Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Long and Short of Writing Novels

Posted by: Deborah A Bailey

When I started to get serious about my writing, I wrote short stories. I'd submit them to contests and get feedback from professional authors who were supportive of new writers. After a while I was brave enough to start submitting them for publication. A few of them were published in online and print magazines, which encouraged me to keep going. At the time I expected to continue to write short stories.

At the time I also attempted to write a novel, but it didn't go quite the way I'd hoped. What I realized then was I needed to understand more about writing longer pieces. You can't just ramble on and on and expect to get a story out of it! So, I went back to the drawing board, taking classes and joining mentoring programs.

In addition, I also wrote Star Trek fan fiction, which (at the time at least) was a place where other published authors had started. Of course, when you're writing fan fiction your stories can be as long as you want. Yet again, I kept mine relatively short. It worked for me and for the readers who usually accessed the stories in online forums.

But eventually I realized that if I wanted to have a career, I'd have to write longer pieces. At that point I'd taken a lot of classes and read a ton of books about novel writing. But it was intimidating to think about writing an entire book. Ultimately I found an author who mentored writers and I worked with her for a couple of years. Eventually after a lot of rewrites, I completed my first novella.

It was around 38,000 words - now that seems short to me. I've just finished a novella of about 60,000 words, which seems to be my sweet spot. Do readers prefer longer books or shorter? I think it depends on the reader and the genre. But I think if the author knows what works for them, then there's nothing wrong with that.

Of course, I think self-publishing has changed things as well. The author can define the length as opposed to it having to fit into a specific one. I'm old enough to remember when short novels were called "novelettes." Which they still might be in some instances. When I did a search on the term, the word count was supposed to be from 7,000 to 20,000 words. But that can also overlap word counts for novellas and short stories. It all depends.

After writing a couple of novellas, I decided I wanted to try writing a longer work. A novel of over 100K words. That book turned out to be Hathor Legacy: Revelations, which was book three of the series. Was it rewarding to complete it? Yes! But it was also exhausting to keep track of the story lines (and I found out the importance of having a series bible). Let's just say I realized that staying in my lane and writing novella-length books works just fine for me. Maybe my preference has a lot to do with my short story roots. And if so that means that all those years of writing them served me well.

My two most recent novellas are Metamorphosis (in the Pets in Space 6 anthology) and Blood Red Moon. They're both part of my Worlds of Fire series. If you'd like to find out more about them here's the link: https://dbaileycoach.com/brightbooks/worlds-of-fire-series/

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