When it comes to fiction, I like long books. The Stand, Imajica, Shadowland, The Lord of the Rings to name a few. I also like long songs. Give me Pink Floyd, old Genesis, or Tool any day. Those epic songs take you on a journey, and by the end you feel like you’ve arrived someplace quite different from where you began.
But that doesn’t mean every song should be long. My favorite song right now is “Radioactive” by Kings of Leon, and the verses aren’t even long enough for one rhyme. They’re like half verses because why waste any time making you wait for that awesome chorus? Now that’s a hit single.
Many writers have lamented the death of the short story, but digital literary “singles” could usher in a new golden age for the form.
Check out this great blog post about short e-books:
His idea is that with the advent of the Kindle Single, the publishing world is recognizing that books don’t need to be padded for extra length to keep them from looking silly and insubstantial if the idea expressed is best suited to a very short format. And I agree that a lot of non-fiction seems padded to justify turning a few good articles or essays into a book.
Fiction ideas also seem to have an inherent natural length, some much longer than others of course, and a writer often has to figure out along the way whether she’s writing a short story, a novella or a novel. Good writers don’t force length, they discover it (sometimes only after an editor shines a high powered flashlight on the dig site).
While I love the extended edition of Stephen King’s The Stand, I thought Under the Dome should have been a lot shorter. And after cutting 20,000 words from my own first novel, I think it works much better. In a tough economy with a very competitive publishing market new authors are advised to keep it short so that the printing costs won’t inflate the price of the book and make a title by an unknown an even bigger risk for the publisher.
But e-books could also change that and allow novelists a little more breathing room once again. I expect that the e-book revolution will mean that both of the outer ends of the length spectrum are going to become more viable than they were before, and hopefully the pricing will reflect that in some kind of fair way.
There’s a prevalent myth about our electronic society–that all art should now adapt to the short attention span parameters of TV and the internet, or perish. Supposedly a generation of video gamers who don’t read are driving our culture now. But if you read game reviews you know that most serious gamers value rich plots and characters, and they count it as a strike against a game if the hours required to complete it are too few.
When it comes to imaginative entertainment, people still want worlds that they can get lost in for a while, and I don’t think that’s going to change.