Massive Books Ahead!

Stack of Books

I find it interesting as I talk with various writers of fiction – published and unpublished – that opinions vary as to just how many words should go into a novel of any kind.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?

Big Book

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.

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

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.

Hidden Empire by Kevin J Anderson

Hidden Empire by Kevin J Anderson

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 by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

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 Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

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 by L Ron Hubbard

Battlefield Earth by L Ron Hubbard

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?

Executive Orders by Tom Clancy

Executive Orders by Tom Clancy

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.

Stephen King.

Stephen King Motivational

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.

The Stand by Stephen King

The Stand by Stephen King

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:

It by Stephen King

It by Stephen King

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.

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Under the Dome by Stephen King

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. 😀

About David James

David James is a man of many attributes: He's a believer in Jesus as the Christ. He's a family man with a wife and two children. He's an entrepreneur with a fledgling business called Beyond the Charts, an Independent Marketer with Manna From Heaven, a writer of both speculative fiction and some spiritual matters. He's a listener of heavy metal with techno, goth, and industrial sounds preferred. He doesn't listen to "Christian radio" and can't stand most "Praise and Worship" music because it comes across so staged and more for entertainment than worship, but he loves the worship coming out of MorningStar Ministries because of the raw intensity of it. He loves scary movies whether it's a creepy ghost story or an intense slasher film, as well as strange humor films, and just loves the spoof films that have come out over the past decade. He thinks Kevin Smith films are very funny, but doesn't care for it when they speak bad of Jesus. His favorite novelist of all time is Stephen King. His favorite sci-fi novelist is Kevin J. Anderson. Other novelists he enjoys are too numerous to mention here. For Spiritual reading he turns to Billy Graham, Mike Murdock, Rick Joyner, John Bunyan, Ellen White, Herbert Armstrong, Martin Zender, and R.A. Torrey. He enjoys financial and self-help books ranging from Dale Carnegie to Zig Ziglar to Donald Trump to Robert Kiyosaki. The one thing that irritates him is when people don't show respect, yet want respect from those they don't show it to.

4 comments on “Massive Books Ahead!

  1. I read The Stand. Thought it was okay, but not that memorable. Glad I checked it out of the library and didn’t waste money on it. I like SK’s nonfiction “On Writing” but hesitate to give his fiction another chance. All his books-turned-movies have not been to my taste. But I generally don’t like horror, so that’s a problem. Loved Hunt for Red October. Like TC’s nonfiction books too. I have the one on Special Forces (Shadow Warriors) and Submarines. I would probably read him more widely if not for the fact that my dad wishes I could write more like him and that sours me a little. Yes, Dad, I wish I WAS Tom Clancy too. There. You happy?

    But my big “claim to impressiveness” when it comes to massive books is that I have read all 7 Harry Potter books (3-7 all massive) OUT LOUD, in a single summer. You can’t read as fast when you have to talk and my kids definitely strained my voice at every turn. Me, coughing: “I can’t read another chapter.” Them, begging: “PLEEEEEEZE, Mom”. We don’t mind that you’re hoarse.” Sympathetic, right?

    That was the summer that the last book came out, and I did 1-6 kind of as a “review” while waiting for the release date on book 7. I had read 1-6 previously (also orally) as they came out. (Much easier that way, I assure you) And I have one more kid who hasn’t heard it, so I will probably do the entire 7 books rally AGAIN someday. Let’s hope he doesn’t insist on 7 books in one summer.

  2. I’m not a big fan of Stephen King, either. Well, I’m not a big fan of horror in general. But I did like the movie adaptations for Shawshank Redemption and Hearts in Atlantis.

    As long as the story interests me, I don’t care if it’s a short stand-alone (such as The Little Prince) or a long series (my favorite being Dumas’ Musketeers saga, which checks in at around 3,800 pages).

  3. I’m a King fan, but he does get a bit wordy. I find some of his older writing kind of tedious. I actually prefer his newer stuff, like Lisey’s Story, which seems to be unpopular with traditional King fans.

    “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss is one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read.

    The thing is, word count is irrelevant, but wordiness isn’t. A 900 page book that has a long, complex tale inside but is written *concisely* is fine. It’s when you have 900 pages that COULD have been 300 and told the EXACT same story without all the blah-blah-blah.

