Saturday, May 23, 2020

I don't judge a book by it's cover but by the number of pages

I have this sweet spot in reading. This perfect length for a Saturday romance read. I love being able to pick up a book in the early morning, devour 4 - 6 hours of my day and be perfectly content with another happily ever after in my world.

I am a faster reader, so page length can be a variable. Ideal 275-350 pages. 375 starts a dicey area, but as long as the story is engaging, chemistry builds on itself, and we have forward movement in the plot. I'll load it to my eReader. But when I see 400 pages, dread sets in. 

I have book friends that LOVE the slow burn in storytelling. Bring on the angst (you know how I feel about angst). Yet, I see a beautiful cover, enticing blurb, friends raving, glowing reviews - 433 pages? 

Yeah. I pull my hand back and move on. Why? I guess I am not in it for the long haul as a reader.

To be honest, I think this preference was established with reading graphic novels and TV sitcom format of the '90s. The three-act story structure that most contemporary romance writers implement appeals to me: Introduction, middle conflict, climax, and resolution.  What I have found with the longer Contemporary Romance stories, the readers are in the middle conflict for the long haul. For me, personally, conflict can be wearing. Authors can introduce humorous scenes, side storylines, hint at future stories to be added - and do so magically. I don't notice the 25-30 pages.

But keep me in middle conflict too long? You've lost me to the skim.

Cringe. I know. That's such a disservice to the story. But I'm ready to move onto the third act.

Before you go over to Goodreads and wag the 400+ page books I've loved, note what genre they are. Most likely, they are Historical or Paranormal. Because I don't currently live in those worlds if the author uses an introduction to build my understanding of the problem set up. Again - I don't live there. So I need to understand how the characters got there. Thus the tail on the W is what I can accept as a reader and don't feel like I'm getting- well - bored. 

 Okay. I see the confusion on your face. Time for some graphics I am borrowing from Darrell Wolfe, who borrowed from Mary Carroll-Moore. 

In the bottom graphic, that tail for the problem set up fits in paranormal or historical as I may not be familiar with the day to day workings of the world. Whereas with a contemporary romance, you tell me the heroine is a waitress, I don't need 10 pages of her past to understand where she fits in the world of NOW. I know I exaggerate, but you get the point. However, I think the 'mistake' made by these longer contemporary romance stories is that we stay so long in the center of the W - problem recovery and the problem worsens, that the relief I feel with reaction fails is short-lived. Or worse just  on a repeat until we climb back out.

Why am I telling you this? I had a conversation with my husband today. I was trying to explain my concern with posts within the author groups I follow about the difference of: 

  • I wrote 4K today
  • I am 4K within my novel goal

I've had the pleasure of alpha, and beta read for authors that you have heard me discuss previously. In this experience, it's never about a final page number goal. It's about these authors wanting to get to this 'point' in the story. Whether the story is 18K or 60K doesn't matter, it's getting the story told as it unfolds that is of importance to these authors.

I worry because what I see not only in the posts of the authors I am interested in, but the page counts of who Kindle Unlimited recommends to me. There is a trend to these longer 400+ pages tomes. I love a well-told, long novel such as Kindle Alexander's Always and Forever duet. But I see a purpose in the extra pages because it spans 20 years of their lives.  '

Maybe this trend I see is a blip in the universe.  But I seem to be skimming more than not. Why?

 Brass Tacks: Because we are in the center of the W too long and I want out.

So, when I buy a novel, yes, I look at the cover, blurb, and reviews, and the actual fact, the page number is going to now factor in my purchasing decisions. It's not a reflection of my book friends' suggestion or an author's previous appeal as a storyteller. It boils down to personal preference on the immersive quality and how the author handles the center of the W.

 I will be hesitant to try an unknown to me 400+ anymore.

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