#LetsDiscuss2020 – Short, Medium, Long, Huge – #DiscussionSunday #14.

#LetsDiscuss2020

I have often said that a well crafted short story is a joy to behold, but I know that many people might disagree with me. So I was wondering…

Does the length of a book or piece of creative writing become an important factor in your decision to read something?

Discussion Sunday #letsdiscuss2020

Disclaimer:

These are my personal opinions. I do not expect anyone to agree with anything here, and in fact, I’m certain that many will disagree and/or even hate many of the things I’ve written below. Sorry about that, but you are always welcome to express your own opinions – be they contrary or comparable – in the comments section. So, with that out of the way…

Short

I think most of my readers know that I once wrote poetry. In fact, in my youth I even published several of them, and won a prize for one of them. I actually naïvely thought that becoming a poet was my destiny. Of course, maturity and the need to ensure I had food, clothing and shelter, put a kibosh on that dream, and I stopped writing poetry several years ago (despite my dabbling with a haiku or limerick from time to time, or to write new lyrics to an old song as satire). You see, writing poetry is hard. It is emotionally draining, and the precision needed to write a really good poem takes both time and energy, not to mention talent. Furthermore, because I never studied poetry with any intensity, I don’t believe that I’m a good judge of it, and therefore I don’t review poetry.

 

EECummings Tulips and ChiminesAnd to be honest, I haven’t read much poetry either – relatively speaking. Sure, I own some books of poetry, like this one by my favorite poet, but I don’t go searching for books of poetry to read. This is probably because I’m very picky about what type of poetry I like, and if it is overly sweet or sentimental, I won’t like it much. I also don’t care for poems that try too hard to be avant-garde, or shocking – if the emotion is honest, it comes through without fake or forced conceit. Finally, if it rhymes, it had damned well better scan as well. After several years learning about formalist poetry on an internet forum, and trying my hand at metrical verse, I can no longer stand poems that rhyme without having some kind of matching, regular rhythm. If you can’t do both, and do it properly, stick to writing free verse.

Obviously, not every author can write poetry, or lyrics for that matter. Case in point – I loved the novel “Daisy Jones and The Six” but I found that the lyrics to the songs at the end of the book were… mediocre at best. On the other hand, although not quite as compelling as her prose, the poems included in the novel “My Counterfeit Self” by Jane Davis were very good. In her author’s note she admits she’s not a poet, and that it was not easy writing them, and she even tried to get a real poet to give her poems for the book. Well, brava to her for writing them herself! On the other hand, Ondaatje, who started out as a poet, when he writes prose, it is almost like reading a very long poem.

Medium

As I noted in my opening, I truly adore a really good short story. I believe that there is a real art in writing one that encapsulates everything the author is trying to express, in so few words. The best short stories for me are those that make you think – they don’t tell you everything, and often they leave you hanging and having to “get” the point. When it comes to short stories, I often prefer them all to be from a single author, but I’ve read collections and anthologies that have also been enjoyable. Mind you, the latter have a tendency to be less consistent than the former, mostly because different authors have different styles that appeal to different people.

Redhead by the Side of the Road 2Novelettes and novellas give the author a bit more leeway for including everything they want to say or describe. If well written, they can be just like short stories on their satisfaction levels for me, and again, I prefer those that don’t tie everything up into a nice neat bow at the end. Of course, sometimes a story just doesn’t need to be novel length; this happens when the author has said everything that they’ve wanted to say, and what they’ve written simply isn’t a full-length novel. Anne Tyler’s latest book “Redhead by the Side of the Road” is exactly that kind of book.

Long

I’m going to call these full-length, stand-alone novels. Obviously, most people read these length books, which average in the 200-400-page length. This format gives authors plenty of space for backstories and detailed descriptions of scenery, and the like. With the ability to spread things out, we also have the opportunity to get to know characters better, as well. I’m believe that most first-time and newer authors write for this size of a book, and probably include more prose in their first drafts than what ends up in the finished product. By that I mean that I’m betting that a writer who bangs out what could be a 400+ page first draft, will probably pare it down quite a bit before the final version is published. I also read mostly this length of stand-alone novels, partially because the genres I prefer to read mostly seem to come in this size and format.

