THE SHAPE OF A NOVEL

Lori Knight asked this question a few weeks ago: “With the huge trend toward e-books, why do romance books have to be limited to about 350 pages? I’ve read several hundred books lately which suffered from rushed or incomplete endings. Do publishers require this? How does this impact your writing?”

It’s an interesting question–or, rather, three questions. I don’t know the answer to the first one, though I have always assumed two things: (a) that publishers like books of the same type to be similar in length so that they are easier to plan and design and budget for–and so that readers know what to expect. Β And (b) that they have done some market research and know the approximate length of certain types of books that most readers prefer. I don’t pretend to be a typical reader, but I do know that with most paperback books I prefer a length of 350-375 pages maximum. It has to be an exceptional book to hold my interest if it is longer than that.

I have something more personal to say on Lori’s other comments and questions. If a book has a rushed or incomplete ending, the fault is not with the demands a publisher or editor has imposed upon the author. The fault is squarely with the author! Any book, no matter how long or short, has a shape and should read smoothly as though it is the perfect length and that its parts are perfectly proportioned. It is up to the author to impose this shape on a book. It is not easy, of course! Nothing about the writing process is easy (which is not the same thing as saying it is not the best job in the world!).

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I sometimes ask people in the process of writing a book what word count they are aiming for. I am always a bit startled when the answer is that there is no expectation, that the book will be as long as it turns out to be when the story is told. I know all writers are different and this approach may work for many, but it wouldn’t work for me. I need to know the approximate word count I am aiming for before I start so that I can shape the story accordingly. This way I can be sure to leave enough words to write an ending that is just the right length and to spend enough time on the middle section without allowing it to be too thin on material or downright sagging with dullness. After writing so many books, the shape is almost instinctive as I write. But if I were ever to find myself close to the end of my word count with a great deal of the story yet to tell, I would have to go back to change things so that I could give myself enough room at the end. If I allowed the hurried ending to stand and merely grumbled about not having been allowed more words and pages, then I would be to blame for the inferior book I was turning out. Β No, really, writers have a responsibility to give their readers their very best professional effort–even if going back to reshape is going to take extra time.

Incidentally, I love writing novellas of 25,000 words or so as opposed to the 100,000 word novels I write most of the time. I always say that novellas are all beginning and end without any of the pesky middle. But they still have the same shape and must be written accordingly. A novella is not just a severely curtailed novel. It is a work of art in itself (think miniature as opposed to large canvas).

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To one person who leaves a comment below before the end of Friday, February 7, I will send an autographed copy of my two-in-one volume of DARK ANGEL and LORD CAREW’S BRIDE, They are two of my earlier 75,000 word Regency romances. Last week’s winner was Meaghan Miller. Congratulations to her.

118 thoughts on “THE SHAPE OF A NOVEL

  1. I love your books, you write in a period I feel I should have been born in. Would love to own this 2 in 1 book..thanks Karen

  2. I just love your books, you write in a time period I feel I should have been born in. Would love to own this 2 in 1 book, thanks Karen

  3. Hi Mary!

    I just received your email and had to visit right away!

    To say that I love to read isn’t enough to say how much joy reading gives me. I love your comments and must say that I never consider the length of a book but rather how well it’s written and how much enjoyment and satisfaction I end up getting out of it.

    I read both “full length” books as well as novellas and my sense of satisfaction never comes from the length of the story but rather how the author presents the characters (both main and secondary) and if their stories are “complete”.

    I think of it as I would think of people and things that occur in my real life. Are they real friends, are they interesting, are the situations they are in believable and interesting, what are their goals and inspiration of life, are they honest, and they “true friends”, do I want to “know” them better, etc.

    When I read a book I want to connect with the characters in the book on some level and if I do I enjoy the story even more.

    That’s one of the reasons I love your books so much. I can identify with your characters and I must admit that I often fall in love with some of your secondary characters as much as I do with your main characters and feel like I’ve lost a dear friend after I finish the story and must set my “dear friends” behind.

    To me that’s one of the most important thing I enjoy about a story – feeling a connection even if I never have or will have the same or a similar thing happen in my own life.

    Novella or full length book doesn’t make it better or worse – it’s the “written” words that make all the difference (even if you are reading it on a Kindle!).

