I’ve always been afraid to try writing a novella. I know, it seems easy—it’s shorter! Surely common sense dictates it should take less time and be easier to plot a novella than a full-length novel.
In this case, common sense is dead wrong.
Having read and loved a lot of category romance in my time, and being lucky enough to be friends with some extremely talented category authors, I am fully aware of the skill and craft it takes to tell a satisfying, deeply emotional, richly nuanced love story in sixty thousand words rather than the usual eighty or ninety. So the idea of doing that in twenty-five thousand words or less? Had me quaking in my flip-flops.
In any story, regardless of length, every page should count. There should be no wasted words, no pointless, meandering scenes, no repetition, and no wandering around the point. But in a short novella—oh, how exposed every one of those pitfalls is! In a longer novel, there’s more cover…the reader probably won’t read the entire thing in a single sitting, for instance, and may be more willing to give the benefit of the doubt if a scene doesn’t immediately seem necessary, because maybe the point will be revealed later on.
In a novella, there is no later on. (There isn’t really in a novel, either, but it’s one of the comforting lies we tell ourselves so we can keep writing chapter after chapter.) Everything in a novella is immediate. The characters—and their conflict!—must be introduced right away, and, oh yeah, it needs to walk the slender, precarious line between being sharp and exciting enough to tug the reader into the story, but not so impossibly difficult to overcome that it’s implausible our hero and heroine could figure things out in the next eighty pages.
On my first pass through The Firefly Café I was shooting for about eighteen thousand words. It took me a month and clocked in at more like twenty-three thousand. And when my editor read it, all her comments basically boiled down to: “Yawn. Why is everything so easy for them?”
“Because it’s short!” I wanted to yell. “I don’t have three hundred pages to sort through a mountain of issues with these two! Why can’t they just fall in love and live happily ever after?”
The answer is, of course, that a story where two people fall in love and live happily ever after with no complications, no angst, and no drama, is boring. Grumbling, I went back to my manuscript and ripped it to shreds. Two weeks later, I had an entirely new story. Okay, I kept the characters’ names the same, but basically everything else, from the backstory and secrets that motivated them to the way those secrets affected their romance, was new. I basically wore out the Track Changes function on my computer; the entire document was highlighted and commented on, replaced with more conflict—which somehow wound up producing more sexual tension, more banter, more flirtation, and more humor. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
After my steep learning curve (six weeks for a single 23K-word novella!) I ripped through the next two novellas in the Billionaire Brothers trilogy in record time, about two weeks apiece for The Summer Cottage and Island Road. And I’ll never be afraid of a novella again, because I learned my lesson: Don’t make things too easy—on your characters, or on yourself. Try something new! Take on a challenge. You might surprise yourself.
What’s the last big challenge you took on? One randomly chosen commenter will receive her choice between a print Advance Reading Copy of Sanctuary Island, the first full-length novel in the series which will be out on July 30th, or a Kindle or Nook gift of the digital-only Billionaire Brothers novella trilogy which introduces the series.
WINNER announced below – thank you all for blogging!!
About the Author:
Lily Everett grew up in a small town in central Virginia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Although she’s lived many other places since, from college in Philadelphia to her first publishing job in New York City and her current home in Austin, Texas, she never forgot the beauty and warmth of her little hometown. She is thrilled to be writing the Sanctuary Island series full time because it allows her to combine her longstanding love of romance with the memories of her childhood home.
Lily’s alter ego is Louisa Edwards. Under that name, she is the author of the Recipe for Love series, sexy contemporary romances with hot chef heroes set in the high-stakes, fast-paced world of professional restaurants.
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