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Lacey Savage talks about The Effortless Short Story (and a contest)
Thursday, November 25th, 2010

I always say that writing a novella or short is such an art. I’ve also often remarked that Lacey Savage is really good at it. Luckily for us, she’s going to give tips on what creates a great novella-good stuff for either a reader or writer to understand. Welcome friend and author Lacey Savage to the Explosive contest!

The Effortless Short Story
by Lacey Savage

Some authors claim writing a short story is more difficult than penning an entire novel. I’ve never been one of those authors.
For me, a short story forms naturally. It’s (dare I say it?) effortless to write. It practically falls from my fingertips onto the page, and it rarely needs revisions before being submitted.
In contrast, a novel is a nightmare to write. I get tangled in plot threads, confused by my characters, and uncertain about how much detail is too much detail. I still write novels, and I’m happy with the results when I finally submit one to my editor, but the process is never anywhere close to effortless.
The tight focus of a short story suits my limited attention span rather well. Because of the low word count, I’m constrained by a number of factors. Yet rather than finding this limiting, I’m forced to just… tell the story. One event and its repercussions. One glimpse into the lives of interesting people, caught doing interesting things.
My writing career started with a short story. I’ll willing to bet that when I’m old and gray and can barely see the computer screen, my writing career will end with a short story, too.
Until then, here are a few things I’ve learned about the art of the short story:
1. One major event. When I only have a few thousand words to work with, I don’t have time to tell you about my character’s tryst with the milkman, the male stripper orgy during her 30th birthday party, the time she got run off the road by a garbage truck, and the day she adopted a puppy. I have to choose one event (I’m partial to the stripper orgy, but that’s just me), and focus in on it. I zoom in tight, just like I would through a camera lens. Then I capture that night in all its marvelous glory, and put you smack-dab in the middle of that party.
2. Suck in those timelines. This goes hand in hand with my first point. Since I’ve closed in on that unforgettable event, and I’m having you experience it along with my heroine, then we don’t need to meander all over the place. You don’t care that she went shopping for a blue dress with gold sequins the day before. Or that a week later she’s trying to return the dress but the salesperson notices a tell-tale stain on the front and refuses to take it back. Sure, I can probably write some interesting scenes around those two scenarios, but neither has anything to do with the strippers… or the reason I’m telling this story.
3. The fewer characters, the better. When I’m limited by word count, I can’t have a huge cast of characters parading on stage. So you’re not likely to see the heroine’s mom, dad, boss, sister, brother, cousin, night school teacher, or doorman. You will, however, get to know the heroine very well. And since I write romance, you’ll get to know her hero, too. But let’s go back to our stripper scenario for a minute. The story may involve a group of men, but that doesn’t mean they’re all equally as important. I have to decide who the hero is (and there could be more than one), and then limit the heroine’s interactions to dealing specifically with him, so she’s as focused on her hero as the reader will be. She can still have a bit of fun with the other men if she chooses, but they’ll always be in the background. Center stage belongs to the hero and the heroine. No one else.
4. Limited point of view. I’m partial to first person point of view, myself. I love seeing the world through one person’s eyes. But even if I’m writing in third person, that doesn’t mean I can’t limit my point of view. You’ll definitely get the heroine’s. You may get the hero’s. But that’s it.
5. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. That’s just what it sounds like: get in, do what needs to be done, and get out. Once the event is finished, so is the story. I’m probably not going to show you that the heroine wakes up with the world’s worst hangover the next day. Or that her best friend has made off with everyone’s jewelry and wallets while the guests were passed out. Although that could set off an interesting subplot in a novel, the short story really is all about one event. I can’t say this enough. When the stripper orgy is over, so is the story.
How do you feel about short stories? Have you noticed any common elements in the short stories you’ve enjoyed?

Lacey’s most recent short story releases December 2nd at Ellora’s Cave: Voices in the Dark

Maddie’s coworkers have no idea that she gets off on calling random men, whispering raunchy fantasies in their ears and hearing them orgasm at the sound of her voice. Her fetish is fun, daring and most importantly, safe. That’s paramount for a transplanted Texan now living in New York.

