Thursday, 29 January 2015

Speed reads – are you game? by Carla Caruso

Guest post by author Carla Caruso

Just like hemlines, stories appear to be getting shorter this season. Everyone’s dabbling in them!

My beloved Sophie Kinsella wrote Shopaholic on Honeymoon as a free ebook short story for fans at Christmastime — a prequel to Shopaholic to the Stars. Janet Evanovich has penned four holiday novellas for her Stephanie Plum series, dubbed ‘between-the-numbers’ reads. An Aussie writer friend of mine, Leesa Bow, also recently wrote a YA prequel, entitled Jardine, as a ‘teaser’ to her upcoming New Adult romance.
And the rise of mini-skirt-short stories makes sense. People are super-busy these days, thanks to being ‘available’ online 24/7. (According to, by the by, short stories are 1000 to 7500 words, novelettes are 7500 to 20,000 words, and novellas are 20,000 to 50,000 words.)

These tinier tales can be enjoyed on the commute to work, while waiting at the doctor’s office, or before nodding off to sleep. The happy endings can be arrived at quickly when you need a smile on your dial — and fast.  

For a writer, the shorter form can be a time to ‘play’, experiment a little, in between longer projects. They can also allow authors to send out a taste-test of their work to the world, often for free and self-published, in the hopes of attracting new readers. Littler tales, for big-name authors, can keep loyal fans satiated in between heftier tomes, as well. But are readers embracing the shorter form as much as writers?

It seems not all are sold. I wrote the festive novella, Secret Santo, for Penguin’s Destiny Romance imprint last Christmastime. (Actually it’s more of a novelette I’ve since realised at 13,000 words!) Some comments from reviewers included: “This is a great book, my only complaint is that I wish it was longer!” and “This is a nice read but I wanted more” and “It’s a sweet story but I still find that for me [short stories] don’t really fit.”

When Googling ‘novellas’, I came across a post on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books site, entitled Novella or Prequel?, which echoed this sentiment.

Blogger Sarah lamented about a Victoria Dahl story in an anthology, called The Guy Next Door, which wasn’t what she expected. “I am so p***ed... It’s not a novella. It’s a prequel. It’s a tease. It was SO NOT WHAT I WANTED that when I got to the next page expecting more story and got the copyright information, I made a really strange noise, somewhere between a curse and a growl. Novellas are not prequels. Prequels are not novellas, and should not be sold as such… It really was like the opening chapters of a novel, and you know that rage of the thwarted romance reader denied her happy ending? Yeah. I got that rage RIGHT HERE. DAMMIT.”

Maybe that’s the thing. Readers – especially of the romance variety – like to know what they’re getting before they wade in. To go back to my much-loved Sophie Kinsella… some reviewers have vented their annoyance that her latest book, Shopaholic to the Stars, reads more like a ‘Part 1’, though they didn’t feel informed of this earlier. Blogger Sarah might describe this as “meanly teasing”.

One form of ‘protection’ at least for readers, with novelettes and novellas, is you can check out the page count first to work out whether it’ll be meaty enough for your tastes.
The other alternative is to look at shorter stories like snacks, intended only to keep you satisfied in between the three-course meals. Then they might really help curb the hunger pangs. Happy reading!

Carla Caruso is behind the ‘Astonvale’ rom-com mystery series, involving a neat-freak professional organiser who gets caught up in messy mysteries with a hunky builder. Titles include A Pretty Mess, Pretty Shore, and (out Feb) Pretty Famous. Her shorter works include Secret Santo, Unlucky for Some, and A Groom by New Year’s. Visit, ‘Carla Caruso Author’ on Facebook, or @CarlaCaruso79 on Twitter. 

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