A while back, I asked my editor for Delicious Delay if she could give me some advice on writing longer books. You see, while she seems to have no problem hitting the 60-80k mark, I tend to have my entire story said and done with at around 20-40k. The longest book I've written thus far is Catching Red, and that baby capped at around 50k.
There's nothing wrong, of course, with writing novellas. I love reading and writing at this length, and I think I'm going to stick with my strengths for the foreseeable future. But it never hurts to keep one's options open.
So here are some tips for writing longer books from Zee Monodee. Don't forget to scroll all the way down to learn more about her brand new release from Decadent Publishing, Light My World.
How to Write Longer Books by Zee Monodee
Hi Tara; hi all! Thanks for having me over today!
So, writing longer books...how would you go about that one?
I write books varying in lengths from short stories (10-12K) to the saga-type novels (100K+). And up until Tara asked me to write about tips for penning longer works, I hadn’t really stopped to ponder how it is I go about making one book longer than the other.... So, rack your brain, Zee – you have to come up with an answer!
All this soul searching brought me to these possible avenues for penning longer works:
- External conflict
- Story time frame
I write with the typical Harlequin ‘formula’ – External conflict-internal conflict-black moment-resolution. In every story (romance-wise), I’ve found that the last three in this spectrum are non-negotiable....
Which brings us to the very first element – external conflict.
If you want to develop length, this is where you can work the magic!
In every short I have written, external conflict (meaning something that is external to the characters’ doings – in Light My World, it is the accident that happens at the same moment both Diya and Trent –strangers till now – take to the road on a Saturday afternoon. It’s almost like serendipity!)...so yes, in every short, external conflict happened just enough to bring the characters together; the rest took place through internal conflict leading to the black moment and then the resolution (for example, in my 1NightStand shorts, Madame Eve brings the couple together through a blind date and that’s it – end of external conflict).
But in my longer works – like in Light My World – there are at least 3 instances of external circumstances working to bring the H/h together. Fate is pitting them against one another despite all their resolutions to stay away; they just cannot escape...and this paves the way for them to get to know each other before their internal conflicts can come into play to jar the path to HEA. In short, it’s a slow burn, a game of push and pull, bringing you to a place where their internals can work to complicate things.
How easy is it to play with external conflict? Remember, it is serendipity...that you as the author are manipulating! Throw in a storm and make them snowbound (easily avails you of 2 chapters). Have them gravitate in the same social circles – they’re bound to meet time and again along those paths. In Light My World, just at that point when Diya and Trent are sure to throttle each other thanks to their mutual dislike, Trent’s son gets sick in the middle of the night and the only person he can turn to is Diya, his neighbor, and this opens the way for him to see her as the compassionate woman she is and not just the bratty spitfire she’s shown herself to be till then.
Play with external circumstances and throw all sorts of problems and issues at your characters – yes, it’s sadistic but you get to torture people legally here!
Depending on the plot you are using, and the genre you are writing, this will determine whether or not the story can go long or short.
Have you ever seen a short thriller? They might exist, yes, but more often than not, thrillers and/or mysteries are longer books. The whole plot demands an exposition that automatically tacks on the pages to the tale – the more you need to develop the circumstances, the longer the read will be.
Same goes for fantasy or urban fantasy – the world building alone will be a huge part of your tale, meaning writing more/longer to present that world not only in all its glory, but in a way that will make sense to the reader.
External conflict comes into play here, too – in a mystery, for example, the crime is always an external factor that will bring the characters together. External conflict paves the way for the plot, in this case.
Ever read chick-lit? Half the time, these stories have no plot whatsoever, so how come they carry on for 300+pages and still keep the reader riveted?
That’s where characterization comes into play! Well-sketched, wholesome characters can write a whole tale based on their day-to-day lives and what is happening to them at any given point.
Let one of your characters have free rein – let him/her speak and tell you about him/herself. More often than not, you can find a treasure trove of ideas to make a read longer.
Describe, describe, describe – allays you to a few thousand words more, in a longer book.
Show, don’t tell – where you might have used five words to tell something, get into character and relate the tidbit from that perspective. You can easily write twice to thrice the amount of words and convey everything better, immersing your reader totally into your story.
