name, forget all that. It's a name thick spine that makes me pull a book of the shelf for a closer look.


Me too. When I see a longer book, I want to buy it. I don't know why. I don't mind long books. now, it can't bore me to death or else I won't finish it. But I generally love long books.

nighttimer
08-03-2009, 01:24 PM
When I was a Stephen King fanboy, I went through his books like they were Spider-Man comic books. I dug the hell out of The Stand in 1978 when it was 823 pages, but not as much when King came out when the complete and uncut version in 1990 that bulks up to 1153 pages.

Making a long book even longer doesn't mean it's better. Everything isn't improved just because there's more of it. Apocalypse Now is one of my favorite flicks of all time, but when Francis Coppola came out with Apocalypse Now Redux with an additional 49 minutes it just made a long movie longer and not a marked improvement over the admittingly flawed original. Marlon Brando still was a fat, mumbling, lumbering slob.

Yes, some books are as long as they need to be as for a rare few, that's the only way they would work. Writing tight works in journalism, but in writing novels, less is not always more.

Still, my experience is inevitably the longer a book is the more likely it is to drag and meander at some point. When I read King's longest book, IT, I found myself just flipping pages at times and when I finished, I knew I'd never read IT again.

But at 822 pages, Moby Dick remains The Book That Almost Made Me Hate Reading. I wouldn't make my worst enemy read it. It's just plain torture.
:e2yawn:

Libbie
08-03-2009, 05:21 PM
I disagree that a novel's length indicates its goodness. I loved 1984, Animal Farm, and Lord of the Flies (didn't care so much for Catcher in the Rye.) I just read The Book of the Dun Cow, a very short novel, and it was one of the best books I've ever read.

I've also read long books that made me want to puke, they were so bad and/or boring.

I've read very long novels and enjoyed every word of them. Tad Williams' two series, George R. R. Martin's, Maia by Richard Adams. Shardik was pretty long, too, if I recall. Shogun was great. Les Miserables.

Length is not an indication of greatness. Nor are short novels easy to read just because they're short. (Read The Book of the Dun Cow and tell me it was easy. I'll laugh at you.) I frankly think it's a bit silly to decide that a book is good or bad, easy or difficult, based on how many pages it has. It's the words between the covers that count.

And personally, I think that people who will commit themselves to a very long novel rather than do anything else, including reading a shorter novel that may have a less challenging theme or writing style, aren't going to change much. There are people who love to read stuff like this, and people who prefer to read Twilight over anything else. Good on 'em. I don't think all that many readers cross over between more in-depth, challenging books and easier, poppier, lighter entertainment.

Rarri
08-03-2009, 05:39 PM
Really thick books are the best for smashing spiders.

caw

My husband does this and it's gets very, very annoying because he doesn't tell me which books he's used. I only find out when i discover the squished spider. Eurgh.

Anyway. Books should be the length that suits them. Though i have to concede i recently read I Know This Much is True (bite me, it's 912 pages, not 1000) and it was so refreshing to read a book that took longer than a couple of days to finish.

Libbie
08-03-2009, 05:42 PM
If e-books become the norm, I'm gonna be a very cranky old lady muttering about the good old days when pages were turned, dammit!



I just don't want to have to charge my book's batteries in order to keep reading. Seems awfully silly to me.

aruna
08-03-2009, 06:28 PM
I love long books! I will always pick the longest ones off the shelf first. And I don't even read fantasy.
Right now I'm reading The Palace of Heavenly Pleasures, which is 704 pages long. It's a story set in China at the itme of the Boxer revolts. It's got many interweaving threads, characters to follow, subplots and the like. To write this particular book in 300 pages woudl be to slaughter it. So that's a rubbish argument.




I tried reading A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth. Three or four times. I really really really did. Couldn't get past about page twelve. If it had been 100 pages, instead of 1000, I still wouldn't have finished it.

My wife adored every bloody page of it.

caw

Actually it's 1500 pages, and I too loved every single page of it.
(By the way A Suitable Girl, the sequel, is in the words! Tell your wife!)






I'll revise my statement to say that 99% of stories written now can be told and should be in less than 300 pages. Foucalt's Pendulum is a noticeable exception.


