Short is good. Short black (as in coffee), short speeches, making short work of shortbread, short cuts, shorthand, making the shortlist, and so on. The list is far from short.
And in the final stages of the marathon of novel writing I’m seriously considering trying my hand at short fiction. Not short stories, although I’ve written a few and enjoy writing them, but something with a bit more meat in it. A novella.
Too short for a novel, too long for a short story, as the quote goes. Opinions vary as to the length but it seems to range from 20 000 to 50 000 words. To my mind, it’s the perfect compromise between a novel and short story. You’ve got time to develop a narrative and characters and for the reader to immerse himself in the world you’ve created, without the complexities of a novel-length plot and the task of sustaining interest and momentum over the long haul.
In the days of legacy publishing, novellas were rejected by publishers because they were not cost effective to publish. But now with the popularity of e-books experts are predicting that novellas will become the next big thing – their brevity suiting modern, time-poor readers.
They also appeal to me from the mortality point of view. Being in the age group between middle-aged and mature-aged (a narrow window of 2 years, and that’s all I’m saying), I’ve been calculating how many books I can write before I’m called to the great Eternal Library. And don’t tell me it’s all about quality, not quantity – I’m greedy and I want both and I figure my output will be much more prodigious if I write novellas. Contrary to Woody Allen’s assertion that ‘I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work, I want to achieve it by not dying,’ I’d be happy to attain just a wee bit of immortality through my writing.
And I must admit, having recently completed a novel of 112 000 words, writing 30 000 words sounds like something I could dash off in between lunch with my publicist and my afternoon book signing. All you need is a plot that’s not too complex but still creates tension, interesting characters who develop in some way or other and just enough setting and description to evoke atmosphere.
Hmm…on second thoughts, I may have underestimated how easy it is. But I’m up for the challenge. James Scott-Bell has some excellent advice about writing novellas in his post on the Killzone blog.
What about you? Have you thought about writing a novella, or are you writing one now?
Robin Storey is an Australian author from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She is a certified book nerd and has no weird hobbies or unusual pets.