Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Novella

Barbara Hancock wrote a lovely blog about the joy of reading novellas on Embrace the Shadows today, and it got me to thinking. Yes, reading novellas is fun. They’re fast-paced, direct, and focus almost exclusively on the hero and heroine. But what about writing them?

My answer is going to surprise most of you, I know, but I actually prefer writing novels. Even though Ink in the Blood is a novella and Samhain saw definite possibilities with Dragonborn, I’m not comfortable writing them. Why? Because they’re hard! And for exactly the same reasons they’re great.

When you’re writing a novella, your focus has to be on the core of the story. It’s so short there’s no room for anything that’s not moving the plot and the hero and heroine forward. But it has to be written with an elegance that reads effortless. To get your characters to move a specific way, in a very brief space, with few plot devices available? I’m sure it comes naturally for some writers, but I’m not one of them.

So why did I write, and rewrite, not one but two of them? Because I was after a greater reward than the finished piece itself. I recognized that my novels tended to ramble too often and relied too heavily on plot devices and contrived characters. My solution was to write something where I only had the story to fall back on. It was a torturous process. I can’t begin to tell you how many rewrites both pieces took to even be presentable. But in the end, I feel my writing is stronger because of it.

Will I continue to write novellas? I am more comfortable writing them than I ever thought I’d be. And Dragonborn, my second one, came to me a lot easier than Ink in the Blood did. So yes, I can see more novellas in my future. But I’m really looking forward to sinking my teeth back into my novels. See if the experiment worked on a larger scale.

Oh, I hope you have a chance to stop by and read the blog that inspired this one. 'Embrace the Shadows' is a link to it.


  1. Chandra,
    It's always interesting to read about the process authors go through to get to THE END. I think one of the reasons I love shorter formats is because I write character driven stories. Now, if I could write fifty characters per book like Harry Turtledove(a science fiction author)I might be able to deal in 500 page novels. lol It's always a challenge for me to go long and keep the focus steady on only a few characters. Of course, as you noted, challenge is good!

    My ideal stride is fifty thousand words, no more, no less. Anything other than that and I have to cut or add.

    I can't wait to read your novella and thank you so much for sharing the link to Embrace the Shadows!

  2. Thank you for stopping by, Barbara.

    The one novel I've finished is sitting at about 90,000 words. But it needs major revisions. I'll probably end up cutting at least 10-15K by the time it's all said and done :)