Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Our Attention Span Is Shortening, Or Is It?


Forgive the temporary absence, I was going through some non-self-imposed internet detox. The drivers on my laptop suddenly decided that they would not recognize internet. I had to reinstall the software for Ubuntu, yet again in order to fix it. In a way I'm glad it happened, because it was good for retraining myself to concentrate, since I wasn't able to whisk away to the world wide web when I'd get stuck in my writing.

Now, I return to you with a question, or at least something to ponder.

Lately I've read a decent amount of cautioning to authors to not let our books get too long, warning us of consumers' shortening attention spans. While I agree we should cut as much of the 'fat' as possible from our books, I happen to think that readers' attention spans being shorter now is largely a myth when it comes to our entertainment. Why? Because when I think of epic length(100,000+ words) books, the highly popular 7 book Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling comes to mind. The books kept getting longer and longer, yet the world still gobbled them up like hot-cakes. For another example of epic length books that were popular, take Stephanie Meyers Twilight series. Every subsequent book in the series got longer, the first starting with 498(hardcover) pages and the last 756(hardcover) pages.

Admittedly, both of these series are no longer in the top twenty best selling books anymore. So, what are we reading nowadays? Well, just this morning I checked the NY Times Best Sellers lists, where I found A Game of Thrones placed at #4 in the Mass Market Paperback list. It is a 835 page(Us Paperback) book. Placing #4 on the Hardcover list, Shadow of Night, by Deborah Harkness is 584 pages. The #4 on the e-book list? Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, a 432 page (Hardcover) book.

The movies we watch seem to be much the same, length wise, still averaging between 1 ½ hours to 2 hours long. The kid movies nowadays are about the same as when I was a kid, around 80 minutes. The television cartoons seem to be lengthening. I remember watching several 5-12 minute 'episodes' within a half-hour, most of the TV Cartoons that kids now are a half-hour, consisting of one episode.

I realize that this is non-conclusive and there are other factors to figure into our 'attention span' such as scene lengths, pace, and such, but it really makes you wonder.

The only reasons that I have ever turned down or stopped reading a book was because either I wasn't attracted to the premise of the book enough or that the story didn't live up to my expectations for whatever reason. Never the length, and I think the same goes for most readers. What about you? Have you noticed a difference in your own attention span?

As for my own work, I'm pleased to say that I'm approximately 26,800 words into the first book. Admittedly the reason it's going so quickly is that is because it's a rewrite and much of it has already been done, but I'm still typing everything out, not copy-pasting. A hefty amount has been amended, either shortened, reworded, or expanded upon. Including some all-new scenes. Since my internet detox, my daily word count has increased from about 500 words a day to back to where it used to be, around 1,500 a day. One of those days, I got down just shy of 5,000 and the next just shy of 4,000.

Also, due to lack of internet access, I've not wasted much time. However, I did read through Pure (Covenant #2) by Jennifer L. Armentrout in nearly one sitting. I just couldn't put it down. One thing in the book impressed me more than the rest, the author taking a male character of a personality type I normally consider an antagonist, turning him into one of my favorite protagonist characters in the book. 

On a different note, I've created a new separate blog to share my personal thoughts, opinions, and bits of my everyday life, called Brianna's Babbles. There isn't anything on it just yet, but I hope to get it rolling soon and will post a notification here as soon as I've started posting on it.

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