I have written four novels at this point. Two of them, I think, are even publishable. My first novel was short, about 68,000 words. It would no doubt have gotten longer had I ever bothered to revise it but it was so awful that the mere thought of working it over gave me a headache. Heck, that thought still does. My next three novels have all been in the 80,000-word range, and that seems like a nice, comfortable length for me. I can tell the sort of story I'm currently writing in that number of words and the books don't feel short; they seem to be just the right length. In order to make them longer I'd have to pad them out or radically change my prose style (which is admittedly pretty dense and tends toward brevity).
My next novel will be, I think, about 90,000 words long. That's not much longer than my current efforts and is still not a long novel. A friend of mine has a book with an agent right now, preparing for submission, and that MS is 150,000 words. Such an undertaking boggles my mind. I don't want to read anything I write of that length, kids. Really I don't. But there are plenty of good long books and as a reader I don't shy away from them. Moby-Dick? Tristram Shandy? Ulysses? Swann's Way? The Iliad? Bring 'em on, I say. But don't ask me to write one.
I've noticed that not only are "door-stop" books of 600 or so pages still selling well, there's also been an increase in the number of short novels and novellas being published lately. I'm pleased, actually, to see the new arrivals table at my local indie bookstore packed not only with monstrous tomes but with slim volumes as well. Freedom sits next to Tinkers, and there are all sorts of books in between.
Which gets me wondering about you fine folks, and my wonderment results in these three questions:
1. Is there a length with which you find you are most comfortable working? If the answer is "it depends," then just tell me what's the length of your current or most-recent MS.
2. Do you shy away from shorter works or from longer works, or do you just not think about a book's length?
3. Do you have any tendency toward reading longer or shorter novels? I know some folks who won't read anything that's under 600 pages ("Less than that's a waste of time," they say), and I know some folks who are intimidated by anything over 200 pages ("More than that's a waste of time," they say). What about you?