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Posts tagged with: jeannie lin

Is Short The New Long?

Writing a great short story used to be the training ground for writers. Hemingway started his career by writing them, as did Stephen King, and many renown others.

For many years, the appetite for short stories, nearly disappeared, cutting the number of magazines that included them substantially, and leaving only classic short stories on the book shelves. However, I believe the tide is changing among today’s readers. Their time is limited and there are times when they just want something worthy and short while they’re waiting in a doctor’s office or school parking lot.

Also, many are now reading on their phones, and reading a short story is more feasible on the small device.

This month, I dove into the short market with a novelette titled Perfect Moments. It released on February first. I was nervous about writing it because shorts have a totally different writing style than a full length novel. It was a learning experience, but after receiving emails from readers requesting to know whether Elizabeth and Bob Kincaid (from Perfect) made it home from their overseas duty, I decided to give Elizabeth and Bob their story. Their short.

Another reason I decided to try my hand at writing a short story was because today’s reader wants more product from an author, and quicker. I’m comfortable writing a full length novel in a year, sometimes nine months. But to write quicker, I know the quality of my work would decline. I want to continue to improve my craft, not hinder it. So to feed my fans cravings, writing short stories might be the way to go.

 

I asked my Ruby Sisters their thoughts on writing short stories.

 

Rita Henuber said she wrote her short stories because, “I have many stories bumping around inside my skull. Characters screaming at me to tell their story. Some are absolutely not full length novel material. All but one in my collection of short stories began with an experience of mine. I had to write them.”

And Jeannie Lyn said, I actually LOVE shorts and think they’re a great way to pack a punch in a short amount of space as well as introduce writers to your voice. The last short story that I wrote was meant to be an introduction to my steampunk world for new readers and a little bonus for existing readers.”

Ruby sister Ava Blackstone stated she wrote a short after reading an article in her RWA chapter’s newsletter about writing for Woman’s World. “I decided to give it a try. I found that short stories were great palate cleansers when I was sick of my main WIP. I also liked the freedom to experiment with different writing styles without worrying that I was wasting months on something that might not work.”

And Vivi Andrews stated, “I’ve always written short stories for anthologies, usually with open submission calls that provided the opportunity to get my writing in front of more readers.  My little gateway stories to lure readers into my world. 🙂  This spring I’ll be participating in the 2nd RWA Anthology.”

I then asked the sisters if they found writing shorts difficult? I know I found it challenging not to add more conflict, more points of view, more of everything.

Vivi said, “Actually, I don’t find them difficult at all.  I was nervous initially about stepping out of my comfort zone, but I wound up loving the opportunity to tell more compact romances.”

 

Rita stated, “Not at all. I enjoyed writing the shorts and the side benefit of stopping those people in my head screaming. I view shorts as a moment in time. A snapshot event giving the reader something to ponder.”

 

Jeannie started writing shorts before she wrote novels. “I have a totally different mindset when I switch back to writing shorts. They’re not just shorter novel storylines — the way I plot and present a short story is entirely different than what I do in a novel.”

 

Ava said, Writing that first short story definitely required a paradigm shift. I had to come up with a much smaller-scale conflict than I was used to writing so that I could wrap things up realistically in 800 words. It helped me to think about it as though I was writing a scene instead of a novel. So then it was just a matter of coming up with a compelling scene that could stand on its own.”

 

 

 

 

So why write shorts? I’d heard shorts help with sales on other books, especially if their part of a series. Perfect Moments just released, so I don’t have a track record to share, so again I questioned my sisters who had published short stories.

 

 

Jeannie stated, I actually have found it helpful bringing in new readers with shorts. Since my settings and worlds are not so mainstream, I think readers find shorts an easy way to get a feel for me without having to commit to a novel. Short stories with direct tie-ins and characters from other series are the best way to go in terms of hooking readership. Teaming up with other authors in anthologies is a also a great strategy for getting that first look.”

Ava had a different use for her short story. I give it away to readers who sign up for my mailing list, and it has worked great as an incentive to drive signups. I’m planning to write another short to go along with my next Ava Blackstone book.”

 

 

 

 

If you’re considering writing a short story, I have some advice.

