Short Stories, Novellas, Or Novels?

Hello, hello!  Last week, I asked a friend to suggest a topic for my next blog post (I’m running low on ideas, so feel free to suggest some topics or ask me questions) and she brought up short stories vs. novellas vs. novels.  She wanted to know my preferences based on being a reader vs. being a writer.  So, I thought I would use today to talk about the lengths of the things I enjoy reading as well as of the things I enjoy writing.  It seemed like a good topic since I haven’t written many writerly ramblings lately.

wordcount
These are the general guidelines.

First, I suppose I’ll approach the topic as a reader.  If I’m looking for something quick to distract me for a short period of time, I love digging into a short story.  But, most of the time, I prefer to read novels.  I like being able to get lost in a new world and getting to know the characters in a way that shorter works don’t allow for.  As far as novellas go, I don’t actively search them out, but I don’t dislike them for any particular reason.  One of my favorite stories is “The Body” by Stephen King, which is a novella in his collection Different Seasons.  Overall, I suppose I’d rank my reading preferences as novels, followed closely by short stories, then the occasional novella.

As a writer, things are a little more complicated.  Let’s look at novels.  I’m still fairly new to this particular form and I’m not entirely comfortable in it.  Though, I will admit, as I work on each new novel, I’m becoming more and more drawn to it.  At first, it felt like I was rambling.  I couldn’t get a grasp on the idea of the slow reveal and how to keep it interesting while my characters were going about their days.  I’m two-thirds of the way through writing my third novel and I’m finally feeling like I might semi know what I’m doing.  So, writing novels is growing on me.

216247_10151632534930520_1496248641_n
Me when I look over my novels.

Short stories, on the other hand, are where I feel most at ease.  I enjoy the conciseness of the short form.  It’s easier to keep track of one or two plots and characters than it is to keep track of a novel full of them.  I’m not constantly stressing because I just know I forgot some minor detail that will inevitably turn into something major.  Don’t get me wrong, I forget stuff in my short stories all the time, but it’s much easier to catch those things when it happens in 20 pages vs. 300 pages.  It’s also much easier to keep the writing motivation going for a week or two instead of three or more months.  Plus, I have a lot of fun with short stories.  That’s why they will always be my favorite to write.

1892-451x600
Well, that was a short story.

Then, there are novellas.  I honestly haven’t ventured into this realm yet.  I stopped working on one of my fetish fairy tales because it was leaving the territory of a short story and becoming a novelette/novella.  I thought maybe it had too much backstory and I needed to cut stuff out.  But recently, I decided to just let it go where it’s going and figure out what to do with it later.  I have at least one other story that needs to be expanded into a novella, so I might try my hand at it one day, but today is not that day.

In the end, I suppose my writing preferences would be ranked short stories, novels, and novellas in a distant third.  What about you?  Do you have a preference when reading vs. when writing?  Is there an equivalent option in your craft if you’re not a writer?  Share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Always Changing

Hello, hello!  As I mentioned in last week’s post, I was planning on starting a new novel in order to respark my writing passion.  I started it on Saturday and have worked on it regularly since then.  I admit that I’m still not up to my usual word count per day yet, but whenever I open the file, I’m filled with the desire to move forward instead of dread.  That’s a win!  But, as I noticed with my last novel attempt, this novel has its own flow and wants to create its own routine.  I don’t remember having to adapt to new writing habits with every new short story I wrote, but apparently novels are different beasts entirely and each one is going to require special treatment.  Today, I wanted to ramble a bit about how my routine has changed with this novel compared to the other two of which I have (at least) completed first drafts.

change all the things
When you sit down to start a new novel and everything is perfect, then the novel decides your previous routine isn’t good enough…

My first novel was written completely in pantser mode.  Music from my iTunes (which basically runs the gamut of styles) played in the background for almost every writing session.  When I hit snags, I usually figured everything out after random bursts of subconscious ideas.  And in the end, the first draft was an unreadable mess that took another year or longer to clean up.  It was fun.  It was hard.  It was draining.  But I got it done with plenty of help from my Stonecoast mentors and compadres.  Honestly, if I hadn’t had help and people telling me that I had to finish it, I don’t think I would’ve been able to keep going.

The second novel that I actually finished (I started one between them, but got stuck halfway through because I stepped too far outside of my comfort zone), was wildly different.  I had the first half plotted out and knew where it would end, but switched to pantser mode to connect the beginning and end.  It was written mostly in silence because music distracted me.  When I got stuck, I’d actively plot things out in my head, but rarely thought about it otherwise unless I was working on it.  I wrote it in about seven months, a record for me, with little help.  Only a handful of people have actually seen any of it.  But when I read it to start revisions, I was surprised that it made sense and flowed as well as it does.  It still needs a lot of work, but I’m happy with how it turned out with that routine.

tenor
When you’re down and don’t want to do anything, but the new novel idea won’t leave you alone.

Again, I started and stopped a novel before deciding to switch to my novel-in-progress.  I was in a position where I didn’t want to write anything when this idea started pestering me.  I’ve got the major plot points figured out and there hasn’t been a night that’s passed by without me laying awake in bed plotting out the next scene.  It’s a little scary to think I might be turning into a plotter on this one.  I’ve tried writing with iTunes and in silence, but neither feels quite right, so I’m going to try my CDs (my teenage anthems sprinkled with some more recent music) next.  I’ve also had the urge to find reference pictures for my characters, which is something completely new for me.  I never needed pictures of my characters before, so part of me thinks I’m just looking for excuses to feed my need for eye candy, but I’m going with the flow and looking for some.  Granted, this is just the beginning of the process.  I might revert to pantser mode later on.  But the new process feels right so far.

