Writing Tip

Short Story vs. The Novel

The obvious difference between a short story and a novel is well, a short story is shorter. That profound statement did not require a degree in rocket science.

And with a shorter word count, short stories must be easier, right?

There is no hard rule, but as a general frame of reference: a short story is between 1,000 to 20,000 words, but most short stories are between 3,000 and 5,000 words. A novel is anything greater than ~55,000 words.

Having just completed a draft of a short story myself, I’d argue a short story takes less time, but not less skill or thought. Short stories simply require a different approach.

In fact, I think the challenge with short stories is the word count. This provides limited space to intrigue the reader, introduce characters, provide concept of their world, and overcome a dilemma.

How can so much be accomplished in so little?  The best advice is to keep things simple.

Plot – A short story plot must be tight, without twists or shifts, in a singular setting, over a brief time span. A novel is a journey; a short story is one strong scene. There is simply no time for redirection or side tasks. Every word is precious.

Conflict – For a short story, the central conflict needs to be resolvable quickly – this is not the time for an epic journey to Mount Doom. But “quick” does not equate to “predictable” or “boring.”

Characters –  A short story should focus on a small number of characters, in a singular setting, with one goal. There should be one antagonist. No side distractions.

Depth – A novel provides the opportunity become intimate with a character, to explore their thoughts, their weakness, their desires. The reader can be immersed in a new world. With a short story, there is only time for the important facts. Determine the critical aspects of the story, and cut everything else.

Pacing – Novels generally follow a three-act structure. Most short stories provide an “exposition” to set the stage, some form of “climax” or conflict, and then an abrupt ending.

While there are differences, a short story does not excuse the author from good writing. All those recommended practices still apply: show vs. tell, use of strong verbs, strong descriptions for all five senses, etc. You still have to hook the reader.

. . . And, like all writing, the author will still fret over it, be nervous to share with beta readers, lose sleep over queries and second guess themselves with each word. Even though a story may be short, it’s still a personal view into the author’s soul.


What other differences do you find between short stories and novels. Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Writing Tip

The Math Hidden Within ISBN Numbers

isbnAn ISBN (or International Standard book Number) is a 13-digit number uniquely identifying books and “book-like” products. The number is used to differentiate one title, or edition of a title, from a specific publisher.  For example, an e-book and a paperback version of the same book would each have different ISBNs. Changing the cover of a book does not result in a new edition, since the text is the same.

Not all books have an ISBN number. If the book is printed privately and is not intended for bookstore or library distribution, then it does not need an ISBN number.

ISBN numbers were first derived in 1967 in the United Kingdom by David Whitaker, who based the system upon the 9-digit Standard Book Number (SBN) created in 1966. The 10-digit format was then developed the International Organization for Standardization  (ISO) and published in 1970. Ironically, the UK continued to use the 9-digit SBN code until 1974. Old SBNs were converted to ISBNs by adding a zero prefix. ISBNs remained 10-digits long until January 1, 2007, when ISBNs switched to a 13-digit format.

The number is divided into five parts of variable length, each separated by a hyphen:

  1. A Prefix (only applicable to 13-digit ISBNs). To date, only “978” or “979” have been used.
  2. Identifier for national or geographic location of the publisher
  3. The publisher identifier
  4. The title identifier which differentiates a particular title or edition
  5. A check digit which validates the ISBN.

For my fellow math geeks out there, the check digit for an ISBN-13 number is calculated via the following procedure:

  • Multiply each of the preceding 12-digits by a 1 or a 3 (alternating, starting with 1)
  • Sum all the products
  • Divide the result by 10 and calculate the remainder (mod 10)
  • Subtract the remainder from 10


For the ISBN-13 number for Apricots and Wolfsbane: 978-1-946802-02-6, the check digit (6), is calculated:


Fun fact: The check digit for ISBN-10 numbers is calculated differently.  The procedure can result in a “10” for a check digit. When this occurs, the last digit is replaced with a roman numeral X to maintain a 10-digit ISBN Number.

For more information visit:


Guest Blog, Writing Tip

Guest Blog: Mastering Multiple Characters Through Point of View

I am deep in editing Apricots and Wolfsbane with a Sunday editorial deadline (eek!) So I’m a most grateful for today’s guest blogger, Caryl MacAdoo. Caryl is a fellow Texas, Christian, historical fiction author who has written an impressive list of books. Best of all, her Texas Romance, Daughters of the Heart, is FREE for Kindle until Thursday (6/8/17).

Thank you so much to Caryl for the fantastic advice below, and the giveaways!

19021456_10213693078109147_1681730785_nDaughters of the Heart, book five in my Texas Romance historical family saga, is a prime example of how Point of View is paramount to “telling” or more appropriately, “showing” a story with an ensemble cast—in this case the three co-heroine sisters. The characters will think differently according to their age and personalities. This must show, and POV is the way to do it!

Now if I tell you Bonnie Claire is a precocious twelve-year-old who thinks she’s almost grown, it isn’t the same as putting you into her head to see her heart, hear her thoughts and spoken words. In Bonnie’s POV, you’ll immediately identify with her because you’ve been there yourself or knowing someone who is or was. She should think and speak like a young lady on the verge of becoming a woman.

This is accomplished through me getting into that character’s head and remembering how I felt as a twelve-year-old. Of all the techniques, tools if you will, of writing creative fiction, this is the one that elevated my work to where my  mentors and peers started saying, “Good read, Caryl” at my weekly read and critique writers’ workshop.

Reporting ONLY what Bonnie, the one with the most emotion at risk in that scene —hence my POVC (Point of View Character) — sees, hears, feels, thinks, wonders, smells, loves and hates will place your reader right there living vicariously with that character. And that’s why readers read. She will not be thinking with the same rationale as her two older sisters, Gwendolyn or Cecelia.

