RJ Scott - Long books vs short books

Some things to take into consideration as you read this:

  • I am 22000 words into Big Sky, my first book in a series set around Crooked Tree Ranch in Montana. I am aiming to write around 60,000 on each of the books. 
  • Heart Of Texas was a 90,000 word book, Oracle 60 or so, recently my Ellery Books have been 35ish.
  • I have just skim read the last five chapters in a 110,000 words book (and a lot before as well) because I hate not finishing what I started.
  • I was left feeling angsty and frustrated at the book I'd read. Was I not clever enough to remember all the character names? I could see the story line telegraphed but is that because I am an author so that is what I do?

So today I posted on Facebook that I was struggling with a book I gave the reasons as, too wordy, paranormal suddenly in what I thought was GFY book. This was a sequel book and book one I enjoyed with provisos. Book 2 rambled... and the drama I wanted just got lost...

When I write a shorter book I have some reviewers and readers say they wanted it to be longer, to expand character, or because they enjoyed it. Then I also have readers tell me, that with their busy lives they want something where they can read it in an evening.

So I am writing Montana 1, and instead of the books I have been writing recently I am expanding the story and aiming for 60,000 plus. As I am writing it I realise I am 11,000 words in before they meet, I'm at 22,000 and they are just getting to know each other...

Is this too slow?

What do you prefer? Longer books? Shorter books? Does it depend on the author? Do you always finish books or do you ever DNF (Did Not Finish). How does not finishing a book make you feel?


  1. I like either...as long as the story has me in it's grip with great dialogue , story line, characters that have personalities with senses of humor, love or lust depending on what the story calls for I am in. If the story ends too soon for me I simply re read it . Some days you want a short read and sometimes it's nice to know that I'll have to get back as ap to read more :)

  2. Great question, RJ!

    As a reader - it really depends. One of my favorite books is the historical novel "The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers" by Margaret George. It weighs in at a hefty 960 pages! Another favorite is the erotic romance "Punished" by Brynn Paulin at a lean 63 pages.

    The novellas I write tend to be around the 60- 80 page mark - or 30K-40K words (give or take). I go into the process knowing that I won't have a Margaret George-sized tome, but committed to writing as many words as necessary to create a compelling plot and characters that readers care about.

    I *almost* always finished a book. One notable exception? I got within 100 pages of the end of a 900+-page MAJOR bestseller and lost interest. I kind of regretted not finishing after investing all that reading time. However it was so unnecessarily wordy and started meandering so terribly that I just didn't care about the characters any more.


  3. I have a DNF pile myself. I do not like overly, unnecessary wordy books that take sooooo long to move along in the storyline that you just want it to end. Or the ones that take a sudden shift in the storyline where you shake your head and say, "what?" Or even the ones that have so many characters popping in and out that I have to write their names down on a piece of paper to keep track of who’s who. While I really dislike not finishing a book, if I find myself continually picking it and then putting it down, then I know it's going to end up in the DNF pile. How does it make me feel to not finish a book? Sad. Sad because I could not enjoy a story that someone took the time to write.
    I don't mind if a story is long, as long as it captures my attention and pulls me in. And I don't mind short stories either. Again, as long as it captures my attention, I’m good with it being a short story.

  4. Eh... I'm one of those people that doesn't have a major preference. BUT. Saying that, I do love reading a nice, long novel. What I really want is a great story and great characters. The length, unless very expensive and far too short, doesn't bother me.

    I am one of the few that never has DNF'd a book. Never. I suffer through my pet peeves and everything because I will not, not finish a book. It doesn't make sense to a lot of people, but that really is just me. :)

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  6. I think so long as the book holds your attention, then that's the important part. As a reader I enjoy getting to know characters and their situations, though don't like it if it starts rambling! I enjoyed all the Ellery books, and personally thought they could do to be a bit longer.

    Heart of Texas was to me a good length, but then there was a lot of story there and you wouldn't have been able to tell the same story in a 35K word book, it would have suffered dreadfully for it.

