Friday, October 8, 2010

Some love for novellas

In dead-tree publishing the average urban fantasy or paranormal romance will be anywhere from ninety thousand to a hundred and ten thousand words. That translates roughly to a three hundred to four hundred page paperback. I've read plenty of authors that can fill up that many pages and make you love for every word. I've also read books with sub-plots that made me think, this was added purely to pad the  word count and make it a full length novel. The truth is, not every story needs ninety thousand words. For a long time, publishers did not find it cost-effective to publish novellas unless it was in an anthology, and usually even then you had to already be a name-brand author and be invited to contribute. Digital publishing has changed that.

I've read some terrific novellas released by digital publishers. Most of those stories probably would not have found a home otherwise, simply because of their length. My own novella, Bring On The Night, would not have been released by a dead-tree publisher because of that very reason. There would have been no point in my even submitting it to one, or to an agent for that matter. In the world of digital publishing, novellas are welcome, as are shorter works of twelve to twenty thousand words. (Always carefully read any publisher's submission guidelines before submitting.)

With a novella you have to get down to business pretty quick, and you have to stay focused on your main characters and the driving plot. That can create a different set of challenges for a writer than a full length novel that may have various minor characters and sub-plots, and a different experience for a reader. I like both, as a reader and as a writer. My second release from Lyrical, Mojo Queen, is a full length novel. The project I'm working on now is a novella and though I started it just for fun, it's turned into something with promise. I've decided I want to try submitting it once it's finished and polished, and turn it into a serial. (This is just a personal quirk of mine that has nothing to do with anything, but with full length novels I think of the word "series" and with novellas I think the word "serial." This has nothing to do with terms used in publishing, like I said, it's just me. And no, I don't know why.) What I have in mind would be novellas with an interconnected main story arc, something I've never done before. But that doesn't mean the individual pieces each need sixty to ninety thousand words. The purpose of part one can be done in about thirty thousand words. I like the idea of having these shorter works to both tell a tight, focused story and also be part of a larger story arc, getting closer to the payoff with each installment. Digital publishing offers writers a chance to do something like that.

What do you think of novellas? Are there many in your "stack" of ebooks?

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