Long is better – the long vs. short debate

What kind of a reader are you? Do you prefer books pertaining to a series, or do you like short stories?

 

I have a fetish for long books. When I was young , my criteria for browsing books was: On to the shelf of whatever genre I was in the mood for; Check the bindings of the longest books; read the titles of those long books; Pick the ones that sounds promising.

That’s right, I read the blurbs last.

And if the title had a number at the end indicating the book was part of a series, so much better. What can I say, I’m greedy this way.

Now that I’m limited to digital books only, I check the kb of the book first, then I check the number of pages, then I check to see if it’s part of a series. I did say I had a fetish, remember?

This of course, doesn’t mean I don’t read shorter works, or stand alones. I actually do read a lot of stand alones, most of which are from the romance/suspense genre.

But why long? Certainly because I have this insatiable appetite for storytelling, but it’s also because I like to get to know my protagonists. When the book isn’t that long, I’m left with an unsatisfied feeling, and I get restless.

When it’s short but still part of a series, this means I’ll get to see more of them, hear about their struggles, their worlds, and interactions with others… you get my point. It’s sadder when the series is over, I know, but isn’t the journey that counts?

That’s my opinion as a reader.

As a writer, I was shocked to learn that books for young adults have a specific word count constraint. When did that happen? Ideally, books targeted at teens and young adults should range between 55k and 80k, with a little more or less being acceptable.

I’d have never known that, by the way, if an agent hadn’t pointed this out to me earlier in the year. With Heir of Ashes around 130k words, there was no way I could snip 50k to accommodate that agent without changing the overall of the story.

Still, I did pick up Heir of Ashes and started cutting words and sentences out. By the time I was done, Heir of Ashes was 8k+ words lighter.

I could, of course, divide the book into two stories, but I figured that as much as the idea pleased me, I was not one of a kind. Maybe the average count for books targeting teens and young adults ranged between 55 and 80k words, but there are always the ones who want less, or more, like me.

I remember when I first decided to step out of the closet, I read that a book is too long when it’s over 160k words. Apparently that had been a very broad, general view, or the criteria has changed since. When do you think long is too long?

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56 Replies to “Long is better – the long vs. short debate”

  1. I used to love the same thing!! I would always want the long books and series… One of my favourite series is about 11 books long (the incarnations of immortality by Piers Anthony)
    I find that I can’t do it as often anymore as a reviewer, though. It’s hard to review entire series sometimes (you don’t want to spoil plot, but it’s hard not to because a whole book has happened!) and long books always have me thinking “but, I have all these shorter ones that I have to read and I can get through TWO of those to this one…” it can be a dilemma!
    I would also have been devastated if you had cut 50k words out of Heir of Ashes. I couldn’t even imagine what would be left! And, if you had split it into 2 books I would have had to wait for the rest?? I defintitely don’t like that idea, either. Ha ha! (Ya. I’m selfish. Get over it. Ha ha!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nicole, there was a series i followed…. until three years ago that is now on book 24 or more. It’s called the Annita Blake series and up to the 14th book? the story was quite engaging… then it turned to *cough* porn and the plot just disappeared. Still, Harry Dresden by Jim Butcher is on the 16th installment. and i could go on….Rachel Morgan by Kim Harrison eneded at 14, Jane Yellowrock by Faith Hunter on 12th…. yeah, greedy me.

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      1. Ya. I guess I have series that I’m reading that have more books. I’m still reading Kathy Reiches’ Bones novels and they have to be on about 14 or so, I would think. And, I’m still doing my Terry Pratchett read-a-thon… That’s 43 novels. I suppose that’s pretty greedy. Ha ha!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No, there’s nothing wrong. I do read books that have graphic scenes, but those books have a plot and the story is not focused on who to …. you know…. Have you ever read Succubus by Richelle Mead? Pretty steamy, but the plot was fantastic.

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      3. that’s a six or seven book series. I can try to rake my mind for other stand alones if you’re interested…. oh, try consumed, fire fighter #1 it’s a stand alone, despite bbeing part of the series…. by JR Ward. Not as steamy as Succubus, but it was a great read.

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  2. I like both depending on my mood. Some of the novellas are something I want to read some days without overloading my brain. On the whole I depend on page count, I have one that 700 pages and slow moving, I am unable to get past page 15 even after skim reading it. So it depends on interest and style of writing for longer books. My limit is 350 to 400 pages… Post that I get bored…
    I don’t mind series if all books are released then I start it otherwise I wait till they are.
    And people are changing, attention spans are changing, there is a lot of things to do online. Life has become very fast, sometimes I feel like getting off the fast train.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hear you, Shalini. Some books are unnecessarily long – and yeah, i skim there too if i’m invested to know the ending. But if i can’t get past 15 pages, there’s no way i’ll finish that book by force – even if it were only 100 pages. I read for my personal enjoyment only, so if the book doesn’t have me from the start, i simply don’t go on. Of course, there are some books people are raging about that i can’t find the mood to finish, those i put aside for a later time.

