The Mystery, Crime, and Thriller Group discussion

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Thrillers of any Kind > How long do you think a crime novel should be?

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message 1: by Michael (last edited Jan 04, 2017 09:25AM) (new)

Michael Santos | 8 comments Talked to a fellow crime reader the other day about the length of these novels. We decided that most of the books we've read sit around 600 pages in trade paperback size (100,000-150,000 words, I believe). But, we also thought most of those stories could have been told in 400 or so pages.

So, how long is your ideal crime novel?

Another interesting question... in the age of digital lifestyles and instant gratification, are shorter novels a good or bad thing for authors to try?


message 2: by David (new)

David Freas (quillracer) | 2377 comments I would say in general 300 - 400 pages would be about ideal.

But to tell the whole story, some novels need to be longer.

And, yes, some longer ones need to be put on a serious diet.


message 3: by Nancy, Co-Moderator (new)

Nancy Oakes (quinnsmom) | 9160 comments Mod
Personally, my favorite crime novels are shorter -- between 200-300 pp. I've come to believe that the best authors are those who can tell the story they need to tell, include the human-nature factor and get done in a minimum amount of page space. I've found that the longer novels tend to devolve into soap operas, which I don't care for.


message 4: by Skye (new)

Skye | 2105 comments or shorter; I do know there are expectations as well as limitations.


message 5: by Skye (new)

Skye | 2105 comments Nancy, I happen to agree with you.


message 6: by Terri (new)

Terri (terrilovescrows) | 50 comments Nancy wrote: "Personally, my favorite crime novels are shorter -- between 200-300 pp. I've come to believe that the best authors are those who can tell the story they need to tell, include the human-nature facto..."

I agree. The shorter ones don't have enough flesh in the story I have found


message 7: by Mark (new)

Mark (mark-s) I like them to be around 300 pages.
Seems like as I have gotten older I just don't have the patience to read large novels.


message 8: by Rhian (new)

Rhian (rhianlovesbooksx1f4d6) | 352 comments I think 400/500 pages too many books are too short these days


message 9: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 36155 comments Nancy wrote: "Personally, my favorite crime novels are shorter -- between 200-300 pp. I've come to believe that the best authors are those who can tell the story they need to tell, include the human-nature facto..."

I agree. It just begins to look as though editors don't do their job anymore. I'm sure that they think they do but there is really little excuse for 600 page mysteries. If the writer can't solve it in less than that he is trying to put too much in one book. How much of it is just padding, either for form's sake or because the author thinks a thicker book is more impressive? I have a few Elizabeth George and Tana French which are fairly thick, but anyone else I just won't pick up anymore. A few by other authors I have just jettisoned.


message 10: by Britney (new)

Britney (tarheels) | 125 comments I prefer ones that are between 250-300. I find at times when books are longer than that things are being told in the story that necessarily don't belong which makes it drag on.


message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim McGrath Hi,

Mark Twain famously ended a letter to a friend with the following apology, 'I'm sorry this letter is so long, but I didn't have time to write a shorter one.' Nearly every book ever published could have been improved by a further edit and polish by the writer.

However, I agree with Quillracer. I like my books to be between 3 and 400 pages. That gives you a book of between 100,000 and 125,000 words. Which is just long enough to keep me rolled up in my chair for most of the week-end.

Bliss.

Cheers,

Jim


message 12: by Gary (new)

Gary Inbinder | 89 comments For both writing and reading, I prefer my crime novels in the 200-300 page range, approx 65-85,000 word count. I recently blog-posted on the subject.

https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog...


message 13: by Franky (new)

Franky | 932 comments Jim, that's a great quote.

My two cents: I think about 250-350 or so is an appropriate length.


message 14: by Gregory (new)

Gregory Brown (gregorycbrown) | 1 comments As a fellow crime reader, I love books which last. Take some of Nelson Demille's work; I am not sure of the word count, but I never tire of his writing. I wish his books would never end. I've actually had to force myself to put them down in order to delay the ending...for a couple more days anyway. Same goes for some of Harlen Coben's stand alones. These are the guys who should write 600+ page novels. Some of the other big ones--I won't mention names here--who write 600+ page books should probably cut them to less than 400 pages.

Now the other side of the coin--as an author. Sometimes it's hard to cut words/pages because we feel like we're taking something away from the reader. We fall into the trap of trying to make the reader see something our way, when in reality the reader's mind is going to see it however it wants. Every day I write, I find myself deleting more and more words. I no longer--most of the time--try to force the reader into a scene. In so many words, I try to lay out the colors of paint and let the reader put them on the canvas.

At the end of the day, I don't know if this is right or wrong, and because I am new at it, I probably won't know for many years to come. In the meantime, I'm going to continue to look for perfect sentences to fit into paragraphs...until they all equal up to a book.

Happy reading.


LovesMysteries  | 4 comments Gregory wrote: "In so many words, I try to lay out the colors of paint and let the reader put them on the canvas."