    I think so long as you the author are enjoying writing the book, and the story is fitting the length then don't worry about it. And that's where you're Beta readers and editors come in, they should tell you if the story's doesn't work at the length it's at and suggest changes.

    Go for it, am looking forward to the Montana Stories - oh and Texas 4 of course :-)

  7. I prefer to read books on the shorter side, and ideally it would be beautifully written, and part of a series of related but stand-alone stories. I can dream, right?

    Sometimes when reading a long book that could be shorter I think "wow, this author is really in love with his/her own voice!" Also, I hate to be treated like an idiot as a reader. When an author spells out things in too much detail, I get irritated. (yeah, dude, I know what it means to button your coat, you don't need to give me a play-by-play of the mechanics of putting a button through a hole. Duh!)

    On the flip side, as a writer, I always try to make my books longer. I am so frustrated that I can only seem to put out novellas, but I can't make myself add more detail where I don't think it's necessary. But my stories are fairly simple, plot-wise, so I guess that's a big reason for their length.

  8. Like I said on your FB post, I read any length books, depends on what time I have available. Sometimes I like a short read so I can just read the whole story without stopping and starting. Other times I like to lose myself in a book for days or even weeks if it is a series.

    In answer to your other points...

    A short story can take me just as long to get through as a longer one if I don't engage with the characters. A long story I can fly through in a day if I am sucked into the world the author has created.

    Long or short, it doesn't matter. It is the quality of the writing that makes a book a quick read or a slow one.

    I usually finish books and it is very rare that I don't. They have to have a major turn-off button in them, i.e. ones that aren't warned for when they should have been and had they been warned for I would not have purchased it in the first place.

    If I don't finish a story I don't let it bother me too much, though if I ever get a book of someone I know that I can't finish then that will probably bother me a lot more. Thankfully this has not happened yet and hopefully never will. In all my years of reading I can count on my fingers the number of times I have failed to finish a book.

    Finally, as a writer, I have quickly found that there is no pleasing people when it comes to the length of stories. I get complaints that the shorter stories need to be longer and complaints that the longest of my stories (which was still under 70k) was too long. It is one of the complaints I do simply ignore. The story is as long as it is going to be and my stock answer to anyone who asks how long a story that is a WIP is going to be - "how long is a piece of string?"

  9. I am with Lee Ann, R.J. If the book has my attention, length is of no consequence.

    As with some of your critics, my YA novella "Safe" at 68,000 words was criticized for being too short, everyone wanted more. My upcoming YA novel "Omorphi" is 178,000 words. So far, those who have read it have not only NOT complained about length, but want more.

    Critics: Be careful what you ask for. :)

  10. I admit it, I prefer longer books. In part because I read so fast and I want to be able to really immerse myself in a story for a while. That being said, stuff has to happen. I don't care for excessive prose or narration, but a complicated plot and lots of character development is great.

  11. I admit it, I prefer longer books. In part because I read so fast and I want to be able to really immerse myself in a story for a while. That being said, stuff has to happen. I don't care for excessive prose or narration, but a complicated plot and lots of character development is great.

  12. As a reader I tend to like books that are longer, but overall it doesn't matter how long the books is, as long as it keeps me interested. I'm currently reading a book that is 1089 pages, and I'm on page 272, and the two main characters are just starting to really realize their attraction for each other. Now this author's writing is soooo good that I haven't even noticed that I've read so much without the romance yet. So, ultimately, it's the writing, not the length.

    As an author, though, I too feel like I'm taking too long to get to the 'good stuff'. I fear that the story may be dragging, but I also fear that if I jump too quickly that the thrill of the 'get together' will be the point where the reader is no long really interested in reading the rest of the book anymore. But then are times where the get together is all that's wanted - so the story needs to be shorter - or that the get together needs to come quicker, but keep going with the angst of the story....
    Oh my, this could go so many different directions! :)

    I think, in the end, follow your heart.
    Also, that's what good beta readers are for, lol! I've been told it's too short, give me more - and - that's more than enough, shorten it up a bit.