  4. Mary, I love your books! Thank you for your explanation. I think formula is good, but as a genre there are many times where character development could use more time. Other times, it feels like a b-plot is being drawn out to get to the optimum word count.

  5. I’ve been a fan for a long time, but this is my first visit to your blog. Interestinig topics!

    As for the word count question, without a number in mind, I think it would be all too easy to wander all over the place with a story. How would you know where to put your plot points? I like structure.

  6. I liked your comment about the ending of a novel being rushed being an author’s fault. I have always agreed. I tend not to read an author when she has books that have rushed endings. That is not to say that I would dismiss an author on one bad ending. Any author can have an off book. I also think that sometimes an ending feels rushed because the author did too good a job of captivating the reader and she (he) was not ready for the story to end. I too think that writing a novella or a short story is an art form in itself.I really enjoyed the The Suitor. It was well done and tied up the loose end of Miss Dean from The Arrangement. I do like your longer novels more than your old Signets (although I like them as well). The longer format does allow for more in depth character development. But a good author can write a good shorter or longer novel as you have proven.

  7. I have actually read novels and knew the author complained about not enough space to write what they wanted, but then I could sit there and pick out what really wasn’t necessary to the story. I guess it wasn’t what made the story special for me, so I could live without those details or side story.

  8. Hi Mary,
    I am a big fan of your novels and novellas. I enjoy your posts on Facebook. This is my first time posting on your blog but not my first time reading your blog. It was interesting to learn about the word count. Thanks for your hard work at writing such beautiful stories to keep me entertained.
    Peace and God Bless,
    Heidi

  9. I like all length novels & novellas. I do agree a longer novel is a little more daunting to get started on & obviously takes longer to read. I agree that the author should work within the framework or page requirements to round out the novel. I haven’t really noticed any problems with rushed ending, etc., but maybe I am not that picky! πŸ™‚ Your books are just right!

  10. The length doesn’t matter…the writer does. A Matter of Class by Mary B. is a good example of a novella that’s simply wonderful and one of her best efforts…I loved it! And her short stories are also quite amazingly wonderful as well. I really wish that all Mary’s short stories could be combined into one outstanding anthology…I know that’s not going to happen…..but it’s a fantasy that I continue to have!!

  11. I already own the 2 in 1 book you are featuring, and it is by far one of my favorites. A signed copy would be like icing on the cake! I agree with ‘Lori’s’ comment about some 350 page books feeling rushed. Yours aren’t all like that, but I will admit that I’d love to know more about what happens to the characters later on in their lives. One thing that you do that I LOVE is that you sometimes briefly mention them in other books. I would love to see more than a brief mention, but I do appreciate that you do it at all. Thank you!

  12. I already own this book, but I wanted to let you know that “Lord Carew’s Bride” is one of those stories that I think of often even though I have only read it twice. I really enjoyed it and was pleasantly surprised when I read it, as I originally got the book for the first story. :o)

  13. Dear Mary, I have loved your books from the beginning! I love your comments on the process of writing (word count, etc.) I’ve read all of your regencies. I’d love a copy of your 2-in-1 book.

    Thanks.

  14. I just read a book where the ending wasn’t exactly rushed, but it was all telling. All the action was off stage. I found it very unsatisfying.
    I’d love to have this book. I don’t remember ever having a problem when I’ve read your books. πŸ™‚

  15. The book I am reading now is very small print and longer than usual. It has MANY love/hate scenes and I keep getting bored with it and losing interest. It is not a page turner that I look forward to picking up each night. Some of my favorite reads are the small new author novels and I enjoy period books or western. Mary B’s are usually a little lengthier than a lot, but worth the time investment. I enjoy the descriptions of dresses, houses, people and can picture them in my mind. I want photos in Mary B books of the dresses, hats, quizzing glasses, carriages, reticules described! I never finish a Mary B book and feel that it was not finished, but I often want more. Wolfric’s daughter should be ready to go to London for the season.

  16. My respect grows for you every time I read your blogs and books. I think you are an amazing author. You are disciplined, but you also know how to have fun. I love your posts, your books, your puns. Thank you for doing what you do and for being willing to share your skills and experience with others.

  17. I have always loved Christmas books. A Christmas Promise was so good. I’ve read all of your books that I can find. You are one of my favorite go-to authors when I need something to read.

