Sunday, 15 April 2012

N is for Novella

I'm going to tell you a secret...I'm assuming that it's just the two of us anyway and I won't tell anyone, so if it gets out, I'll know who it is.

I can't write novels. It's not the writing that's the problem, or the stories, it's the length. Take A Baby's Bones, which I'm working on at the moment. I'm forty thousand words in and I've already identified one of the skeletons in the well, dropped one of my students down the same well, nearly split up a couple and they have reunited. Given the natural tendency of novels to speed up towards the big finale, I'm going to finish at under 60k, which is too short for a novel. This happens every time. I naturally write novellas or at least, very short novels.

The book I'm hoping my agent will be able to sell is really two books. One is a contemporary story (60k), one a historical (40k), and you might think I was trying to be clever stranding two narratives together (I may suggest so in my dissertation rationale!) but honestly, I didn't have much choice. I really can't pad a book out just to get to a word count. Fortunately I have another strand for A Baby's Bones. Borrowed Time 2 naturally has two narratives. But it's a question I've been asked a lot. How long is a novel?

16 comments:

  1. Frankenstein wasn't terribly long, actually, certainly the paperback was less than 150 pages. But it was written over 150 years ago. Young adult books also tend to be shorter. Romance titles also tend to be shorter. I guess the answer is who is your market? And how long do they think it needs to be?

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    1. Thanks for visiting Torggil. I just seem to write short novels naturally but the agents I've talked to seem quite specific on length - one said she wouldn't look at anything under 90k. But a book seems to ahve its own length...

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    2. I hear you. The problem with my upcoming story is that I leave it open ended, like it was the first chapter of a novel, but, if it is, the first chapter has yet to reveal itself, so for now, its a story.

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  3. Oops. Romantic / women's fiction comes in at 70k+ if that helps! NOT chicklit of course. We don't write chicklit.

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  4. I've been arguing with myself about that one of late! (Similar situation too, one 'diary' document and one main narrative.) I'm going with 75-80k for a first draft. Then I can reward myself for finishing a first draft and 'edit upwards.' Mainly so I don't have to think about 90k words just yet...

    Good luck!

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    1. That's how I work, I like having room to develop things, then if I have to prune back I have plenty to work with. It's hard looking at a blank page and saying, 'right then, ninety thousnad words...' Good luck with yours!

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  5. Hi, a really good post. I enjoyed it. I am currently writing a mystery and posting it as I write it on my blog, doing it as an A to Z challenge. I don't have any idea how many words I am writing. If it were a novel, I am sure it, too, would be too short to be considered one. If you wish and would like to, come on over and read it. Best regards to you. Ruby

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    1. Thank you for visiting, Ruby, and thank you for the recommendation, I loved the story and look forward to what happens next. I love the narrator's voice!

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  6. Kudos to you for writing short if that's how your story goes. I would rather read a shorter story that's great than have to plug through a so-so story that's the "appropriate" length.

    Jessica @ Simply Infatuated

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    1. Hi Jessica, I have huge respect for short story writers. I find short fiction much harder to write than novels, which pose different challenges. I certainly don't want a novella padded out into a novel! Thank you for visiting.

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  7. I don't like to pad out my novels, so they tend to be 80,000 at first draft, and then end up 70,000 for final edits. I cannot see myself writing 90 -100k which is the requirement for historicals. I will just do it my way regardless. :)

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  8. Mine are all the same, too short. Is this bad? Nope! We just have a talent to get it all told in a little bit :0)

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  9. I like to think of it as efficient and succinct!

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