Why are we comparing short stories to novels?

Hi, guys!

Recently, in one of the many writing groups that I’m a part of, someone asked if people write short stories when they give up on writing a novel. As if writing a short story were something that could just be done with no thought or skill, whatsoever, because supposedly, it’s the easiest thing to write.

And that kinda stuck with me.

I was just flabbergasted.

That level of prejudice toward a type of story just… hadn’t occurred to me before then. I write stories of all lengths, flash fiction, short stories, novellas, novels, and now, series. So, I know that each one poses its own unique challenges.

No single one of these defines a writer’s skill.

None of them denote having given up.

Series require the solution to some problems, but the tension of certain things left undone for the next book. The characters have to develop and grow (or fall apart). They have to encounter one stumbling block after another, without it reading as if you’re literally just trying to draw the story out to make money on a second book. Or a third. Or a seventeenth.

Novels require all the loose ends to be tidied up by the end of the book, and hopefully enough intrigue to carry the reader to that point. Throwing in just enough obstacles to carry the characters (and the readers) through 70,000 to 110,000 words is a difficult balance to strike.

Novellas and novelettes have to operate on a smaller scale or go out with one hell of a bang. You have to choose your words carefully to get the exact right meaning across, which should be done regardless of book length, but especially so when you don’t have the word count to spare. And you have so much less space to truly develop your characters. It can be done, but it can be a challenge.

And then, there’s short stories and flash fiction.

Building a world, developing characters, and putting together a plot (then wrapping it up) in less than 7,500 words for a short story or less than 1,000 words for flash fiction is not an easy feat.

You have to grab people so quick. You have to make them give a shit about the character immediately.

Because there aren’t enough words not to.

So to say that failed novel writers become short story writers is a load of bullshit.

Writing short stories instead of novels has nothing to do with whether an author is successful or creative or smart. What it truly comes down to is the number of words it takes to successfully express a given story.

That’s it.

Some stories are meant to be a series that keeps you hanging on from one book to another. Some are meant to come in, punch you in the face with 700 words, and leave you reeling.

That’s just how it goes.

The stories should decide what length they are.

The writer’s skill or work ethic has nothing to do with it.

So, if you write short stories or flash fiction, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Your work poses it’s own unique set of difficulties.

Overcome them and show those judgmental jerks who’s boss.

Now, as far as my own work is concerned, I’ve been forging ahead on projects of varying lengths over this past week.

I did a full round of edits on a short story called Born of Heathen Gods. I’m torn between releasing it on its own or saving it back for an anthology, down the road.

I made some progress on this round of edits on Where Darkness Leads, cutting out over 1,000 words of info dumps/repetition so far.

And I’ve written over 5,000 words in The Regonia Chronicles. Some pieces are falling into place within book two, and I’m pretty excited to keep moving ahead.

Just not tonight.

Today’s 12 hour shift in the sweaty ass tire factory really took it out of me.

So for now…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

The Importance of Emotion: A Book Rant

Hi, guys!

It’s happened. I’ve fallen into a reading slump. It happens to every reader and writer at some point.

I’ve made it halfway into a book and just…lost interest.

But since I’ve been spending so much time analyzing my own writing lately, I was able to pinpoint exactly what made me lost interest.

Lack of emotion.

The book in particular (which I won’t name here) has tremendous world building, and a lot of it. But I’m not connecting with any of the characters on an emotional level, largely because the emotions aren’t the focus.

The author chose to focus more on showcasing the history of the world they built and the reason everything is the way it is and explanations of their gods and the pathways that characters walk and…all these other things that should take a back seat to the actual story.

It may very well build to something amazing, but if readers lose interest before they ever reach that amazing thing, then all the build up is for naught.

And don’t get me wrong. There were a couple really good, emotional scenes, but how far can just a couple of emotional scenes carry a reader?

For a story to be interesting, you need stakes. You need something on the line and a reason for the character to want it.

The overwhelming majority of the time, that means emotions are involved.

