Sunday, May 20, 2012

Jenna Jaxon Blogs about Size Matters!

Yes, you read that headline right. Got your attention though, didn't it?

I'm pleased to welcome Jenna Jaxon to my blog today! I hope that you'll leave a comment and let Jenna and I know you were here. Plus, Jenna is sharing an excerpt from Almost Perfect as well. So, without further ado, I'm going to step out of the way and let Jenna have the floor. :)

Size Matters

We all say that size doesn’t matter. Well, that’s just not true. Size does make a big difference--to a writer at least. And especially when we are talking about the length of…their work. Is it really a big deal if you are writing a short story, novella, or full-length novel? I can’t speak for all, but for this writer, size does make a big difference.

The first romance I ever wrote ended up being a super novel--187, 000 words. It was my first and I didn’t know any better. So I just wrote the story as it unfolded in my head. Didn’t know my head was that big. LOL But unless you are self-publishing or are Stephen King, your length, even for a full novel, needs to have a limit. Novels, depending on sub-genre for romance, give you up to 110,000 words to create your characters, get in all your plot points, and have ample room for some sexy love scenes. So writing a novel gave me almost unlimited freedom. And for a long time I believed I simply could not write short fiction. Not enough words, period.

Then came the contest. A local conference offered a short story contest. Four categories. All not to exceed 2,500 words. 2,500 words! That’s a chapter to me! And a short one at that. But I so wanted to enter that contest. So I came up with an idea, a scene really, and started to write.

It may have been the hardest story I have written because I kept going over budget with the words--I think the first draft was a little over 3,000. But it was one of the best writing experiences I’ve ever had because it taught me to make every word count. You don’t always need a flowery phrase, or all those descriptors, or to use ten words where two would suffice. I whittled away at it one summer down at the beach. The word count function became my best friend. But I got it down to 2500 words exactly. And that little story went on to win third place in the fiction category! I was absolutely thrilled. Not only because of the award, but because I had proved that I could write short stories as well as long. It just takes a bit more discipline.

Writing short stories or novellas for me is now a mindset. I start all my books with the germ of the idea, figure out what needs to happen in the story and plot it out. If I know I have a word limit--say 12,000 for a novella--I make sure the story, as I see it, can fit into that framework. Some stories I know immediately are going to be novel length; others I see in my mind as novellas. Not sure how I know, but I usually do.

I have now found that short fiction can be just as rich and vibrant and rewarding. By crafting the story in the shorter format, the writer must hone their skills as a wordsmith, creating characters, setting, and plot with succinct language choices. There is little fat to be found in short fiction--it’s all lean muscle and sinew, giving the reader the most satisfying experience possible but in a shorter form. Writing those lean, mean shorts are very intense affairs for me. I feel under the gun to bring the work in with the exact amount of words. It’s both tense and exhilarating, a very different kind of rush.

I had one such rush while writing Almost Perfect for Decadent Publishing’s 1Night Stand series. The maximum word count was 12,000, which may sound like a lot, but for me was a nightmare. There were so many elements I wanted to weave into the story--the island, the pirate fantasy, the constant movie references. And, of course, sex scenes. They come toward the end of the story and by that time, unfortunately, I was almost out of words. So I went back to make a cut here, a cut there. I still couldn’t bring it in under the limit. Finally, I asked my crit partner, who took a pen to my draft, made room for some nice long love scenes and brought me right to the wire at 12,000 words.

So, who still thinks size doesn’t matter? :) 

Blurb for Almost Perfect:
Pamela Kimball’s birthday present, a 1Night Stand adventure, promises to jump-start her life, put a new man in her bed, and help her forget her past.  Unfortunately, movie-buff Pam’s Pirates of the Caribbean fantasy takes an alarming wrong turn when she’s abandoned on a not quite deserted island—with ex-husband Roger Ware. 

Forced by hunger to accept Roger’s offer of dinner,  Pam realizes the geek she married has transformed into one of the most charming, sexiest men she’s ever met. His newfound confidence—and hot body—re-kindle old fires. A simple kiss leads Roger to challenge her to discover how much his lovemaking skills have improved, leaving Pam torn between self-preservation and burning desire. 

With time running out before they’re rescued, Pam must decide if her heart can survive the consequences of becoming Roger’s “almost” perfect 1Night Stand.

Excerpt for Almost Perfect:

She inched into the lapping surf, searching for movement. Reflection off the water made this task harder than expected. Wasn’t the Caribbean supposed to be teeming with fish? Now that’s something she’d had a lot of instruction in. Almost every marooned-on-an-island movie had a scene where the heroine learned to catch fish. Six Days, Father Goose, Blue Lagoon. All you needed was your hands and patience. She could do this.
Pam waded out further then stopped just before the water hit her now dry shorts. “Not gonna to have a damp crotch all night.” The words reminded her of exactly what she had hoped for tonight. “But not from wet shorts!” She headed back to shore to remove and drape them next to her shirt. The bandeau was a different story. Still damp, even after several hours, and uncomfortable. Might dry better if not next to her skin anyway. “Screw it! Live dangerously.”
Standing as good as naked on the deserted beach, Pam smiled as the warm breeze caressed her bare body. The sense of being slightly naughty added to her delight in the sensual feel of the air as it dried her breasts. Her nipples peaked as the wind cooled them. She strutted down to the water’s edge to sink her toes in the sand, the salty tang in the air adding to the perfect moment.
“If you’re skinny dipping, you forgot to remove one very important piece of clothing.”
Pam whirled around. Roger stood on the beach behind her, a green bottle of Perrier in one hand. His gaze played up and down her naked torso and his salacious grin widened. “Mind if I join you?”
Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical  and contemporary romance who has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager.  A romantic herself, Jenna has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise.  She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own writing.
Jenna lives in Virginia with her family and a small menagerie of pets.  When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director.  She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage. 
She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.
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Twitter: @Jenna_Jaxon

I found this topic to be insightful, Jenna, and I thank you for your take on the matter. I wish you many sales, and I do hope you'll stop by again! 