Still rubbish. If it's a long story it's a long story All of life here on earth is a story, and it's a VERY long one! What sre novels but slices of life? They can be as long and short as they need to be.


Oh bollocks.
....................
But this is just a heap of shite.
...............

I second this.

I hardly ever read short books. If I do it has to be REALLY good.

scarletpeaches
08-03-2009, 06:38 PM
I can't believe a lady like you 'seconded' my bollocks and heap of shite.

I'm kinda squicked out, kinda honoured...

RickN
08-03-2009, 06:39 PM
If I'm bored at 50 pages, then it doesn't matter whether there's another 300 pages of boredom or another 1000.

Give me a good story. The length will take care of itself.

BardSkye
08-04-2009, 09:57 AM
I'm partial to huge books. 1000 pages means it might take more than a day to read. (I can go through a regular-sized book on the bus home from work. It's probably just as well I like re-reading my old friends.)

Except for War and Peace. It took me an entire school year to get through that one. I hated it but it was a required book. Sadly, that turned me away from most of the "classics."

Salis
08-04-2009, 10:09 AM
If I'm bored at 50 pages, then it doesn't matter whether there's another 300 pages of boredom or another 1000.

Give me a good story. The length will take care of itself.

Does anyone actually sit down and go, "I'm going to write a terrible story."

A good story can be told in an unreadable way, in my experience.

RickN
08-04-2009, 07:29 PM
Does anyone actually sit down and go, "I'm going to write a terrible story."

A good story can be told in an unreadable way, in my experience.

I'm not with you there. "Good" is subjective and based 100% on my experience with it. Part of the quality of any story is the ability to share it. If I can't get through the book, the author has failed with me, and the story is not a good one.

It may be great and fantastic for thousands of other people, but for me -- it ain't good.

BTW, no one sits down to write a terrible story, but a surpring number succeed in gettting there anyway. :-)

RG570
08-04-2009, 09:37 PM
I admit I don't necessarily like long books for the sake of being long, but it seems out of line to make a blanket generalization and say that in "these times," whatever that means, a book of this or that length is obsolete. Certain constraints on art can increase creativity, but I'm not convinced this is one of those cases.

To say that an audience just cannot grasp a book only because of its length is extremely depressing.

But also, this is wrong because the fact is the books that have been the hugest hits, like that terrible T-word and Harry Potter, haven't been all that short. So, length doesn't mean a damned thing. It's being boring that kills a novel, not extreme length.

Salis
08-04-2009, 09:48 PM
In a lot of cases its arbitrary, too. As mentioned, LOTR was conceived as one novel, and then diced into several parts by the publisher.

You could say that a lot of series would make sense as one huge-ass novel. We just dice them up into 300-400 page installments for market demand.

aruna
08-05-2009, 12:11 AM
You could say that a lot of series would make sense as one huge-ass novel. We just dice them up into 300-400 page installments for market demand.

Also for the sake of portability and handability. Who wants to take a 2000 page book to bed, or on the Tube to work?

But the very fact that series do work, proves that at heart readers don't want stories to end.

CatSlave
08-05-2009, 12:21 AM
If you can't tell your story in less than a 300 pages you are a bad writer.
Tell that to Leo Tolstoy.

john barnes on toast
08-05-2009, 02:18 AM
It's remarkable that in a community of writers, that there are people with contempt for books that have too much writing in them in.

Radio Changes
08-06-2009, 09:30 AM
I don't know man.

Infinite Jest is the best novel I've ever read or am likely to ever read and that's over 1000 pages.

ChristineR
08-06-2009, 06:17 PM
Nobody thinks all long novels are good. But there's a definite vibe on these boards that all long novels are bad. I've yet to see a post that has the "all short novels are bad" attitude.

The weird thing is that the short novel supporters have the attitude that they're the defenders of truth against a mass of long novel lovers who are out to destroy the world. Sorry, but I don't see it.

bsolah
08-07-2009, 04:59 AM
I think most people on this board actually think long novels are automatically better.

Toothpaste
08-07-2009, 05:35 AM
You do?

bsolah
08-07-2009, 05:37 AM
No, I think long novels are overrated. I'm not saying all long novels are crap because clearly everyone can quote numerous examples of long novels. But I think modern publishing is driving this idea to fluff up books and charge people for more pages when sometimes the story could be better said in fewer pages.

