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Does Size Really Matter?

Okay, I'm talking about book length, but I love where your mind was headed. You see, I just finished writing my second short story and it got me wondering if your preference to write epic tales over short pieces was inherent, almost genetic, and thus, hard to change. Not that your actual writing is different. Regardless of length, every story has the same elements in it. But there is a certain amount of flair required for writing short pieces... this coming from a person who loves to draw things out.

So does this mean somewhere in my brain there's a code for having grand ideas? That's how it feels. Whenever the characters of a future book start nattering away in my head, they don't just have quick, fleeting adventures in mind. They want to roam across the land, taking several paths before arriving at their destination. And I love following them. But as I look at the path of erotic books, it seems more and more authors are writing shorter offerings. Novellas jump off the electric shelves like hot cakes and I'm left wondering if long novels are becoming a thing of the past. It seems logical in some ways. In this era of instant gratification, are we becoming less patient to sit down and only read a few chapters of a book rather than the entire story? Do we stretch our time so thin we don't have enough to spend reading a novel that will take us a week to finish? Do we just want to know how it ends, period?

I'm not sure if I have any answers. I enjoy reading all book lengths , but I love writing long ones. 90,000 words is a good length for me. I have enough time to indulge in lots of adventure, and of course, steamy romantic sex, but not so long I've lost the will to keep writing. And I can't help but wonder if this stems from growing up glued to the likes of Stephen King, whose idea of a novel usually involves at least 120,000 words. I've read series that took ten books to finish and novels I've spent weeks getting through. I'm comfortable at this length. But will they sell?

I suppose that's the ultimate question. Not whether I love writing long stories, but do readers love reading them. I would like to think there are still folks who enjoy sinking into a book a few chapters at a time, or maybe I just want this because I find writing short stories more challenging. Perhaps it's because you have to pinpoint your ideas. Instead of looking at part of a character's life, you almost need to concentrate more on one event in their life. After all 15,000 words doesn't leave much room to explore more than a specific moment, say an evening, or a wedding, or maybe an afternoon trapped in an abandoned barn. What I'm getting at is, you need to organize your thoughts and stay on track. And I wonder if I'm the only one who finds this hard. (Of course if you examined my life you'd soon discover organization is not my strong suit.) As soon as I start writing I think of all these other ways my characters can interact and I just want to expand on every idea. It takes a lot of self control to stay on track and concentrate on that one main objective.

I have to say I'm a bit envious of authors who can school their thoughts into these tasty little bites. Who seem to be able to pick out the perfect scenario they can curtail into forty pages, but still leave you feeling satisfied with the tale they've woven. It seems like a remarkable talent and I'd be lying if I didn't confess I curse them as I force myself to, once again, rein it all in. But then I guess that's the beauty of writing. We all have our strengths and strive to better ourselves. I do enjoy looking at a short and thinking, yes, that did condense down nicely... all the while plotting all the wonderful trouble my characters could get into if I could just add 5,000 more words.

So what's your preference? Does size really matter? Or is it the story that draws you in? I'd love to know your thoughts, though I think I'll always struggle to contain mine.

Thanks for dropping by and see you next month.

Kris Norris
Romancing adventure at a time.


Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, Kris,

I have to tell you that my biggest problem with most of the romance I read and review these days is that it is too short. Just when I'm getting to know the characters, the book is over. I love it when I find a long, juicy book that I can sink into and enjoy for days.

I write both long and short, and I don't think it's genetic, but I do believe that writing novels versus short stories require different sets of skills. Actually most of the short stories I've written are in the 3-6K range. The 15K "story" that seems to be popular in the romance world is a new beast for me, and takes yet another sort of perspective, different skills. I'm still learning how to write them.

Thanks for a thought provoking post.


Kris Norris said...

Hi Lisabet,

I agree with you. I love to know I'm going to have days to enjoy a good book, and will be sad when it eventually all ends.

I, also, struggle with the short stories. Like I said, I have to rein in every idea, and even then, I always feel as if I've rushed things and cut too much out. But if I want to expand, no pun intended, to all facets of readership, I guess it's a skill I'll have to work on.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Jude Mason said...

Hi Kris,

The longest work I've written is 73,000 words and for me, it was a stretch. I think now, I'd tackle it and have much less problems, but it's not where I write comfortably. I'm more of a 30-50K kinda girl. LOL

I do think there's an audience for all lengths of writing, although maybe not the percentages wanting the really long pieces, at the moment. I also think the tendency towards shorter works is growing. People are in a hurry, they want immediate gratification more than I remember when I was younger. Is it a good thing? Who knows. And I do think the pendulum will swing back, so write what feels right for you.


Genella deGrey said...

Hello Kris!

As far as reading goes, it's the story that draws me in. Long or short is good with me.

For writing, I tend to write a first draft around 35 - 40k - so it's hard for me to write short-shorts.


Kris Norris said...

Hey Jude

Thanks for taking time out of your visit to drop by. It's funny. When I first thought about getting published I went to a convention and did the usual... chatted up agents and publishers. At that point, books had to be at least 70K for most of them to consider them. Now it seems 70 K is on the long side. And I have 3 over 90K! I just can't seem to help it. I think big...

I also think people are into the instant gratification thing these days. But I'm hoping for that swing you mentioned. Here's keeping every thing crossed.

Kris Norris said...

Hey Genella

Nice to see you here. I'm the same way. Actually there was a time I wouldn't read a short, for the very reason I knew it'd be over before I'd even settled in. Now I just read what strikes me as a good book. Sounds like you've found a great comfort zone. I'll be aiming at keeping mine down a bit to around 60K... so here's hoping I can learn these skills, lol.

Stella Price said...

hey Kris,

for us it depends on what comes out. Some stories we have been told needed more to them for the reader to really enjoy it, but sometimes the story comes out and just stops, there's nothing you could do without it making the story seem forced.

Our longest book to date is 98k, and while i LOVE novels, I wont read them in e book. I'm on my compy 18 hours a day, reading a book on it isn't my idea of fun. Novellas, short stories, LOVE them in e book. But Novels will forever be a print book thing for me.


Kris Norris said...

Hey Stella

Thanks for dropping by. I agree. Sometimes you just have a thought and when it's done, it's done. I also have come to realize there's always more information you could give, but much of the time it's not important enough to warrant it's own time. A passing comment might be enough.

I read all my books on the computer. Long, short, it doesn't matter. I think it's just because there isn't really places to buy the books I want at home and I'm not patient enough to wait for them to come from amazon or the like. And I can't help but wonder if paper books might be a dying breed, with the cost to print them over the cost of creating e books, not to mention the whole environmental aspect. But many have told me until they can drop the palm reader or computer into the bath and still be able to read it, they won't change.
Definitely fodder for another blog.