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Friday, October 8, 2010

Guest Blogger: Eliza Knight

Hello Lady Scribes and Readers!

Thank you so much for letting me stop by today to talk about writing short. Since December of 2008, I’ve had a total of eight romance and erotic romance novellas published (3 of which are no longer available), with The Wild Rose Press and Ellora’s Cave.

For many writers the idea of writing short is more daunting than writing a full length novel. When considering writing short, these thoughts may run through your head: “How will I fit it all into 25,000 words or less?” “Will it be too fast paced?” “Will my readers feel satisfied at the end?” “How many love scenes?” “How many secondary characters?” “Is there room for sub-plots?” “Can you have a series of novellas?”

Today, hopefully, I’ll be able to answer those questions for you. Let’s start with the first question:

How will I fit it all into 25,000 words or less?

Believe me, you can fit it all in. Just be careful of what “it all” is. When writing short, the key is to have the story focus on the relationship of your characters, and one or two major conflicts. Don’t think of it as an abridged version, or your readers will too. Shorter works still need just as much planning, all the five senses, showing and not telling. Just as you should in a novel, use the various scenes and dialogue to get your characters personalities, goals, motivations, internal and external conflicts across. Use action and reaction scenes and love scenes. Make sure your story and romance are progressing at an even pace, and that all loose ends are tied up when you finish. My biggest tip for writing short—stay active. Every scene should have something happening. You don’t have time for lulling scenery descriptions, ruminating for an entire chapter or meaningless backstory. You only have a certain number of words, make them count.

Will it be too fast paced?

The answer to this is, yes, if you’re not careful. Remember that this is not a novel, you don’t need all the sub-plots and several secondary characters. You can’t have slower paced chapters where we are only ruminating on previous happenings—this doesn’t mean you can’t have reaction scenes, you can, but don’t waste a whole chapter. Keep the story plot itself relatively simple, with one or two goals per h/h, and one or two conflicts they have to overcome to reach those goals.

Will my readers feel satisfied at the end?

They should! This is a story, first of all, and as long as you tell the story at an even pace, with plenty of conflict, tension and romance thrown in there, as well as a satisfying ending, all loose ends tied up and everyone happy, villains punished, lovers together, disaster avoided, then you’ll be golden.

How many love scenes?

Now this seems to be the question on the tip of everyone’s tongue! It depends. I’ve done some short stories with only one or two love scenes, and others with half a dozen. It depends on your story and how sensual/sizzling/hot/erotic you want it to be. So unfortunately, there is no magic number, but make sure it makes sense for your story and that each love scene moves the story along. This goes for novel-length too. We don’t need any gratuitous love scenes, make it purposeful—even if that purpose is only to show us how much they love each other.

How many secondary characters?

This will also depend on your story. In my own writing, I tend to like have a few. One female confidante for my heroine, one male confidante for my hero and a villain. Sometimes I have more than that, sometimes, it is just a few. Remember that with a shorter story, you don’t have time to develop a bunch of characters, and you want the main story to still be about the hero and heroine and their relationship. Don’t let secondary characters take over, or take away from the main focus of the story.

Is there room for sub-plots?

Yes, there is. But it doesn’t mean you have to have a sub-plot. My MEN OF THE SEA series novellas all have an underlying suspense sub-plot, some mystery that has to be solved, but at the same time, the characters are trying to work through their own internal issues as well. So while I do have a sub-plot, I make sure that it remains that way—a sub-plot. When it starts to intrude on my focus—the h/h and their relationship—then I know I have to tone it back.

Can you have a series of novellas?

Absolutely! I myself have had two series with novellas. All the stories are linked, but can stand alone.

What other questions do you have about writing short? Hit me with your best! I’m happy to answer!

The last book in my Men of the Sea Series was released this past April…

Her Captain Dares All

Pursued by kidnappers, Lady Tessa Woodward is running for her life. When handsome Captain Jeremy Williams comes to her rescue in the backstreets of Paris, she persuades him to help her escape France and return to her home in England.