  • Read short stories. There are many; The International Thriller Writers have released collections titled Face Off. And, I know the Mystery Writers also release an annual collection. Then you have classics like William Faulkner’s That Evening Sun.
  • Pick your story’s moment or moments that really matter and write about them.
  • Stay with one main character.
  • No subplots.
  • Write more words than you need and then pick the words that show don’t tell, show character’s change, and that moves the story forward.
  • Go through the same editing steps as you would for a novel.

 

 My sisters also offered advice or suggestions?

Rita said, “I go by what I love to read. IMO a short story is for a reader’s experience. I will also say I think there is a difference between what is considered a short story to a novella. With a novella, because of its larger word count, I expect story structure, GMC, story resolution, the whole enchilada. Shorter stories can certainly have all that good stuff but I think of them as a bite of the enchilada not the whole thing.

Vivi offered this advice, “I didn’t take any online courses or read any books on the subject.  I will strongly recommend that anyone looking to write short consider the kind of conflicts that can be resolved quickly.  If you give your characters more than they can reasonably solve in a short format, you’re going to have some very grumpy readers.”

Jeannie recommended, Rather than craft books (which I normally love), the best way to learn for shorts is to read how others do it. I think there’s MORE of an art to writing short than writing a novel. The good thing is that they’re short. 🙂

Some authors I love:  Ray Bradbury (for voice, tone, memorable setup and hook). If you can find it, read “A Laurel and Hardy Love Affair”.  Edgar Allen Poe (check out his word choice and how effective his opening lines are)

For romance, these authors’ shorts are actually novellas,  but they establish character and emotional stakes in a relatively short amount of time. Courtney Milan – The depth of characterization is amazing. They feel as emotionally complete as full novels. And Ruthie Knox – She sets up emotional tension wonderfully between hero and heroine

Thank you, sisters for sharing your experiences in the short story market. 

Please ask any questions that you might have and we’ll try to answer them for you.

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Autumn Jordon is an award-winning author of romantic suspense/thrillers and contemporary romance.  Join her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com. And don’t forget to check out Perfect Moments.

Ava Blackstone is a winner and two-time finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart® contest and has five short romance stories published in Woman’s World magazine. She is currently hard at work on the next contemporary romance in her Voretti Family series. You can find her on the web at: http://avablackstone.com  PRETTY IN INK

Jeannie Lin is known for writing groundbreaking historical romances set in Tang Dynasty China starting with her Golden Heart award-winning debut, Butterfly Swords. Her Chinese historicals have received multiple awards and starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. SILK, SWORDS, AND SURRENDAR

Rita Henuber; I’ve always had stories in me and now I’m sharing them. I married a Marine, a man I’d known since I was fourteen. I’m fortunate to have lived many places and traveled to the states and countries I didn’t live. I moved back to the barrier island in Florida where I grew up and now spend time writing, weaving my experiences into my stories. My first books have heroes and heroines in the military or government service. But, I’ve started on a new series of books with collections of short stories. LET ME TELL YOU A STORY

Vivi Andrews is a Golden Heart winner & 2-Time RITA finalist. As Lizzie Shane she writes contemporary romance with a pop culture twist, and as Vivi Andrews she writes paranormal romance. ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rubies at RT and SWAG

This is Jeannie reporting live from the Romantic Times Convention in Los Angeles.First of all, check out the awesome setting. The Westin Bonaventure Hotel has been featured in many movies due to their interesting architecture and distinctive glass elevators. Every time I’m in them, I think of the first chase scene from True Lies. Here’s a view from the elevator:

Storytelling


Giveaway:  One commenter on today’s blog  who is not a Ruby Sister will receive an advance reader copy of my forthcoming novel, Welcome to Last Chance.


Writing romance is hard.  It’s harder than writing other forms of fiction, because to be good at it, an author must juggle two separate plot arcs – the romantic arc and the story arc.  These arcs are related, but they are not the same.   The best romances have a great love story in them, but they also have a great external story as well.

At a recent dinner with my editor and agent, both of whom work mostly with romance authors, I got an earful about their frustrations over submissions that don’t have “enough story in them.”  Based on their comments, it would seem that many romance authors are having issues with the storytelling aspects of romance. 