    The Rothfuss novel, for instance. It’s huge, but the story is not bogged down by superfluous writing. Rothfuss doesn’t meander, nor does he take three paragraphs to tell you something he could have said in three sentences. And of course, as Caprice mentioned, Harry Potter. The writing is so fluid, you get lost in the story world, not bored to tears with rambling.

    Compare that to a writer like Ayn Rand, who spends six paragraphs describing someone entering a room in effort to show you that he’s depressed. After the second sentence I got the idea, but she had to continue for pages….bleh.

    I have no issue with long books, but bigger isn’t necessarily better. Thickness of a book is not a direct indicator of good writing. That’d be kind of like saying that a software program must be better because it has gobs of pointless functions. I think books need to be judged by the story inside, not the size of the spine.

    As for submissions, editors and agents look down on long word counts because newbie authors tend to not know how to kill their darlings. Sure, there are going to be new authors who write beautiful, long books, but those are rare, I think. Most beginners who write long, just write wordy. I thought for sure my first draft of Finding Angel would never drop below 110k, but it’s now in the 90’s. I trimmed only the fat, though. The meat of the story is still there–and guess what? Now it’s not hidden by fat :).

    Anyway, have fun reading! I’d start with Rothfuss!

  4. Historically and with traditional publishing, issues like wordcount naturally impacts financial investment – more words cost more money (printing, editing, formating etc, etc). 100 words don’t make much of a difference, but 20k-50k+ can. The other thing that comes into play is the space on the bookshelves at the store. A bigger book naturally will take up more space that could go for other books. If there is no doubt the books will fly off the shelves, then it’s really a non-issue, but a newbie… well, as I have said before, it’s a trust thing.

    And yes, as Kat pointed out, most newbies write fluff or wandering. The plot is lost or weakened with all the extra which is usually invested in downloads, narrative exposition, run-on descriptions, excess subplotting and other meandering that does little for the actual story plot.

    If you’re going with a small POD house and your book will never see the inside of a major bookstore, then wordcount isn’t as big of an issue and frankly might not be worth the money to have an editor trim it out or the battle with the sentimental author who is convince that the fluff is needed. So in many cases they won’t bother, even if it would make the story stronger.

    Digital books have even less actual investment or danger if the book doesn’t sell, and again, most likely won’t invest in that much editing – too much cost for one book. Besides, as a digital book, fundamentally storing and downloading a 200k book isn’t that different from a 5k short story.

    Meanwhile, on my end, I’m not intimidated by big books. If I want to read it, I read it. However, if it is an unknown author/newbie, if I note a big word count and then I read a sample and it’s fluffy… then yes, it’s an issue. I will expect the rest of the book to be mostly fluff.

    For the most part, I don’t pay much attention to page count, particularly buying online where size isn’t obvious. The thing that comes into play there though is that again, increased word count does increase production costs of PODs, which comes out in the final price. In other words, if I have a choice between two unknown (to me) authors and one is $14.95 and the other is $19.95 … well, I am likely to take that into consideration.

    But you know, I doubt anything I say will have nearly the impact on others as it feels to have an agent actually read half of your book and say something along the lines of “I like your style, your characters and action sequences (which I had lots of), but the book is taking too long to get to the meat/heart”. And let me note that that book was only 125k or so. I’ve read 10 or so chapters of other books in workshops and felt the same way. Then I got my hands on a synopsis and wordcount for the book. The 10 chapters I had read had done very little to move forward the author’s “true” plot and the word count was 170k. Lots of different stuff was happening in the story, but in view of the main plot, it was fluff and frankly while reading it I had felt it wandering and as a reader had been losing interest. When a story wanders without a clear logic/thread pulling you through, then the hook is extremely weak and your fish may indeed get away. We newbies do it all the time and agents and publishers see it all the time.

    And if you ever get a letter like that, pointing fingers at all these big names (especially if you don’t know how they got there – love to see a study on size of debut books and how well they sell in the first 5-10 years), and justifying your stories/words will likely only flag you as another one of those arrogant, self-righteous wannabes. And pleading for him to read another chapter or so and then he’d understand why you had to write it that way, probably won’t impress the agent either.

    Is that to say that no one would be willing to publish that book? No, I am sure that I could have scoffed at the feed back and gone on to get it published in a small house. And I’m sure some people would buy it and even enjoy it, but I’ve seen way too many books with potential sold short and left mediocre. And trust me, marketing a mediocre book is expensive and frustrating. I don’t intend to follow that path.

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