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What’s a Good Length?

31 Jan

Just how long is too long? What about too short? What is a good length?

No. That’s not what I mean—although that is a good question… What I mean is chapter and book length so get your mind out of the gutter. Or at least take me there with you. 😉

Anyway, I’d love to get opinions from the reader’s perspective. Even other authors because, after all, we were readers first and still love to read. But I’m not talking about what we prefer to write—that’s another issue.

I know there are many people who like those big, thick books. The ones that make my head hurt just looking at them. There are people who like long, drawn out chapters. The kinds that make me want to throw a book across the room because I need a break but don’t want to stop reading until I get to the end of the chapter. Now, if there are breaks in the chapter, that’s not so bad. It gives me a breather.

I guess you can tell I don’t prefer long chapters and books. My schedule is so busy I barely have time to squeeze reading in. I’m lucky if I can read a chapter or two a day right now—and those are my beloved short chapters.

Because I don’t get to read much, I want shorter books so it doesn’t take me all freaking year to read just one.

I prefer novellas and short novels between 20,000 and 60,000 words (probably 200 pages or less) but if the story is good enough I might be able to get into something around 100,000 words, although that is rare. I prefer chapters around 2000-3000 words (probably less than 8 or 10 pages).

I like short stories and novelettes sometimes, too, but I don’t really like flash fiction—although I have written some. I want more of a story than that offers so I guess that would be too short for me.

Unfortunately we don’t have a lot of time to spare anymore. So what do you think as a reader? Do you prefer shorter books and chapters or longer ones? What is too short for you and what is too long?

And as for that other question regarding size, I plan to tackle it in another of my Let’s Talk About Sex posts in the future.

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6 Comments

Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Reading

 

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6 responses to “What’s a Good Length?

  1. Andy

    January 31, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    When reading, I prefer digestible chapters as well. It gives you a place to breathe. When writing, I always aim for 2k. That’s my comfort zone. I feel like I’ve done it justice at that point. Some chapters rightfully deserve more, but they can’t be endless. But, I think it also depends on the part of the book you’re in. You don’t want massive chapters to start. Big chapters feel slow in the beginning of the book. But, once your in the heart of it and approaching the climactic moment, I think you can get away with more because the reader wants more at that point.

     
    • Lorraine Pearl

      January 31, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      Hi Andy, thanks for stopping by and commenting. You’re definitely right about some chapters needing more, especially in the latter part of the book. But then, I’ve seen it just the opposite where the author throws in shorter chapters toward the end that cut quick and leave you wanting more. It kind of ramps up the climax. I’d say that has to be the best thing about books and writing, whichever way works for the story is the best way so they can all be different. Still, when I’m reading, I rarely want those long chapters–or long books. And when I’m writing, I prefer chapters the same length you aim for. If it needs less, okay. If it needs more, okay. But I rarely write a chapter over 3500 words.

       
  2. intheAMDay

    January 31, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    It depends on how a book captures me. I’ll read hundreds of pages like Eclipse and Breaking Dawn…read them 3 times each. Oh and Fifty Shades book 1 & 2 over again. If there is decent hook, length isn’t an issue unless the reader is left hangin’ and wondering.

     
    • Lorraine Pearl

      January 31, 2013 at 9:08 pm

      That’s great that you enjoyed those books enough to read them repeatedly. The only books I ever did that with were Anne Rice’s. I think most people are probably like you and as long as a book hooks them, it doesn’t matter how long. Wish I was like that, but it’s rare for me. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

       
  3. Michelle Proulx

    February 1, 2013 at 11:22 am

    I usually prefer mid-length books — so, approximately 100k words. That being said, epic fantasy books can stretch to three or four times that and I have no problem with it, as long as said epic fantasy is good. Like you, I get really annoyed with long chapters, especially when I’m lying in bed and think, “Okay, I get one chapter before I sleep”. But if the chapter stretches on for ten thousand words, then it becomes 3 in the morning and then I’m exhausted the next day. So, relatively short chapters = good, long books = good (so long as the book is good!).

     
    • Lorraine Pearl

      February 1, 2013 at 7:32 pm

      Hi Michelle, thanks for stopping by and for commenting. I know you’re right that 100,000 is probably mid-length, especially in the fantasy world, but for me that is almost always too long. I think I’m in the minority with that, though.

      I know what you mean about reading a chapter before bed. I hate when that happens. Sometimes it will make me so frustrated with the book that I won’t finish the chapter and I’ll shelve the book for a while–unless it is too good to give up on.

       

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