Long Hike, Long Novel
Remember those sweltering summer days as kids – sand between your toes at the beach, purpled bruises on your hips from the Slip ‘N Slide, riding you bicycle until sweat stung your eyes – and then, after playful exhaustion … that first magical lick of a soothing popsicle, its crystals cooling the fire of your overworked little body? Bliss. Life was good.
After toiling through four months of 100-plus-degree desert temperatures (plus monsoon humidity), I needed that popsicle of my youth in a bad way.
Fortunately I found my cool respite last Friday: at the top of a long, long road leading to Mount Lemmon – 9,157 feet closer to the heavens – with temperatures in the 70s. Bliss. Life was good. Again.
Enjoy my journey to a part of the earth once scorched with flames, but now regenerating, growing, and thriving under cool Arizona winds (so cool, in fact, that I had to buy a fleece):
For Readers/Writers: As I wandered the long trails through Mount Lemmon (and hiked the long hill back to our starting point — thanks Kathy and Chelsey for a fabulous time), I started thinking about book length, something that has been on my mind over the past few years.
As a reader, I love literary novels and don’t balk at reading a 500-pager. Long novels = good in my world. The trend, however, in the traditional publishing world seems to be in support of the shorter novel. I find this disheartening because, sometimes, I think a book needs to be how long it needs to be – sometimes longer than a formulaic standard. Many books I’ve picked up in recent years have simply fallen flat for me, and I attribute that disappointment (indirectly) to length in many cases. I find myself thinking, “If she’d had another hundred pages, fifty pages, even, to develop that character, amp up the setting, add some symbolism, the story would have been so much richer.”
I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me.
Readers: How long is “too” long for a book? Does it matter?
Writers: You obviously have to pay attention to publishing standards (or risk falling into the slush pile if your novel exceeds the acceptable 80k-115k standards … I know, even 115K is pushing the limits), but do you ever wish you didn’t have those constraints? Could you write a better story? Or is slim-and-trim the better option for you and your reader?
Or maybe you simply don’t care and you’d just rather have a popsicle?