I find it interesting as I talk with various writers of fiction – published and unpublished – that opinions vary as to just how many words should go into a novel of any kind. And I’ve found that a lot of it seems to depend on opinions based on whether or not you’re a first time writer, or sending it to a big publisher versus a small press, does the novel really need so many words, or can they be trimmed down a considerable bit, and the list goes on and on.
Nevertheless, there are always the novels that come out fairly regularly by different authors that easily have 150,000 to 200,000 words or more in them, with others that push it even further. And there are the authors that not only put these novels out regularly “on time” but put out a few of them each year too. Personally, I have always liked a big meaty book that I can spend many nights and days in going through whatever adventure or drama is being played out. Over the years as I find books getting bigger and bigger I’ve had equal feelings of excitement and being overwhelmed with what’s out there to read. There’s quite a few I still haven’t read that I certainly want to, and the ones I have read I have greatly enjoyed.
Let’s look at a few of them, shall we?
One of the biggest series of books that have consistently been “BIG” books of increasing size and scope, and the one that sort of brought attention to this phenomenon in the Speculative Fiction world of publishing is Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series.
This series refreshed everyone on what a fantasy adventure is all about and even after the author’s passing away, the story is being completed. Now that’s a powerful story! Yet many readers of it have said that although he got off to a great start and seemed to be leading to a great conclusion, somewhere in the middle he got real draggy. Could it be that he was putting too many words in when fewer would suffice? Or could it be that readers are just unaware of how he wanted to conclude the story, so those extra things were more necessary than people at first realized? If the current writer Brandon Sanderson does a good enough job off of the notes Robert Jordan left behind, and if the notes were detailed enough to account for this, then we shall see if earlier concerns were justified or not. Of course, I’m still not into those “middle” books yet, and I’ve talked earlier about how my goal this year is to have every book in this series read before the last one comes out. You can keep track of my progress in my own ongoing journey through The Wheel Of Time series here. Each time I finish one I’ll be leaving a comment telling you it’s been completed.
Or how about Kevin J. Anderson? He pumps out books like it’s going out of style, yet he consistently delivers on story, action, intrigue, and vast scope, plus he has a way of creating characters that remain with you long after their part of the story is complete.
Ten years ago he began a seven book series set in outer space called The Saga of the Seven Suns starting with Hidden Empire. Each year he had a book out at right about the same time and since then he’s done a fantasy trilogy with the third book coming out this year. In the meantime, he’s written books set in the DC Comics universe, edited various anthologies, kept up with his ongoing collaborations with Brian Herbert including the first book of the Hellhole trilogy which just came out, and did other various projects.
I personally still haven’t read Saga of the Seven Suns, but I’ve seen the books in the bookstore. (Yes, there is still such a thing) They aren’t thin novels by any stretch even if they aren’t the biggest ones on the shelf either. But if they are anything like the fantasy trilogy he’s been doing since then and the other books I’ve read by him over the years, I know that I’ll be enjoying it and meeting a lot of characters that will stay with me.
Speaking of books not read yet, I’ve noticed another author by the name of Patrick Rothfuss. I read a recent mutual interview that he and Brandon Sanderson did with each other and people have been recommending his books to me. I’d highly recommend reading that mutual interview as it’s between two authors that have been successful in writing big books and they talk about it from several angles. It’s both a humorous and informative article.
The Name of the Wind seems to be a pretty big book too. Maybe once I’ve gone through the books I’m reading this year I’ll pick this up and read it too. Anyone else out there read Rothfuss yet? Opinions? Is he too wordy, or are the words fitting what’s going on?
And as I pointed out, Brandon Sanderson is the heir to Robert Jordan’s legacy to finish The Wheel of Time series, but he now has his own massive multi-book (ten projected) series called The Stormlight Archive. Book One is The Way of Kings.
The hardback is on my shelf right now and it’s MASSIVE. Just over 1,000 pages. Not a quick read for sure, and one that I am definitely looking forward to getting into later on this year. I’ve been going through the PDF download of Warbreaker on my computer whenever I’m not busy with something else. It’s been a really great read so far, so if this first book of this new series of his is anywhere near as enjoyable as that one – and many have told me that this is his best work to date – then I know I’ll have a good read ahead for me.
But even before Robert Jordan, and even outside of regularly accepted Speculative Fiction, there were people that wrote the occasional massive book.
Let’s look at the one by L. Ron Hubbard that has had a lot of praise over the years.
Battlefield Earth is a massive volume that tells a complete story in and of itself. This I’ve been told by those who have read and enjoyed it. It’s a book I intend to read one day. For a long time there I didn’t want to read it because I had seen the movie and didn’t care for it, but people that have both read the book and seen the movie have assured me that the movie is a terrible adaptation and to not judge the book by that. Considering other movie adaptations of books I’ve seen over the years, I’m willing to give it a go one of these days.
But what about Tom Clancy? From the beginning with The Hunt For Red October he has consistently written big books and it just seemed for a good long while there that each book would just get bigger and bigger. When Executive Orders came out, it was dubbed “A Collosal Read” by the Los Angeles Times. The paperback version on my shelf is at 1,358 pages in length. With such a massive volume, I figured that would be his last novel. I mean, honestly, I was wondering how he could write anything bigger?
Fortunately, he did write more even if none have exceeded that one in size, although, the one he just put out has had mixed reviews and the one right before that was terribly thin for him. I’ve been reading Tom Clancy for over a decade now with a break that’s lasted for a couple of years or so. I’m just two books away from reading Executive Orders. I think it’s the biggest book page-wise that I have on my bookshelves. I think it even tops the master for the length of a novel.
Yep, the master.
How could I write about massive books without mentioning my all time favorite author?
Quite a few of you that know me well enough should know who I’m talking about without having to scroll much further.
But I’ll go ahead and say it.
This man was, and still is, a writing machine. He is the only author that I’ve seen that can consistently pump out massive volumes of text and keep the reader coming back for more each and every time. And he has proven over and over again that he can write about anything. And he has written some massive tomes for sure. And his average is certainly more than “one” book per year too.
When the mini-series of The Stand came on ABC in the nineties, I had no idea what I was going to watch. Most of my friends had read the book, but for me, it was all fresh. A few years later I read the complete and uncut version of the book, and honestly, I can’t imagine what the cut version must have been like. At this point, I don’t even want to know. These are some of the greatest characters that I’ve ever read, and there are times I swear (can I do that?) that I’ve had dreams about some of the minor characters and have even heard names mentioned and thought I knew someone just because of that book. The Stand is the biggest book he’s ever written, but it’s not the only one that’s big. No, there’s yet another that’s almost as big as The Stand, and if you’re wondering what it is, this would be:
I got through this one about a year or so after I finished The Stand. As a person that was also at the time reading through his Dark Tower novels (and boy do THEY get big near the end too) I was beginning to see some connections with his “regular” novels and The Dark Tower. That’s another blog post, but as I began to see these connections, I began to have an even greater respect for the man as an author. Wow!
But now he’s gone and done it again a little over a year ago.
I’m not even sure when I’ll be reading this one. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it though, and once I’ve finished some of the other books by him that I need to read first, I know that when I do read this one, I’ll be having another many days and hours of enjoyment.
Well, those are some of the books that I’ve either read or want to read that are huge in size. I prefer those kind myself. What kind do you prefer, and are you more into series or stand alone novels?
Feel free to leave comments below. Thanks for reading what I had to say about these books.