This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Monday, April 28, 2008

Category to Single Title Fiction

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor 

What do you do when you’ve written a short novel around 50,000 – 60,000 words and the only two publishers that accept that length of fiction give you one of the standard responses:

  • The writing has potential and the characters are intriguing but the premise isn’t quite right for us.

  • We recently contracted a similar storyline, if you have anything else, I’d be happy to take a look.

  • Other elements in the story seem to be just as strong as the romance and in our novels the romance must be the priority element.

    Do you set the manuscript aside and forget about it? Do you go back and rewrite it to meet their needs? Do you give up and write another book?

    Over my ten plus years of writing, I’ve had all the above responses and plenty more. I’ve set the manuscripts aside, I’ve tried rewriting them and resubmitting, and I’ve given up and started writing other books. Ten years gives you plenty of time to try all the options.

    But I’m a firm believer that no manuscript is ever wasted, and God can help us create something beautiful out of nothing. He is after all, THE CREATOR!

    You may have your heart set on a particular publisher, and my advice would be don’t give up. Try writing something else for them once you have a clear understanding of their guidelines and what they’re acquiring. But I would also advise that you not give up on what you’ve already written. Perhaps God is trying to guide you on a wider path that He has tailored just for you. It may be that your writing style isn’t right for the publisher you strongly admire, be open-minded to unexpected blessings.

    Consider Writing a Single Title
    Before you rewrite a short novel that can only be submitted to one or two publishers, consider adding a new element or a couple of unexpected plot twists to your storyline. This will lengthen your novel by 20,000 or more words. Longer length novels are often referred to as single titles and range from 80,000 – 100,000 or more words. This will open your submission options to fifteen or more publishers. I don’t know about you, but with the fiction market being so tough to break into, I can use all the available options.

    Category lines are set up for a particular reader that the publisher has done extensive research on and knows what those readers are looking for in a book. Therefore, category authors must write to a particular theme, and concentrate on only one or two elements throughout the book. The elements of romance, faith, mystery or suspense, depends on the type of line you’re writing for.

    Single title novels generally have fewer restrictions since they are longer and have a more varied audience of readers. Typically, you aren’t limited to themes unless you’re writing to an author brand you’ve selected for yourself, or you’re contracted for a particular series.

    How do you lengthen your story?If you are writing a Christian romance, you could always throw in a new element of suspense or mystery. What would happen if your heroine didn’t know something important about your hero? How would her actions and reactions be different? Would it create more tension, suspense, or an air of mystery? Perhaps you could have two or three villains instead of one, to thicken the plot and add more mystery. Who is the real villain? Could they all be working together in one big conspiracy?

    Throw in a tragic scene where one of the main sub-characters dies unexpectedly or suffers some cruel twist of fate. Make readers turn those pages with more fervor. These kind of plot twists are great for a sagging middle. How will this new tragedy affect the hero and heroine? Will it throw them together or create an obstacle in their path? Could one of them be to blame, or appear to be responsible?

    If you’re writing a contemporary, how can you create a historical sub-story where the past affects the hero and heroine in a modern setting? These are even better than time travels because then they seem more real. The past of our ancestors do affect who we are and where we are born today. What secret, legend, or curse has been hidden for generations that have made a line of descendants live in blatant fear? Will the truth and a new faith in Christ set them free if they have the courage to believe?

    There are so many ways to lengthen a story. If you’ve tried to get your short story published, and you believe in the potential of your story and your writing, give it a chance with more options as a single title. You can always try to write another short story. Maybe the next one will be right for the category line you want to target.

    Great post, Jenn.

    I wanted to let you know I tagged you on my Life with Missy blog for the 6 Random things game of tag. I hope you can play!