I think it was in bookbabble episode 45, with the wonderful Glenda Larke as guest, that we talked about genre fiction and about cutting up and portioning books for the booksellers. Now, this isn’t probably of any interest to anyone besides me but I found a statement by Charles Stross on that topic today:

[C]hopping a big story into episodes is, indeed, highly problematic.

I had a taster of this with my Merchant Princes series at Tor. The book I originally handed in, titled “The Family Trade”, would have run to around 600 pages if printed. And I was about 15% of the way into the sequel, titled “The Clan Corporate”, which I estimated would run to 750-850 pages … when I was told “we’re chopping the first book in two, and by the way, can you deliver the rest of the series in 300-page chunks?”

Ever since, I’ve been bombarded by reader complaints about how each book ends on a cliff-hanger, they don’t make sense as stand-alone novels, and so on. Well, no shit: books 1-6 of that series (#6 is finally due out next March) are actually books 1 and 2. (Book 2 grew from the 800-page estimate to more like 1250 pages largely because of the overheads of turning a continuous story into episodes.)

That quote is part of a discussion in the comment section on Stross’ blog. The discussion, in which Stross initially partakes, is interesting, vastly more so than the blog post which spawned it. The post is willfully ignorant (although in a playful manner), which is an attitude I don’t like so very much. But the resulting blanks are nicely filled in by the comments so that the whole makes for enjoyable reading. Next day’s post, clearly a result of that discussion, is considerably better and also recommended.

One thought on “Proportioning

  1. I actually like willful ignorance as a technique to instigate discussion. To a degree, of course. But then since my degree of ignorance is so high anyway, it will seem to most like I’m willfully so, when in fact I really actually am so. 🙂

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