Squawk Radio

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Liz Brings the Subject Back to Writing

I know, I know. What a concept, this being a writer’s blog and all. (By the way, did I mention I have a book out this week? Did I mention it’s WRITE IT UP! with Tracy Kelleher and Mary Leo? Did I mention it’s really good? Did I mention my mom loved it? Did I mention you should buy it? I did? Oh. Okay. Then I guess I should get to the stuff about writing, huh?)

Good things come in small packages. That’s how the saying goes. And the saying exists for a reason. Good things DO come in small packages. Sachets. Diamond earrings. Hershey kisses. iPod Shuffles. Strunk & White’s ELEMENTS OF STYLE. (See? Toldja I was bringing it back to writing.) And, at least to my way of thinking, novellas.

I realize a lot of people aren’t that interested in reading--or writing, for that matter--novellas, because they’re so short and don’t offer the opportunity to become as involved with the characters as the reader--or writer--would like. But I’ve discovered I really like the short format. (My contribution to WRITE IT UP!, a story called “Rapid Transit” is my eighth novella.) I guess that’s not surprising, since the bulk of my books have been for Silhouette Desire, one of the short category lines. And I think the very reason I like the shorter writes is because I can actually get MORE in depth with the hero and heroine, not less. I just do it for a shorter period of time. And because it’s a shorter period of time (and word length), every minute (and word) has to count.

It’s kind of like I just slip into the characters’ lives at that crucial moment when they meet, and then slip out again once I know they’re going to be all right. I once heard another writer say she liked novellas because “They’re all beginning and ending. No sagging middle.” But I kind of think there’s no ending, either. Novellas are mostly beginning. And the beginning is my favorite part of the story to write. I can write the first three chapters of a book in a couple of weeks. Sometimes less. It’s once the characters get together, and I have to introduce all the stuff that’s going to keep them apart, that I begin to slow down. A lot.

I love the beginning of a relationship. I love that initial zing that comes when the characters’ eyes first meet. That electrical charge when they first touch. I love noticing things about them that I don’t see until they’re looking at each other. I love the constant wondering what the other is thinking. The gradual getting-to-know-you background that’s revealed. I don’t do any prewriting when I sit down to start a book. I don’t make notes. I don’t think about what’s going to happen. I don’t ask the characters any questions to let me know who or what they are. I don’t want to discover any of that until the hero and heroine are discovering it themselves.

I like to fall in love. And I think that’s what the beginning of a book does for me. Makes me fall in love. With both my hero and heroine. With the story itself. With the physical and emotional act of writing. Every time I write a new story, be it a long single-title or a short category or an even shorter novella, I fall in love with all those things all over again.

I like writing novellas because the brevity means I have to pack a whallop in a very short time. Which is often what falling in love is. Sometimes it takes a while to fall in love with someone, as we’ve heard this week. But I think when the realization dawns, it dawns like a two-by-four to the back of your head. Love is another big thing that comes in a small package--the heart. And there’s nothing I’d rather write about more.

So which part of the story is your favorite to read or write--beginning, middle, or end? When you close a romance novel or write “The End,” what will you remember most? The way the characters were thrown together, the way they fell in love through the course of the story, or the way they ended up?
Elizabeth Bevarly, 8:44 AM