Ruby Release Spotlight: BUTTERFLY SWORDS by Jeannie Lin

Celebrate with us as we feature one of our own Ruby sisters, Jeannie Lin. Her debut, full length novel, BUTTERFLY SWORDS hits the bookshelves today! We’re thrilled she has the time to talk with us about her book and the process of writing.

Here’s a brief overview of Jeannie’s debut novel.

Butterfly Swords is set in 8th century Tang Dynasty. It’s a historical fantasy or alternative history that brings medieval swordsmen across the Silk Road into the Chinese empire. The heroine, Ai Li, is a sword-wielding princess who escapes from a pre-arranged marriage when she believes her warlord husband-to-be is a traitor. She meets up with a western barbarian and they team up to try to get her safely back to the capital.

The hero is a reluctant one. He’s dealing with the guilt of leading his men into an ambush. Stranded in a strange land, he takes on the task of protecting Ai Li as a way to redeem himself. And of course they start falling for each other.

Here are a few reviews for BUTTERFLY SWORDS :

The Season: 9.5 Top pick
This story is a must-buy, so immediately grab or download a copy of Jeannie Lin’s outstanding debut. By the way, it won the 2009 Golden Heart for Historical Romance. Can’t wait to see what this talented new author will serve up next.

Mrs. Giggles: 80
… for a quick breezy read, this one will do just fine. And as a debut effort, this one is actually an impressive show of hand. I’m intrigued about discovering what the author will do from here onward.

Jeannie Lin

SB: I’m sure this isn’t the first interview you’ve done regarding BUTTERFLY SWORDS. What’s been your process leading up to this moment?

JL: “Accept all requests” seems to be my mode of operation. I’m so stunned that so many people want to help spread the word that I’m game for anything. Each one seems to take on a slightly different angle so it’s been fun. Plus the interviews make me reflect on the whole process, and I’ve got a lot of reflecting to do!

SB: You’ve gotten amazing reviews already. What was it like, waiting to hear from the reviewers and those who are waiting to pick up your book?

JL: I’m going to be completely honest: I have filters on Twitter and check GoodReads and Amazon several times a day. And then I Google, just for good measure. Yes, I’m a bit antsy. I imagine more experienced writer buddies are laughing and saying, “Oh there’s Jeannie, with the first book jitters.”

The first reviews were the hardest. I knew that the ARC was getting requested because of NetGalley and because some reviewers are quite twitterific when they’re reading something. It’s like when I used to hand something over to Little Sis to critique and I’d sit there and try not to watch while she pored over it, but take that anxiety and multiply by a hundred. There’s so many weird little angles in the story, I had no idea what readers would latch onto.

At the same time, I was deliriously happy. “People are reading, people are reading!” I’d chant to myself.

SB: BUTTERFLY SWORDS is set in 8th century Tang Dynasty, a real setting challenge in today’s historical market. When you thought of the idea for your book, did the thought that you were stepping outside the typical setting worry you?

JL: I knew nothing about the market when I started. I actually didn’t even know there was something called RWA. My writing mentor Barbara Ankrum was the one who told me all of that. She told me the setting was going to be a challenge, but at that point writing a complete chapter was a challenge! I was too clueless to be worried. And then when I wasn’t so clueless, I was still more worried about the writing than the setting.

SB: So is BUTTERFLY SWORDS the first book you ever wrote?

JL: It’s the second manuscript. 🙂 The first was finally contracted after a complete rewrite.

SB: That’s great! I know you wrote the novella, THE TAMING OF MEI LIN, sort of as a prequel to BUTTERFLY SWORDS, and it’s fantastic all on its own.

How much research did you do for your books? But more importantly, did the research lead you to unexpected twists in your story?

JL: Let’s just say, I am waiting for someone to challenge me on Tang Dynasty history. Bring it. *grins*

I like how you phrased the second part of the question. I like to do just a little research at the beginning of the manuscript before writing the first draft. Between the first and second draft, I research again. I find then that the story is the story. It’s about conflict and character arc, not about history. Then the research enhances what’s already there as I layer in details.