Until next time,

Storm Goddess


  1. I guess I never really thought about it, but Jenna you are totally right. Size does matter. My westerns are always longer than my scifi stories and I don't know why. I just seem to have more to say.

    Thanks for a great post.

  2. Thank you, Cindy. I've noticed that with the exception of that one short story and some flash fiction, my historicals are all full-length and my contemporaries are novella length. I seem to have more to say in the historical vein. Perhaps I enjoy them more. Great observation! And thanks so much for coming by. :)

  3. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Nikki for having me as a guest today! I'm looking forward to seeing if size matters to your readers as well. :)

  4. Wonderful article, Jenna. I took a lot from it. I find that I have a "natural length" for my work. I've written really long stuff (>110,000 words) and really short stuff (flash of <500 words), but I find that about 35,000 words is juuuuust right for me. When it comes to historicals, my thought on their length is that people in history really took a lot more words to say what they had to say. They never had to Tweet, after all. :) And, yes, you got me on the title. You are such a tease.

    1. I always aim to "tease", Patricia. LOL You do seem to have hit your stride at 35K, from the works I've read. That seems the perfect length for you. It's so nice for plotting when you know instinctively how much room you have to play with. So glad you came by today! :)

  5. Great post. :) Size is something I am always aware of. I wish I could write shorter stories but not too sure I could pull it off. I have to admire authors that can.

    1. You really should try, Melissa. There's a great market for short fiction that's blossomed with the advent of e-publishing. As I said, I never thought I could write shorter than about 90K, but my first published work was only 3K. Thanks for coming by! :)

  6. Great post, Jenna. And sadly, size does matter.
    The best thing I had ever done for my writing career was by taking a writing course where I learned how to write short stories with a very specific word count. I learned that every word has to count. It really taught me to not only keep my prose tight, but taught me how to weigh whether a scene is really important.

    Now that being said, that's great for shorts, but I can still get long winded when it comes to my series, lol.

    1. Thanks for coming by, Brenda! Yes, you are exactly right, one thing a specific, low word count will do is tighten your prose and change your perspective on what is essential to the story and what is not. And yes, keep that series long and detailed. Especially when writing about Kal! LOL

  7. I wasn't teased at all by the title. As a reader I like to read long novels unless they are boring. Before I started reading eBooks I would make sure the print book was at least 400 pages in length. If I knew the author 350 would be OK. I would sometimes pick a 300 page book. Anything less I would skip.

    I can see the reason for the limits. In fact more than one. First it is the publisher's rule. Second we live in a short attention span world brought on by such things as Twitter and texting. Third many books do leave a person wanting to know how much longer can I take. The older translation of War and Peace was like that. The newest one is shorter, but still long. It actually makes sense at any length.

    Many readers skim and the words are wasted. I am one who likes to read every word. If they weren't important they wouldn't be written.

    Like you said Jenna writing to a specific number of words makes you choose wisely.

    I loved Hog Wild. The ending was actually perfect. To continue would have to be a sequel.It wouldn't be part of the same fairy tale. Some people would say the story wasn't finished. No problem. I finished in my own mind.

    1. Thank you so much, Ray. I too am a lover of long books (Stephen King so delivers on that!), although I'm reading more short fiction than ever because of time constraints. And I like being able to write in different lengths to appeal to different markets.

      I'm so glad you enjoyed Hog Wild. And yes, that's exactly where that story ended for me--A Happy For Now. I'm playing around with ideas for a sequel, but it's going to be a different story with the same characters. Thanks so much for your comments. :)

  8. Ha! Size does matter, a lot.

    Oh, you mean in books? Yeah, there, too.
    I just wrote a novella. It'll be out in the fall. I never thought I could do it, tell a short, but I did. It was fun, but I think I'll stick to 80-100K from now on!

    1. I'm with you, D'Ann. The longer the better. Oh, books, right. Well, yeah, there too. I like to have the freedom to go into lots of detail, dialogue, and plot twists that may have to be sacrificed with shorter lengths. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. I love longer books as well, and I'm drawn to write them, too. I'm not sure I'd be able to write a short story and still fit everything I want into it.

    I've read some short stories and it seems to be a 50/50 split for me... Some seem like an excerpt out of a longer story, others are just a great, quick read.

  10. Variety is the spice of life with stories as well as anything else. To have the option of reading or writing various length stories is a great boon in today's busy world. As long as the book is well written and has the feeling of completion (doesn't seem like an excerpt, as you said, Stacy), I'm happy with being able to choose. Thanks so much for coming by! :)

  11. Thank you so much, Nikki, for having me here today. I had a blast. Your readers were fantastic!

    1. It was my pleasure, Jenna! I am glad you had a blast. I do have some great followers and reads, it's so wonderful to have such support! And your post was so great! :) Much success to you, and come visit again soon!