Day 25, In Which I Talk about Length

Get your mind out of the gutter.  I'm talking about writing.  I was really astonished to see just how short BARRETT'S HILL was when it was digitized or whatever they do.  Back then Gothic romances could be very short.  In fact, I was also astonished to see how short some Mary Stewart romantic suspense books are.  The old books are thin but the print is dense, and I assumed they were long books, simply because the immersion into the world is so complete.  Turns out they run shorter than a lot of audio books.

I've also written short.  I've never been one for a lot of (maybe I don't do enough) physical detail about the places and do too much about the physical appearance of the protagonists.  I don't know why, since I have a secret passion for beautiful or even interesting rooms and houses, but I guess I'm writing for the meat, the crunch, and for me the crunch is in the relationship, not the house or the surrounding forest.   But as I said, I think I can improve on that.  You need just enough words to evoke the memory or just the idea of the place in the reader, and I've done that in a number of books set in places I've never been.  The reader supplies the rest.

I've always written short and then gone in to expand during the revision process, especially in the first 20 years.  The idea of actually cutting stuff was anathema to me.  Nowadays I'm a little more balanced -- when I go back through a book I can find paragraphs and scenes that go nowhere or simply repeat something already taken care of, and i cut without hesitation, while I expand on others.  I'm no longer as afraid of not meeting some concrete word count -- things are more flexible outside the world of series romance.  I just keep the damned book the length it wants to be, and the PTB have to either accept it or not.  I'm not going to pad just to make it look longer.

I also have a fairly terse style.  Publisher's Weekly called it "spare" and occasionally I swan around and say I have "spare prose" -- the complete opposite of purple prose, which we romance writers are accused of far too often.  This spareness can be a problem when I get towards the end of a book.  Everything comes at you fast and furious, and I don't give proper weight to certain things, so it can feel rushed.  It's okay if your characters are breathless -- the writer has to stop and center herself and make sure they're getting their due.

When I was first asked to do a novella I was very excited and nervous about the challenge.  After all, I'd been ostensibly writing the same length book from gothics through regencies through series romances, and I'd never written something long (100,000 words) or something short.  So i viewed the novella form with trepidation.

Turns out my terse ... I mean spare ... style suits the length fairly well.  Oh, some of the novellas I wrote were no big deal, but the first one, MONSTER IN THE CLOSET, is one of my favorite pieces of writing.  So is THE HIGH SHERIFF OF HUNTINGDON (I think Alan Rickman is my generations Tom Hiddleston.  Then again, I'll take Hiddleston any day of the week as well, greedy soul that I am).

Anyway, today I offer UNDER AN ENCHANTMENT, http://amzn.to/1kXd3LC , one of my few stories set in Scotland (and heaven knows why I don't write more Scottish stuff, since I really am a Stuart), and The High Sheriff of Hungtingon for $.99 each at Amazon. Nook and Kobo.  I only put one link, since to cover everything I'd have to do close to a dozen, but just type in Anne Stuart and they should be easy enough to find.

And now I'm going back to bed.  I only had three hours sleep (I'm visiting Crusie and it's too much fun staying up late and talking.)  But who knows what secrets of the universe I'll reveal tomorrow?