Tag Archives: novellas

Shifting Gears, again

With the end of October, and my first day off in November, I found myself out at the writing cabin once more.

Lisa Burton, my robotic assistant, had on her skull jeans but this time they were tucked into some knee-high black boots. That's as good a sign of the changing seasons as any.

“Are you tired of your Morticia dress now?” I asked.

“No. I love the dress, but I'm not in love with the straight hair. I think I like my curls more than I thought. Besides, Macabre Macaroni is over and it's time to move on.”

“Yeah, my promotions are over too. There is an extended blog tour, but I have very little to do with that now. It will run without me, other than checking comments.”

Lisa went about her chores, dropped off some coffee for me, and I dug into an advanced reading copy of a great novel a friend provided.” I made it through four chapters when Lisa interrupted. “Lorelei is here and she wants to see you.”

“She knows where my office is. Tell her – ” I yelled down the hall, “Come on back, Lorelei.”

Lorelei wore dirty sweats and her hair was a mess. Her feet were tucked into a pair of old slipper socks. This is the beautiful Greek Muse who inspired so many wonderful ideas. The classic beauty who enjoyed being looked at.

“Um, hi… That's a new look for–“

“Go ahead and say it. I'm fat!” She collapsed onto the sofa in my office. Lisa sat beside her and hugged her while casting me a concerned look.

“What's new in your life? It's been a while since you visited us.”

“Nothing's new. You've been out promoting since September. Lisa went on her tour for the second Experimental Notebook. Even your Macabre Macaroni stories were written months ago.”

“Look, I've been writing, I swear.” I opened the app on my iPad and turned it toward her. “See, these are the short stories about The Enhanced League.”

“Oh sure.” She wiped a tear away. “I can still inspire a decent bit of micro-fiction. Maybe a short story on a good day. I get tired even thinking about novels.”

“I intend to get back to the Yak Guy this month. It's languishing at about forty-two thousand words. It needs another fifty-K or so to be finished.”

“I'm sure you'll come up with something. At least you have your outline to go off of.”

“Sure, I have an outline, but the story drifted back in Act one. I need you to get me through it.”

Lorelei wiped her eyes and sat a little straighter. “You do? I mean, that's more than a short story, but since it's already started I might manage it. It's going to require a bit of working out, maybe some fruits and vegetables along with all the ambrosia I've been drinking.”

“Yeah, it's going to take an effort on my part too. I haven't looked at it since the first promotions back in September. I need to read it, check the outline, and get back to work. It's going to be different than guest blogging, working on short stories, and all that.”

Lisa said, “Sounds like things are going to get lively around here.”

“I have a list of short stories, and I can't promise they won't get some keyboard time too. Is that alright?”

“Of course,” Lorelei said. “I sent them to you.”

“You sent me some bigger ideas. I don't know if I can make them into novels though. I made notes, but they might only make it to novella length. Is that okay?”

“I don't know. I just want you to be creative. You have to decide if there's a market for them or not. Let's work through The Yak Guy Project. If you get it finished, maybe I can figure out how to make them longer.”

“I think they have merit. I like the one about a story from the monster's point of view. I just don't know if it should be a tragedy or have some kind of heroic ending to it. I also like the one about the couple who have to live underground for three months to avoid the parasitic sun.”

“Parasitic sun?”

“Yeah, that's what I decided to call it. A gas giant planet ignited. It's much larger than the planet with people, but dwarfed by the real sun. That way it only becomes a problem when the two pass each other in orbit. It's like two suns for a short period of time. I even came up with a title, Estivation.”

“I like it. I'll work on them both, but let's get Yak Guy finished first.”

“I'd better make some time to read through it again.”

Lisa took Lorelei's hand. “You'll be back in goddess shape in no time. In fact, let's give Craig some space so he can read. I'll do your nails, it will make you feel better, I promise. Maybe we'll look at your hair too, if that's okay.”

***

There you have it. Looks like I have some work ahead of me, but it's fun work. There could be some word metrics this month.

*For all the new followers, Lisa Burton is my personal assistant and the spokesmodel for my writing career. She's also a robot. Lorelei is my Muse, like actual classic Greek Muse.

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Does your story need more, or less?

Charles Yallowitz has a great post today. His topic is extremely powerful characters and their use of restraint. I recommend reading it for his topic, and the comments that went along with it. Here's the link, Legends of Windemere.

Charles' post got me thinking about the wonderful character struggle this creates. Then I started relating it to my own recent efforts. This post was inspired by Charles, but is going to be a different topic.

Most of you know that I've been writing short stories. Last Spring, I worked on a novel and some short stories at the same time. Charles' wonderful layers will enhance a novel, and in his case a whole series.

A novel needs this kind of conflict. The main character struggles with more than just defeating evil. Things gnaw at his soul. When the only power you have is a nuclear bomb, it's challenging to deal with a termite invasion. This makes for some good internal tension.

I'm free writing this tonight, but this must be my point: novels need more, and we're not talking about more words. They needs more story.

I fell in love with short stories years ago, but they almost disappeared. Today, they're coming back in a big way. They usually involve someone with a problem either overcoming it or succumbing to it – in a hurry.

I've made this mistake myself, so I get to talk about it. (I've read a few too.) We get a great idea, and find out our story is concluding at about 50,000 words. The first thought, after blind panic, is to add more words. This is how we get novels that describe every course of a drawn out meal. It's how we get tons of description. It's how we make our story boring.

Charles beefs up his characters. (Never a bad idea.) His character has an internal problem. He has to worry that he's not keeping up with his companions, or he's risking them when he could exercise more power. This adds more than words to a story.

Novels need a bit more complication. Maybe you need more than one hurdle to overcome. Maybe there is a competing hero, but he isn't a bad guy.

I've never had a series length idea. That doesn't mean I can't learn from a series type writer. What is needed is more story. Short stories might be about trimming to the essentials, or sticking to one plot element. Longer works need more plot elements, possibly more characters, and more complications. They don't need another dessert course after supper.

Story lengths are just extra tools in the writer's toolbox. Self publishing made them viable tools once more. If your story won't carry a whole novel, maybe it makes a better novella. If you really want a novel, add more story, not more fluff. If you have a cool idea that just won't come together, try it as a short story or even a micro fiction. In today's world you might find a market for almost anything.

I think Jim Butcher is a master of this. His Dresden Files involve Harry solving multiple disasters. The basic idea is: What's better than one major villain? Two major villains. (Plus a pending natural disaster, and an angry love interest.)

The last Dresden novel I read involved no less than four pending disasters. In some cases winning in one corner involved failing in another. Then, of course, there are always a few things screwed up in Harry's personal life. Still, he manages to bring about some measure of success.

I'm free writing this tonight, so I'm rambling a bit. If you work with me a little, there are some points.

  • Story lengths are not detriments. They are tools to use when we need them.
  • Longer works need more story. This isn't about extra characters or more situations. It is about more complications, emotions, and twists.

What do you guys think? Am I on to something here, or am I off my rocker? Maybe it's both and my Life story makes a better novel.

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