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Can a book be too long?

For discussions of historical fiction. Threads that do not relate to historical fiction should be started in the Chat forum or elsewhere on the forum, depending on the topic.
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Post by LoveHistory » Fri February 27th, 2009, 7:51 pm

Like others short on time, I tend to pick shorter books, but I spend less time on them if I'm not "clicking" with the story. A longer book will get more of a chance with me, after all it might pick up after page 247.

I do love long books though. They take me so long to read that every time I pick them up it's like meeting a friend. Very comforting. And if I'm really hooked on the story, I almost challenge myself to read as much as I can as fast as I can.

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Post by diamondlil » Fri February 27th, 2009, 8:08 pm

I love big chunkster books! Always have done, but it does need to be a great story that is filling all those pages.

It always comes down to the writing. There are some pretty short books out there that have felt like they were taking forever to get through and then there are long books that are just capture the attention of the reader so well that it feels as though the pages are just flying by.
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Post by Madeleine » Fri February 27th, 2009, 8:48 pm

I think the 5th Potter book could have done with some serious editing, it got very repetitive especially around the middle, but then as you say, JKR is so successful her eds probably didn't dare to cut it!

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Post by Volgadon » Fri February 27th, 2009, 9:02 pm

[quote=""Ludmilla""]Being someone who can't be succinct to save my life, I do admire authors who can write a tight, concise story, and that really is a rare breed! I also don't mind the big, sweeping epics. It's all a matter of scale and whether the story is properly scaled to the events and themes taking place.[/quote]

I think the mark of a truly great writer is being able to use the right amount of words. Chekhov in Russian is simply amazing, there is not a superflous word in his short stories at all.

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Post by donroc » Fri February 27th, 2009, 9:13 pm

My 500 page HF was cut to 400 pages by not starting each chapter on a new page. Less intimidating to potential readers with small hands.

Bodo the Apostate, a novel set during the reign of Louis the Pious and end of the Carolingian Empire.

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Post by Divia » Fri February 27th, 2009, 9:35 pm

[quote=""SonjaMarie""]I prefer books to be between 250 to 300, but will read longer books, just takes me longer.


Me too. Anything longer and I feel that I am dragging. I also tend to lose interest cause I am wondering when it will end. Its hard for me to stay focused, and I wonder if thats why some publishers do it. We have so many demands on us in today's society.
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Post by EC2 » Fri February 27th, 2009, 10:26 pm

Agents and editors mostly require shorter books. Jules is right. I am not allowed to go above a certain number of words - otherwise mine might be as long as the Penman's. It all boils down to production costs and factors in foreign rights translations. A book translated for English to German is going to be longer than the English version due to the way the German language is written. You have to pay someone to translate the words. At the moment in the current climate, an agent needs to be able to sell an author's books into as many markets as possible in order to keep at least some money coming in. Bookshops in the English market will ask how many copies they can get in a dump bin or on the shelves. One or two authors can get away with writing massive chunksters, but they really are few and far between.
As a reader, I think a book has to be as long as it needs to be. What I would say though is that if the book is a chunkster in a series of chunksters - George R.R. Martin's Ice and Fire for e.g. I would really rather the author got on with producing the next book at a faster rate than one every 5 years because by the time the next book comes out, I've forgotten what happened in the one before, and I don't have the stamina to re-read!
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Post by Libby » Fri February 27th, 2009, 10:29 pm

Any book can be too long if it isn't enjoyable. I'd rather have quality than quantity.
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Post by Margaret » Fri February 27th, 2009, 11:07 pm

If a novel is very well written, with no sections that drag, I prefer a long novel to a short one. But that's a very big if. I've read quite a few long novels (and even some short ones) that would have been more exciting, clearer, and more moving if they had been edited to trim out excess verbiage, scenes that didn't go anywhere, etc. So, yes, a book can very certainly be too long! A book should be as long as it needs to be to tell the story effectively, and (ideally) not one word longer.

In general, I think historical novels need to be longer than contemporary novels, because readers are not intimately familiar with the details of day-to-day life in the past, the political circumstances, or the many things we take for granted in our present day lives. For example, in a contemporary novel, we don't need or want to read about all the stuff we've already read about in the newspaper over the past few years, but in a historical novel, we may need to know what the kings and queens and peasants have been up to in order to understand the plot.
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Post by Tanzanite » Sat February 28th, 2009, 12:23 am

I think a book is too long if it contains unnecessary plotlines (subplots), characters, and other elements that add nothing to the overall story. I book doesn't have to have a lot of pages ( say over 500) to fall into that category. I've read some thick books that needed every single page to tell the story; and I"ve read some that have an awful lot of "filler" (filler can happen in shorter books as well).

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