What happened to the epic novel?

Last month, a friend of mine who is reading The Proviso said to me (paraphrase), “You know, a publishing house editor would have made you cut some of this.” Beat. “But I don’t know what it could have been.” At 283,000 words, it’s actually right on track for a novel that chronicles the romances of 3 couples. It’s 94,333 words per romance. (No, I don’t know which couple gets more air time, nor does it matter.)

A couple of days ago I blithely typed, “I want to be the Tom Wolfe of genre romance” and suddenly, the light came on for a few people, one of whom said so in that thread. I had never thought of my writing goals in that light until I actually said it, and that is true. (That’s just blindingly arrogant of me, isn’t it?)

Anyway, I had the feeling there were only 3 readers (including me) around Romancelandia longing for the long, involved, complex romance. But a Dear Author thread about the shrinking word counts of some of Harlequin’s lines (this isn’t unusual) disabused me of the notion. More readers came out of the woodwork to express their dissatisfaction with the snacks that are the single-title romances (and we won’t go into category aka Harlequin romance). We want feasts!

But alas. There are none.

Th. made the argument in a provocative post that series writing is a different skill from single-novel writing, and perhaps that’s where the epic novel went: to series. That must be read in the proper order to get the whole story.

I hate that. It’s inconvenient and, from a consumer’s point of view, extravagantly expensive. (And you thought MY book cost a lot of money!) By and large, I don’t stick with series, especially if they’re as intertwined as mine is, but give me an enormous novel that engages me all the way through and you got me and my money in one shot.

But, you know, it took me a long time to decide whether to split the romances out into 3 books and create a series, or create a long novel. It couldn’t be helped. The structure of the story arc just wouldn’t hold up under the weight of the extra bindings.

The one epic is more than the sum of its parts.

Now, would someone else PLEASE write something long and involved? And if you know of any, please let me know what they are.

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