Monday, October 27, 2008

Writing and Reading Short Stories and Novelettes vs. Novels

I'd like to segue from yesterday's post about my short story "Brazen" published on East End of the Web. Yesterday I explored comments about is romance too unrealistic and if fantasies are bad or good as well as women's vs. men's fantasies. The comment I mentioned yesterday begs another, totally unrelated question. "How much do readers expect writers to put into a short story?" If a story is publicized as a short romantic story, I'd expect a quick romance, or at least a quick reconciliation. "Short" really does mean "short". Right? In the world of romance reading, "short story" is different from "novelette", "novel", and "super". The majority of readers are savvy about the terminology and thus what to expect. In case you missed yesterday's post (of course you could just scroll down and read it now :) ) here's the comment that made me ponder all this: "Very mills n boon.sappy n unreal.thts not romance.women always write fantasy stuff instead of finding romance in real life daily wonder girls get their heart broken everyday,its cause theyre brainwashed by such material.all in all i didnt enjoy it cuz it makes u less hopeful in fallin in love.n perfection doesnt is so much more than fantasy n lust" I don't begrudge the reader his or her comment. But it seems unrealistic to me that someone who reads a short romantic story wouldn't expect it to be on the fantasy side. Unless it's a recant of a real romance, then a short romance would have to skip a lot of things so it can be short. Recently, (which you may have noticed) I've been writing a lot of short stories. I work full time and the kids tug at me a lot to cart them around to Halloween bashes, trick or treating, getting costumes, scouts, softball, etc. etc. There's only so many hours in a day and personally, I like to produce a lot - I think it's the ADHD in me. Short stories and novelettes releasing several times a year feels like a big accomplishment vs. one or two releases a year if I solely concentrated on longer stories. (However, I do have 3 full-size novels on submission with publishers right now, so I've not given up on them.) I like to write meaty stories that get deep into relationships, too. I love to read them. But sometimes, if I'm tired, but not too tired to go to sleep yet, I just want to read a short piece all in one sitting and get my romance fix. Writing short isn't easy, believe me. Now that I've had more practice it's easier than I once found it. I used to find it way more difficult to get everything into a short story instead of having the luxury of 50,000 words plus to get it all down. I really struggled to pare down short stories to under 15,000 words, in particular if they were also in the erotic romance genre. Perhaps it looks easy while reading it if you've never tried to write one, but it's not. Not for me, anyway. And not for some of my writing buddies who would much rather writer longer 100,000 word stories than stories of 15,000 words or less. Obviously writers earn more per story in royalties from a long story as the publishers charge more for the book. However, my biggest seller and biggest royalties ever came from a short story in the anthology "And Lady Makes Three" published by Elloras Cave. That's when I decided that my time would be well spent writing shorter. After all, my business training taught me to work smarter, not harder. That's not to negate what I wrote above. Short stories, at least until my mind set and skills were honed to write short, were much more difficult to write. However, they still took less time than writing a 100,000 word story. I guess I didn't get my MBA and bachelor's in Accounting for nothing (for a few years I seriously wondered about that). Also, so many stories are tugging at me to be written, short and long, it's almost impossible to decide which one gets the honor of being written next. Prioritizing which story to write next should be another separate topic. Here's a short excerpt from "And Lady Makes Three" published by Ellora's Cave.

An Excerpt From: PIRATE’S BOOTY

(from the "And Lady Makes Three" anthology)

Copyright © ASHLEY LADD, 2005.

All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.

Keir’s warm breath tickled her neck. “Something troubling you, Princess?”

Her hand grasped her throat in shocked alarm.

“I have a name. Would it hurt you so terribly to use it?” She exhaled slowly as she turned to find him barely kissing distance away. Lifting her lashes slowly, she gazed up at him. Not as tall as his colleague, he was the perfect height, his nose level with the top of her head. His lips rested at her eye-level and from this distance, they looked ideal, too. Usually, she couldn’t see them for his full beard, but at this distance, she could see them very clearly.

Melena.” Keir caressed her name as no other had before him. It rolled off his tongue like the richest Synkethian milk chocolate.

Mesmerized by his dark, sultry voice, a minute gasp escaped her lips. Quivers of lust racked her, and a strange twinge resounded between her legs. It might not hurt him terribly to use her given name, but apparently it made her ache. But it was too late to take it back now.

Realizing she stared as if he were her last supper, she cursed silently and forced herself to act nonchalant. She was chained by a thousand different prisons and had no right to quiver at his nearness or devour his lips with her gaze. Too late to act as if everything was sunny when she probably looked as if she were about to go nova so she confessed to the partial truth. At least, he wouldn’t hear a lie in her voice. “What if we’re never rescued?”

Swallowing the lump in her throat, she swept her gaze wide in an all-encompassing arc around the glade where they’d moved their camp. Lifting her chin high, she tried to sound confident, but her voice emerged strangled. “What if we spend the rest of our days on this planet, completely alone, except for the three of us?”

Keir raised his hand as if to stroke away the stray wisps of hair from her heated face, but it hovered mid-air and then dropped limply to his side. “We have to be optimistic. We can’t give up hope.”

If it were only the two of them, she and Keir, it could be paradise. But three? She worried her bottom lip between her teeth. Someone would be the odd man out and that spelled trouble.

Uncomfortably hot, bored, and frustrated, she glared. “Why? Shouldn’t they have found us by now if they were searching? My people must think me dead from the explosion. They may not have launched any missions of rescue.”

Keir slid a finger under her chin and forced her to look him square in the eye. His were deep, murky pools that she could happily drown in. “Because we’ll go crazy if we give up. Because you’re much stronger than that. We’re not just going to lie down and die…”

Published by Ellora's Cave


Molly Daniels said...

The first 'quickie' I ever read stymmied me until the 3rd time I read it. I finally 'got it' that the whole plot was the heroine accepting the hero's foreign way of life; not how they were going to work out their differences!

I had to change my mindset; I like the quickies, because they are quick reads, but often I'm still left with a 'so what happens next' question. I have to remember not every author answers that question!

Although sometimes it would be nice...and that's why I have a hard time writing one. I want to 'finish the story'.

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

I've been writing a lot of shorter books too, lately, and it is a very different type of thing. But they sell, so some readers clearly enjoy them!

Shelley Munro said...

I actually think that writing short is hard. It takes a lot of skill to write a short story or novella and getting just the right balance.

As a reader, I'll read both lengths. When I'm busy a shorter length is perfect. It makes me feel as if I'm not missing out on reading because I can read an entire story quickly. However, I come into the story with different expectations.

Unknown said...

Depends on subject and writer. Some writers can only write quickies and some are good at it. I prefer longer myself

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