There are plenty of underrated shorter novels.

eyeblink
08-07-2009, 12:16 PM
I came of age as an SF reader in the later 70s, when with a few exceptions (Dune, Stand on Zanzibar etc) very few novels exceeded 75k words or so. Now you can't publish a genre SF novel that short, or not with a UK major publisher anyway. So those 50k classics like Fahrenheit 451, The Stars My Destination and so forth would now be padded out to 100k at least. If they'd been published now, would we still be reading them in fifty years from now? Somehow I doubt it.

I find too many adult novels unnecessarily padded. Some of the arguments for longer books have been brought up in this thread. Another one is that it's a lot easier to pad with a word processor than it was with a typewriter.

I would like there to be room for books of all length - tell the story in 70k if that's what it needs, or 150k if it needs to be longer, and so on. I'm sure writers would produce shorter novels if they weren't disallowed by contract to do so, if they had a story which justified the shorter length.

This is one reason (as I've said before) why I'm reading more and more YA novels. The best ones are tightly written and just the right length and I'm a reader who appreciates that. (I'm also a short-story reader and writer.) And for the most part, the YAs that are longer have justified the extra length.

I'm a slowish reader with limited reading time, so I reckon on 10,000 words a day - which means an average adult novel in 1-2 weeks. Having said that, I recently read George R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords (425,000 words) in nine days, but a holiday involving two eleven-hour flights helped there. Normally a book that long would take me about six weeks. It's two prequels took me three each.

Lots of people have spoken up for epics. But there should be the place for the perfect miniature as well. Some of my favourite writers are miniaturists - Jennifer Johnston and Alan Garner for example.

AnonymousWriter
08-07-2009, 02:24 PM
I don't see how anyone can say a longer novel is better than a shorter one, or vice versa. It's all subjective.

A good story with good writing will be as long as it needs to be. Whether it's 200 pages or 2000, if I'm entertained, I'll stick with it.

Wayne K
08-07-2009, 02:25 PM
Long, short, I don't care one way or the other. Entertain me, and I'll read 1,000 pages easy.

ChristineR
08-07-2009, 07:28 PM
In my experience, there's more padding in short novels than in long. If the novel has a complex plot with multiple characters, it will be long, padded or not. Once the plot is in place, there's no room for padding. If the novel has a simple plot, it can be padded into a short book. Of course padding is subjective--if you like simple plots with lots of colorful but mostly irrelevant description and action, then the short novel is not padded.

There's no doubt in my mind that the tone of this board is anti-long. There are people here who like short novels, and people who like long novels, but there's not any wild insulting of short novels. No one has said that authors that are incapable of writing a long novel are incompetent, for example. The very idea is absurd. Yet such anti-long novel statements are made here all the time.

john barnes on toast
08-07-2009, 08:23 PM
No, I think long novels are overrated.

I can understand people having preferences, but I can't understand people wanting to steadfastly align themselves to one literary camp (long book, short books, smart books, dumb books) and actively denigrating those that fall into the opposing camp.

There are great long books, and there are great short books. There are terrible long books, and terrible short books. There are stories that demand high page counts and ones that need to be told with brevity.

Stating that one way is absolutely preferable to the other is baffling to me.

raburrell
08-07-2009, 08:29 PM
I can understand people having preferences, but I can't understand people wanting to steadfastly align themselves to one literary camp (long book, short books, smart books, dumb books) and actively denigrating those that fall into the opposing camp.

There are great long books, and there are great short books. There are terrible long books, and terrible short books. There are stories that demand high page counts and ones that need to be told with brevity.

Stating that one way is absolutely preferable to the other is baffling to me.
I think there's a subtext running through this thread that says 'I write short (or long), please don't stomp my hopes of getting published someday.'

Or at least that's the way I'm reading it. Maybe it's me. Otherwise, yeah. It's not like I have some overwhelming urge to run to my local B&N and pull all the skinny books from the shelves :e2shrug:

john barnes on toast
08-07-2009, 08:52 PM
I think there's a subtext running through this thread that says 'I write short (or long), please don't stomp my hopes of getting published someday.'

Or at least that's the way I'm reading it. Maybe it's me. Otherwise, yeah. It's not like I have some overwhelming urge to run to my local B&N and pull all the skinny books from the shelves :e2shrug:

interesting.