  18. I love your writing! I have some very special favorites ( “The Temporary Wife” and “The Secret Pearl”) and really enjoyed each and every one of the “Simply” novels. I appreciate your comment about the author being responsible for the quality of the writing, and it shows in your work. Thank you for your high standards and thoroughly enjoyable writing.

  19. Hi Mary. I read books of all lengths. If it’s an author I like the length doesn’t matter to me. You fit in this category. πŸ˜‰

  20. Hello! i am so very pleased to have found a place where i can not only try for a chance to win an autographed copy of a Mary Balogh book, but also to let her know that her historical romances *fly* off the shelves in my little bookstore. We usually have people waiting in line for more of her novels to show up. She is a fantastic author who delights many discriminating romance readers. THANK YOU, Ms. Balogh!

  21. Hi Mary, thanks for the great post. Love the pic above about corraling an octopus πŸ™‚ My question is on what you feel is an appropriate length for the ending of your book? Around 10,000 words? I’m working on my first ms and like to get as much advice as I can.

    • Yes, about that, Jacquie. When I get to about 90,000 words I start to shape the story toward the ending–the lesser elements usually get tied up first and the final love declaration is kept to the very end. But give it its due. Give the reader the full glory of it. Don’t rush it–or drag it out too long! It’s a bit of a balancing act!

  22. I’ve been keeping an eye on all of your books I haven’t read them all that for sure.. I still love the Huxtable series the best. I haven’t read these 2 books in one but I’m glad you but this on facebook because it gave me another option for me to read. I hadn’t seen these so I will try to Kindle them.. Again Thanks

  23. I use to pick the largest books because if they are good, I never want them to end. I’m not a huge fan of novellas only because for the same reason, if I like it they are over way too soon. But I do like when a book is planned just right. I have read some that have ended just like that and my first thought was always – guess they got to the end of their word count. Of course none of my favorite authors ever do that πŸ™‚

  24. I agree with you that a hurried ending to a novel is the fault of the author, not the editor or publisher. I’ve run across a few books where I felt the author ended it rather abruptly and where I wished there was an epilogue to tie up loose ends. When this happens it makes me very hesitant to pick up another book by the same author. I’ve been reading your books for a good 20 years or so and I’ve never felt that way with any of them, in fact, they seem to get better and better as the years go by. I can honestly say that you are one of the few authors I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed each and every book of your I’ve read.

  25. Some authors write endings that are slim on the romance at the end. I just listened to The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer, after reading it a few years ago. It is my favorite GH novel. After the heroine snipes at the hero for the entire novel, about three pages from the end he says the only thing is for her to marry him, she argues for a page or two and then says yes. And the curtain comes down. This isn’t unusual for GH. So when I pick up one of her books I know what to expect.

    I like your novellas Mary but I prefer your full length books. I like to have time to get to know the hero and heroine.

  26. I have been a big fan of yours for a long time. I love the connection I feel with your characters and how vividly you write about the time period your stories are set in. Your stories linger with me for days and weeks after I finish reading them.

  27. Keep the stories coming, I was introduced to your books by a dear friend of mine, Audrey and I have not been disappointed yet. When I want romance and want to get into a story your books are what I turn to. I so enjoy your stories they are a page turner. I am always looking forward your next novel.

  28. You are giving away two (in one) of my favorites. I miss your traditional Regencies, and hope you will write more of them again. Thanks for the opportunity to win.

  29. Hello there!

    To say that I like reading your books is totally an understatement..I find it relaxing and it gives me a lot to think about my love life which is now 0.. I would love to have a copy of your new books. I follow you on Facebook, your posts are an inspiration to me. I’m not a writer but I think I can be..

    Magie

  30. I agree with the idea that a rushed ending is for the author to solve, although a good editor can help with that I would think. The indie ebook market makes for some interesting changes in books – some of the “books” are long novellas, and others are merely stretched out to be a series of 3-7 books or more. I think that eBooks allow some of the newer authors to get sloppier, rather than face a discipline of x-words or pages. I do prefer books to be a certain length. My regencies are shorter than my historicals, and Sci-fi is less length than Fantasy. I do read some long books, but they have to be special – Anya Seton, WTW, HP, and a few others over the years. And I agree that a novella is an art by itself. I have read all the regency collections that came out with few exceptions. The best ones felt like a whole story was told, and I don’t need anything more. Just reread one of yours this Christmas and it was perfect. A gem, small, but perfectly cut.

