I entered the publishing world a super writer. No, I’m not bragging on myself (though I do think every writer needs to think she’s a good writer. Confidence, baby.) I write for Harlequin Superromance, which is essentially a single title line within category books. The stories in my line are robust and diverse with secondary plots, varied settings and characters who can be as traditional as virgin librarians or nontraditional as virgin rock stars. What they all have in common is the word count – about 85,000 words.
When Harlequin announced a partnership with Cosmo targeting younger, hipper readers (with less of an attention span I guess?) I decided to write something to submit. Sounded fun and once I started writing the fast-moving story, I realized I loved writing short. The story came in just under 30,000 words, but it felt full to me. I envisioned busy mothers reading about Van and Lola while sitting in the pediatrician’s office, commuters completing the story while on the train and career women sinking onto the couch on Sunday afternoon wanting something fulfilling and easily finished in an afternoon. Perfect, right?
Eh, except Harlequin passed on it.
What to do…what to do (picture me drumming my fingers here)
Thinking back on RWA Nationals this past summer, I remembered a rumor about Amazon starting a short story program. Maybe this story would be a good fit for the new line launching in 2014. I sent the story in, Amazon bit and before I knew it, I had a new editor and a contract for a 20K story.
What the…? (Picture me putting on the brakes here)
They wanted me to cut almost a third of the story?
But I wanted Lola and Van to have their day in the sun, so I rolled up my sleeves and got to work cutting A LOT of words. The process taught me just how many words I typically wasted. Once upon a time I was a two adjective girl. On this project, I got one adjective, if that, to describe what the heroine wore. A couple of scenes got scrapped, along with a small subplot involving Lola’s ex-fiancee. When I sent the story in to my editor, the word count was 19,997.
Whew! (Picture me here holding up a fist of victory)
But here’s the deal – the story didn’t suffer from my tightening the prose and limiting the action. Instead the story moved quickly and easily for the characters. Even though the story is around 75 pages, it feels full. It’s the perfect quickie.
So that’s how I leaned to go from Super to short…and I’ve found short, sexy and Southern very fitting.
After being selected as a finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart Award in Regency romance, Liz found a home writing sassy contemporary romance. Her first book—Vegas Two-Step—starred a spinster librarian and debuted in June 2010. Since that time, Liz has published ten more books with Harlequin Superromance. Her stories are set in the South, where the tea is sweet, the summers are hot, and the men are hotter. Liz lives in North Louisiana with her childhood sweetheart, two handsome children, and assorted pets. Liz loves doing laundry, paying bills, and creating masterful dinners for her family. She also lies in her bio to make herself look like the perfect wife. What she really likes is pretty shoes, lemon drop martinis, fishing off the pier, and ignoring the sink full of dirty dishes. You can visit Liz at www.liztalleybooks.com to learn more about the lies she tells herself…and her upcoming books.