So when I move to a scene where Gwen has the most emotion at risk — that’s how you choose who’s scene it is — I have to ramp up the maturity and remember when I was eighteen and held the world in my hands! So now I’m thinking and writing as a confident young woman ready for a great future. That will show in her thoughts — the narrative — and her dialogue. Characters can’t ALL sound like their author in thought or speech.

18983393_10213693082909267_1497275459_nBut dialogue is a whole different topic 🙂 You know, if POV has eluded you somewhat— I thought it was the hardest tool to grasp as a new writer thirty-something years ago — I have a book which might help: Story & Style, The Craft of Writing Creative Fiction. It’s written in an easy conversational tone with lots of examples. Plus is you have questions, you can contact the author! 🙂

18945176_10213693095749588_1057908741_nOH and don’t forget DAUGHTERS OF THE HEART is FREE right now through Thursday midnight! Though it’s book five, it does stand alone, but be forewarned, you’ll love these Buckmeyers and may have the need to read all ten novels in the series! 🙂

GIVEAWAY: I’ll send a print copy of book one in the saga VOW UNBROKEN as a giveaway for K.M.’s blog chosen from one of her commenters!

Blessings from Texas, and thank you K.M., for inviting me to visit 🙂

19021477_10213693085909342_438154923_nAward winning author Caryl McAdoo currently writes four series: the historical Christian ‘Texas Romance’; a contemporary ‘Red River Romance’; The Generations, her Biblical fiction and a mid-grade The King’s Highway. The prolific, bestselling novelist loves singing new songs the Lord gives her and painting. In 2008, she and her high school sweetheart-husband Ron moved from the DFW area—home for fifty+ years—to the woods of Red River County. Caryl counts four children and sixteen grandsugars life’s biggest blessings believing all good things come from God. Praying her story gives God glory, she hopes each one will also minister His love, mercy, and grace to its readers. Caryl and Ron live in Clarksville, the county seat, in the far northeast corner of the Lone Star State with two grandsons, Christian and Benjamen.



Writing Tip

Minor Characters Don’t Believe They’re Minor

As Constantin Stanislavski once stated, “There are no small actors, only small parts.” 

This adage transfers to writing as well. One of my favorite pieces of writing advice is to consider that a supporting/minor character may think the novel is actually about them.

This is certainly not the case for every side character, but the imagery of the thought helps me develop minor characters in an interesting way. They have their own strengths and weaknesses, their own motivations and baggage. The supporting character may believe their dialogue is the most important and that their actions drive the plot.

My advice: Allow your supporting characters to make bold choices and statements. Let them have their moment, and then move the spotlight.

However, maturing supporting characters is more challenging than the protagonist. The author simply has less words in which to develop their persona. Therefore, each appearance of the character needs to be considered to further the reader’s perception of the character in a way that supports the plot.

Note – I said perception.

Often the reader’s perception of a supporting character is not the same as how that character would view themselves. For example, would anyone argue Voldemort doesn’t think the books are about him? His portrayal through other characters leaves the reader to believe he is a villain, but I doubt he thinks of himself that way. Voldemort believes he is fulfilling a righteous duty to preserve pure blood families.

But given a supporting character receives reduced word count, often stereotypes or preconceived notions are relied upon to flush out the character. Consider the supportive, but less skillful best friend, or the jealous enemy who learns their lesson. But if the author can find a way to make supporting characters more interesting, it adds an additional layer of interest to the story. Successfully developed supporting characters can challenge your protagonist and enrich their journey.

Some things to consider when developing side characters:

  • What secret, ritual, inside joke do they share with your protagonist?
  • What do they know that your protagonist does not?
  • What distinctive trait will help the reader remember the character?
  • What motivates them and how is that different than the protagonist?
  • What skill do they offer to aid/hinder the protagonist?
  • What motivates your protagonist to interact with them?

Finally: What happens if the character was removed from the story?

If the answer is nothing, then the character truly is minor. If their presence does not further the plot, they should be cut.




Writing Tip

Research, Research, Research

To the relief of my friends, I am not a poison master.

I was not alive during the early 1500’s.

And yet those two topics drive my upcoming novel Apricots and Wolfsbane. How did I write it? Endless hours of research.

I recently received a question via Facebook regarding what inspired me to write Apricots and Wolfsbane and how I researched it. I tackled the first part of that question in this blog post and will answer the second below:

How did I research my novel? The internet. I have profound respect for novel writers who conduct their research via first person visits and countless hours in the library. Of course, I would have preferred to travel, but lacking funds to visit to England and a time machine, the Internet fulfilled my need. I can go anywhere with imagination but research grounds the story in reality and helps take the reader along for the ride.

I am grateful to have a world of information available to me from the comfort of my pajamas. Via the Internet, I viewed period paintings for inspiration of clothing and architecture. I studied Old English. I virtually visited the English countryside. I toured an English poison garden. I learned the basics for extracting poisons (here is my favorite poison reference) and connected with fellow authors to aid my writing.

However, the Internet is full of misinformation as well. Of course, common sense must be applied to evaluate the source. I spent hours cross checking references and verifying facts. Thankfully, the Internet also provides access to experts. I found aid through English Historical Fiction author groups, of which there are many online, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Along with poisons, Catholic faith is a prominent subject within my novel. That knowledge I did acquire first hand by surviving years of CCE classes. But the modern Bible is very different than it was in 1500’s England. This website provides many historic translations: Historic Bible Translations.

The countless hours of research truly paid off but I admit, it did mess up my Google search history.  My best advice: consider researching your novel in incognito mode 🙂