September 14, 2013

A Novella

Wikipedia told me a novella is a work of fiction anywhere between 17,500-40,000 words.
Short stories: under 7500 words.
Novelette: 7500-17,500.
Novel: 40,000 words or more.

My latest project clocks in at just under 21,000.

Behold, I've written a novella.

Several months ago my editor at Covenant requested that I submit a short story for an anthology (around 17,000 words, so novelette-ish). I was happy to give it a shot. HANGING BY A MOMENT is set on a yacht rental in the British Caribbean. This was an easy choice. Last October my husband and I took a rare opportunity to escape to the British Virgin Islands with my sister, her husband, and some of their friends. I kept a journal, all the while considering that the experience might work into a story someday.

The only hiccup was, 10 days on a rented pontoon yacht does not a full novel make. Although I had a basis for a story-line in mind, I couldn't shake the feeling that I would have to add or force additional settings to make it longer. But really all I wanted to do was create a focused story centered on the trip.

And then I got the request from my editor, and lo, a light shone around my story idea and I said, "SO LET IT BE WRITTEN. SO LET IT BE DONE." A focused story the way I envisioned it. A novella.

I'd never written a novella before, but I had written a short story, and I'd also seen the benefits of outlining when writing any story. The main thing I learned in writing short stories is to start in the middle, or even near the end. Lose subplots. Keep the MC up front. These guidelines worked well for the novella, too.

I figured I'd write about 1500 words per "chapter" (I kind of used scenes instead of chapters when drafting this shorter story). I divided my end goal word count by 1500 and wrote a skeletal outline. Super skeletal. I chose a word or phrase per "chapter", numbered them, and went to work getting my characters from one scene to the next. Sometimes I flipped scenes around, or crossed some out, or added a new one, but for the most part I stuck to the outline, hit the chapter word count almost without trying (that seemed to be how my pacing just played out and my characters quickly began to lead me), and let the fun happen without pulling all my hair out. Only some of my hair got pulled out.

Mission accomplished.

*sigh* It's a bit of vacation all over again:

The driver answered their questions in his thick island accent and as she listened, Kendal watched a different world pass by the windows. So much color. Poverty, wealth, commerce, tourism, all packed together in a humid tropical paradise. Bicycles, motorbikes, limousines, rusty old trucks, taxis, and flowers everywhere flowers could grow.  They passed a school yard filled with cocoa-skinned children dressed in white shirts and black shorts running crazily after a soccer ball.
She found herself leaning forward, nose almost touching the window, taking it all in.
“First time here, Magic?”
Kendal pulled away from the window and faced Bret, who had turned in his seat, his arm draped over the back. She hadn’t been called that in a really long time, and she wasn’t sure she liked how it made her feel. She shook her head. “Have you?”

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