Friday, March 18, 2011

The Long and Short of It - Chris Marie Green

Thanks for having me over! I thought I would expand on a topic that came up in a recent interview because I’m often asked about how long it takes to write certain projects and how much work is involved.

When answering, I always have to start out by clarifying just what I write, and this includes urban fantasies (as Chris Marie Green and, later this year, Christine Cody), Harlequin category books for Special Edition and Blaze (as Crystal Green), plus the occasional novella or short story.

It’ll come as no surprise if I tell you that the most hair-pulling, intensive, complex plotting and layering goes into the urban fantasies. First, they’re about 100,000 words long, and if you’ve ever read my Vampire Babylon series from Ace, you’ll know that these books contain main plots plus subplots that support the themes, characterization, and action for the primary plot. The longer books allow me to really explore the world of my vampire hunters and their quarry—each have their own layered societies that require lots of room for building. Also, the word count lets me flesh out the noir mysteries and to explore new developments with characterization. These books can take months to write, but I think the end result is always worth it.

In comparison, my category novels are like sanity-restoring breathers between the longer books. While urban fantasies can be very dark, the romances pull me back up to a place where there’s light and a guarantee of happiness. They’re not as long, either—approximately 55,000 to 60,000 words. This shorter range means that I need to concentrate on developing that main plot, and a romantic subplot (which focuses on a second couple who normally support the theme of the primary couple) isn’t always beneficial. For instance, in my newest Special Edition, TAMING THE TEXAS PLAYBOY, book 2 in the Billionaire Cowboys, Inc., miniseries, almost all the effort goes into the building love between a bad boy tycoon and the good girl he tries to pursue (with much success, I might add, ).

As for novellas and short stories… Well, you’d think that they would be a walk in the park compared to writing any full-length book. Not so. Short stories, in particular, take a lot of editing and strategy. For example, when I wrote a Vampire Babylon short for the horror anthology THOSE WHO FIGHT MONSTERS (out this month!), I had merely 6,000 words—a chapter and a half in my category books—to build my urban fantasy world for new readers, to establish the rules of my paranormal creatures, and to introduce and advance the characterization of my main players. However, I do believe that short stories, in particular, can pack a real wallop since they’re so compressed. Getting to that point sure takes a lot of revising, though, because every word is important!

(You can follow Chris on Facebook(, Twitter (, or her blog (

She also has a newsletter ( ) and a web site at

I’m giving away a signed copy of the sixth book in the Vampire Babylon series—DEEP IN THE WOODS. To enter, just leave a comment. A winner will be randomly chosen on Monday, March 20, 2011. (Void where prohibited.) Good luck, and thank you!


Dina said...

Hi Chris, are your books standalons or do they need to be read in order? thanks

Crystal Green's Blog said...

Hi, Dina!
Thanks for asking! The Vampire Babylon series uses story arcs that continue and build throughout trilogies (like Harry Potter, but with less than 7 books), so I recommend reading them in order. Here is that order:

Night Rising
Midnight Reign
Break of Dawn

"Double the Bite" novella in First Blood anthology

A Drop of Red
The Path of Razors
Deep in the Woods

"Soul Stains" short story in Those Who Fight Monsters anthology

Have a great weekend! :)

Lil said...

I enjoy urban fantasy and complex storylines generally keep my attention. Something great to escape into after a hard day at work.

Michele L. said...

I absolutely love urban fantasy and paranormal stories! You are a new to me author. I am heading over to your website next to check out all your books. What is the most challenging aspect of writing your stories?

Estella said...

Don't enter me in the contest. I already have the whole series.

Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your books.

Crystal Green's Blog said...

Awesome, Lil! I'm so addicted to UF, too. Currently, I'm loving Seannan McGuire's fae books.

Michele, thank you! The most challenging aspect is time. It seems that I never have enough in a year to write all the stories I want to write. As for the craft itself, revision is the toughest because here I have the words on the page and I want to blaze forward with the story, but I know that if I don't look everything over, it'll amount to more revisions in the end....

Estella! Thank you, thank you, thank you! ; )

marybelle said...

It's like using a split personality to brilliant effect. I mean that in the best possible sense.

Crystal Green's Blog said...

LOL, marybelle. Sometimes I do feel very split. : )

donnas said...

Great post. I have the first of your Vampire series on my TBR shelf and am really looking forward to reading it. That also looks like a great anthology, looking forward to it too.

bacchus76 at myself dot com

ev said...

YAY A new Babylon book, although I am one behind. I'll catch up. I know it's on my ereader somewhere.

I think my tbr pile on my ereader is as bad as the one still sitting on the bookcase, now that i think about it.

Looking forward to the anthology too. I always like to see what other authors I am missing out on.

pageturner said...

Wow, deeply impressed by your productivity!

Crystal Green's Blog said...

donnas, very cool--thank you!

ev--a big thank you to you, too. :) I've already already THOSE WHO FIGHT MONSTERS and I really enjoyed it (just my unbiased opinion, of course!). There are some authors I'll definitely be checking out.

pageturner, thanks. :) It's my job, and I'm extremely lucky to be able to do it full time.

A winner will be chosen today--great to see you here, you guys!

Crystal Green's Blog said...

And the winner is...Dina! Can you please email me at Congrats!

Thank you to everyone for stopping by. It was a pleasure. :)

Dina said...

sweet!!! now to read the others first to get to this one,lol.

email on the way.

thank you!

Michele L. said...

Congrats to Dina!