The Sprawling Epic

I love a good, sprawling epic of a story: the more expansive the setting, the more intricate the relationships, the more characters, the better. And for the longest time, I think that my stories were, on an unconscious level, really going toward that.

But these days, though I still enjoy a good epic in theory, in practice, I’m often not too thrilled when I have to read 400+ pages to get to a climax or conclusion or connection. I have a modern day diminishing attention span, what can I say?

As for writing epics, I tend to get anxious when something I’m writing reaches over 350+ pages. I’m not really sure why. It might because at that point, with a large word count, I’m losing track of everything else I’ve written. Or because at that length, I know that so much of it is either filler or just bad, and it doesn’t need to be that long.

Also, I’ve come to realize that my writing is better when I have fewer characters and a tighter handle on a plot.

Now, historical fiction tends to have a longer word count than a lot of other genres–and I think Vic and Nic are heading toward a large word count, at least in this draft. So I’m trying to remind myself that it’s okay if it’s long as long as the story is moving and everything in there is absolutely necessary.

But then, on the other hand, I think about Pearl and how easy it was to write–and how easy it is to read because it’s short. Really, there’s a lot to be said about novellas.

So, which do you prefer to read or write? Long, dense, complicated stories or shorter, tighter ones? Or both?

6 thoughts on “The Sprawling Epic

  1. I get intimidated by super thick books. I have to really want to read it. But the length of historical books never seem to bother me for whatever reason. I'm in what I like to think is a happy middle. I can't write shorts very well. I seem to be too long winded for that, and I don't seem to have the patience to write a five hundred book.

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  2. I mean, I'm not going to read War and Peace anytime soon. And the length of a regular, not super epic or long or generational historical novel is completely do-able for me. And like you, I have trouble writing under 25K. I feel like I need to give myself conscious permission to let the novel go as long as it has to.

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  3. I love big thick books, but only if they are good! If it's slow and dragging, it becomes a waste of paper. But if the story is so good and I'm constantly wanting more. The bigger the better. If it has big emotional rollercoasters, it's like the best ride ever.

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  4. Well, they have to good and absorbing and I think I sort am afraid that anything that I write that'll grow to be that long isn't going to be particularly absorbing–more like repetitive and ambling.

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