Story Time Frame
Say your time frame is one night – it’s easier to write a 12K 1NightStand romance that takes place over a night, than a 100K thriller (though yes, 24 with all its twists and turns in one season is about what happens over twenty-four hours!)
Want to write length? Then prolong your story time frame. You can have external conflict and internal conflict happening more over a couple of weeks or months. A storm, a car malfunction, a mugging, and falling sick have more chance of happening over one week than all in one day.
Throw in characterization, and use the plot/genre to its best ability, and ta-da! You are writing longer.
I hope these pointers help! I’ve tried to describe how I veer between lengths to the best of my ability, but that can still be as clear as mud. *grin* Any questions, hit up in the comments!
From Mauritius with love,
Light My World (Island Girls #2)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that to find a prince, a girl has to kiss a few frogs along the way. But what happens when a modern-day princess comes across…an ogre?
So what if a girl has to kiss a few frogs to find her prince?
Tired of her Indian-origin mother’s relentless matchmaking, Diya Hemant is determined to find her Prince Charming on her terms. Armed with a definitive list of requirements, she is sure she’ll know her man when she meets him…
But looking and finding are two different things, especially on the tiny island of Mauritius…
When her path crosses surly British widower Trent Garrison’s, it’s hate at first sight. And though fate keeps pitting her against him, she’s certain he can’t be turned into a frog let alone a prince.
Can this modern-day princess overcome her own expectations and see beyond the ogre to the man beneath?
He heard more than felt the car hit the back of the SUV, which had halted in a screech of tyres. The smell of burnt rubber filled his nostrils when the calm came back. He expected the airbag to blow from the wheel, but none released.
Better and better. The car wasn’t only tiny, it didn’t even have an airbag.
A wave of concern washed over him. He wasn’t hurt. At least, he didn’t feel any pain. But what about the other driver?
However, as he stepped out of the car, the worry drained away as another, stronger emotion settled in. Anger.
What sort of inconsiderate driver stopped like that in the middle of a main road?
The bloke should be tagged as a public danger. To top it all, he was going to be late to see his children.
His tall height allowed him to peer into the vehicle without much difficulty. He swept his gaze over the top half of the interior, and puzzlement replaced his fury.
The car couldn’t be empty. Where was the driver? When had he had the time to get out of the vehicle?
Walking around to the front of the hood, Trent stopped in his tracks.
The body of an unconscious—or worse, dead—dog lay sprawled on the street. Sunlight glinted off its shiny, metal-studded collar. Must’ve been the reason behind the streak of light that had blinded him and the other driver, too, probably.
As he ran a hand in his short hair, he cursed again. How did the locals respond to accidents here? Especially when there was a death involved, even of a dog? Not something he wanted to find out, and not as a participant in this involuntary homicide.
With his hand on his mouth, he goggled at the dog that picked itself up and hobbled across to the other side of the road, before disappearing in between two rows of sugarcane.
What the hell? What was it with this strange island? Couldn’t anything be predictable on it?
The muffled opening click of a car door broke the silence, and Trent stepped back to glare at the person getting out, more like slithering out, of the SUV.
A slim pair of legs emerged and wobbled for a second after the sandal-clad feet hit the asphalt.
When the door closed, he glimpsed a short denim dress hugging a tiny frame. Straight black hair brushed the shoulders and the lapels of the collar, and framed a lovely, delicate face.
He had to blink a few times. The woman, or the girl, could pass for a life-sized doll. She stood no taller than five feet, so small he could probably encircle her waist with his hands. Her eyes were deep-set and dark, rimmed with black kohl. Her golden skin struck him as somewhat pale underneath her makeup, and she bit her full, pale lips, as if trying to work some colour into them.
“Thank God the dog is alive,” she said in a light, youthful voice. “I sure would’ve hated to have killed it. Lucky there isn’t any damage.”
Her voice reminded him of laughter, and the tinkling of fragile crystal flutes.
Shaking off the bizarre notion, a slow throb built in his blood. The overwhelming feeling settled as a twitch in his cheek, and he winced when a stab of pain shot from his clenched jaw.
No damage? What about his car? “Miss, you demolished my car.”
Nothing betrayed her cool composure when she checked out his car before staring at him again.
“Sorry, but you hit from behind. You’re at fault.”