Mind you, there are many authors – both famous and newbies – who need better editors, and many a time I’ve read a full-length novel and thought it had too much “filler” that could have easily been cut to make the writing tighter. This is what makes me wary of books that are well over the 500 page mark. I’m always fearful that I’ll get annoyed that they aren’t as tightly written as they could be. Admittedly, while I can enjoy these longer works, I’ve noticed that after I’ve read a particularly long novel or two, I often find myself looking to see if I have a novella or some short stories on my TBR, just for variety and the ability to concentrate on something shorter.

huntressBy the way, I also put sequels into this category, since often they aren’t written in succession. For example, between “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry,” and the companion novel “The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy” Rachel Joyce published her novel “Perfect.” Also, sequels don’t always stick to the confines of the original novel’s story arc, or build off of one character or story line. For example, Backman’s “Britt-Marie Was Here” takes a minor character from his previous novel and turns her into the main protagonist of this book. I have to admit that there have been several novels I’ve read that I’ve loved so much, that I still continue to hope that the author will be inspired to write a sequel or a spin-off novel. (I’m talking to you, Kate Quinn – I still want a novel just focusing on Nina from “The Huntress.”)

Huge

AC Tom and TupWhat I mean by this are the series; stories that are published in at least two volumes. Now, I’ve read a few series in my life – such as the Masters of Rome books by Colleen McCullough, the Earth’s Children books by Jean Auel. Granted, I never got around to the last books of both these series, nor did I ever finish reading the Harry Potter books. I’ve also read dozens of books by Agathe Christie; a few of the Poirot books, many of the Miss Marple books, and I believe all of the Tommy and Tuppence books. One thing about series is that, for the most part, you really need to start reading from the first one. Yes, some series can be read out of order. For example, most the Christie books are essentially stand-alone, as they just have recurring characters. But many series are such that you would probably get lost if you read the third book of a five-part series, before you’ve read books one and two. This is because the author intends for the story arc to only come to completion at the end of the series, and all the characters, backgrounds, and plot setups will appear in the earlier books.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with series of books, and I see book bloggers out there challenging themselves to read every book in them. Personally, and especially these days, I feel as I’m no longer on the lookout for them, since I don’t think I’m willing to commit to reading all of the books in a series. Yes, I know I could stop if I get bored (like I did with the Harry Potter books), but it seems to me that I’m doing myself and the books a disservice if I don’t even have the intention to read them all. Also, if there are lots of characters, I’m not sure I could keep them all straight in my head from book to book. This could be just an age thing, or it could be that I want more variety in my reading. So for me, the occasional sequel, yes, but a series, probably not (although I do want to read the next Billie Walker book by Tara Moss).

So… what about you?

Do you prefer to read sweeping sagas and unending series? Or do you like to read shorter works, like stand-alone novels, novellas, or short story collections?

Does the length of a piece of creative writing (or its brevity) entice you or put you off?

This post is my 14th entry in the 2020 Discussion Challenge, hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight!

2020-Discussion-Challenge

 

26 thoughts on “#LetsDiscuss2020 – Short, Medium, Long, Huge – #DiscussionSunday #14.

