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The Story Is As The Story Does: A Guest Post By James R. Tuck
I am a big believer in writing a story till it's complete. Not every story is a novel, no matter how much you want to stretch that idea out. We all want to write novels. Most of this desire comes from the desire to see publication and our real book on a real book shelf. I get it. There is nothing in this world like holding the book you wrote in your grubby little hands.
Without the physical book it doesn't feel real. And the people you know who aren't writers absolutely don't think it's a real book without a. . . well, without a real book they can see with their eyes. Anything you write that is shorter than a novel will not be found on a bookstore's bookshelf though. It just won't. Not unless you find your way into a short story anthology.
But some of the best stories are too long for shorts and too short for full-length. These are called novellas. 10,000 to 40,000+ words of storytelling. I love novellas and secretly, even if they don't know it, so does everyone else. When you craft a novella you take a story idea and you boil it down to the essentials. You don't have time for anything but a good story with good characters. You have to trim the fat and the padding that often comes with trying to reach 80,000+ words to be a novel.
As a reader, you get a story told as it's essence. Novellas are quick reads, often dispensing with an overabundance of backstory and getting to the point. It's like someone took a delicious Big Mac and found a way to make it healthy for you. . . except, only in book form.
I have written two novellas for my Deacon Chalk series, which is out from Kensington Books and available everywhere. (end shameless plug) They were a joy to write. I was able to tell the story of a night each in the life of monster hunter Deacon Chalk. I could cut words with abandon and keep the story's speed at a lightning pace. Plus, because they didn't take me months on end to write, I can get by with selling them for less. That Thing At the Zoo, which is available now everywhere that fine ebooks are sold, is less than one measly dollar! Spider's Lullaby, slightly longer, is only $1.99.
The other thing that the advent of the novella has done, besides being a great tool for expanding and introducing a series to readers, it has made a market where a writer, using e-books, can build a considerable library of releases in a short amount of time. I am working on a series of short fiction, a flash fiction piece, a short story, and a novella revolving around the same character that I am going to be putting out this spring called "Hired Gun." It will be the first of many novella releases I will do.
So if you are a writer and you are stuck, go and try to write a novella. Something new or something that expands an existing property, either is fine. Have a short story that just isn't working? Go ahead and turn it into a novella. Novellas are cool. Novellas are hip. Novellas are here to stay. Embrace them and find the fun in writing again.