Give Me Literature: My Take on Book Length

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I hear tell that in this digital age of ours, books are getting shorter. (Another post shared with me by author Chicki Brown. Thanks, Chicki!)

To some unknown “teenth” of a percent, I may be partly responsible for that trend. My longest book to date is the first one I ever wrote: Yella’s Prayers, written when I was seventeen. It’s not epic in length, but it does have a little weight to it. The three books I’ve published (one republished) this year are all novellas: Love Unfeigned and The Movement of Crowns Series.

With that said, let me note, for the record, that I’ve not written and published shorter books lately because of a lessening patience for literature or a shortening attention span, nor have I adopted a marketing strategy that says, “Just hurry up and get a lot of books out there.”

I’m a writer and a lifelong lover of books, especially fiction. I strive to tell stories the way they are meant to be told, for the benefit of readers. I write until I get a work out in its entirety, as it should be, whether it’s long or short. I’m investing in my craft so that I can tell stories even better as I live more life.

With Yella’s Prayers being my first serious fiction work, seventeen pent-up years of a young woman’s laughter, pain, questions, and otherwise was coming out all at once. It took an additional number of years for me to shape the story into the read-worthy novel it deserved to be. I first thought of The Movement of Crowns when I was seventeen as well, and I drafted a few scenes for it then, but not yet having all the words and the life experience I needed to tell that kind of story, I waited for over ten years before writing it all out. In my teenage head, I imagined The Movement being a thick, sweeping novel, but when my nearly thirty-year-old self actually wrote it, it came out as a novella. I made no subsequent attempts to stretch it out, to stuff the plot with fluff and filler in order to pump out a work that could outwardly pose as a novel but that would only have a novella’s-worth of substance in it. I suspect there are more than enough books like that on the market already. So, no stretching, here. I stopped when the story stopped.

The idea for a sequel, The Movement of Rings, came afterward–not because Crowns wasn’t complete but because I simply had more to share and wished to revisit the world I’d created. So I did. And I might do so again.

Someone asked me recently, “When are you going to write another long book?” I will if or when another “long” story comes to me to be written. I’m not bent on forcing my creativity to go one way or another, to follow this or that trend or fad. Instead, I’m letting my creativity develop and expand organically, in accordance with the natural progression of my life.

I’ll read a short book, an Of Mice and Men, gladly. I’ll read a long book, a Return to the City, gladly. To me, whatever length it is, it’s all literature–and I want all of it.

The media has been trying to convince me for years now that my kind and I no longer exist: that NO ONE has a long attention span anymore, that no one wants to read a long book, watch a long film, or–dare I say–wait for anything these days. Lest my shorter books should make anyone think I’ve gone the way of the instant-gratification-is-the-only-gratification bandwagon, let me declare that patience does still exist in this world, and not every human being, or even every American, wants everything in five minutes or not at all.

I’m not looking to boycott or abandon any range of pages or word count. Whatever the length, just give me literature.

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4 thoughts on “Give Me Literature: My Take on Book Length

  1. I so understand what you saying, Nadine, but I’m on the other side of the fence. I write long (350-400 pages) books, because that’s what I like to read. I’ve tried my best to pen some short stories, but it just isn’t me. The one novella I’ve published was cut from a full-length novel. LOL! As authors we each have to produce what’s inside of us. Great post! :)

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    • YES, Chicki, write what’s in you! I think some authors lose the freedom to, due to contracts, editors, and whatnot, so it’s a valuable pleasure to hear an author’s true voice in/through his or her work.

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  2. I like to write short stories, novellas and full length novels. I just write what I feel. I’ve taken characters from short stories that demanded their own story and created full length novels but then there are some characters that are only meant to have a short story. The beauty of it all is that writers don’t have to be put in a box. Write the story that completes the story, regardless of the length :)

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    • Indeed, Shelia, sometimes I realize I’m in a box I didn’t know I was in–and I have to shake myself and say, “Wait a minute, who says I CAN’T write such and such? I have the idea to do it, so I may as well act on it. A reader somewhere must need it.”

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