Hiro from Nocturnal Bloodlust is basically Jyou (one of my protagonists).

Maybe I’ve just been refining my technique with each new novel or maybe my routine really will have to change with each new novel.  Either way, I’m just happy to be enjoying writing again.  It’s been a while since I could say that.  What about you?  Do you notice changes in your writing routine between each novel/story?  Or have you found something that works consistently for you?  Share your thoughts, comments, questions, or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Accountability: Like Due Dates But Different

Howdy, howdy!  I was really having a hard time deciding what to write about when a friend sent me a text thanking me for being the voice in her head asking if she was at least thinking about writing.  It gave her the nudge she needed to stop at a place after work and take a little while to have a cup of tea and write some words.  She hadn’t written in a while, but she wanted to, so I told her I’d pester her every day or so until she started writing.  The second day of pestering and she’s already making time for it.  That’s what happens when you’re held accountable for things like this, you make time for them.

castiel
I know, Cas.  I know.  I’ll go do that.

 I don’t know about you, but I always work better with deadlines in place.  At school, I could knock a ten page paper out in one night if I had to, as long as the research was done ahead of time.  Deadlines meant grades.  In the real world, missing deadlines affects the pay from the day job.  In other words, deadlines carry the threat of consequences.  But what’s going to happen if you don’t finish a novel?  Unless you have a contract with a due date, nothing will happen.  So, how do writers overcome this lack of a threat and finish things?  We hold each other accountable.

In the beginning, I didn’t really understand how holding each other accountable would work.  After all, if I don’t push myself to finish something, why would someone judging me for it be motivational?  Turns out that guilt is a powerful tool.  If I set reasonable goals with people and don’t reach them, I feel guilty.  I don’t care if the end of the world pops up, if people know I planned on doing things and failed, it sucks.  It also helps that I’m mildly competitive, so failure and losing are not an option.  I won’t be the only one to not meet my goals.

httvk
Mixed signals achieved.

 According to people I’ve done this whole accountability thing with, it also works by legitimizing their craft, especially when they have jobs.  They have trouble taking time out of their schedules to write because they feel like it shouldn’t be a priority even when they secretly (or not so secretly) want it to be.  Having someone who will pester them and encourage them gives them an “excuse” to make time for writing.

calvinwriting
You can’t keep waiting when there’s no last minute.

 So, even when deadlines aren’t an option, we can still motivate each other by holding each other accountable.  We might not receive any real negative consequences if we don’t meet our goals, but we’ll have to live with the shame of disappointing our friends.  Who has time for that?

Do you have any friends who pester you about your creative outlet?  Does accountability work for you?  How?  If not, what do you do to stay productive and motivated?  Leave a comment here or on my social media pages to share your thoughts!

Until next week!

Word Count? Who Needs That?

Hello, hello!  It’s that time again.  Today, I want to talk a bit about word count.  It’s a subject that Lew Andrada suggested when I asked for questions and comments and all that.  It’s also a subject I struggle with, because it’s pretty arbitrary.  Anyone you ask seems to have a different answer when it comes to the correct lengths of things.

11223854_1060041724023148_9054797003094347832_n

We’ve all encountered a scenario like this one.  I actually kind of think that’s where the concepts of word counts really help (me at least).  It gives me a firm goal to keep in mind and work toward, that way I can have a more realistic idea of how long a project will take me to finish.

So, how do I approach word count?  I keep it simple!  I basically follow SFWA’s counts for the Nebula awards.  In other words, these rules:

Short Story: less than 7,500 words.
 Novelette: 7,500 words to 17,500 words.
 Novella: 17,500 words to 40,000 words.
 Novel: 40,000 words or more.

Adult

Now, I know that “novel” is an extremely broad category that can be broken down by genres or even target audience age.  In fact, the list above is just one example of many break downs you’ll find with a quick Google search.  No, none of them are the same.  Yes, it gets really confusing really fast.  On top of all that, you also have lists for middle grade, young adult, adult, and a relatively new category dubbed new adult.  It’s complicated.  I don’t like complicated things.

In other words, I don’t bother with all of that crap.  My goal is based on my story.  If I’m going for a flash fiction piece (<1000), I usually aim for 900 words.  A short story?  Around 5,000 words.  A novel?  It depends on what it feels like.  I tried for 70,000 to 75,000 for my first novel after tons of research on word count.  It is a supernatural YA, so on top of feeling like a good amount, it also turns out to be a fairly average count for that type of book.  The novel I’m currently working on is different.  I’m going more by my gut for this one.  My current aim is 80,000 to 90,000 just because that’s what it feels like it will need.  I’m sure my past research is playing some kind of unconscious role, but whatever.

656381d6369f3055a37afd96545498b628bd385aef4200e480ec296dbc0773d1

On the other hand, enforcing a word count can lead to fears of rambling.  Don’t worry!  You can fix all of that during edits.  That’s also another factor that goes into choosing my own word count.  I like to choose a middling number, just in case I need the wiggle room.  I have space to brutally cut out all of the nonsense if I need to, but I also have room to fix anything that’s not fleshy enough.

What I mean to say is that word counts are great tools, but don’t let them freak you out.  Let them help you establish a more concrete timeline for finishing your work, but don’t let them rule your work.  Keep it simple and fun, or it’s not worth doing.  At least that’s how I feel about it.  What are your thoughts on word count?