The discovery of the Jade Gate fortress, which figures prominently in the story, was actually done in a later round of research. In my follow-up story, The Dragon and the Pearl, I researched The Art of War between drafts to enhance the strategies employed by the warlords. The Art of War research subsequently got into Butterfly Swords as well, in a scene where Ryam fights on ‘death ground’.

SB: Your Heroine, Ai Li is a sword-wielding princess. I love that she can give as good as she gets. Would you have wanted to live in her time?

JL: If I had to pick an ancient dynasty to live in as a woman, I would have chosen the Tang Dynasty. There was wealth and beauty and a high standard of living, but the answer would have to be no. It was still very, very hard for women. You had to be fortunate enough to be born with power and influence to really have freedom.

SB: I’m with you there.  History is nice to read, but I like living in the present, thank you very much. I have to say, the mixing of cultures in your story is a great idea. What kinds of issues did you have in dealing with their respective world views, or did that not present a problem?

JL: I think it took a lot of soul searching to find how to resolve issues with the manuscript. Sometimes I couldn’t quite take every critique at face value. They would point out things that were wrong and confusing, which is very good to know, but the solutions they’d suggest didn’t quite fit with the world or the culture I was trying to portray. That’s why I value CPs who have a strong understanding of story structure, character, and execution – regardless of the external window dressing of plot and setting. At the end of the day, you have to execute. You can’t confuse the reader.

On the other hand (this is going to sound egotistical, but I don’t mean it to be), I sometimes feel that my background makes me particularly suited to write this story. I don’t mean that I’m the only person with this background. Just that being Asian American and always having to think two ways gives me this Venn diagram sort of brain: Western circle, Asian circle, overlapping middle. I’d be very interested in how someone with a similar background to me reacts to the story.

SB: Can you take us through a day in the life of Jeannie Lin before she sold and compare it to your life after you sold?

JL: Nothing much changed until about three or four months ago when I started concentrating on promotion.

I wake up, hit the computer, and have about two-three hours of time before the day job starts. During that time I can write, blog, surf, etc. In the last month the first thing I do when I wake up is check for all those things I mentioned earlier. Before selling, the first thing I’d do was check my e-mail to see if any agent or editor requested. LOL.

I used to write every day, but now I don’t anymore. It does scare me. I’ve allowed myself to go into promo mode for the last several months, so my writing time is much more project oriented. I’ll block out specific things to do like a week for revisions or a week for a short story.

SB: Wow, you’re life sounds chaotic. It leads me to wonder if finaling in the Golden Heart Contest was instrumental in your publishing journey?

JL: Absolutely!!! I was getting a couple of requests here and there before finaling, but after the nomination, agents started reading. I signed my agent and then signed with Harlequin directly because of the Golden Heart.

SB: Tell us a little about your experience with the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood.

JL: Being part of the RSS has been one of the best experiences of finaling. It’s hard to find a more caring, talented, diverse and FUNNY group of individuals. And we’re classy dressers too. Whenever anyone needs anything, there’s such an outpouring of support and offers to help that it just fills your heart full up.

Barbara, aka Shea

SB: Here’s my Barbara Walter’s question, cause every interview should have something odd thrown in.

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be and why? (I know, it makes no sense and it’s totally random, but it’s my interview so I get to ask the questions.)

JL: A ginkgo tree. It’s the first thing that came to mind. The leaves are fan shaped and they grow in temples. They’re ancient and unchanged since prehistoric times. A living fossil. They’re supposed to clean the air. You were asking about how much research I did earlier….

And it’s a healing tree. That’s how I view romance. It’s the oldest type of story – a story that has always had the capacity to heal the heart and soul of its reader.

Thank you, Jeannie,  for letting us celebrate with you! This book is so special, and I just love the setting …  and this is a celebration, one where we’re Jeannie is giving away the party favors. Yay!  I love party favors!  For those of you who leave a comment today, Jeannie is giving away a copy of BUTTERFLY SWORDS and a Tang Dynasty themed gift set!

So let the party begin.  What does everyone else think? Is it wise to buck the trends and branch out into subjects and settings that others say are no go areas? What kind of stories are you dying to read these days?

