Ebook distributors estimate Ten Past Noon to be around 320 pages. The paperback takes up 480 printed pages because I selected a large, beautiful font that’s easy on the eyes.
But why is it not, say, 150 pages? Why didn’t I write a book that was half the length?
I am reminded of a dialogue from when I was a high school student over twenty years ago.
“Expectations for this class: A final paper,” the teacher said. “Ten pages I want.”
“I can’t write that much,” a student said.
“You have all year,” the teacher said.
“Can it be two?” the bargain began.
“No, ten,” the teacher said. “They are qualitatively different arguments: the two-pager and the ten-pager. It’s ten I want.”
Short sentences are arresting and therefore memorable. They are a good delivery method for complex information made simple. Short sentences are how we communicate “a message.”
But not all information packages are reducible to two pages nor even two hundred. Sometimes an author labors for years, gathers expertise, and develops an idea that is big and nuanced. Then the author no longer has a single message, but a thesis. A teacher often wants a student to demonstrate that they have worked hard, learned many things, and grasped subtleties. That’s what this teacher wanted to see: a thesis.
An early draft of Ten Past Noon was less than a hundred pages. My readers were bored to tears. When I doubled, then tripled the length of my draft, those same readers became increasingly interested. This particular book needed to be long. That’s because Ten Past Noon doesn’t deliver a simple message. It has complex theses, and it works partly through its poetry. Reading it is an artistic experience.
Can a book ever be too long?
Why, yes, yes, yes, it can be. That pitfall, in fact, lies at the heart of Ten Past Noon. The risk of writing too much is part of what I wrote about. So give the book a spin to find out my answer to that question.