Truth: I side-eye long books.
It’s not because I dislike long books, necessary.
It’s not because I’m afraid of long books. I’m a pretty quick reader, so long books don’t intimidate me.
It’s because 90% of the time when I see a long book, I question that it really needs to be that long. There have been long books I loved and long books I’ve liked–The Diviners, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc. But even so, every time I’m confronted with another long book, I can’t help but to wonder if the story is really that sprawling, that epic, that necessary(for the sake of clarity, I’m going to say in this post that a “long book” is any book over 500 pages. There are definitely longer books, but I think 500 pages seems like a reasonable measurement).
Why I am Wary of Long Books
1. I hesitate to think a story could REALLY need that many pages
I’m not talking about the world-building, or character back story. I’m talking solely about the plot and the things that are needed to make it work. Is there ANY story that really needs 1200 pages? Okay, I know there are probably some. I’ve enjoyed some awfully complex books that delve deep into issues and have three side plots that all come together gloriously and it makes sense. But in general, I give books the side-eye for this reason.
2. It makes me fear info-dumps
Okay, as far as world-building goes, I totally understand that often science fiction and fantasy are longer because of it. Especially when you’re dealing with books that have completely restructured society and things like a complex magic system. And my idea for a “long book” for high fantasy is a bit different than my 500 page limit–I would consider that pretty standard in adult fantasy. But 800 pages of fantasy? Eh, I’m not so sure about it. For some reason, I look at a long fantasy or science fiction book and think it’s going to have a problem with info-dumps. Again, I know it’s not always the case and maybe the author has done a fantastic job of weaving everything together, but that’s where my mind automatically goes.
3. I wonder if it should really be a series
Okay, so this doesn’t work for long books that are already in a series(Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you), but long standalones? It makes me wonder if everything is being squeezed into one book when the plot and characters need more time to breathe and if that long book means everything’s crammed together.
4. I fear unnecessary characters, scenes, or subplots
This is just a book-by-book thing. There are some books where every scene is necessary, but others where I wonder. I especially wonder about this when classics where the author was paid by the word. I mean, if I was paid by the word, I’d add a lot of padding too! But that doesn’t compel me to read it.
5. I don’t LIKE a lot of subplots
I know some people like really complicated plots and sub plots and like to spend time with a whole host of characters. I don’t MOST of the time. There are exceptions(I came around to this in Heir of Fire, and I like Lord of the Rings), but I tend to like to stay close to a character. Even split POV in first person does this well enough, but when it’s in third person and we jump from place to place in the kingdom(I see this most often in fantasy) it really throws me off my reading game. Not every long book has tons of subplots but I always think it’s a possibility when I pick up a long book.
6. I value conciseness
I’d rather an author use one good adjective instead of a listed string of them. I’d rather one really strong action verb rather than movement always being described in fluid detail. There’s always a line between being “told and not shown” and concise writing and sometimes things take longer descriptions but for the most part I like my writing concise. And if I’m just looking at a long book off the shelf, without knowing anything about it, concise is not the word that normally comes to mind.
Let’s Chat: What’s your first impression when you see a big book on the shelf? Are you ever intimidated by them or think you might not want to read them for other reasons? Or do you like getting absorbed into one thing for so long?