  31. I am supposing that a well known and established author such as yourself can largely tell the publisher how long a book is going to be, although bearing in mind the publisher’s preference would make the relationship easier.
    However, if an author is new, then if the publisher says 80,000 words, then surely the author is going to stretch or cut a story to make it fit in the (desperate?) hope of getting the story accepted?
    When I read A Matter of Class, I thought it was outstanding, but it was shorter than usual was it not? But still not short enough to be called a novella?

    • It was what the publisher called a “long novella,” Philip. That was what they contracted for–though on the cover they called it a novel.

  32. Hi Mary. I love this and you know how much I love to read and review your books so this is really exciting but I have to tell you I love the stories but also love the cover art. How do you find such people to do something like that or does your publisher…Take care peggy

  33. I have read long books and was wondering on the last pages how they want to finish everything with only a few more pages left. Yeah, it is usually a good sign that it will be a series or a really quick and unfinished ending (can I actually call it an end if it is unfinished???). There are soap like series with the same characters and their relationship developes almost in real time with every new book they progress further and there are series (like yours) with different related/linked characters who have their story told in one book and revisit as needed in following books of the same series. I find your books well organized and my only regret at the end is that it didn’t last longer to read them. I am a quick reader and my one more chapter turns out to a night session, usually. So far your endings haven’t disappointed.

  34. I’m glad you brought up novellas. I personally will avoid them unless tried to a story as prelude of ending. The novellas are just getting good when BAM it story is over. Most of the time I feel like I’ m missing the best part. It is like seeing forwards to a movie, but the movie is never released. I realize this is not making much sense. I feel disappointed with novella. Do not spend money on them either.

    I enjoy your books. Look forward to your next one. And I enjoy the postings on Facebook. Thank you for all your hard work. I do appreciate it.

  35. I love your books, the length of the story doesn’t matter as long as it tells the whole story. I still prefer the actual paper book in my hand, I do read on my ereader (holidays, etc) but it doesn’t have the satisfaction of the actual book.

  36. I belong to the old brigade as in I still read books as opposed to ebooks and I would love to win this. Love your books, they are so very descriptive it’s easy to picture the settings. Keep writing.

  37. I used to wonder the same things so this question and answer session was quite nice. Thanks for the information Mary. Of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a chance at luck in expanding my library a little more either. πŸ˜‰ Here’s to a little luck and lots of good reading everyone!

  38. I first came across your books about 10 years ago. I rummage through bargain shelves most of the time. I found More Than a Mistress and fell in love! I then went in search of more of your books. I began to read the Huxtable series next. I am sorry to say that as an English teacher, I never have enough time to read as I would like. I do download many books onto my iPod now and listen to them on my drive to/from work.

    I love what you write. I am a firm believer that if I can’t put myself in the character of the book, that it is a flat book. I have never had a problem doing this in your novels. Usually at some point I am in tears, and my husband is laughing at me, but for me, a book isn’t good if I can’t experience those emotions so thoroughly!

    Thank you for your books! They are one of my not so guilty pleasures!

  39. Gr8 work Mrs.Balogh…. I started reading historical romances after stumbling across your ‘Gentle conquest’. Best wishes… keep rockin πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  40. Just love Mary’s books! They are like an addiction but in a very good way! ^_^ Just finished The Arrangement and am reading The Famous Heroin and The Plumed Bonnet. I have been looking for the Dark Angel and Lord Carew’s Bride it would look great with the rest of my books and even better to read! πŸ™‚ Good Luck to all!

