Ruminating On: Does Size Matter?

Be it thick or thin, long or short, size is a subjective thing. Some like to get deep, and that’s all right. Others don’t mind if it barely scratches the surface, as long as they feel something. For many, it’s more about the connection than the proportions. But, once again, let me say, size is subjective. In my experience, (and I’ve tried all sizes) I’ve found myself enjoying the gargantuan along with the minuscule  I’ve had some say I’m too short, that they want more, but I can only give what I have. That doesn’t mean I’m bad at it, it simply means I’m not for everyone.

Of course, I’m talking about books.

If we judged literature solely on length, than no one would consider John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men to be a classic, same with Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. On the other hand, when I read both books, I wanted more from Steinbeck and less from Hemingway  Could Steinbeck have lengthened the piece? I’m sure he could have. Had he filled the book with useless info, though, I don’t think readers would have held it in such high regard. Now, I’m not saying I’m Steinbeck, but I am trying to make a point. Of Mice and Men didn’t need anything else added for the story to be told, and that’s where I think we all get confused when it comes to the size of our stories versus the quality therein.

I’ve received several reviews and communications wherein readers have asked for me to work on something more substantial, that they are waiting on the first real Edward Lorn novel. The problem is, I don’t know if I will ever deliver. I’ve written stories over one hundred thousand words, then ended up cutting them down to sixty thousand. To me, it’s all about what moves the story ahead. Everything else is filler. If I were to leave in the verbose, unimportant information, readers would no doubt catch on pretty quick. I understand what they’re asking for though, and I take that as a compliment. They want more of my characters, more story, and that makes me smile.

With that being said, lets talk about endings for a minute. I have a threshold of fifteen thousand words for open-ended material. In my opinion, anything over the length of a novelette better have a definitive conclusion. Those of you that have read the shorter work I have in my collections, will know that I don’t always end my short stories, but leave them open to interpretation. This can upset some readers, and I can dig that, but that’s why these are short stories and not novellas or novels. If I had more story, it would be there, I promise. If you’re a reader, I consider your time valuable, so I want to give you as much bang for your buck as I can offer. I will say again, this is only my opinion.

Stephen King’s From a Buick 8 doesn’t really end. You spend a significant amount of time with that novel, (my paperback copy is just under four hundred pages) and King just leaves you hanging. But, King says in his memoir/guide to authorship, On Writing, that he saw his novel, Misery, ending with writer Paul Sheldon still missing and a brand new, flesh-bound copy of the final Misery Chastain novel resting upon Annie Wilkes’s mantel. King goes on to say that he didn’t think readers would have wanted to devote so much time rooting for Paul just to find out his hide was used as a dust cover for his final work. So why doesn’t From a Buick 8 have a definitive ending, Mr. King? I think he would say that, to him, there was nothing more to add. And here we are, back at subjectivity. Two people, both whom I respect greatly, have startlingly different views of King’s foray into the world of alien automobiles. One considers the novel one of King’s best works, whereas the other could have done without reading it. For me, the book was… just okay. Ah, I do love the middle ground.

Just because a story is short, doesn’t make it bad, and vice versa. I’ve read thousand-page novels that would be better served as bookends than actual books. In the end, it’s all about the content. What I look for in genre fiction over novelette length is, introduction, conflict, resolution, in that order. In literary fiction, I understand the book is more about the journey than it is about the plot, so I try to turn a blind eye to my three-rule structure… I also tend to ignore literary fiction, so that’s a thing.

In conclusion, no, I don’t think size matters at all. Quality should forever be held above quantity. There should only be one question: Did you enjoy your escape?

Happy V-Day, guys and gals.

E.

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2 thoughts on “Ruminating On: Does Size Matter?

    1. My chapters vary in size from piece to piece, but I think the most important part of a chapter is to make sure you leave something unanswered, something that will make the reader want to press forward. Some people love short chapters because it gives them a feeling that they’re making quick progress, or because they have little time in their day and don’t want to have to stop in the middle of something.

      Once again, though, this is all subjective. I’ve written 500 word chapters and ones that have went on for 7k. Listen to the story, give breathing room, but don’t allow a reader to become bored. That’s the best advice I can give on chapter length.

      E.

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