Enough is Enough?

I write long books…


I don’t intend to. When I started writing again after my twenty+ year hiatus, I didn’t make a conscious decision to throw as many words as I could on the page. I wrote the stories that interested me the way I wanted to write them, and gave them the room I thought they needed to breath. Since I’ve long been a fan of epic fantasies and such, I’m personally not put off by long books, and have never minded following an author down some by-ways and digressions in service of the larger the story or immersive world-building.

That being said, I’ve really started to look hard at my overall book length as a business question, not so much as a creative or artistic one. Is 500+ pages for a suspense/mystery/crime novel simply too long? Does the genre itself, and attendant reader expectations, dictate page count? Will a potential mystery fan bypass a book on heft alone? I’ve seen comments on social media suggesting that readers do make decisions on that basis (as well as cover art, etc.), but I’m not sure if that’s the minority or majority, scouring the stands at their local bookstore or airport.

Here’s an additional issue – although I write every day, it still takes a good chunk of time for me to get a book done and revised. I’ve got a decent process in place, but I need one, since I have a full-time, non-writing job as well. I can consistently and without much trouble (so far) get one of my long books done in a year, but I sure can’t do much more than one. If I consciously tried to write shorter stories, could I possibly get two done a year? Or a book and a script? I don’t know. As a new writer is trying to get a career aloft, I think it’s important to get as much quality work in the pipeline as possible – and that means more books – but is it possible to consciously “work the math” to make that happen?

Again, this a professional question, not so much a purely creative one, although one definitely bears on the other.  Kameron Hurley has a great blog post about going from “good to great;” i.e., really “leveling up” your writing with each new book. I want each novel to be a hell of lot better than the last, and I’m constantly critiquing, criticizing, and comparing my own work (I’m merciless when it comes to my own failings as a writer), so is writing more books even a laudable goal? Is there a perfect algorithm for quantity and quality?

To be honest, I’ve always sucked at math.

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving – as we round out this year and head into the holidays, I’ll have more to say about the impending paperback release of The Far Empty, and of course, the upcoming sequel, High White Sun!


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