Captain Jeremy Williams is captivated by Lady Tessa's fiery nature and agrees to give her passage aboard his ship. Once on board, his desire grows and soon reveals a sensual side to the woman he can’t deny. But when danger threatens his lady, will the captain dare all to save her?

Publisher Buy Link: http://www.thewildrosepress.com/her-captain-dares-all-p-3992.html

Amazon Kindle Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Her-Captain-Dares-All-ebook/dp/B003JH88ZU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1286288763&sr=8-1

Other Men of the Sea titles: Her Captain Returns, Her Captain Surrenders

Eliza Knight is the multi-published author of sizzling historical romance and erotic romance. While not reading, writing or researching for her latest book, she chases after her three children. In her spare time (if there is such a thing…) she likes daydreaming, wine-tasting, traveling, hiking, staring at the stars, watching movies, shopping and visiting with family and friends. She lives atop a small mountain, and enjoys cold winter nights when she can curl up in front of a roaring fire with her own knight in shining armor. She is represented by McIntosh and Otis, Inc. Visit Eliza at www.elizaknight.com or www.historyundressed.blogspot.com


  1. Welcome to the Lady Scribes, Eliza! I have always wondered how shorts were different. Maybe one of these days, I'll give it a try. Thanks for guest blogging for us today.

  2. Eliza, you make it sound so do-able! I might just have to give this a try. I have a tendency to be wordy, though, which is why I don't write poetry. LOL I need more words! There are a couple ideas in my head that don't seem "big enough" for a full-length book, and this might be a great way to go.

  3. Welcome to the Lady Scribes Eliza! I've been thinking of writing shorts for a while now. I love westerns and they aren't selling in the print market but epublishers are eating them up, so why not? I love all your advice and plan to make use of it! Thanks so much for joining us here and sharing all your wonderful knowledge!

  4. Eliza!

    Thanks so much being here today. I will admit to being afraid of writing short. I think I like to hear myself "talk" too much. But your advice is awesome!

  5. Excellent post Eliza! I've just finished (baring crit advice) a hot regency novella, but I am wondering if there is enough love scene's in it to meet the demands of the erotic romance reader. I find it a little difficult to judge the heat rating of my own work so I will wait and see what feedback I get. :o)

  6. I think short stories are an art form. I really love them when my life is super busy and I want to finish a read in one sitting. Thanks for sharing your advice with us. :)

  7. Eliza, thanks for joining us at LadyScribes. Great advice. I found that I was getting too wordy in novels and I started taking on challenges to write short stories, except these had to be very short. Even if they never going anywhere, I think all authors should try to write a novella. I found it really helped to tighten and concentrate on what is really important to the story. I may just try to write a novella. I wonder if there is a call for them in the inspy market. :)

  8. Hi Eliza, this is Debby Lee from Olympia RWA. I'm a friend of Gail Zarrade. Not sure if I spelled that right, sorry Gail. Anyway, Eliza, what a great post. I write novella's and I got several good ideas from your blog today. Thanks so much for posting.

  9. Hi Eliza,

    I have wanted to try my hand at a novella, but like others on this post, I am wordy (but don't you know it, having edited my work)! You have this down pat, I've read some of your novellas!
    Thank you for posting

  10. Eliza,

    Thank you so much for visiting Lady Scribes. I would love to try my hand at a novella some day. I've written some short stories published by True Love Magazine and I found it a fun exercise. I'm always up for a challenge. Thanks for the tips.

    Your Men of the Sea series sounds great!

  11. Hi ladies!!!

    Thank you so much for having me and thank you all for your comments!

    I hope you all give writing short a shot :) And for those of you that have, great job!

    Shorts can also be a good promo tool. I know several authors who write shorter works and offer them for free to their readers. I'm considering doing this in the future as well.

    Have a great week everyone!!!