It doesn’t have to be some grand scale thing, some major adventure to be interesting. You don’t have to traverse multiple worlds to tell an interesting story. Hell, it can be the most basic premise in the world.

The thing that most often compels people to keep reading is emotion.

Okay, I’ll stop talking in circles and give you an example.

If I just say “Mary walked up the stairs in her Victorian home, old bones creaking as loudly as the wood she trod upon,” it might pique your interest.

But there’s nothing at stake. There’s no emotion to pull you in, just a potentially interesting setting.

She’s just some old biddy walking up the stairs.

But if i describe her desperation, describe the tears flooding the wrinkles on her face as she pushes herself up the stairs with all her might, if I show the pictures of her late husband on the wall, the husband she bought and remodeled that home with, if I tell you about the threat of the nursing home looming on the horizon, waiting for the day she can’t make it up those stairs to her bedroom…

If I show you the picture of her wedding day waiting for her on a little table on the landing to greet her, if she reaches out a hand and touches that picture and says, “I can stay with you one more day, love…”

That emotion MAKES the story.

It’s still just a story of one woman climbing the stairs.

But it has stakes. It hits you right in the feels.

And that is what keeps people reading.

At least, in my case.

That’s why my books are so emotional, because that’s what I look for in a book.

Yeah, they have adventure and usually magic and world building (I tend to write epic high fantasy romance, after all). But the emotion is what makes the story.

It’s that little thing that makes the characters, and thus the story, real.

Never underestimate the power of emotion in books. It can be the difference between a mediocre book and one that absolutely blows people away.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Genre snobbery (aka literary elitism) and why it’s a crock of shit

Hi guys!

Genre snobs are (unfortunately) common. I don’t mean people who prefer a specific genre, btw. I mean the people who think every genre outside of their own preferred genre is garbage. They have a tendency to put other writers and readers down, saying that they read nothing but fluff, because let’s face it, their genre is the only meaningful one.

I’ve seen a lot of genre snobs in the past few weeks. Now, part of that is because of the stories people have come forward with since I posted about this on social media last month. So many people have encountered this problem, and it is absolutely shocking.

But I’ve also encountered them personally, being told that “Romance is written by and for idiots,” which is crap. I love romance (writing and reading), and while I’m not the smartest person in the world, I’m not an idiot. Not by any means.

I’ve also heard that googling good dialogue will turn up mostly crime writers and that only dystopian, crime, or satire (or other similar genres/subgenres) can be used for profound writing.

I just can’t wrap my head around it.

The idea that only certain types of stories can be used to convey deep, meaningful concepts is absolute horseshit.

Want examples?

In my thriller novella, Annabelle, I tackle the topic of sexual assault and the fact that we need to speak up and do something about it. All while telling a compelling story.

In The Gem of Meruna (high fantasy romance, two genres literary elitists abhor), I explore death/grief, inner strength, and the effects of one corrupt, violent person on an otherwise peaceful community.

In Soul Bearer (also high fantasy romance), themes of oppression and prejudice abound, as does the importance of integrity.

World for the Broken (post-apocalyptic romance) hits just about every possible tough subject, exploring resilience and the darkness within humanity.

In Salt and Silver (dark supernatural high fantasy romance, so many genres that are looked down on by genre snobs), I pit emotion against intellect and perception of self against how others perceive us. I also look at religion and the afterlife (and how little we know about either).

The story I’m writing now, another dark high fantasy romance, explores nature vs technology, progress vs tradition, and the need for balance in our lives.

In short, every genre can express or explore important themes.

And you know why?

Because all stories, at their base, are about the human condition. All stories contain conflict, regardless of genre, pitting two or more sides against each other. The premise of that conflict, the depth of the story is up to the author.

Not the genre.

You can write about corrupt government in fantasy. You build the world, so it can be as fucked up as you want.

You can write about the effects of religion on society in supernatural novels. (I did in Salt and Silver. Sure, I made the religions up, but they draw parallels to real religions.)

