Length Matters

It is generally accepted as fact that if your epic fantasy novel could not also be used to bash in the skull of a would-be intruder, it’s not nearly long enough. Of course, why the hell would you use a book to bash an intruder when your replica Drizzt Do’Urden scimitars are mounted right there on the wall? You know you feel like a badass holding those bitches!

Like movies and commercials and lines at the Apple store, books have gotten longer. Especially Fantasy books. It’s like authors all took that “epic” word to heart and decided that their book had to be sprawling and sweeping and other words of grandeur (if I had time to lookup a thesaurus) in order to justify someone plopping down the cash. Or, in many cases, they just couldn’t shut the hell up with the prose. I don’t need to know what fucking everyone ate! I’m looking at you, Martin!

Now look, you may really like giant, thousand-page opuses. You may be the type who ignores any book under eight-hundred pages because you expect truly epic fantasy. Which is great for you, because the publishers pretty much insist on it. The average word count on an epic fantasy book is quite a bit higher than most other genres. But remember, most (if not all) epic fantasy today is released in a series or the classic trilogy. Why do we have to have every damn book in the series big enough to double as a child’s booster seat? Is it because no one has phonebooks anymore?

Me? I’ve really been enjoying some of the shorter books I’ve picked up recently. Books that clock in at three-hundred pages or even less. Of course, they cost less too, so I don’t really feel like I’m being ripped off. In fact, it’s a damn bargain compared to what I’ve paid for hardbacks over the years. I would much rather read a trilogy whose total clocks in at a thousand pages than a single book that’s a thousand pages. Got more story to tell? Start another trilogy.

Why, you ask? What’s the difference? Well, I don’t have as much time as I’d like for reading anymore. See, I’m a dad now. I have two kids. For those without kids, trust me, they’re an enormous time suck. Add to that a full-time job and other projects, and that doesn’t leave a lot of reading (or writing, if that’s what you’re into) time. So, for me, a book I can devour in a quick sitting or two is awesome. I’m not saying a longer read won’t be worth it, but there’s a good chance these days that I’ll have to put it down and get back to it weeks later if I get to finish it at all.

With the explosion of ebooks and self-publishing, books have gone on a diet. Little by little, they’re getting shorter. I love that. Does that mean there’s less story? Not generally, no. Those writers are just writing and releasing shorter works at a much faster pace. It’s a lot quicker to write, edit and release a three-hundred page book and then just start the next one.

Most of the big name fantasy authors are still putting out weighty tomes that you can use to flatten a chicken, and that’s great if that’s what you’re into. I want something that doesn’t require that big an investment of my time. I would rather read three hundred pages once, twice or thrice a year from an author than a thousand pages every three, five or six years. I’m looking at you, Martin!

A hundred thousand words in three books is just as long as a hundred thousand words in one book. I counted.

2 Responses to Length Matters

  1. Michelle Roberts says:

    Let me just say that I’m not the only . . . oh, wait, guess I am . . . fantasy loving girl I know. Glad the hubby puts up with me, because someone else might be creeped out by my nerdiness (and yes, it has occurred to me that I married a Star Wars nerd). 🙂

    • It’s not that nerd girls didn’t exist when I was growing up, it’s more like there weren’t that many in the little town I grew up in. There were a few, to be sure, but nerds can go many different ways. There were definitely no D&D girls I knew of.

      Like every other subculture in the world, the internet has allowed the fantasy geeks (boys and girls) all to find each other and live in harmony. It doesn’t hurt that we’re the ones that are cool now. 🙂

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