|A day off work!|
Writing a novella was a target I had set myself. I had three reasons for this.
- I'd become enmeshed in a difficult plot line for the sequel to People We Love and have had to work really hard to write myself through it. I saw writing a novella as a treat to myself.
- Several readers have told me they love the Hailesbank settings of my novels and would like to know more about some of the characters. I thought it would be really fun to take a minor character and really think about his or her back story.
- It's a great way of hooking new readers into your work. Hopefully, if they like this short read, they might be tempted to come back for more.
Novellas have traditionally been exceptionally difficult to publish. Traditional publishers aren't keen on them – they are too much work for too little return – but the advent of the ebook has changed all that. As concentration spans grow shorter and shorter, and people become busier and busier, many readers – working mums in particular, I believe – are opting for quick, short, satisfying reads. These works seldom make it into print, but are quick and easy to produce in ereader form.
Are they long short stories or short novels? To my mind, more of a long short story. You have the luxury of being able to develop your characters and setting more than in a short story, but have to discipline yourself by limiting the number of characters and settings, and excising subplots.
Now, I'm no expert (having written only one novella!), but here are my observations:
- Set up the central conflict right away – there's no time to lose!
- Limit your characters as much as you can. Mine are the heroine, her daughter, and an old flame. Other characters have walk-on parts only.
- Don't have too many settings. I intended my novella to be a summer short, so I wanted the main setting to be really evocative of sea and sun and sand. I settled on the small french resort of Arcachon, south of Bordeaux. However, my heroine lives in Hailesbank, near Edinburgh (which is where followers of my work will have first met her), so there are some scenes set at home too.
- Keep the plot simple and avoid sub plots.
- I tried to follow the adage for short stories ('In, twist, out') to build tension, offer a surprise, followed by a satisfying conclusion.
|A view from my 'desk' (otherwise known as a sunbed).|
I wrote most of the work while I was sitting by the swimming pool at our hotel in Kovalam, Kerala (south India). Friends, it was sheer bliss! Who wouldn't love being able to work in that kind of setting? And I'm delighted to say that the finished novella, Sand in Your Shoes, has been accepted by Accent Press and should be available in June.
Now I can't wait to indulge myself by writing another one!
Have you written a novella? If so, what has been your experience?