Basically, you can write deep, meaningful content in any genre. You can also write fluff in any genre (even satire, even dystopian, even crime). Therefore, no genre automatically makes you a better, more profound writer.

I think the real difference between genre elitists and other writers has to do with their motives for writing, not their ability to solve philosophical debates.

Now, many people write to send a message or make a point. They have an opinion and want to use fiction to convey it. Which is fine. That doesn’t make them an elitist.

But literary elitists…always do that.

Because they have something to prove.

They write to show other people how smart they are. Obviously, if they can write a novel with tons of symbolism and “world changing” themes, they must be better than everyone else.

As long as they make their point, they can lord it over everyone else and act superior, even if shoving their philosophy down everyone’s throat hindered the story and led to a convoluted mess of words. And if you don’t like their book or their genre of choice, that just means you’re “too dumb to understand.”

Of course, that’s not the truth.

It’s just a defense mechanism to avoid listening to any criticism, constructive or otherwise. It’s cutting people off before anyone gets a chance to point out where they fall short. It’s (possibly) hiding deep-seated insecurities.

So if a genre snob is putting you down and saying your story will be trash because you write in a trash genre…don’t worry about it. Most of the time, the people who are absolutely convinced that they’re smarter than everyone else…are actually…not.

Personally, I’d rather write a solid story, anyway. I never go into a story for the sake of making a point. If it develops to include some deeper observation of our world, great. If not, that’s fine. I’m in it for the story, not the clout.

Now, to tell you all what I’ve been up to over the past week.

I designed and ordered book swag for World for the Broken! I’ll be sharing the designs with all of you later this week. I also ordered proof copies of the book, did a lot of research for release week, and made some decisions regarding marketing.

And I made some headway on my newest WIP. I’ve added a lot to it in the past couple weeks, so I don’t think an updated word count will be a spoiler for where characters get…broken.

I’m now at 32,663 words.

I need to get back into editing Where Darkness Leads. But that is a task for another night.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

“Important” Books vs. Fun Books (Does it matter?)

Hi, guys!

Today, we’re talking about “important” books. Yes, the quotes are one hundred percent necessary, there.

There are so many people who go on and on about writing or reading the next great American novel. So many authors feel pressured to write books that others will deem “important,” and tons of readers feel pressured to read all the classics and all the high brow literature they can get their hands on.

But you know what…

Fuck that.

Read and write whatever you want. Books don’t have to be “important” to be valuable. They don’t have to be profound or life changing or satirical. They don’t have to make some insightful commentary on society to be worth reading.

There’s nothing wrong with a book that’s meant to be fun and entertaining.

So chill out.

Stop shaming each other for what you read or write.

Stop letting others shame you for what you read or write.

Just live.

We all love books.

Can’t that be enough?

If you want to spend hours analyzing every book you read to find every possible meaning, do it. You do you.

Maybe become an English teacher and get paid for that shit while you’re at it.

If you want to write books that are deep and meaningful, going into the writing process with the intention of writing something truly powerful…fuckin’ do it.

But.

Not everyone reads to find the hidden meaning.

Not everyone cares why the curtains were blue.

Sometimes, sitting down to read or write is just about going on an adventure instead of being anxious about bills.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Every time I read or write, I do it because I want a story. Not because I have wisdom to impart or need the sage advice of the elders.

Do I learn from books? Yeah. All the damn time. But that isn’t usually why I read or write them.

I want to see another world or a different version of this world.

I want to meet interesting new people without…actually…having to meet people.

I want to go on daring adventures and face mythical, magical beasts…from the comfort of my couch with little-to-no risk of being disemboweled.

Sometimes that’s all you need to feel a little better about life.

So. Do you. Read whatever the fuck you want. Analyze it to whatever degree you want. There is room for readers and writers of all kinds within the book world.

I promise.

*steps off soap box*

Now. Progress report!

All formatting on World for the Broken is done! I have to adjust the cover size for the paperback, because I changed my mind on the trim size at the last minute.