  1. Before I became a book blogger, the length of a book did not factor into my decisions on whether to read it or not. Now however, I do take the length into consideration. As of today, I have over 200 books to read and review so very lengthy books are really not an option. I seldom read a book over 450 pages.
    As an aside, I’ve noticed that some publishers are not even specifying how many pages are in their books. Perhaps for this very reason….?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think publishers are trying to be deceitful regarding the length of their books, more that I think they announce books before they’re totally finished and don’t know the real page count until it is actually printed. Plus, books that come out first as eBooks aren’t easy to put a page count on.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I prefer short-medium standalones for sure. If a book is long or part of a series, it tends to sit on my TBR shelf for years. I’m such a slow reader that I end up getting bored with long books. They take me forever to get through, and I eventually start wishing they were over.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I find modern novels are far more full of dull filler than most older books, although it’s an unfair comparison since the older books we read tend to be the best ones, whereas with new novels there’s no telling which of them will become the classics of the future. Length itself never puts me off – short or long. All I ask is that the book should be the right length for the story the author has to tell.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. To be honest, I feel like a lot of books nowadays (especially by famous authors) suffer from a certain sagginess. Almost like the publisher was too frightened to edit it, or thought that the longer the better for the readers. They could nearly all have benefited from having roughly 1/3 cut without losing any of their value. I have seldom wished for a book to be longer, but I have wished for many a book to be shorter.
    However, I have read my share of chunky single volumes and series. I remember devouring the Michael Dibdin series with Aurelio Zen as a detective in Italy – although I could never find them in the right order at the library.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, yes, yes! I also think some publishers/editors are afraid that if they are hard on their famous authors, that the authors will leave them for another publisher. So instead of putting out the best version of the book, they kowtow to the author’s whims. Shame, that!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. For me, it’s all about how I’m feeling. And how much a review has intrigued me – whether poetry, short story or book ( of whatever size in words). Great post by the way. Something that made me think. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m a fan of novellas which often pack more of a punch than chunksters but I’m sometimes more than happy to lose myself in 400 or so pages. Stuart Evers’ The Blind Light was the latest example of that.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. When I was young I used to work on the basis of the bigger the book the better, so I did read some chunksters. I think now I am sitting more firmly in the large category as it fills like huge books just take so much more time to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I personally struggle with a short story because I like to dig my reading teeth into something at least the length of a novella. My preference is for books with a length of 300 – 350 pages. Anything longer needs to be from a seasoned author who has crafted their skill, so I know that it isn’t filled with unnecessary filler and mundane detail.

    I review a lot of indie authors and when I get request from debut authors with books that are 400+ pages, I am very wary, as almost all of these will have need or further parring down.

    I don’t mind a series, but these days it is hard to find the time to fit one in, and is in’t unknown for me to binge read as series.

    I would love a spin-off about Nina from Kate Quinn too, she was such a great character.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting! If I had my druthers, books would be in the 200-250 page range. By the way, I asked Kate about a spin-off for Nina… she said she’s not planning one, but… hope springs eternal!

      Like

  9. I don’t mind short stories in magazines, but I wouldn’t particularly buy one separately.

    Very long novels can be masterpieces, but, if you’ve only got a small amount of time each day to read, it takes a very long time to finish them!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Very interesting post. My thoughts: Poetry is not my thing and there are very few short stories that I have liked. Novels are number one for me. I have found a couple of that I liked well enough to read all of the books, but I prefer stand alones. That said, My own Sci-fi is a series of four books, but a little different in that the main character changes in each book–sort of a reincarnation from Em to Jasmine to Abby to Emily. They are best read in order. “Whispers Under the Baobab” is a back story to “When the Sun was Mine” which I think makes the two books a bit unique. They can but from what readers have told me are better enjoyed as a pair.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s an interesting way to do a series – kind of like Doctor Who with the different regenerations of each doctor. Cool. Too bad I don’t read Sci-Fi (but I do watch it on TV shows sometimes)!

      Like

  11. Always fun to discuss your topics! The interesting thing about reading on a kindle is I rarely know how long a book is any more! When I see a book I’ve read in a shop, I sometimes think “Wow! That was a big book!”

    Medium? Long? Short? My only preference is that it better be well written!!! I appreciate the art of crafting a short story and I enjoy reading them. I love Backman’s 2 novellas. I liked Redhead and appreciated the craftsmanship but didn’t love it because it lacked enough plot for my taste. I don’t read poetry enough to have definite opinions but I do love novels in free verse such as Inside Out and Back Again and Paper Hearts. I do love a series…and I need to read them in order!!! My biggest complaint is books that are too long! Too many characters. Too many back stories. Over the top details.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I should have mentioned that in my post – longer works don’t feel long if they are well written. In my review, I did say that I usually read 10 pages of a print book before going to sleep, but I found myself unable to stop at 10 with the Rachel Joyce!

        Liked by 1 person

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