I like big books and I cannot lie

There used to be a time when authors would write an entire story from start to finish within the confines of a 400 page book. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to find books that are 1000, 1100 or even 1200 pages long, and sometimes these books are only one part of a 12 or 13 volume series.

There is definitely a new trend sweeping the literary world: one where authors and readers alike are enjoying large books, and where each manuscript is the continuation of one massive story.

However, with any new trend, there comes the question of whether or not it is good for the existing system that it is affecting. In this case, the world of popular literature.

Do readers actually want to read big books, or do they feel obligated to read them because massive books are flooding the market? And do authors actually enjoy writing such large volumes, or are the pressures of selling their work forcing them to write what will sell?

In general, I believe the big book trend is a good thing.

Some readers might be pushed away by the daunting size of books on the market today, but it should be safe to say that the majority of readers enjoy reading large books once they  get past the initial page number shock.

A 1200 page book will include more detail, more events and more opportunities for continuation of some of our favorite stories than a smaller book would. As a reader, you get to spend more time getting to know and love (or even hate) the characters of a book, and have the opportunity to frequently revisit your favorite world.

However, from a writer’s perspective, the thought of writing that many pages and having them all follow the same storyline is incredibly overwhelming. The time one would need to spend writing, editing and checking for continuity errors would be immense. And at the end of the day, these really big books will sell for about the same as their smaller counterparts.

What’s the draw that keeps pushing readers and writers towards these large volumes?

The reasons for readers to read large books seem pretty straightforward, at least to an avid reader like myself. I will almost always grab a larger book—especially if it is a stand alone book—over a smaller one.

I believe that relatively few people would push aside a bigger book strictly because of the number of pages it has. Long books can provide more entertainment (time-wise) and allow readers to enter a familiar and comfortable place, where they can follow the adventures and troubles of their favorite characters.

However, the draw to continue writing such large novels is not as easy for me to understand. I can understand a writer’s desire to be read and to please their audience, but damn, the amount of work it would take to write Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series, or Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, is scary.

I start to feel overwhelmed when I am asked to write a 10 page paper for any of my classes, but 1200 pages instead? Where do I even start that?

However, if you stop and think about it, it kind of starts to make sense.

Having tried my hand at fantasy writing, I can tell you that it is a lot of work. And that’s most likely why none of my stories seem to progress. Yet the sense of accomplishment and relief you feel when you finally get a plot hole tied up is great. I can only imagine, as I have never written a full-length novel, that sticking to the same storyline and characters for page after page might actually lessen the work load in the long run.

While the initial work might seem like a lot, the fact that you don’t have to worry about as much character development, world building or large ideas to introduce to a reader, writing a 1200 page book would take significantly less time to write than three 400 page books.

As a reader, I’m happy to see the trend towards long books and series. As a writer, I’m skeptical about what these large books will mean for the future of literature. Will we only continue to write more and more? Will there be a point where readers decide they’ve had enough with big books? And when will that line be drawn?

Nevertheless, I’m glad to see that writers still seem willing to provide that length of book to their readers. I might not be able to imagine what it takes to write a long book, but I know what it means to read one.