Many of you know I was involved in a bad car accident last month. It came as close to being an early end of me as I ever want to go. So along with the pain pills and the insurance hasseles, I've found myself rethinking my entire life. I suddenly want everything instantly. Don't put off doing anything pleasurable until tomorrow. Eat dessert first. Play today, work tomorrow and put off the rest entirely.
That's a huge change in my attitude. I grew up believing the 'ant' was the good guy in the story and the 'grasshopper' was the fool. Nice and steady wins the race. Blah! Not for me. Not anymore.
I was thinking of this change in my philosophy a few days ago during a discussion on one of my author loops. this private loop is for a group of Harlequin authors, and the discussion focused on how terrible it was that Harlequin has reduced their word counts across all of their lines. Long-time series authors bemoaned the loss of an extra twenty to thirty thousand words in which to tell their stories. They loved the old way when they had time to explore emotions, add in more points of view, include more bad guys, and generally take their time to wind through their stories.
I have to say, as a reader, I loved some of those old Harlequins too. Back when I had leisure time, I enjoyed picking up a book that took hours to read and kept me entertained and interested into the wee hours or for days. But sorry, authors, things have changed---in my life as well as in the world. Today when I pick up a Harlequin book, it's because I want a quick get-away with a guaranteed happy ending. I want to be able to finish it in one sitting. I want it fast, exciting, emotionally satisfying---and over.
The best selling Harlequins right now in the U.S. are the Presents line. That's always been the shortest Harlequin line available. Does that tell you something about what most readers want? For myself, I love reading a good Presents. I just finished both Anne McAllister's ONE NIGHT LOVE CHILD, a January Presents, and Katherine Garbera's THE WEALTHY FRENCHMAN'S PROPOSITION, a Silhouette Desire (which is another short line.) Both were wonderful books. And fast.
If I want or have time for more, say on a long plane ride or a vacation on the beach, I'll read one of the amazing variety of single title books available either in the bookstore or via e-books. By the way, many of these so-called single title books have also been shortened. Whereas a good best seller used to be in the one-hundred thousand word category, now many of them don't even make it to ninety thousand words. Minimum word count used to be ninety, today it's eighty or even seventy. Thanks due in part, I'm sure, to authors like Dan Brown, James Patterson, and Steven King who are masters at quick and exciting reads.
At one time I imagined all this focus on brevity was due to the price of paper. But today I'm sure that isn't even a factor. Not with all the e-books out there. Now that I've changed my opinion about life in general, I know better. It's the pace of our lives. Time is our single most expensive commodity.
As an author, I've never had any trouble writing short. It makes me work at finding just the right pace--just the right word. It's harder, yes. But it also makes me a better writer. I'm enjoying finding new ways of putting a little mystery/adventure, a couple of points of view, and a bad guy or two in with my sexy little romances. Writing a fast read is exactly what I need in my my life right now.
As a reader, I'm thrilled that all the lines are going shorter. I have always wanted a good thriller, mystery, paranormal, erotica, or family romance (depending on my mood) that I could read in a couple of hours and then go on with my life.
How do you feel about the shorter books? If you're a writer, do you find shorter is harder -- or maybe impossible? If you're a reader, have you given up reading Harlequins because they've gotten shorter? Or are you fining yourself picking them up again after falling away exactly because they are now easier to finish in the time you have?
Leave me a comment and I'll pick one winner from all the comments left before Tuesday February 19th to win a new Presents (my choice) or one of my backlist (your choice)
Linda's newest (shorter) Silhouette Romantic Suspense series, The Safekeepers, begins in June with SAFE WITH A STRANGER. Don't forget to drop by Linda's newly designed website to find out more about her series, check out her new extras, and register to enter her ongoing contest to win books, chocolates, and gift certificates! http://www.LindaConrad.com