Buy BUTTERFLY SWORDS from Amazon

Writing Short and Not So Sweet – Harlequin Undone

Today is the release day for The Taming of Mei Lin, a short historical romance from Harlequin Historical Undone. It’s my first release day (YAY!) so I wanted to take some time to reflect on what I learned writing this project and also celebrate with a giveaway.

The day after I accepted the offer from Harlequin Mills & Boon for Butterfly Swords, I had the opportunity to meet with the editorial director who casually mentioned I might want to write an Undone to go along with Butterfly Swords. I had heard about the Undone series. It was relatively new and had just opened up for submissions.

The market for shorter lengths is expanding rapidly and I think we’ll see many more shorts in the future in the form of free reads, prequels, linked stories, as well as a stronger short story/novella market in its own right. I was really excited about trying it out.

My first concern was that the Undone line was a lot hotter than I was comfortable with writing. They had described their stories as sexy with a higher heat level than the Harlequin Historical full lengths. Did this mean they wanted erotic romance? I didn’t know if I could do that.

Tip #1: Research the line

Read examples of the line that you’re targeting, whether it be Harlequin, Samhain, or any other publisher.

The HH Undone program was relatively new, so I bought several of the most popular ones from e-Harlequin. I was pleasantly surprised! These weren’t erotic romances — they were very sensual, sexy, and emotional stories, much like I had read from Harlequin Historical. The stories featured well-developed characters and a strong emotional core romance.

The heat level wasn’t too far off from HH. The key was that the overall story was a sexy vs. sexual scenario, with emphasis on the emotional tension and conflict.

Tip #2: Plot

Here were some plot tips that I took out of my reads:

  • The plot usually centers around a single episode or event
  • The heroine and hero need to meet early, preferably within the first 2 or 3 pages.
  • The hero and heroine should be together as much as possible during the story
  • There needs to be a good amount of emotional buildup before the love scene
  • Historical detail and worldbuilding needs to have a strong presence, but can’t bog down the story

Tip #3: Secondary characters

At first, I thought I wouldn’t have much in the way of secondaries. But as I plotted, I realized my story had a “stranger comes to a small town” scenario. I needed the townsfolk to be integral to the story. Plus family is so important to the cultural and historical fabric in China that I couldn’t leave it out.

The secondaries had to serve their purpose in very few words and in limited interactions. Every little action had to speak VOLUMES.

Tip #4: Romantic Development

Don’t skimp on the stages of romance – To make the romantic development believeable, the H/h still need to go through all the steps. They must have the initial meet, they must discover more about one another, the internal conflict must keep them apart, and in the end they must earn the right to pursue their love and overcome all obstacles.

Tip #5: Execution

My story contains fight scenes, an unusual historical setting, multiple secondary characters, pretty extensive backstory for both the heroine and hero, flirtation, romantic growth, personal growth, and love scenes.

How was I going to cram ALL that in 11,000 words?

1. Careful plotting. Every scene had to be pivotal and memorable. I couldn’t have long interludes to reveal backstory. No mood setting scenes. No long internal reflection scenes. The key was to combine as many elements of the story into each scene as much as possible — without getting things confused.

2. Backstory. There was quite a lot of background information. I had to play with ways of weaving backstory into the narration and at the same time. Most importantly, I had to trust that the reader would be able to follow the action without having all the background.

3. Telling instead of showing. I didn’t get that backwards. Obviously, I had to be careful not to get lazy and do it all the time, but telling is faster than showing and sometimes, telling just fits better. When you’re deep in a character’s POV, it makes sense to tell versus show. A character feeling a deep emotional pain might be more likely to think, “It hurt to think about him.” Simple. Done.

Do you like reading shorter stories? What are some of your tips for writing them? What are some of your favorite short stories?

To celebrate the release day, one commenter will be chosen randomly at 8pm CST today to receive a download code for The Taming of Mei Lin from eHarlequin. It’s a little peek into the drama and sensuality of the Tang Dynasty that I explore further in Butterfly Swords.

Why I Finaled, or…How I Found My Voice Just in Time

Heck, I’m going to put my butt on the line and take a stab at answering this. I had tried tweaking Butterfly Swords so many times over the past year. I made a lot of wrong turns. At one point, I had edited all the blood and life out of my opening because I was trying to fix it to death. 

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