    I don't know if there truly is a correct answer for this question, but it's good to read other people's opinions. :)


  13. I love long books where I just get lost in the stories. Those satisfy my romantic soul. Short books are enjoyable to past the time during an evening. Well written short stories leave me wanting more. Poorly written short stories are too long!! It's not word count that makes a good story.

    So just give me a good well-rounded story I can get lost in, word count doesn't matter.

  14. Longer, longer, longer when it comes to your books. The shorter ones frustrate me because good stories and good writing should be long enough to lose yourself in and I just can't do that with short books.


  15. Okay, long vs. short. Well, I will read anything. Sometimes, all I have time for is a short story, for example when I read during my breaks at work. It's fun to finish a book in one sitting. Short stories appeal more when the relationship is already established. It's really difficult to bring two characters from 0 to HEA in less than 30K words. It can be done, but I feel cheated. That's why I love it when the short is about an established couple, like a little follow up to one of the full length books (or even a random couple) with a day/week in their life. It doesn't feel rushed or too much.

    I really enjoy longer books, but I have to know I'm going to have time to read. I will start a longer book on the weekend, usually, since that gives me time to relax and get caught up in the story while I read. Books over 50K are nice because the story evolves. Sometimes I will read until I can't keep my eyes open any longer. Now that is a good book.

    I have several books on my goodreads page that I have tagged DNF. I really try to pick books carefully, but sometimes I want to branch out because you just never know. Sometimes the experiment's a failure. If I feel no connection to the characters, it really doesn't bother me not to finish. I may go back and try again, but I don't feel like I have to try reading that story again.

    Now that I've left you a dissertation, I hope this helps. I love your stories and have no doubt anything you write won't end up DNF.


  16. I like longer books for the most part when they are something that holds my attention. This can be with an entertaining scene between characters, something that furthers and is essential to the story. Sometimes I really should say most time shorter books leave me wanting more. More interaction between characters, a filling in of maybe a little more history or background story, or maybe just dragging the suspense just a little more with a twist or switch. In one of my favorite all time books the pace is great the intrigue is just enough and the interaction is a lot there is angst and love and love and laughter. There is background and interaction with other characters. There is not too many characters to keep up with and it spawned other books with Jack and Riley. The shorter sequels were great but i wished there had been more. but I still get one more sequel. YES!

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  18. Generally I love long books, because in long books I can enjoy how the character n the plot grow. I have some DNF books, n I feel really good that I don't finish it. Usually I won't finish reading book, it's theme or story I don't like.


  19. I love both long and short books. It all depends on the author and the story. There are some that I never want to end. I don't often DNF a book, and it does bother me, so I have to really hate one to put it down and never come back. Sometimes, one will lose my attention and I'll set it aside while I read something else and come back later to finish it.

  20. Depends. I've read short books I've loved. They were just right. They gave enough information and things moved along well. I've read long books I've loved. Beautiful detail and deep story line. Enjoyed every page. Flip side - I've read shorter books that I didn't like because it all felt too rushed or just action with no story. I've read long books (and since I hate to be a quitter) I've finished that I just wanted to scream move on already. Don't give me any more description of the landscape. Please set something happen.

    So when it fits the story and is well written I don't care about the length.

    Of course most frustrating is reading a book of any length that seems to be well paced and is enjoyable to have it suddenly and abruptly come to an end. It feels like I had this great 60,000 word book and was told to edit it 40,000 so I just sort of chopped off the last bit and wrote a quick summary of the ending.

  21. Long, short stories frustrate me, I always want to know more. Bring on those well written stories.

  22. It's really a tossup. If I love the characters, I want to read about them for a long time and never say goodbye. But I also like short, fast-paced stories, as long as they're not too expensive for the pages you get. :)

    It's fun to finish a story in a day. It's also fun to have a story last a long time. It's really about the characters and writing.

    I have two or three gay romances I paid for and haven't finished. Every once in a while I dig them out and try again, feeling that I really *ought to.* It's very frustrating, because these books are just not doing it for me. :(

  23. I prefer longer books with more character development before they hop into bed together.