  41. My favorite book is Exodus. I have several copies of it. It lead me to read non fiction books about the time period. I like novels that are 500 pages or more. A long novel is enticing, like a turkey feast and sometimes I do not finish it. The Christmas anthologies introduced me to many authors that I have enjoyed their longer works. Sometimes a story feels stretched out and sometimes what seems a good place to end continues with more interesting details of the characters lives. I read everything. I remember when I was young reading the backs of the bathroom bottles and packages. A book is always in my bag. Sometimes when the grocery line is long, I read my book. One thing about traveling is that it gives you time to read without thinking about work that has to be done. I read Shogun and that was an interesting look into the culture. It taught me some words, but not the pronunciation. The story concept is more important than the length. It depends on how it is written. A story can be complete in a few words, or it can be completed in a 1000 page book. Books with a thousand pages or more are a bit daunting in their process. I wonder if the author can hold my attention for that long. I discovered the Regan Riley detective mysteries, because the cover and the first few pages would not let me leave the store without purchasing it. I was looking at it while waiting for a prescription and put the book down when my name was called. Because the author piqued my interest, Carol Higgins Clark’s book are a treat to read. She is the only mystery writer that I read. I read anything, from fact or fiction. Right now I have a book about the making of Star Trek by one of the crew. Its behind the scenes of how a show is made is fascinating. As for grammar, I haven’t had to use grammar rules since high school…. many decades ago. Where I worked our writing makes Twitter character limit excessive. Dr dn Taa at. Translation… the job running on the tape drive bank abnormally aborted due to a malfunction of the tape drive, program or the tape itself. Long grammatically perfect explanations were frowned upon. I write the way I talk, creating lots of fodder for the grammar Nazis and then there is also the PC problems that suddenly erase what I write, or perform unwanted editing functions. The Romance genre is the right length for entertaining me about the lives of the Regency period.
    Frances M. Doyle

  42. I always thought of this as writing a complete story. The first author I’d ever read where the ability to do this became clear to me was Rosamunde Pilcher. I was intimidated by the length of The Shell Seekers when I first saw it, but was so deeply involved in the story that I didn’t ever want the story to end. Yet, it was a book of her short stories (if I remember correctly, they were only about 10-20 pages in length) that really brought this idea home to me. I would tell people that the reason I loved her books was that, no matter the length, I always felt the story was complete, which made it satisfying to read. Today, I love to read anthologies that include a story by a favorite author because it is also a way to discover new authors whose writing I enjoy. Yet, very often, the stories are rushed and I’m left dissatisfied. You describe the process beautifully. It must be one of the reasons I enjoy reading your books so much. Thank you.

  43. Hello, Mary! I had read some of your books and I loved every single one of them. The first series I had of yours were The Web Series. It took me a few months to procure (and rummage through tons of books) the series via my fave bookstore. And the first book? It was entitled No Man’s Mistress.
    I am an aspiring romance author and I quite agree with you. I used to have an online book account just to get the feel of what my readers want, what they felt when they read a certain chapter, etc. I’ve had a few demands to finish the book soon but I simply can’t “rush” the story. It feels, in a way, mediocre to me. Like something is missing in between that I can’t figure out. I try to limit my word count but it doesn’t sit well with me so I stick to limiting my page count. I go over the chapters to trim or add anything of significance.
    My friends keep on telling me that it is EASY to write a book but they just don’t know the half of it–more than half of it. Been stuck in a rut for months now. Teehee!
    Anyway, I also enjoyed the The Huxtable Quintet series. Ma’am, you continue to be one of my inspirations and I am looking forward to your next book of The Survivor’s Club Series.
    Thank you!

  44. I wonder if you’re a good cook, too! A good cook knows when not to overdo adding herbs and spices to a recipe or have too many dishes at a meal. Your books always seem to be just the right length for your story. I can re-read your novels and enjoy them every time. You, Diana Gabaldon, and Elmore Leonard are all modern author favorites of mine who write very different stories, but they’re all gems. You’re Jane Austen.2! Please keep writing!

  45. I read a wide variety of lengths – sometimes I’m just not in the mood to get into a longer book and go for an anthology with 3 or 4 novellas, or a one of those shorter romances. But then I’ll find a series I haven’t read and that’s like reading a really long book.

  46. I have read all of your books, actually everything you’ve written including anthologies.There are a few authors on my list whom I’ll pick up based solely on their name without even reading the jacket, and you are one of them. Lord Carew was one of my favorite “anti-heros”. He was such a great person, but he didn’t trumpet around his wealth or accomplishments. He won the lady fair just by being himself, and that was so important to him. And then he trounced his no-good, sleazeball cousin fair and square.That part made me want to stand up and cheer.Obviously, I have the book and have already read it numerous times, enjoying “Dark Angel” as well. I revisit the Bedwyns, the Huxtables, the fine ladies from the “Simply “series and all the other great characters that feel like old friends every year. Thanks for writing such wonderful stories and sharing them with the world. Please keep them coming. I’m very much enjoying the “Survivors Club”series.

