March 18, 2011

Are novels getting longer

In my previous post I made some claims about novels not getting shorter. Here is some evidence for them.

Looking at the lengths mentioned on length of a novel in Wikipedia produces this graph (excluding the very early The Tale of Genji):

No clear trend. Adding some novel lengths I found mentioned on other pages produces this extended scatter plot:

No obvious trend, although maybe the shortest novels have become longer until a peak in the 1990s and now are becoming shorter again. Methodologically this is iffy, since we have no guarantees that my sources have been listing representative novels. Since different genres tend towards different lengths, this is a mix of apples and oranges.

However, let's look at one genre over time: science fiction. I took the Hugo prize winning novels I could measure (not all are included, but I think the factors causing exclusion - mostly me having them in the wrong file format - are uncorrelated with anything important) and plotted their length against when they won. The result is promising:

For every year the winner tends to be 2,504 words longer. So I think we can at least say that some genres are getting longer novels.

Here are the names of the novels:

Posted by Anders3 at March 18, 2011 12:43 AM