Monday, February 23, 2015

Young Adult Attention Spans and Book Length

They don't make them like they used to, and that's probably a good thing.
At a recent writer's conference I heard a writer lament the supposed short attention spans of today's youth. "Word counts have gotten so low," she said. "I can't write a decent novel under 100,000 words, but everyone says that's all teens will read." She went on to cite her favorite childhood book, LITTLE WOMEN, which clocks in at 183,833 words. "The instant gratification of computers has ruined this generation."

While it's true there are suggested word counts for various age groups (See Jennifer Laughran's excellent blog entry Wordcount Dracula) book length is determined more by publisher's economic needs than reader's ability to stick with a story. I am not saying publishers are greedy, just that they have to price their product low enough so it will sell. In an attempt to do this, many "books" have been subdivided into series. Look at the total word count for these favorite young adult series:

HUNGER GAMES  - 3 Books - 301,582 words

TWILIGHT - 4 Books - 587,246 words

HARRY POTTER - 7 Books - 1,007,300 words

TWILGHT alone has approximately as many words as WAR AND PEACE. HARRY POTTER has over a million.

One million.

I don't think that's instant gratification. Young readers need to be given the respect they deserve.


Patricia Freeman Nesberg said...

I agree Rondi. My granddaughter Jasmine (six years old) has just finished The Chronicles of Narnia this past year, via the voices of her parents and I. And who can feel satisfied with the finality of the Lord of the Rings? Anyone I've met wished it never ended, and was even perfectly fine with Tolkien's sentences that read like paragraphs.

Rondi Olson said...

Sounds like Jasmine is being brought up right. :)