  47. Thanks for sharing your philosophy and method of writing. It expains why I am always pleased when I finish one of your novels. Some novels I have read have a disappointing ending..it seems that the author ran out of words, didn’t know how to end the promising story or got tired of writing. The other device some authors use is to put a short traumatic cliff hanger from later in the story at the begining of the novel in an attempt to draw you into the story & make you want to read it. A scene like that with not enough of the story as background annoys me. I started a book like that this week & am continuing to read it.. in the mean time I bought a new book last night & starting reading it in the checkout line, fell right into the story so it will be finished first. Thanks Mary for all of your books! I have been reading you for a long time and am always thrilled to find a new adventure of yours to explore.

  48. I love your books!!! and i prefer the full length novels to the novellas. Seems like if I read a novella, I am just starting to get into the book and then it’s over πŸ™

  49. I’m hoping the e-format will result in more novellas since you can market them separately. Too many times I have read a book and it feels like the author just keeps adding extra situations and twists to make the book long enough.

  50. Dear Mary,

    I love your books, but I think I always say that … either here or on Facebook … each time I comment.

    There are several authors I greatly enjoy. You are one of the best. I especially enjoy your style and, whether novel or novella, would be disappointed if that changed.

    Your experience as an English teacher must have something to do with your ability to write such cohesive books with such interesting characters – ones that the reader can relate to as if they are real people. Therefore, my question is: Do you feel this way as well, or do you have another explanation?

    I would be very interested to know as I had an English literature teacher who had a great influence on me, at an early age, instilling in me my love of all kinds of books. She wrote stories but was never published.

    My grandmother was a wonderful person and an inspiration as well! We shared a bedroom when I was growing up and she use to tell me stories, before we went to sleep at night, from books she had read. She never got to travel very far away from home but her knowledge of other lands and people was thrilling. I use to call her stories “Far Away Places with Strange Sounding Names” like the old song popular back then. I guess I am dating myself! Bear in mind I was a child at the time.

    Anyway, thank you for answering my question when you have time.

    Happy 2014!
    Barbara

  51. I like this question, Barbara, and would like to answer it at some length. I think I’ll make it the topic of my next blog.

  52. This is so unrelated, but I am apparently still bitter over never receiving my collection of Mary Balogh books I had loaned out several years ago! I need to let go….. ;(

  53. I love your period pieces and find myself partial to novellas. I would love to win your novels….and enjoy your posts and website with your reflections. Have a great weekend. And Oh………Did I mention…….would love to win??!!!
    πŸ˜€

  54. Enjoyed your post. I found it very interesting that you enjoy writing novellas more than novels. As a reader, I always feel novellas are just too quick for enjoyable reading. I like to settle in with a nice long story. Love your novels!

  55. “No, really, writers have a responsibility to give their readers their very best professional effort–even if going back to reshape is going to take extra time.”, is really at the core of why I have yet to publish. I want to earn my reader’s respect and to do so, the quality of my writing has to be above par from the very first book. There’s no way they will give me their precious time for the series I’m planning unless I capture their hearts and minds from the get-go. I owe it to myself and my readers to offer my very best. I see that you follow your own advice so kudos to you, Mary, for inspiring me. P.S. My friend, Faren, copyedited your books so I’m grateful to her for introducing me to your work πŸ™‚

    • Oh, I lovve Faren, Tessa! I have been lamenting the fact that I will have to leave her behind as a copyeditor when I move to my new publisher later this year, but they are going to ask if I can still have her. Fingers crossed!

  56. I love your books and thank you for your explanation on the writing of stories. I’ve always wondered how authors get them right

  57. Enjoy reading your books!Please enter me contest for an autographed copy of your two-in-one volume of DARK ANGEL and LORD CAREW’S BRIDE.Thank you for the opportunity to win.Have a wonderful weekend.

  58. Hi Mary! You have such a beautiful Blog! I love all your books and when I see your name I automatically buy it! Hope you’re staying warm!!

  59. I once learned that a good essay had a beginning, middle, and end. or was that a paragraph…. books or novellas need the same. and if they’re balanced so much the better! I’ve never had a problem with your stories, they’re all just right!!

