I haven’t talked a lot about different length/formats on this blog, so I’m inviting a couple of guests to discuss their experiences. Today Jessica Aspen is here to talk about the novella form. One thing I found interesting – a novella can actually be longer than a middle grade novel! But if you’re used to writing 80,000 to 120,000 words for an adult genre novel, I guess a mere 40,000 words is short. And her advice about keeping a story moving is good for any length.
Writing a novella is something I never thought I would do. Why? Too short. And besides, I’ve never been a big short story fan. Oh I’ve read a few, and I love certain authors, but truly my heart lies with longer stories and complex plots. So why did I choose to write novellas and how did they snag my heart?
During the process of submitting and polishing and resubmitting my first manuscript, I hit a point where I was in-between projects. At the same time I saw a novella contest. This seemed like something I could try, and if it didn’t pan out, I would have a good start on a full length novel. Seemed like a win-win situation. So I took the plunge.
I knew next to nothing about writing short. The last time I’d actually finished a short story was in high school? College? I couldn’t even remember. But I knew that in order to make a romance bloom in less than 40,000 words the story arc would need to be strong and have few sub-plots.
In fact, novellas really shouldn’t have any sub-plots. At all. You can’t afford it in forty thousand words or less. At thirty-four thousand words Little Red Riding Wolf is stretching close to novel territory, believe it or not. So how to make a novella strong with few words and no sub-plots?
The key is to have strong characters and to set it up fast. The first chapter needs to show your hero, heroine, and initial conflicts and goals. More than any other fiction writing you want to jack up the tension with each page. No one wants a story that drags, but when you only have a short amount of pages, you need to pack in details like you cram extra sardines into a can. Keep your plot brief and your writing tight. But don’t leave out the details. That’s what makes your story yours and makes the readers demand more.
In challenging myself to write short, I found a secret. Writing short improved my writing. It forced me to hone my writing skills and acquire new ones in order to deliver a story that pops. Try something short and you'll find out for yourself how writing novellas can become more than a way to jump into the publishing business. They can become a labor of the heart.
Jessica Aspen writes paranormal romance near the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. Her books are full of elves, were-wolves and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Jessica loves dark chocolate, walking her dog, hiking and is obsessed with her new laptop. Jessica is also obsessed with writing and learning about writing. Her debut paranormal romance novella Little Red Riding Wolf is due to be released February 18th, 2012 from Passion in Print Press. Please visit Jessica at http://jessicaaspen.com where she blogs about writing, paranormal romance and anything that strikes her fancy.