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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Guest Post & Giveaway w/Author Christine Bell


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.

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:

20 comments:

June M. said...

I enjoy reading short stories occasionally for a change of pace. They are also great for getting into the readin mood when I am in a reading funk for some reason. Or for short waits while waiting for an anticipated release, when I don't have time to read a full length novel before that release.

GFC: June M.
manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com

June M. said...

Forgot to add to please enter me for both contests, I live in the US.
Thanks.
GFC: June M.
manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com

Danielle Gorman said...

Sometimes it's good to be able to just pick a short story. I like being able to read a quickie. Another reason I like them is that if it's an author I'm unfamiliar with, I can just pick up a short from them and see if they are my cup of tea or not.

iqb99@yahoo.com
USA

Kelly said...

I love novellas because they don't require the commitment of a longer story. Sometimes I want a quick fix and I love that I can sit down and read something in an hour (or less). And a lot of times I want an "in between" book to help me recharge my brain before I pick up the next novel.

I have always been interested in writing so I will be bookmarking this post. Thank you for taking the time to help out some aspiring writers! :)

Christine Bell said...

All good points, thanks for the comments! I read on my lunch hour sometimes (when I'm not writing) and love novellas as a option because I can actually finish them in a day or two.

Tore said...

I like long stories but shorter stories would be good to get to know an author. Please enter me in contest. Tore923@aol.com

Crystal ♥ said...

This is a fabulous post Christine and thank you so much for stopping by!
I think short stories are a great way to find new authors. Actually a lot of my, now favorite authors, I found while reading one of their short stories. They're also usually great for quick, fun reads.

Keisha said...

I like short stories, the only problem I have sometimes is I don't want the story to end.

I would like to enter both contest

Ktalley28@gmail.com

Kristy said...

I love short stories! They usually allow me to test out new authors. If an author can catch my interest in about 100-150 pages, I'm more likely to buy more of their works in the future.

I would like to be entered in both contests.

kliu107@gmail.com

meggerfly said...

Great post Christine! I like shorts and novellas. It'd great to have a quick satisfying read!

Please enter me for both contests.

rootml1 AT hotmail DOT com

mbreakfield said...

I enjoy short stories, for a change of pace.
Please enter me in both giveaways.
marlenebreakfield(at)yahoo(dot)com

Alexandra Roxana said...

For me sometimes it's a blessing to be able to read short stories, nowadays we have to many trilogies and, although I love reading them, it's refrshing to pick a short story up and know that when you finish that book you won't have to wait until the next one comes out.

I'll be intering for the second prize. My e-mail is:
alexandra.roxana.garcia@gmail.xom

Thanks for the great opportunity! Hugs,

Alex

Rhianna said...

I kind of have a love/hate thing with short stories. When they're well done (like The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale) you feel like you just had a satisfying snack but when they're not well done you feel like you were at a buffet and trying to cram too many things into one tiny plate.

Your post really was like an epiphany for me. I've never been one who would think to write a short story because I tend to hate them... but I think Carina Press has been doing a really great job buying up the good ones, so far I've liked a lot of the ones I've tried from them.

Thanks for the excellent post Christine!

Since I already have (& loved) TTToSG I'll just ask to be entered for the second giveaway. :)

-- Rhianna
always.and.never AT gmail DOT com
RhiReading

Aanchal@Book Flame said...

Short stories are a fun way to introduce yourself to a new author in my opinion and it's also a nice change of pace every once in a while.

bookflamereviews@gmail.com

please enter me for the first contest

Jenn said...

So tell me blog friends, how do you feel about reading shorter works? Any aspiring authors out there thinking about dipping their toes in?

Not a fan of short stories even short story anthologies. There's just not enough meat to them for me to feel fulfilled at the end. Question 2 I think most readers are aspiring writers, that said I'm one that has realized I don't have the self discipline to finish anything let alone try to publish it.

Tweeted this giveaway
Following via GFC

jennlovesed14 at gmail

Jenn said...

Ok I just posted a comment but I forgot to say that I wanted to enter just contest 1.

winnie said...

I do enjoy reading shorter stories from time to time. I find it helps to cleanse the 'reading palate' in between reading longer novels since short stories are much quicker reads and I would have different expectations from them as well.

I would like to enter for both prizes, please and thank you! :)

chibipooh(at)gmail(dot)com

Beverly said...

I like reading shorter works, but when I love the characters I am sad to have it end so soon. Thanks for hosting. Please enter me.
Old follower.
bevsharp@desch.org

shadow_kohler said...

i like short stories. there nice if you know you dont have the time to read something long. and if you need a fix, lol, you can read a quickie.

shadow_kohler said...

oops. i forgot my email. sorry
shadow_kohler@att.net