  60. Thank you for such detailed information about shaping a novel. Now I know why certain authors have become my favorites (especially you) – I usually know exactly what to expect from them. Can’t say I am a fan of novellas, as I am always looking for more of a story, but I do agree that some are much better than others. As for novel lengths, it really doesn’t matter to me as long as the story is intriguing. But I really need to make sure I have time for the commitment a longer novel (over 550 pages) takes, to do it justice.

    Have not read either of these books, but have thought the titles captivating. Although I have been reading your books for about 6 years, I only discovered your blog last summer and am so glad I did – such interesting topics, and I love reading what others have to say!

  61. Hi Mary,
    I first discovered your work when perusing the new ebooks on my library’s website recently so this blog post piqued my interest. Did you know that public libraries may only keep soft or hard copies of your recent books and the rest via ebooks? While I can see why they would choose to do this, it is a problem for those who do not have a computer, tablet, or an ereader at their disposal, further adding to the digital divide.
    I also note that my public library has chosen not to include much more info than the library barcode into the catalogue record of your paperback books, thereby making them even less discoverable. (This may be a matter of policy for all paperbacks because they are not durable.)

  62. I have been a long time fan of Mary Balogh’s every since I picked up one of her books at Barnes and Nobles for $2 many moons ago!!! I would love to have this combination for it has been on my to read list.

  63. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve only just recently noticed how, particularly in the romance genre, books seem to have a very similar page number but, thankfully, so far, I’ve managed to avoid the ones with the rushed endings…

  64. I think it shows in your novellas that you like writing them AND that you know how to do it well. For example, I’ve noticed how often the plot is of the ‘second chance at love’ type, which gives the romance a backstory and makes the happy ending seem less rushed.
    Surprisingly many readers seem to dislike the format, but I always give your novellas as examples of satisfying romance reads πŸ™‚

  65. I absolutely love your books, in fact I’m rereading A Counterfeit Betrothal right now. There is nothing better on a cold winter day than a cup of coffee and a Mary Balogh book. πŸ™‚

  66. Mary,
    Every year I dig out all or most of your novellas, part of long out of print anthologies, and read them again. They are all exquisite! I always cry…especially for Precious Rogue and Playing House…they just get to me. Short but very sweet is great. The stories never drag, get to the point quickly but still have time to do some character development and explain why one character falls for other and vice versa.

  67. Learning a lot about writing from this blog. I’m not a writer, so I always assumed that a tale took as long as it took to write – be that 50 or 500 pages. But what you say makes sense for both yourself and the publisher.

    I have not noticed “rushed endings” so much as what I call “fillers” in stories. Sometimes they are excessively long sex scenes, long scenery descriptions, or characters “reminiscing” about something that happened two chapters back. If I don’t feel like reading them, I will skip over the sex or scenery scenes but I usually pay attention to the reminiscing because sometimes buried within the characters “inner dialogue” is something important to the story.

    I didn’t think I cared much for novellas, but I’ve read a few really good ones lately by Grace Burrowes, and I loved your UNDER THE MISTLETOE. But I think I still prefer novels. Guess I prefer big canvas to miniatures.

    I have the book that you are giving away this week and I loved both stories. Hartley Wade (LORD CAREWS BRIDE) is one of my favorite beta heroes.

  68. I have read the beyond Beyond the Sunrise, Thief of Dreams and three of your series. I cannot wait for the next book of the survivors series. Currently I am reading Heartless. I was a murder/mystery reader and a friend introduced me to historical regency novels. Being the mom of four boys (five with my husband) this is my escape. I love it! Thank you for your stories.

  69. Interesting. I never thought about the length of books. Maybe that is because the layout or the letter sizes vary from book/publisher to book/publisher.

    Which brings another question to my mind: Do you – as an author – have any say about the type of covers your books get, especially the covers of the books published in other countries (Germany e.g.)? Because sometimes they are really gruesome. Or is that more a matter of what the publishers there normally use (and you have to swim with the tide).

    Christine

    • I have no say in foreign edition, covers, Christine. Sometimes I see them only by accident, perhaps on Facebook. And yes, many of them are quite bizarre. I am consulted about the covers here in North America, but my power is very limited. Often my opinion is overridden, most notably on the paperback covers of THE PROPOSAL and THE ARRANGEMENT, which I abhor.