Without wanting to stir up a hornet's nest, it does seem as though anyone wanting to attack (however covertly) the types of books they don't personally write, could well be motivated by insecurity.

I think it's great that people should champion their own particular corner of the literary landscape, but I really don't like to see writers attempting this by trying to undermine the worth of other's work in general terms.

Silent Rob
08-07-2009, 09:21 PM
I agree with john barnes. Writing's alway subjective and stories will always take as long as they need to take to be told. It seems that a simple distinction of a bad writer from a good one would be those who chose to mess with this simple precept - i.e. shoehorning a long story into too few words or needlessly padding out a shorter story to get a higher wordcount. But there are plenty of people who have done neither and have produced some awesome work of both types.

ChaosTitan
08-07-2009, 09:40 PM
Yet such anti-long novel statements are made here all the time.

Anti-prologue statements are made here all the time.

Anti-romance novel statements are made here all the time.

Anti-sexy cover statements are made here all the time.

Anti-outline statements are made here all the time.

See where I'm going with this? Thing is, the people who feel most strongly about something are the ones who will be the most vocal about it. Or against it, as the case may be. People who are vehemently against long novels, or who have read and been disappointed by them the most, are likely to be the loudest voices heard. Which is why "the board" seems to have such a slant against long novels.

But honestly, AW has over 15,000 members, and that's a very broad brush you're painting with.

BenPanced
08-07-2009, 10:35 PM
I'm against broad brushes. I prefer more narrow ones. :D

ChristineR
08-08-2009, 01:09 AM
Anti-prologue statements are made here all the time.

Anti-romance novel statements are made here all the time.

Anti-sexy cover statements are made here all the time.

Anti-outline statements are made here all the time.

See where I'm going with this? Thing is, the people who feel most strongly about something are the ones who will be the most vocal about it. Or against it, as the case may be. People who are vehemently against long novels, or who have read and been disappointed by them the most, are likely to be the loudest voices heard. Which is why "the board" seems to have such a slant against long novels.

But honestly, AW has over 15,000 members, and that's a very broad brush you're painting with.

Actually, no I don't see where you're going with this. There are plenty of people on here who are pro long novels, but they don't feel justified in bashing short novels or short novel writers. Covers and outlines aren't really comparable to a written work like a novel. Prologues and romance novels, maybe, but I haven't noticed any romance novel bashing (not that I've read every thread). I haven't read anyone claiming that only incompetent writers write prologues or use outlines either.

It isn't a question of what percentage of the 15,000 members board is pro or anti long novel, it's that the bashing long novels seems to be a blood sport for a significant minority.

drksideofthemoon
08-08-2009, 07:05 AM
If you can't tell your story in less than a 300 pages you are a bad writer.

Really? Why not 287 pages, or 242, or 179. The quality of a literary work is not indirectly proprotional to its quantity. As mentioned before, I've read some awesome works that were 1000 pages and picked up some real duds that were relatively short.

Zipotes
08-08-2009, 06:56 PM
I have a couple 1000 page beasts on my shelf that I keep putting off reading. One of them is highly recommened and I'm dying to read it and WILL read it. But, it's so much more satisifying when I can get several books read in the same time frame.

drksideofthemoon
08-08-2009, 09:12 PM
I have a couple 1000 page beasts on my shelf that I keep putting off reading. One of them is highly recommened and I'm dying to read it and WILL read it. But, it's so much more satisifying when I can get several books read in the same time frame.

Why?

StandJustSo
08-09-2009, 10:18 AM
I couldn't care less what length a book is. I read every single word at the rate of about 400 words a minute, and sometimes its a struggle to have enough to read. I don't have to read a book all in one sitting, but I have read many that way. I'll often have several books going at once, on different topics, lol. I'm only reading 2 right now though; one in ebook form, and a hardcover.

I LOVE eBooks - am currently reading books on my computer that I electronically checked out from my library, and I own a dedicated eBook reader that I can download my own documents to, and I use it for editing my novel, because I can write notations, mark highlights, and even add blank pages in the reader. My house isn't cluttered with books, and I don't have to lug around a bunch of books when I travel.

No, the length of the book, nor the format doesn't matter at all to me - having something I enjoy reading does.