Excerpts—we love them, don’t we? There’s no better way to sample an author’s writing style than to read an excerpt. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to post the perfect excerpt. Many writers have their own methods, from very long, to very short, somewhere in-between, at times concise, and at others, rambling.In truth, most excerpts are too long, and some are much too long.What is the best method of selecting a sample of your writing? How can you entice a reader to read your full excerpt?
Choose one that contains dialogue or action, not just narrative, and keep it short and simple. Consider the short story. The guidelines are: limit to a specific time, place, event, interaction, or character’s evolution. It is, in fact, a mini-novel, complete with a beginning, middle, and an ending, i.e., an abbreviated novel. The same is true for The Perfect Excerpt.
Attention span is the amount of time a person can concentrate on a task without becoming distracted. Continuous involvement without any lapse at all is as short as eight seconds. The average adult who is engaged in an interesting activity or topic will remain focused for twenty seconds. People are also capable of longer periods up to two and a half hours when they are doing something enjoyable or motivating, such as watching a movie.
Researchers have found that the modern adult’s attention span shortens as time goes on. The phenomenon of instant gratification in our technological world deters the attention span even more.Now consider the Excerpt. The guidelines are perhaps the same as those for a short story: one idea, one interaction, in one short time frame, wrapped up with a beginning, middle, and an ending, approximately three hundred words—a mini-short story with a hook at the end. Here’s a test for you. How many words are in this article to this point? (310) How long did it take to read it? (Average adult-one minute.)
EXAMPLE EXCERPT: From a short story titled "Starr Bright," featured in the anthology Cowboy Cravings. 'Conrad and Starr.'
Starr laughed low in her throat. "Oh, I don't think I'll need a man to make the decision for me. I know all about stallions, or studs, as you say. However, I have asked Mr. Taylor, here, to accompany and advise me."
Conrad remained silent. You did? You asked me to advise you? He wanted to laugh, but in truth, he was enormously pleased. With no expression, he nodded slightly to her. "Be glad to help."
There was that tiny smile again, the one that was teasing, while at the same time a little sarcastic. Truth be known, he'd probably crawl through the burning fires of hell to get to her.
SECOND EXAMPLE: From “All My Hopes and Dreams”
After several minutes, Cynthia was decidedly uncomfortable. Not only were the clothes chafing her skin, she needed to relieve herself.
“Mr. Romero?” she called.Silence.She cleared her throat as loudly as she could, but asked in a normal voice, “Oh, Mr. Romero. Are you awake?”
Lazily, he rolled his head on the trunk of the tree toward her. One side of his mouth quirked up, and to Cynthia, it certainly appeared to be a smirk. She ground her teeth but asked as mannerly as she could, “I require your assistance, Mr. Romero.”
He moved his head to the original position and closed his eyes once again.Cynthia was furious, and she rarely lost her temper. Why ever be angry when she had her way all the time? After contemplating her problem, she rolled to the side, placed her hands on the ground, and managed to get to her knees. After struggling with the wet clothes, she was finally able to stand.
In a huff, she strode as fast as she could in her hampered condition and reached his side. She lifted one almost bare foot, but before she could kick his leg, he caught her ankle, quick as a timber rattler. Unbalanced, she fell once more—the third time today—but this time she had a softer landing. Ricardo had grabbed her skirts and pulled her forward so that she fell over him.Her arms flailed about.
“Let me up. Let me go. Don’t touch me, you…you scoundrel.”She stilled when she noticed he had his hands in the air, as if he surrendered. Even with the cheroot clamped in his teeth, he still managed to grin around it. One deep dimple appeared in one cheek.
Her stomach dropped.
THIRD EXAMPLE: From Rodeo Man-- A Contemporary Romance Novella with PBRJV.
Cody turned to her, shaking his head. “Not a good spot for your bedroll. Not good at all.”
“I saw mice droppings over here when I arrived.”
“Mice?” she squeaked.
“Yeah, I guess they come out over here.”
“Noooo,” she said with her hands on her cheeks. “Is that the truth?”
“Seems likely to me. That’s why I sleep back over there.” He motioned with his head.
“Then, where am I going to sleep?”
Cody looked behind her, and said, “Whoa! One just popped his little head out that hole.”
Goosebumps popped up on Marla’s arms and down her back. In one motion, she squealed, “Eeek!” sounding just like one of the mice again, turned, and slammed into Cody.
He stood his ground while she literally climbed up his body, grasping his shirt, wrapping her legs around his hips, and moving on up to clasp her arms around his neck. After only a few moments, she noticed he hadn’t moved, except to lock his arms around her bottom and boost her a little higher. Leaning back, she looked into his face. He grinned like a Cheshire cat, or the one that got the cream, not unlike the roguish grin she’d seen earlier.The man was dangerous.
“I’ll get down now,” she said, pursing her lips and looking away.
“Well…you’re gonna have to let go of my neck.”
When she did, he kept her escape in check by allowing her to slide down his body, unhurried, holding her close. When she stood toe-to-toe with him, she make the biggest mistake of her life. She looked up into his eyes.
“You sure are a little thing,” he whispered.
“You’re short and compact,” he said low and sexy.
“I’m…will you stop it?”
“Haven’t done anything, yet.”
“I’m…will you stop it?”
“Haven’t done anything, yet.”
She raised one eyebrow in challenge. “Well?”
********Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
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