Thursday, May 15, 2008

Category vs Single Title

So, what is the difference between single title and category? Why do most writers in romance believe they need to start in category before moving on? Questions on the minds of many, or maybe just me this early in the morning with no coffee.

Actually, this is something I have been working on for some time and I think it is time to bring it to light (again).

First of all, category romances are more than simply shorter stories. I think many writer seem to believe if their story hits that 90K mark, it is no longer category. Nope, this is far from the truth. Sure, there is a word count element to the story, but the editors at the category houses are interested in a lot more to these stories other than something short.

Writing category romances is simply what the term implies. You are writing stories that have a similar "THEME". Not plot, not character type, but THEME!!! Your job as a writer is to develop stories that all fall into that same THEME but use a variety of plot lines and characters to meet that need.

Now, let's talk about that page length element. To do this, I want you to think poetry for the time being. If you have ever written Haiku, you will understand that it is one of the hardest types of poetry to write. You have a limit to what you can say set by the constraints of both the number of lines and the number of words. When you think category romances now, think the same thing. Your job is to tell an intense and emotional story without all the extra fluff and garbage. This is a concentrated story.

To do this, the writer has to focus his or her attention on the characters and the action that is going to bring the two of them together. This is why we often see a reduction in a lot of the extensive backstory and sub plots. We don't get rid of the plot layering, just the subplots.

Now, here's one last thing to consider when it comes to the category lines. Writing for a category house means that your story will ONLY fit there. This is a really limited market and you need to be aware of it. Writing for single title gives you a little more luxury to shop your story around because several publishers are looking for similar stories. Not the case with category. The voice is focused for one line and the page count is also focused.

So, as you think about what you want to write, don't go into this with blinders on. Really think about it and especially think about it when you believe as a new writer you have to write category because it is smaller and easier. Far from the truth!

Stay posted for more on the category discussion. Big things are in the works for Greyhaus Literary Agency and the category lines.


  1. uhm...I'd love to ask a question, you know--if you're okay with it?

    I've always admired the IM people, Linda Howard, Suzanne Brockmann, Dee Davis, Nora Roberts, and how they took that training over to single title and added "more" while keeping that same easy-to-read feel. Do you think it's the training, and I've noticed Harlequin has a very strict pov and pacing policy, that makes them sell well? Because despite the added subplots, their books read very fast and clean.

  2. The thing about Harlequin is the ability to create "tight reads." Now, this does not necessarily mean the author is skimping on depth of the story or character. It means, however, that the successful (and that is the key word) authors know how to use their words wisely. What takes an inexperienced author a paragraph to describe, the successful authors can do it in a dialogue tag.
    Now, I am not a person that says Harlequin writing is training for a single title house. I do think there are skills you can learn there and then carry the ideas over.
    What I tend to see, more than anything, is someone submitting a story that is really a 100K category romance instead of a 100K single title. For those people, they just didn't get it.