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Go big or go home

Just like with my last MS, Counting on You, Slow Burn has ended up at around 65,000 words. Just the right size to cut it down to a 60K category romance that I can submit to Silhouette Romantic Suspense. Except, that was never my goal. From the outset, this was intended to be a single title.

There's nothing at all wrong with writing category books. Many, many of my favorite romance authors cut their teeth in that world and some still write for Harlequin or Silhouette while also pumping out single title books. In general, the writing in category books is just as high quality (sometimes better) as single titles, despite popular opinion by those who don't read them.

What they are, is shorter reads. They're books you can sit down and finish in a few hours. The plots are necessarily less complicated, but the development of the story and the characters is still there.

For me, there are two problems with switching my goal to category length.

  1. If the book is a category, there's only one market these days: Harlequin/Silhouette. If they don't want it, the book is toast.
  2. I want to pitch this MS to an agent at the conference this summer (and submit a query to several more), but if I cut it down to fit the category guidelines, I can't pitch it as a single title anymore, and there's no point in meeting with an agent.

I don't want to create two versions of this MS, and I feel like I need to keep pushing until I figure out how to create something big enough to meet the single title qualifications. As I work on my plot revisions, I'm torn between adding more words and cutting them.

In the end, I think I've decided to finish the changes and see where I end up, but I'm really hoping I can get it up to at least 70K. That will give me something I can pitch this summer and start sending out queries on.

I'm not trying to skip a step by bypassing the proving ground of category novels, but I have to go with my heart, and right now it wants me to push for a single title length book.

If that makes the road harder, then so be it. I have to be true to myself and my own dreams.

[tweetmeme source=”Gwen_Hernandez” only_single=false]

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  1. Reply

    See, that’s the hard part. I write to about 60k….And then I edit…it goes lower. I’m naturally a sparse writer..more action oriented. I’m hoping I can find an agent who GETS my style of writing. I read both sparse and fully detailed.

    It’s actually nerve wracking.

    So I’m right there with you.

    • Reply

      Yeah, I really struggle with this. I don’t do lots of flowery prose, and I have little patience for tons of description. My CP says I write “clean”.

      Anyway, I just need to get better at making my plots more complicated or weaving in more detailed subplots, I guess. It’s going to take some practice, but I really love this story and my characters, so it’s worth it.

      • Christine


        Cast a wide net. Query ST and category regardless of the book length. If you get a hit with a ST pub, then you’ll add more words/layer in more details. Cast a wide net!!


        • Reply

          Yeah, but I’m thinking I may do it in reverse. I’m not down about my writing, and I don’t need to submit right now to feel like I’m moving forward. I’m going to wait until I’m done with revisions to decide where to start.

  2. Reply

    I’m a big category writer myself, and mainstream is a whole different ball game for me. I enjoy writing category because they’re shorter, but still complicated as you’ve stated.

    Definitely do what you feel is right for your story. Only you would know. And good luck with the pitches and queries! It’s so exciting when you have a finished product to show off soon.

    Best wishes.

    • Reply

      I could see myself writing category, but I’d have to into it with that plan, otherwise I’m disappointed when I come up short. And it can be difficult to fulfill the guidelines of a specific line. I like the freedom of writing the story the way I want it. *sigh*

      Thanks for stopping by. Good luck with yours!

  3. Reply

    STRETTTCCCHHHH! I’m thinking if you don’t want to write category, you’ll find a way to give your MS a workout. I’ve found that my own novel was much more flexible than I originally imagined, although I had to chop instead of add. I like the idea of beefing up a subplot or adding a complication to your plot. You’ll probably end up loving whatever you write because complications make for more interesting reading.

    I didn’t realize quite how strict the romance market was with word count. YA has a huge range of what’s acceptable.

    • Reply

      Thanks, Kathleen. I don’t want to spend the next year revising this book, but I don’t want to shortchange it either. I’m hoping that doing a little more planning before my next book will help me make it a full-length MS from the start.

      Single title romance is probably more flexible, but they want to end up with about 3-400 pages. Not so much that the printing costs are too high, but not so little that readers will feel cheated. The category lines are very strict though. Harlequin/Silhouette has specific length guidelines for each category. RS is 55-60K, but some are as short as 45K. That’s a real challenge for some.

  4. Reply

    Gwen, I think some writers have the idea that revision mean cutting, when sometimes they should be adding. You can cut so much from your story that you cut the flavor right out of it.

    One time I asked Linda Howard the difference between category and single title. How do you write single title? Single title is simply more, she said, more description, more plot, more characterization, more characters. Go back through your book and see where you can ADD, are there more characters for pov, a subplot than can complement the main plot, more characterization for your characters, incidents that can be scenes instead of being glossed over.

    You’ll find, the more single titles you write, (and if you are a plotter like me), you’ll know at the onset whether you have enough to meet the length or not. Trust those instincts of yours! You can do it.

    • Reply

      Great advice, Danniele. When I revise I usually end up adding whole new scenes and cutting others.

      Gotta love Linda. She makes it sound so simple, like everything else she does. 😉 I’m going through and fixing my plot now, so I’ll be on the look out for places where I can add more. Thanks for taking the time to comment and for your support!

  5. Reply

    I am sure you will make it,
    and you will make all your dreams come true.
    You are a great writer and deserve all the success Gwen.
    Good luck!
    PS. Since I know nothing about the entire writing enterprise, this is all I can say 🙂

  6. Reply

    Hey, Gwen,

    I agree with Linda about ST being more, but I think part of the dilemma you face is that “more” is also more in the way of a more high concept idea. If that’s the way you’re thinking of your story, go for it!

    I know what you mean about bypassing category. I think of it not as an act of snobbery but just because that’s how your story evolved. I always have a sense with a story I’m developing as to whether it’s a concept for category or ST.

    Good luck! Hope those waves inspired you!

    • Reply

      I agree with you, Mary, about more being about the concept, not just the length. I think that’s part of my struggle. To me, my books feel like single title stories, regardless of length, which is why I’m disappointed when they turn up short.

      The “high concept” stuff is just another thing I need to work on, I guess. Thanks!

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