I’ve had it with people telling me to write a novel instead of a novella. Why do I put up with writing advice from people who aren’t writers?
I’ve spent my writing career trying to stretch my stories into something that they’re not… Going against my own rule. Often, I tell others, “A story is a story. You shouldn’t worry about length. If it’s meant to be a short story, it will be. If it’s meant to be a novel, it will be. Don’t stretch it into something it’s not, and don’t cut it short when there needs to be more.”
But here I’ve been, going against my own mantra, trying to stretch my own novellas into full-length novels. A lot of the guys I know at work (who don’t even read books, mind you, let alone write them), constantly ask me, “Why don’t you just add ten thousand words?” As if it’s the easiest thing in the world…
“Just add stuff. You’re a writer. Make something up! It’s what you do, isn’t it? Make stuff up?” Easier said than done. Sure, I may have a myriad of ideas but that doesn’t mean that any of them belong together. “Why can’t you just make it longer? Why?”
And this is my personal favorite…drum roll, please. “What is a novella?” As if that question doesn’t get old…
What is a novella!? Are you kidding me? Have you not graduated high school English? A novella… you know, like those books you read in school… The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, Animal Farm by George Orwell, The Time Machine by HG Wells, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (F@#$!ng hate that book), Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury… any of these ring a f@#$!ng bell? All of them are novellas! I don’t actually say this to their faces but I’m thinking it in my head while I’m explaining to them what a novella is.
The other night, I took a good hard look at the projects I have in the works. Most of them would make good novellas and with the new platform of being able to self-publish, novellas are making a comeback.
Check out my first novella, Laszlo: The Chronicles of Noelle 1. Don’t have a Kindle and don’t want the paperback version? No sweat! It’s also available on other digital platforms such as the Barnes and Noble Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Scribd and more.
The short novel faded out of popularity for a while. It wasn’t that readers didn’t like them but rather, publishers didn’t like them. They cost too much to make and didn’t earn a high profit. Publishers would much rather print a book and charge $20 than print a novella and only charge $10. A novella makes a profit but it didn’t make as much profit so Publishers stopped taking them. However, now CreateSpace, Amazon and other online publishers run the literary world.
Is there a market out there for novellas? I have no idea. The internet tells me there is, so I’m inclined to believe it is so (but please don’t believe everything you read on the internet!).
I’m writing novellas because it’s what I want to write.
In the hectic 21st century, a lot of people don’t have time to read the big doorstop books. Even I, who am grown fond of reading, don’t like those big ass books. I don’t have time to read a novel that’s going to take me 5 months to get through. And I’m a fast reader. I want something that I can get through in a month or less. Sometimes I read a book and it only takes a day. Sometimes I read a book and it takes two weeks. That’s my kind of pace.
So that’s it. No more negotiating. No more arguing with myself or my friends and co-workers, who know nothing about writing. I’m going to write novellas. I’m going to write a ton of them. And I’m going to be happy about it. One day, when the world gets around to it and realizes that the novella is back, I will have published 20 of them. People will say, “Oh my gosh! Where the hell did this chick come from? She’s got a ton of novellas! And she was publishing them back when it was uncool.”
If I come across a story that wants to be a novel, fine. I have a few that are going to be a series, so in the end, when the series is complete, I may combine them all into one large door-stopping tome. This way the nitpicky readers who need a book that takes five years to read can have it their way.
I wrote this blog post because I realized that this is one of my blocks. This is one of those (or several of those) voices in my head that shout and jeer along with my inner editor (the bastard!) and tell me, “You can’t do this writing thing!” I would say that all writers have that voice but really, all human beings have that voice. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying and for some reason ashamed to admit it.
At first, I thought it was the people I worked around or the area I lived in but as it turns out, there are writers across the globe who receive that kind of unhelpful advice from non-writers. It’s advice that wasn’t even asked for. Even if you’re not artsy in the slightest, we’ve all received that unsolicited advice.
Keep in mind that while it’s important to have a readership and an audience, there is one person you have to write for above all others- one person you truly need to please to find peace- and that person is yourself. If you have no passion for what you’re writing, or you’ve lost the passion, take a step back and a good look at why. For me, this was it. Writing had gone from fun and play to grueling, unsatisfying work. Don’t get me wrong, writing IS hard work! But I had reached a point where I was forcing my projects down holes they weren’t meant to go. Enforcement caused me to lose passion and I had to take a step back.
Think a novella might be right up your alley but not sure where to get started?
There are plenty of books out there on how to structure novels or how to pace a short story but not too many focus on the novella format. However, much like a short story, you CAN write a novella in one day. Yes, I said it. It bears repeating. It is possible to write a novella in as little as a day. Granted, it may take more time to edit. If you’d like guidance, I highly recommend Andrew Mayne’s book How to Write a Novella in 24 Hours: And other questionable & possibly insane advice on creativity for writers. I find that reading about writing and hearing another author’s advice to be uplifting, motivational and inspiring. I hope that you will as well! Otherwise, why are you reading this post?
Lastly, if you enjoy writing, if you have a passion for your story, it makes the craft easier. Don’t let others tell you what your story should or should not be. You, the writer, know best. It may sound contradictory to now add that one should always be open to growth and constructive criticism. Always remember, writing is a craft that no one masters. Language is ever-evolving. Never stop learning.
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Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores, sushi restaurants, and small town cafes.