Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Does Size Matter?

I started reading Harlequin at a very early age. Too early, in fact, for my mother, who banned the books for a few years until she realized her efforts were futile. I quickly graduated from Harlequin Romance to Harlequin Presents, and then dove right into the meaty, bodice-ripper historicals of the eighties. Loved 'em all. The bigger (and sexier) the better--Laurie McBain was my favorite. I wanted sweeping epics that took me to multiple locales, and stories where the heroine had more than one lover/husband. (Anyone else a Bertrice Small fan from the early Skye O'Malley days?)

When I started writing a couple of years ago, I turned immediately to the historicals of my memory. But, of course, you can't go back. I found that not only was the market not there any more, but I had changed, too. I now enjoyed a faster read--stories with dialogue, not description, and smaller packages that I could finish in one or two gym sessions on the exercise bike. But I worked my way through those first couple of books, struggling to fill up the space for a single title historical.

I hadn't considered category until I started reading category books written by friends from my local RWA chapter. I thought I was being polite, reading their stuff. I realized that these books were incredibly fun--and perfect for my post-college, post-babies, multi-tasking, short attention span.

So I gave it a try--and loved writing short. I recently finished a draft of a manuscript I'm targeting to Harlequin Blaze. And if category wasn't short enough, I found there are tons of short stories out there, particularly accessible via e-pubs who offer them at a few dollars a pop. I wrote a short story for Highland Press which will be coming out sometime in the next few months, and I'm now working on something for eSpice, which is taking me days to finish, not months.

So I'm loving the new shorts, and I don't think I'm the only one. I hear from publishers that single title books are getting shorter all the time. Other short attention-spans out there, I guess.

What about you? Do you read or write shorts? Prefer the sweeping epics of old? Do you feel confined by work count, or do you struggle to fill the pages?



Christine Zampi said...

Inara, we are far too much alike. It's a little scary. I also started on Harlequins then moved into those great historicals by Kathleen Woodiwiss, Bertrice Small and Johanna Lindsey. Two years ago, I decided to try to write an erotica novella. I actually did this for two reasons. First, I wanted to see if I could write sexier. Second, I wanted to try writing a shorter length. I really enjoyed it and Liquid Silver published it. I just read that Kate Duffy is running her Brava novella contest again so I decided to write one. I'm all of 11 pages into it but knowing I only have about 100 pages left makes it seem easier (of course, we all know writing is rarely easy).

Caren Crane said...

I made the observation that my old favorites were no longer my all-time favorites as well, Inara. I think it's not so much that the market has changed, but that our expectations as consumers have changed.

Due, in part, from the higher bar set for television and movies these days, we expect great entertainment value for the time we invest. If a TV show, movie or book doesn't deliver the impact we expect in a short time, we don't stick around.

I still enjoy a long, meaty read, but it must be compelling. I still love long historicals, I find, but have less patience for contemporaries. It must be wonderful, like a Jennifer Crusie or Susan Elizabeth Phillips, if it's going to be long. Otherwise, give me a brilliant contemporary category any day!

Anna Campbell said...

I'm a buffet girl. I like a bit of an exotic entree (a sheikh in a Harlequin Presents?), a nice substantial plate of meat and potatoes (a yummy epic historical), chocolate mousse for dessert (a Regency comedy? A Jenny Crusie?), more dessert (a Blaze? A really cute sweet romance), dark coffee to finish up with (some vamps, perhaps?), more dessert...

Mmm, happy but need to call a forklift to take me home.

Inara, I write long so I really admire people who can write short and still get the impact. But seriously, if it's good, if it's got compelling characters, I'll read anything, even the back of the milk carton! One of the things I love about romance is the variety of the stories.

Ruth said...

I still love nice long reads, although I will read any length and any genre.

I had tons of Harlequins from the 60's on -- fell in love with Kathleen E. Woodiweiss' books, of which this type is my favorite.

Simply love historicals -- could it be because I have been a history buff since high school??

Inara said...

Christine, you are one of the first people I met at my very first National conference, so it's fitting that we're so much alike! I'll have to find out more about the Brava contest. I just finished my eSpice story (only 8,000 words! So fun!) and am polishing like crazy to submit.

Caren, I'm with you on the long contemporaries...LOVE SEP and haven't found many others that suit me nearly so well.

Anna, I just want to eat at your buffet and not bother reading. Is that allowed? ;-)

Ruth, I was a history buff from high school on too--but I think because of the historical romance, not the other way around!

Anna Campbell said...

Inara, I think buffets are on my mind because we had an authors' get-together about a week or so ago and I ate myself silly on oysters and smoked salmon (believe me, and I'm sad about this, not my usual fare). Then I had a bit of roast beef (I actually think I write roast beef, if that makes sense) with potatoes and cauliflower au gratin. And then, oh, man, the dessert table.

Ruth, I'm with Inara. I'm not sure if I'm a history buff before of historical romance or vice versa.

jo lewis-robertson said...

Inara, I too, am writing a piece for Spice Briefs. It's nice to have a change of pace, writing something different from what you usually write. It's an historical spicy piece, but I gotta tell you guys, my "spice" indicator is out of whack. Not sure how hot or not it is, but it's fun writing it. What do they say, a change of scenery is as good as a vacation?

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