The pages will be slightly larger, which means more text will fit on each page, which means about 130 fewer pages. Good news: that means the paperback will cost less than it would have otherwise.

Same content. Same print quality. Less expensive.

So I’m excited about that.

Since I’m just about done with it, I’ll be revealing the cover this week, which I’m also excited about. I love how it turned out, and I can’t wait to show it to you all.

Now that I’m not actively editing something (mostly doing marketing images and metadata, as well as exploring blog tour options), I can get back to actively writing my new story instead of just squeezing in writing time around the World for the Broken edits.

As of right now, I’m just over 22,000 words. Which isn’t bad. But I’m hoping to get quite a bit done on it this week.

But now, it’s time for me to get some sleep.

Keep reading (whatever you want). Keep writing (whatever you want).

Later.

Why we need “controversial” books

Hi, guys!

There’s a trend here lately, leaning our society toward sensitivity, and it’s creeping into literature. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for being thoughtful in your actions and your words. There’s no reason to hurt people unnecessarily.

It’s just that…there have been a lot of books throughout time, especially lately, that have been considered controversial.

But let’s be real here.

Sometimes…that’s exactly what we need.

Here’s what I mean by that.

Books about tyrannical governments can show us if our own government is…maybe taking advantage of its citizens.

A book about suicide might be the one that cues someone into the signs their secretly suicidal friend is sending out. That might be the book that gets someone the help they need.

Maybe someone in denial about the abusive, manipulative tendencies of their partner will read a book that features an abusive relationship and identify with the character.

Maybe they’ll be in denial about it still…until they hear someone else comment on how abusive and manipulative the love interest was, citing little behaviors that the real life person is dealing with on a daily basis but minimizing and hiding from others. Or until the love interest gets a little more abusive and kills the MC. (Or if you want a happy ending, maybe they try to kill the MC, but the MC fights back for the first time, and wins. Who knows.)

Maybe that’ll show the real life person that they need to do something about their own life before it’s too late.

A book about sexual abuse might show someone that they’re not alone and give them the courage to reach out. Knowing I wasn’t alone was all it took for me to tell someone what happened to me.

My point is, not all books need to be about role models who learn lessons from every experience in their life. Not all books have to feature relationships that are #goals or love interests worthy of being a book boyfriend.

Sometimes literature needs to show us the grit, the worst case scenario.

Sometimes it takes seeing the bad to realize what we need to do to fix our own lives, and books are a safe way to do that.

Sometimes books are meant to show us the less pleasant option.

Other times, they’re just meant to be realistic.

People have flaws. People make mistakes.

People do bad things and hurt the ones they care about.

It happens, whether it should or shouldn’t.

It’s part of being human.

So stop banning books because they aren’t fluffy enough. Stop banning books or shaming authors for having the guts to write about difficult topics or mean people or abusive relationships.

Sometimes, that’s exactly what we need in our books.

To show us what not to do or put up with. To challenge how we see things.

Now, the is rant over…Lol.

Guys, The Gem of Meruna rereleases in just a week and a half! I’m so excited to have this book out the way it should have been released the first time. It’s been a long time in the making, but it’s finally going to be made right.

Don’t forget to preoder your copy!

I will be hosting a giveaway, I’m just waiting for the books to get here before I officially open the entries. Just in case they get damaged or lost in the holiday mail or something.

So stay tuned. As soon as the giveaway copies get here, I’ll be announcing it. There will be stickers and magnets and bookmarks to accompany them. As with the Soul Bearer giveaway, the winner chosen from my email subscriber list will get a copy of my novella, Annabelle, as well.

(I just got a freaking amazing review for that one from Magic Book Corner, btw. If you haven’t yet, check out themagicbookcorner.com for loads of book reviews.)

Anyway, I’ve been busily editing Where Darkness Leads and hammering away at writing my new story, as well. I started on some formatting for World for the Broken.

All in all, last week was super busy.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.