He’d started to think that the delicate motion with her frail shoulder could topple her over, so much she seemed fragile. But the concern sputtered into outrage once her words registered. The cheek of the girl.
She’d stopped dead in the middle of the road. How the heck could it be his fault? “If it weren’t for you, none of this would’ve happened,” he snapped in a low growl.
She pursed her full lips, and jutted her pointed chin out in a fierce way as she settled her hands on her hips. Craning her slender neck to peer into his face, she stood her ground.
“Well, I should’ve killed the dog? This is what you wanted?”
“And you wouldn’t have jammed into my car if you hadn’t been tailgating me.”
“I wasn’t tailgating you—”
“Yes, you were.” She poked a finger into his chest. “And you were speeding, at least a hundred where the limit is sixty.”
Could this girl be for real? “Miss, you were going faster than me, so don’t get on your high horse here.”
She poked him again. “Stop evading the issue. It’s your fault.”
Disbelief strangled his throat. She glared back, not in the least bit intimidated by the fact he towered above her by more than a foot.
At the same time, he flinched under her accusing words. Kill the dog. Right. Like he’d have wanted to kill a poor animal. What was it about this scrap of a girl that had him so ruffled?
A thought struck him. “Are you old enough to drive?”
“I’m twenty-four years old, for your information,” she said, spitting the words out at him.
So she could be held responsible for the accident. “My car is damaged, and it’s your fault.”
Blimey. They sounded like little children during kindergarten recess in the schoolyard.
He should drop this matter, deal with her like the adult he prided himself to be.
If she’d let him, though. Her dark eyes grew even darker as they narrowed on him. Fire, or ice, burnt in them. Her voice dripped with frost when she next spoke.
“I thought British men were supposed to be courteous.”
“I beg your pardon?” She’d done it again, struck him speechless. Unbelievable.
She fluttered her hand before her in an evasive gesture as she shook her head. “You know, proper British manners. Can’t say you’ve shown any so far.”
How could she sound so righteous, as if she were the injured party?
“How do you know I’m British? Does it read not-from-Mauritius somewhere on my face?”
“Your accent,” she said. “You speak just like Hugh Grant.”
Hugh Grant? That pasty-faced pin-up?
Even better. Not. “Thanks. It’s a very positive compliment.”
Trent had the pleasure of seeing his sarcasm unsettle the unnerving Miss Know-it-all. Her chest rose and fell in rapid succession as she glowered at him.
“You’re so….” She paused and seemed to search around for the proper word. “…obnoxious.”
And she was a brat. Nothing more.
Her barb hit home, though. He’d been called many things in his life, but this one was a first. And coming from a tiny lady like her, he didn’t know whether to laugh or be annoyed. He couldn’t remember the last time, if ever, he’d had such a verbal joust with someone. Loath as he was to admit, but tangling with her tickled him as stimulating as the encounter unnerved him.
Blimey, he had no time to dwell upon that. He was getting late. And he itched to shut the little spoilt princess up.
“My, incredible,” he said. “A pretty head as yours came up with such a big word. I sure hope you won’t get a nosebleed from too much brain activi—”
Yes, he’d been callous, but the sight before him horrified him more. He stood there, his jaw slackening as his mouth fell open.
“What?” she asked.
He pointed at her face. “Your nose. It’s bleeding.
About Zee Monodee
Stories about love, life, relationships... in a melting-pot of culture
Zee is an author who grew up on a fence – on one side there was modernity and the global world, on the other there was culture and traditions. Putting up with the culture for half of her life, one day she decided she'd stand tall on her wall and dip toes every now and then into both sides of her non-conventional upbringing.
From this resolution spanned a world of adaptation and learning to live on said wall. The realization also came that many other young women of the world were on their own fence.
This particular position became her favourite when she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of writing – her heroines all sit 'on a fence', whether cultural or societal, in today's world or in times past, and face dilemmas about life and love.
Hailing from the multicultural island of Mauritius, Zee is a degree holder in Communications Science. She is a head-over-heels wife, in-over-her-head mum to a tween son, best-buddy-stepmum to a teenage lad, an incompetent domestic goddess, eternal dreamer, and an absolute, shameless bookholic. When she isn’t penning more stories and/or managing the Ubuntu line at Decadent Publishing, you can bet you’ll find her with her nose in her tablet, ‘drinking in’ a good book.