Sex with strangers is risky. Phone sex is totally anonymous. Until Maddie calls a coworker by mistake. And when Adrian recognizes her voice, he turns her safe little fetish into a dangerous game. One that Maddie can’t possibly win.


Leave Lacey a comment about her book or informative article and qualify to win a $10 Amazon gift card!

30 comments to “Lacey Savage talks about The Effortless Short Story (and a contest)”

  1. Linda Henderson
      · November 25th, 2010 at 9:34 pm · Link

    This sounds like a very interesting book. I would love to read it. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

    seriousreader at live dot com

  2. Amelia
      · November 25th, 2010 at 9:39 pm · Link

    I like the focus on the main characters. I don’t like that sometimes the story ends when I want more of it.

  3. SarahM
      · November 25th, 2010 at 9:44 pm · Link

    Sounds like a fun and sexy book 🙂 Definitely will put it on my wishlist!

  4. Sherry S.
      · November 25th, 2010 at 10:36 pm · Link

    I enjoy short stories because sometimes I don’t have the time to get into a longer story. Your new book looks hot.

  5. annalisa m.
      · November 25th, 2010 at 10:57 pm · Link

    Congratulations on the upcoming release of your new book. “Voices in the Dark” sounds like a fun, hot read! I enjoy books where the focus is on the hero and heroine. I also found your article about a few things you have learned about the art of the short story very interesting.


  6. Scorpio M.
      · November 25th, 2010 at 11:21 pm · Link

    Short stories are great in that you get to the”meat” of the story fairly quickly. I like that fast pace. This book sounds naughty!! 😀

  7. Victoria CK
      · November 26th, 2010 at 12:48 am · Link

    I’ll admit I am a detail, whole story kind of girl. BUT if going for the short (we all have busy lives and I still have to read even during these time, so short stories have their place), it is nice when the story knows what it is about. As you said, there is only so much room to do anything. I don’t like it when the plot gets lost in too much other: other people, other activities, other things that don’t really have anything to do with THIS story. It really sounds like you know what you are doing with the short story. Congrats on having figured it out!


  8. Natasha A.
      · November 26th, 2010 at 5:20 am · Link

    Those are great tips! I think they can be applied to a lot of writing tasks. I’m thinking about the essays I am writing for school, and I can see them working! Thanks 😀

  9. Danielle D
      · November 26th, 2010 at 7:59 am · Link

    This book sounds interesting Lacey, I’ll have to put this book on my to buy list.

  10. Amy M
      · November 26th, 2010 at 8:08 am · Link

    I do like a good short story! Gets right to the good stuff!

    Voices in the Dark sounds so good!

  11. Amy Kathryn
      · November 26th, 2010 at 8:10 am · Link

    I think that what works for the author works for the reader also. A tight, focused story that wraps up neatly in an allotted time is just what I need when I have limited time or need a break from long, involved books or series. They each have a place in my TBR!

  12. Lea
      · November 26th, 2010 at 8:33 am · Link

    It’s so great to see you here at Beth’s contest Lacey! Awesome post. *g*

    I love short stories / novellas for a variety of reasons. There is the instant gratification, sometimes after reading a number of novels in a row a few short stories are lovely – it almost eases the reading “pressure” if that makes any sense. I also like anthologies with a common theme. Finally I enjoy series where the novellas are interconnected by say family or friends.

    Thanks for the generous chance to win Lacey! 😀


  13. Maggie Johnson
      · November 26th, 2010 at 9:30 am · Link

    “Voices in the Dark” sounds like its gonna be a fun read.I love short stories…its a instant grab to your attention and if the author is good keeps it till the end.


  14. zina
      · November 26th, 2010 at 9:37 am · Link

    Sometimes I feel shortchanged by the short stories but it’s because the stories are so good but so short I wish they were longer so I could immerse myself more in them.

  15. becky jean
      · November 26th, 2010 at 10:05 am · Link

    I love to read short short stories in between reading my full length novels because it is a nice change of pace. This story looks great!

