Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Size Matters. . . .

....or does it? LOL -- did that get your attention? Sorry, I just couldn't help myself...

Well, it does matter and I discovered how important it is when writing the short story that became A NIGHT FOR HER PLEASURE, my upcoming short online story from Harlequin Historical Undone. I've written very long 105,000 word romance novels and shorter 75,000 word ones, too. I've written several 20-25,000 word romance novellas. I thought it would be difficult in trying to go from writing a full-length story to a shorter one -- about 1/3 the size and I was right. It WAS tough to do.

I mean -- if I have about 300-350 pages to tell a whole story, I can add lots of details, lots of backstory, lots buildup and lots of love. In writing a novella, there's only about 100-120 pages so many details and backstory has to go. The love has to be there, because it's a romance, but it must happen faster and be more intense in many ways -- so it's a different pacing and different level of tension. But, I still enjoyed writing those novellas.

This HH Undone was something even more different for me. Instead of a whole story, happening over weeks or months, or a novella, happening over days or weeks, I decided this short story would happen in one day! Yes, one day. Did you hear the pressure as I wrote that? Actually, an experienced writing friend told me to think about a novel being the story of a lifetime, a novella being the story of an incident, and a short story, well, less than that. She suggested that to make the romance work the couple in a novella had to have met before and that for a short story, there has to be a good level of conflict and interest already at work between the characters.

Hmmmmm....sounds like a plan, doesn't it? Well, it worked! Instead of planning out a plot that covered weeks or months I chose one that happened on one day - a special day - a wedding day. Instead of choosing characters who were strangers to each other, I chose a man and a woman who'd just married each other. Instead of looking at the big picture, I zoomed in on a particular situation - this one was loosely-based on the classic story- A Gift of The Magi by O.Henry. And the result? IMHO - a fast-paced, sexy short romance story that tells of the efforts of a newly couple to be the perfect spouse their partner needs or wants.

So, does size matter to you? Do short stories have enough time to build the romance? Are novellas enough or not? Are novel-length romances just perfect? (I'm feeling like Goldilocks and the 3 Bears now! LOL!) What do you think?

I'll send a small prize to one lucky person who tells me about their favorite length and why it works for them. Let me know!


Terri is awaiting the online release of her first Harlequin Historical Undone short story on June 1st -- it will introduce her new Harlequin Historical trilogy - The Knights of Brittany - Born to conquer and seduce! Oh my! Visit my website for more info -


Michele L. said...

Hi Terri,

My all time favorite is a full length book. I will admit a long story lures me in, hook, line and sinker. I love getting to know the characters, the setting, the in depth plot, the twists and turns of the story, etc.

Sometimes a short story is fun too when you like something short and sweet. Hands down though I love a lengthy novel that I can sink my teeth into! Ha, ha!

Kytaira said...

For me, length of book depends on the type of book. I rarely like short stories unless they are part of a longer series of books. There just isn't enough time to fill in the extras and learn about the couple.

For contemporaries I tend to prefer a shorter book. Like the Harlequin Presents. Those are what I read when time is short as well. There isn't as much detail needed to set the scene.

With a historical I prefer a longer book. Things like clothes need a little description. You can say that someone pulled off their jeans and t-shirt and I can get a visual. If it's victorian clothes, I need a little background info.

And for paranormals, I prefer a longer book as well.

Virginia said...

I like books to be around 300 pages to get the full story, but there is times I like to read shorter stories, like when I don't have a lot of time to read! That's when Anthologies are very nice.

Laurie said...


housemouse88 said...

Hi Terri,

Here lately, I've been all over the place with the length of the stories I've been reading. They have been from 40 pages to almost 500 pages. Majority of the stories have been around 200 to 250. I like this length because I can get it done in a day. However, I like variety. I enjoy going back and forth between books with the different lengths and the genres. Have a great day.

Ash said...

I like full length books the most. I like hearing all the details. I like reading really long books like Christopher Paolini's books and the Harry Potter series. You get more time to be with the characters and in the setting. I do like shorter novels and short stories as well. I usually want more time with the characters though :P

robynl said...

I like around 250-300 pages but do enjoy the shorter ones also; especially if it is contemp. romance, my fav. and is a story line I like to read about.

Helen said...

Hi Terri

For me a full length book is my favourite but I also love novellas and short stories.
As you said the full length has everything in it and I feel more part of the story as I read but when I have read a fantastic full length story I sometimes find it hard to get into the next one I pick up so I often read a novella or a shorter book a Mills and Boon which I truly love but I can get into them better after reading a great story that stays with me for a while if that makes any sense.

Have Fun

Lois said...

I've read both sizes and loved, liked, and hated both -- it all comes down to the story and how it was written.

Could a short story be too short, yep; could a full fledged novel be too long, yep. But it's a matter on how you enjoy what is on that paper (or screen), and how you come away from it when you're done. . . and how it was written. You come away thinking a novel was way too long and didn't need all those scenes, but then you can read a shorter story and say, yep, you needed more to it. But then there are plenty that are just as satifying as they are, and wouldn't need to be longer.

Most of the short story anthologies I read tend to be Christmas books, which I grab when the season rolls around. Even though it's another subject, I just loooove Christmas themed books! :)


CrystalGB said...

Most of the time, I like a full length book (300 pages or more). But, there are other times when I enjoy a shorter read.

Estella said...

I read short stories, novellas and full length novels. My favorite is the full length novel. It gives you time to really know the characters and watch the love grow.

robynl said...

meant to say that the shorter stories are great for limited time reading.

Terri Brisbin said...

And the winner is. . .


Please email me at with your name and mailing addy and I'll get something in the mail to you!

Thanks to everyone for their comments...apparently size does matter!