  70. I also enjoy your polished style of writing. I’m a librarian, and enjoy reading the lighter romances after a long day at work. I can always rely on your work to be well written, with believable plots and interesting, non-cookie-cutter characters. My husband thinks these books are all about the sex, which is so silly. It’s the emotional connection that fuels the romance genre’s success. I’ve just finished “The Arrangement” and went looking for “The Affair”, which is not published yet. I’ll remember to keep my eye out for it. Thanks for writing up Ben’s story next. Do tackle Flavian soon, ok? Many thanks.

    • The next book, Rose, is not THE AFFAIR. It was incorrectly called that in the excerpt printed at the back of THE ARRANGEMENT. Book 3, Ben’s story, is actually called THE ESCAPE. And Book 4, Flavian’s story, due out in November this year, is called ONLY ENCHANTING.

  71. I know I’ve already commented, but we’re snowed in in Virginia Beach – can you believe it? School has been closed for two days and will likely be closed again tomorrow, so lots of time for reading. I am rereading Under the Mistletoe, and must say that your novellas are the best. Although I previously stated that I am not a fan of novellas, I can see through yours that they can be well-done. It must be that “shape of the novel” you described, because so far novellas written by others that I have read definitely seem rushed and are not very fulfilling. Thanks again for excellent “snowed in” reading!

  72. I love your books especially the Bedwyn series. I agree with you about not writing a second book with them as the main characters. It would be great to have cameo appearances so that we know what is happening with them but I like leaving with with a happy ever after ending. I can’t wait for the next Survivors book. I hope you or your agents will consider publishing in digital format. I am having trouble reading the printed words now so Thank goodness for E-Books.

  73. I’m reading Dark Angel right now. I think Thornhill’s friend, Sir Albert Boyle and Rosalie Ogden really deserve their own novel. I’d love to know how they met. And how their relationship blossoms. I can’t help but feel that there is a sweet and romantic story about them. I’ll be forever grateful if you can tell us all the story about both of them. Thank you and I wish you all the best !

  74. I love to read, I can not remember a time when I haven’t loved to read.. Would be wonderful to win these books… I have enjoyed a lot of your writings in the past. There is nothing better than holding a book and going where ever it takes you to. Thanks for all that you do.

  75. Thank you for explaining to aspiring authors that they should have a road map before they fire up their word processors, instead of just launching into the abyss. Last night I was reading one of your oldies but goodies, An Unlikely Duchess. I was laughing out loud at some of the predicaments and thoughts of the main characters. Thank you for your wonderful sense of humor.

  76. As much as I enjoy your novellas, I like your series the best. I love getting to follow the characters throughout their lives!

  77. I agree with Rebecca (above). I enjoy series, linked or continuing stories most. For the same reason she says. The reader gets to follow the characters throughout their lives. When it comes to the length of a novella or novel this helps so I don’t worry about that. Not saying I don’t read other books that don’t link and etc. I just enjoy this kind more. For example I’ve read all the Christmas stories your have written that I can get hold of. I have enjoyed those immensely and never thought they were incomplete in any way.

    I already own this book and waited impatiently for it to hit the shelves in my quest to own all your series books.

    I have read many books in your genre and after I read yours, I only spend my limited funds on yours. I hope you continue to write for many more years. Thank you so much for sharing your talent with those of us who appreciate it so.

  78. That was actually the first book I read by you and I quickly went through all the others that I could find. Do you know if there are any plans to republish any of your other older books? It is very hard to find some of them unless you are willing to pay exorbitant prices for a secondhand copy.

    • BEYOND THE SUNRISE and LONGING will be republished next year, Laura, followed by HEARTLESS and SILENT MELODY. A number of my older books will be e-published soon though I don’t have any definite dates yet. I’ll put them up on my web site as soon as I have them.

  79. I love the honesty in your answers to the questions about the rushed or incomplete endings. The easy out is to blame someone else or circumstances. Your response was insightful. By the way, I found your website through the 2014 Spring Fling Writers Conference were you will be a headliner.

  80. I’m so glad to have just stumbled upon you. A friend of my ‘punny’ son shared your list of puns on his Facebook page & I just kept clicking on your previous posts. Again, so glad to have found you as I only care about reading Regency Romance novels & can’t find them like I used to 40+ years ago πŸ™‚

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