  16. Fedora
      · November 26th, 2010 at 11:56 am · Link

    I tend to love short stories–they give me a feel for an author’s style, often hooking me for their longer books. And I love that I can fit a short story in sometimes when I don’t have time to read something longer. As for Voices in the Dark–that sounds like a great premise! Can’t wait to read that, Lacey!

  17. CrystalGB
      · November 26th, 2010 at 12:08 pm · Link

    Hi Lacey. Your book sounds good. I love the cover art. I like short stories. They give you a romance fix when you have a shorter time to read.

  18. Mary G
      · November 26th, 2010 at 12:27 pm · Link

    Hi Beth & Lacey
    Lacey, I love your writing. Fascinating post & it made me appreciate shorts even more.

    The ones I’ve read do have one thread in common – the H & H already know each other, which is one of my fave premises anyway. Whether it’s reunited lovers, co-workers, or friends to lovers, the story length works perfectly. Looking forward to reading more from you.

  19. Valerie
      · November 26th, 2010 at 1:31 pm · Link

    I’ve read lots of short stories and am always amazed at how much emotion the author can pack into it.

    I’ve read some of yours too, Lacey, and you are a mistress of the craft!!!

    I am sure that when I am old a grey, I will still read short stories.

    in Germany

  20. Estella
      · November 26th, 2010 at 3:22 pm · Link

    I enjoy short stories because they require little time to read.

  21. Jane
      · November 26th, 2010 at 3:59 pm · Link

    I do enjoy short stories. The plot moves along at a faster pace, but sometimes you don’t feel the connection between the characters because the relationship feels rushed.

  22. Cathy M
      · November 26th, 2010 at 4:10 pm · Link

    Hi Lacey,

    Voices in the Dark sounds like it will be a kick to read. Calling a co-worker by mistake, definitely an OMG moment.

  23. Chelsea B.
      · November 26th, 2010 at 4:36 pm · Link

    I’ve not read that many short stories, but there’s definitely not a lot of back-story in the one’s I have read. And that isn’t me complaining. I like the way author’s write shot stories 🙂

  24. Lacey Savage
      · November 26th, 2010 at 4:38 pm · Link

    Thanks so much for having me here, Beth!

    And thanks, everyone, for your lovely comments. I had a lot of fun writing VOICES IN THE DARK — it’s naughty, sexy, and yes, romantic. 🙂

    Good luck to all of you in the contest!

  25. Stephanie
      · November 26th, 2010 at 4:39 pm · Link

    Love your title Lacey! Did you come up with it or your editor?

    I like that I can pick up a short story either between my series or when I need a break and only have a few to read!

  26. Lacey Savage
      · November 26th, 2010 at 4:42 pm · Link

    Thanks, Stephanie!

    The title was mine. I’ve been very lucky… in more than 40 books, I’ve never had an editor request a title change.

    I also have a bit of a title fetish. I have a list of over 2,000 titles waiting for stories to go with them.

  27. Jeanette Juan
      · November 26th, 2010 at 6:36 pm · Link

    I love short stories because they’re great reads that can be finished fast, especially when super busy.

  28. infinitieh
      · November 26th, 2010 at 8:18 pm · Link

    I always have some anthologies around so for those moments when I want to read something but don’t want to get into a whole book. Short stories are great for that. Sure, sometimes I wish a story is longer but that’s when I’d look to see if that author has written longer stories, especially with those characters or set in that world.

  29. Carol L
      · November 27th, 2010 at 11:28 am · Link

    Hi Beth and Lacey,
    I enjoyed your post and even if I’m just a reader all these bits of info will remain in my brain. 🙂
    Love the story and look forward to reading it. 🙂
    Carol L.

  30. Joder
      · November 27th, 2010 at 3:50 pm · Link

    I’ve read and enjoyed many short stories and like the tight focus of the stories. There’s no extraneous filler getting in the way of the main characters. The story is theirs and theirs alone and I feel like they’re better understood because of that.

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