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  3. For me, it depends on the book. Harry Potter, Six of Crows, A Darker Shade of Magic – they could go on forever and I’d be happy. But sometimes when weighing whether to request a book to review from NetGalley, I find myself looking at the page count, and occasionally that’s a deciding factor. Especially if I’ve just finished a long read.

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    1. I get what you mean – and when that happens to me, i often go back to Nora Roberts and choose one of her romantic suspenses. They never fail to get me back on the mood for my beloved long stories.
      And well,, you just listed three super famous books i’ve never read, Teri… i could never get in the mood for HP, and I only read wonder woman by Leigh Bardugo. and you know, about Schwab. I should, I should.

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  4. Thoughtful post, Jina! I like short stories, but I don’t read them regularly. I usually am left wanting a little more. Then with long books, I’m scared of the commitment. I’ve started so many long books only to be interrupted in reading and completely losing steam with the book once time elapses. I’m also not a great series reader because of that same commitment. So I guess I’m right in the middle and I like mediumish books!

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    1. fair enough. Most series i read are part of the fantasy genre – it’s hard for an author to explain magic systems and abilities in a short story or without making the reader frown. and even i a long book, you’re still wondering about this or that – otherwise, the book gets cramped with too much info and explanations.

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  5. It’s a case of different length preferences for different moods and different genres – especially the latter. I am a fast reader, so if I am stuck into a good book, it is disappointing to get to the end. Having said that, there are shorter books that end in the ‘right’ place. Nothing worse than seeing writing that’s been spun out.

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  6. It all depends on the story. Some thick books are too long and could have been shorter because not a lot of events occur. Some short books are a bit rushed, and the issues the protaginst faces are solved in less than a page.

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    1. That’s true. Info dump and too much explanation aren’t fun to read. StillI’m a fast reader, – and although i do try to pace myself at times – shorter books leave me wanting more. Hence the reason i enjoy series.
      Thanks for the visit, Aya, and have a nice day.

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  7. JK Rowling surely broke all the rules for young readers – long books with complex stories, part of a series; proving lots of people young and old really like something to get stuck into. A story should be as long as it takes to tell. I write long novels.

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  8. I write short stories (as well as novels) because many readers prefer short to long. Me? If the story holds my interest and I invest in the characters, 1,000 pages can be too short! In my post tomorrow, I will share the books that I read in 2018. Very few were short. :-0

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  9. I love big fat long books too, Jina. I love getting totally caught up in a world and falling deeply in love with the characters. Series often provide that. I’ve always thought that the STORY should dictate a book’s length, not some arbitrary number decided upon by the experts. At the same time, books should be sharply edited, so good for you for editing out 8000 words!!! It’s hard, but worth it in the long run. Happy Editing!

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  10. I like both long and short books, so it depends on my mood. I like short books for quick, fun entertainment and longer books for when I feel like engaging more in an in depth character study. I prefer to read series, but find most of them go downhill and lose their quality by the end.

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  11. As a kid I chose books based on how lengthy they were, too. But aside from being dissatisfied when a short book came to an end, I think I also chose thicker books to show off.

    I never was a fan of series, because they would usually let me down (2nd book worse than the first, etc.).

    To this day I prefer longer stories. However, due to time constraints, I am not able to read too many of them, so sometimes I do opt to read shorter ones to be able to read more books.

    I had no idea about the word restriction, either. Thank you for sharing.

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  12. I appreciate short stories, but I love a big, meaty novel that I can get lost in. A short story to a novel is like a power nap is to a good night’s sleep.

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  13. Jina, I understand what you are saying about really getting to know the characters in longer books and feel the same. Yet, I have read shorter YA books and they are so well written and memorable, so enjoy both. At the moment you know I’m reading an 800-page novel, but will equally enjoy something quite a bit shorter. I’m with one of your comments here and do not particularly enjoy long series, stretching past three or so (I loved Lord of the Rings trilogy so that is my benchmark!)

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    1. I understand some books shouldn’t surpass three or four books, but i’ll admit i’ve read series that span over 15 books and enjoyed every single one. I do read shorter books too, but i prefer they’re part of a series, just so i can see what happens next. Now, for mysteries and thrillers and romances, i’d rather it be a stand alone and at least 300 pages.

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  14. If it is a good series, there’s no such thing as too long, if it is unnecessary long (aka. not enough narrative skills) then I would probably pass. Good books make me adopt the characters and I feel sad and truly emotional that I wont be able to know more about their lives, so I prefer series as well 😀

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