Christine Bell is one half of the happiest couple in the world. She and her handsome hubby currently reside in Pennsylvania with a four-pack of teenage boys and their two dogs, Gimli and Pug. If she gets time off from her duties as maid, chef, chauffeur, or therapist, she can be found reading just about anything she can get her hands on, from Young Adult novels to books on poker theory. She doesn’t like root beer, clowns or bugs (except ladybugs, on account of their cute outfits), but lurrves chocolate, going to the movies, the New York Giants and playing Texas Hold ‘Em. Writing is her passion, but if she had to pick another occupation, she would be a pirate…or, like, a ninja maybe. She loves writing fun, adventure-filled romance stories, and also enjoys writing steamy erotic romance under the pen name Chloe Cole, but she hopes to one day publish something her dad can read without wanting to dig his eyes out with rusty spoons.
Just the Short of It
Hello Reading Between the Wines followers! First, thanks so much to Crystal for having me come by today. LOVE the name of this blog, so I was thrilled at the invite!
Today, I’m going to talk a little about writing short and then I’m doing a giveaway, so stick around (or, if you get bored of my prattle, just scroll to the bottom and find out about the giveaway. I’ll never know the difference!)
For a little background, I began my writing journey about a year and a half ago. I had written newspaper articles in the past and some essays, but although I’d always loved reading and writing, I just couldn’t commit to the process at any point. The main hurdle for me was the overwhelming idea that I would need to write 80,000 words to make a book. EIGHTY. THOUSAND. It might as well have been a billion. I just couldn’t fathom it, so I set aside my passion and got down to real life, complete with a day job I was entirely apathetic about.
In my mid-thirties, several people I knew and loved who had been young and vibrant encountered major tragedies and it smacked me in the face: Life is too friggin’ short. Too short to spend the majority of your time like a rat in a maze searching for the elusive cheese that is consumed all too quickly. I realized that I wanted something to look forward to EVERY day, not just waiting for the weekends. I also wanted to get myself and my family in a position to travel and see the world. If my husband and I just kept on with only our day jobs, the likelihood of that (beyond an annual budget trip to say Disney or Cape Cod) was nil.
I reassessed my life and my schedule and realized that I, while I have a pretty busy life with a full time job, a husband and four kids, I also spent a lot of time doing things that weren’t getting me anywhere. My husband and I had a band together, and while I loved the singing part of it, I hated gigging. I have a terrible stage fright that never went away, and although we made some money, I limited the amount of times we could gig in a month because it was so stressful for me, so the money was never significant. Between band practice and gigs I was probably spending about 15 hours a week on that activity. TV watching took up about that same amount of time. What if I took those extra 30 hours a week and did something I LOVED, but could also make money at? I could kill two birds with one stone.
My mind went straight to writing. But how could I get over the mental hurdle of trying to write 80,000 words? I had always loved and read romance, so I started to research the possibility of writing something for an anthology. That’s when the whole new world of e-publishing flashed in front of me like a beacon. I started buying everything I could get my hands on (including a Kindle!) and realized that every major e-publisher sold novellas, from Harlequin to Samhain Publishing, from Ellora’s Cave to Carina Press. Apparently, novellas had become a huge part of the publishing model without me even knowing it. Now, instead of 80k, I had to figure out how to write 15-25k, and THAT I could manage. So I did. Ten times so far! And so can you, if you’re so inclined.
Here are some tips and tricks to writing short:
1. Keep sub-plots to a minimum. You only have time to tell ONE story well*, so don’t muck it up with extras.
*And sometimes even that’s a stretch, which is why many authors who write short choose to write about reunited lovers. There is a real art to making people believe in new love in under 30k.
2. Limit secondary characters. The more people you add, the more stories and personalities you have to develop. It’s hard enough to make two people pop off the page in a short space, don’t make extra work for yourself by adding to it.
3. Skip the purple prose. In fact, skip even the lightest of lilac prose. Fact is, if it doesn’t lend to the setting in some major way or move the plot along, it can probably go.
4. If it’s unnecessary, delete it. When you have to work in tight parameters, every word counts, so don’t waste them. Words like just, very, really, and that should be used sparingly and can almost always be deleted. As can any dialogue tag that isn’t either imparting some important emotion that you can’t work out another way to get across, OR is needed to clarify who the speaker is. Also, always follow the golden rule: Use adverbs sparingly. If your verb is strong enough, it doesn’t need a buddy. Not so good: She walked hurriedly down the street, nervously biting her bottom lip as she went. Better: She scurried down the street, worrying her bottom lip as she went.
Better verbs mean more concise AND more visual/descriptive sentences.
5. Outline first. I am a not a plotter by nature. That said, in order for me to tell a complete story that is satisfying, I have to work it out ahead of time so I know how many words (give or take) I have for each chapter. I then assign a topic to each chapter. That way, I know if I’m going long (or too short) as I go rather than finding out at the end and having to do major revisions.
6. Recognize that, no matter how good a novella or short story is, it’s not the same as a full-length novel. You will never be able to engage in epic, elaborate world-building or lilting, flowery prose. Because of that, there will be people who WILL NOT LIKE YOUR WORK, despite knowing it’s a novella going in, because you were not able to deliver the same feeling as a full. There is nothing you can do about it. Even though you train yourself to roll with the punches and expect criticism, this can be tough to take. Bad reviews are one thing. If a reader says “I didn’t like the author’s voice” or “The character was annoying”, well, that’s fair enough. Not everything appeals to everyone. And sometimes, a reader will point out something you didn’t see and can help improve your work. I also don’t mind “I wish it was longer!” because that just means they want more. What I’m talking about here, though, is the dreaded “This would have been good, but it was too short” review along with a low rating. You canNOT respond, “Um, hello…NOVELLA!” You just have to bite your tongue and say what you say every time. “Thanks so much for taking the time to read and review my work!”
And it’s hard.
And it’s hard.
That said, I LOVE writing short. I’m not one for rambling prose and prefer concise, punchy dialogue and to-the-point narrative, so it fits my style really well. I don’t see myself stopping any time soon, but I’ve come a long way since my first 15k novella. My longest so far has been 36k, and I think I’m finally ready to take on the single title beast. I’m going to take it in chunks. I don’t have to write 80k. I only have to write 20k.
Four times. ;op
So tell me blog friends, how do you feel about reading shorter works? Any aspiring authors out there thinking about dipping their toes in?
Now for the giveaway! Today, two commenters will win.
The first contest (open to U.S. and Canada residents) is a copy of The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale, a set of my romance trading cards, a refrigerator magnet and a Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale mug.
The second is open to all, and is a copy of ANY e-book listed on my website www.christine-bell.com (including Chloe Cole works and the Undercover Lovers anthology).
TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY:
- Leave a comment answering Christine's question above
- Make sure to let us know if you are entering the first contest, second or both
- And most importantly, leave your email address so we can contact you if you're a winner!
- Giveaway will end at 11:59pm on June 15th and two winners will be chosen at random. Good luck everyone!
See my 5 Wine Glass review of The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale here
You can also find Christine at:
You can also find Christine at: