I am often asked 1) why don’t I write longer books, or 2) do I journal?, or 3) why don’t I blog more often? That’s an easy question. I don’t want to waste any words. I write slowly, and short!
I am a woman of few words. It takes all the energy I have to write 1000 words a day, the minimum I need to put on paper to get a book done in a year. Some writers bleed words. I drip them. Very slowly. So I can’t waste them. All the words I can muster on any given day must go into my work-in-progress!
I had a college professor once who said I wrote “with pith.” Is that ever an understatement! Never use two words when you can get away with one, that’s my motto.
When I’m on retreat with my writing buds, I can hear them all tap tapping away. Tap tap tap tap tapping for hours–you ladies know who you are! All the while I tap…………..tap. It’s just the way I am. I’ve fought it, I really have. Once I added twenty-five extra pages to one of my Simon Shaw mysteries because I thought the manuscript wasn’t long enough. My editor at the time at St. Martin’s, the legendary Ruth Cavin, spotted the padding and insisted I edit it out. I protested that my book was too short! She answered me, “the book is as long as it is.” A few months later I was sitting in Ruth’s office while she showed me some of the other manuscripts she was editing. They were all lovely and thick, up to Tom Clancy thick. Much longer than mine! So I whined about what I thought was a real problem for me–writing short. She shook her head and said “of all my writers you are the one who knows best what to leave out of a book.” I try to remember her words after I check my word count and the end of my work day and try to figure out What Else can Happen in this story!
There are advantages to shorter books. They can be read in one to two days. More of them fit into a shipping box, and if you don’t think publishers and bookstores are concerned about that I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you! Shorter books cost less to produce and can be priced less, an advantage when some of these tomes I’ve seen, you know which ones I’m talking about, cost over thirty dollars!
My new publisher, Severn House, requires in my contract that my manuscripts be less than 80,000 words. Love them! Not that there’s a chance I’ll get close. So far I think my longest book has been about 75,000 words. Counting punctuation, you understand.
Must stop now. Need to save words for tomorrow’s writing quota!
Recently a good friend of mine said to me “I didn’t know I liked historical fiction until I read Louise’s War.” Fans of my earlier series, about amateur sleuth and historian Simon Shaw, often said much the same thing. They were surprised that history, at least history as the background for a mystery, could be so interesting. And I’m often asked why everything I write, even short stories, contains a historical element.
I’m a right brained person. I don’t find it easy to analyze, I rely on intuition to find my way, and that applies to my writing, too. I can’t answer easily why I am so drawn to the past. I read my first historical novel when I was about ten years old. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas’ best in my opinion, drew me right in to the fantastic adventures of Edmund Dantes in a way I’d never experienced. I followed it with the Hornblower series of Napoleonic sea-faring tales and the early American historicals of Kenneth Roberts, books I found on my parents’ bookshelves. To me the way people lived in the past is absolutely fascinating. Read more