To fit or not to fit…

Word count. Page length. Book volume.

These terms haunt writers when creating their works. Do I write to fit the book into a certain length? Do I cut things I love to make sure my book is short enough that an agent/ publisher will look at it? Do I lengthen it just to make sure it meets the “standard” word count for that type of genre?

Even at conferences, a writer can get mixed feedback. Some editors say if it’s too long, no one will look at it. Some say, write the book the length it needs to be and then find an agent/publisher who wants that length.  Some say book length determines whether a reader will pick it up or not–too long, no interest, too short, they think it’s a throw-away book.

So what’s a writer to do?

What do YOU think? Do you find that the length of a book determines if you want to read it or not?

15 Comments

  1. The size of a book does not determine my interest. Unless, of course, I ran across a book to heavy to carry. That could be an issue. As far as writing, I have only written one book. I wrote until it felt finished. Then I went back and cut until it was in the range of an acceptable word count. The cutting made the book better.

    1. I had the same thing happen with my first book–I wrote until it felt right, then cut when I was done, and it did make it better. But oddly enough my next two books were TOO slim, and I had to pad them. I guess my editing brain stays on now when I write. 🙂

  2. I’ve always been so concerned with this… trying to measure out my novel into a perfect 70,000 words…. ish. But once I get there, I’m sure things will be different. Or maybe I won’t even make it that far before the book ends itself. I agree with what others have said… I think the book determines itself and you’re just along for the ride! Great post! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Lily! Yeah, I have known several writers (myself included) who aim for a word count first. It’s tough not to. But I think being true to ourselves, and more so our STORIES, is better. And it’s such a great ride when you just let it happen!!

  3. The story will determine its own length. Padding it up a bit here or there to bring it into a desired length is okay, but too much exposition gets boring. Likewise, a good story is a good story at any length. And the story should always sell itself. Too bad that’s not always the case.

  4. Anonymous

    the length of a book has no bearing on whether i want to read it or not. it’s the content that keeps me reading or has me throwing it across the room in frustration. for example, i read ludlum’s(actually part of the trilogy) bourne trilogy. i gave it up after 1 1/2 of the books i read. it seemed to be the same thing over and over, yet i loved all three bourne movies. and i’ve read the harry potter books over and over without getting bored at all. i’ve also read the children’s book ‘the fall of freddie the leaf’, a short but what i think of as an endearing book. it’s one on my bookshelf to this day. i know it’s all very personal in perspective. i think the book actually writes itself. when it’s done, it’s done, no matter how long or short it is.

    1. “i think the book actually writes itself. when it’s done, it’s done, no matter how long or short it is.” I agree, but unfortunately publishing companies and marketing departments don’t always see it that way. 🙁

  5. I don’t think it determines too much whether I’d read it if I was lent it, but new fiction books that come out tend to be the same price no matter how long they are, so I tend not to buy the shorter ones, just because it doesn’t seem like good value. Probably the wrong way to think about it, but that’s just how my mind works!

      1. To be honest, I’ve only ever downloaded free ebooks. I’m not much of a fan of them to be honest, I’d much rather have something physical that I can hold. I definitely don’t agree with paying as much for an ebook as you do for a paperback, which seems to be the norm at the moment.

  6. Conrad

    Often yes, in either direction. Sometimes a long book is nice just for the escapist-journey of it all. Like the Hobbit+Lord of the Rings. On the other hand, I love the short story version of Ender’s Game. Breezy and awesome in a quick read. Rings is a vast feast for the mind, whereas the Ender short is a tasty bon-bon.
    Mmm… Bon-bon.

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