On Reading (and Writing) Long Books

Post date: Nov 20, 2016 3:25:15 PM

I love long, epic sagas. Sweeping masterpieces that drew you in and take their time to delve deep into the culture and wonder of a setting. But, writing that way takes time and has many challenges. And yet, some authors make it look effortless (of course, we're only reading their final draft, not the rough draft or the nth rewrite).

Can a book be too long? Would I even be able to hold the entire Harry Potter series in my hands if it were bound as one book? It's 1,084,625 words...that's 4,338.5 pages!

Many sagas take place over the course of a series of books. A Song of Ice and Fire or The Wheel of Time, for example, and each volume is quite hefty. The first book in those each nears 300,000 words. Few authors endeavor to reach such lofty word counts. Brandon Sanderson, however, currently works on a saga, The Stormlight Chronicles, that has a 387k first book.

In case you're unaware, most of the time the first book in a series is the shortest.

Quite the achievement, to be sure. And, the first two books are fantastic. I wait with eager anticipation for the next. However, I find myself wanting to write not 33 books, but one epic saga of witchcraft, wizardry, werewolves, vampires, angels, and demons. One saga, one book. No matter the length.

The Lord of the Rings, though broken up into three books, was originally intended to be one volume. Of course, it'd be 455,125 words long. Still, not the longest book ever.

So, I suppose my goal is achievable, I just need to do the work. And, of course, make it an enjoyable read. Not a chore. Immersed in fantastical creatures, awe-inspiring magic, wonderful settings, and deep characters. That's a challenge I'm willing to accept.

See you at the finish line.