I couldn't have said it better myself!


message 16: by Angel (new)

Angel | 24 comments I think it takes however long it takes to flush out the storyline and plot especially if there are twists or some sort of action involved. No I don't think the book should be 900 to 1,000 pages but just a long enough especially if it's part of a series. I also think that short novels are a great balance for authors to try. That way there's something for everybody.


message 17: by W (new)

W I prefer the shorter length,around 200-225 pages.


message 18: by William (new)

William Rubin (william_rubin) | 15 comments I'm with you. 300 pages or less is preferred if possible, though sometimes a good story does take longer to tell


message 19: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Since I usually have about three books going at one time, I prefer about 225-300 pages. Many big 500 page mysteries are often (not always) full of padding that, if taken out, will bring the page numbers down to about 300 and nothing is lost from the plot. A couple of popular authors who shall remain nameless have pages full of small talk meaningless to the development of the characters or the plot. I keep thinking "am I missing something important in these conversations, some hidden meaning?".........but that never seems to be the case. Just MHO.


message 20: by Cora (new)

Cora Foerstner (corafoerstner) | 45 comments I agree with everyone. I like my mystery/crime books on the shorter side: 250-400 pages. Elizabeth George is my exception. I love her writing and would probably read anything by her.

I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction, which are longer by necessity. These books are creating other world and cultures and so the tend to be longer. Part of the fun of reading them is stepping into a completely new world. In a mystery, I want to plot to move along at a good pace.


message 21: by David (new)

David Freas (quillracer) | 2377 comments And I gave up on Elizabeth George because of her long-winded narratives. They just seemed to go on and on and on without moving forward. But that's just my opinion.


message 22: by Cora (new)

Cora Foerstner (corafoerstner) | 45 comments Quillracer wrote: "And I gave up on Elizabeth George because of her long-winded narratives. They just seemed to go on and on and on without moving forward. But that's just my opinion."

I can see and understand your point of view. My issue is I love her prose. Her writing is elegant, and I'm a sucker for language.

I also think she's a good example of an author needing an editor. As I said earlier, publishers don't spend the money on editing that they used to, and big names get a pass because they make money and have an audience.

I met her years ago when I was her student guide at a college writers conference. She'd just published her first book and was still teaching high school. I've run into her at a couple of writers conferences and know she does extensive research. BTW, I'm certain she has no clue of my existence.

I image some of those long narratives allow her to put some of her research into the books. Not that I think it a good idea to have the long winded stuff. I probably wouldn't put up with it, if I didn't have a one sided history with her.


message 23: by David (new)

David Freas (quillracer) | 2377 comments You hit the nail on the head three times.

She is an elegant writer.

And she is in dire need of an editor.

And publishers do give best-selling authors a pass on writing tight books.


LovesMysteries  | 4 comments Cora wrote: "I also think she's a good example of an author needing an editor. As I said earlier, publishers don't spend the money on editing that they used to, and big names get a pass because they make money and have an audience."

If I was a best-selling writer, I would sure want a publisher to spend more time and money on editing my work, making sure the prose is tight and getting to the point instead of being long-winded, instead of giving me a pass because I make lots of money and am a best-seller. Prose can be shorten and tighten and still be elegant. If I was a best-selling writer I would want to grow and get better, not just relying on my status. There's always room for improvement, EVEN for established, best-selling writers.


message 25: by Cora (new)

Cora Foerstner (corafoerstner) | 45 comments LovesMysteries wrote: "Cora wrote: "I also think she's a good example of an author needing an editor. As I said earlier, publishers don't spend the money on editing that they used to, and big names get a pass because the..."

Yes. The writers I know would all agree with you, but there are also readers who like the long narratives, and writers whose styles vary, which is why I love E. George and others find her narratives too long and flabby.

Plus, publishers are just as strapped financially as everyone else. They don't have the funds they used to have to edit and if they did, the costs would be passed along to readers.

I know editors who say that they simple pass on manuscripts that need lots of editing because they can't afford the time, extra manpower, and the money such a manuscript would take.

I really like Swedish mysteries, which tend to be longer because of all the details that many people would find tedious, but those details give me a sense of place.

On the flip side, I've read shorter mysteries that I find tedious because of repeated details and flimsy plot and character development. My sister and mother read a very popular mystery writer whose writing drives me crazy. I read two books and couldn't keep reading her series. Every time the protagonist comes home she goes to the door, puts the key in the lock, goes inside, looks around the living room, and goes to the kitchen. It feels like she cuts and pastes that into every book, several times. Same scenario at her office. I want to shout, "Just walk inside your apartment!"

I love that there are a variety of readers with different tastes. More mystery writers and something for everyone.


message 26: by Virginia (new)

Virginia Henderson I prefer shorter books. Maybe from 100-200 pages? I think crime novels should be kept fast paced so the reader has trouble putting it down. It really depends on the plot though, how long it takes to solve the case would determine how long the book is.


message 27: by Steven (new)

Steven Moore When I start writing a story, I never know whether it will be a short story, novella, or novel, but the lengths of each often depend on the subgenre. My YA mystery is short (200 pages); the first book in my detective series is longer (302 pages); and my last mystery/thriller (323 pages). Caveat: The first book is an Amazon estimate for the print equivalent (it exists only as an ebook). Readers have to be careful about those estimates. My last book is 323 pages in trade paperback, but Amazon estimates the print equivlent to be 288. Amazon should be encouraged to be 288 pages.
All that said, for me an adult mystery or thriller story (non-YA and non-cozy) that's less than 45 kwords is a novella, and less than 10 kwords a short story. Most of my detective series are 60k+, but that last one is about 85k. The length often depends on how much fun I have writing the story.
r/Steve


message 28: by Alan (new)

Alan | 148 comments About 80,000 words.


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