Writer’s Craft #28 – Going Long (Novella Writer)
J. Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus. She is a member of SFWA, RWA, and Broad Universe. Her short fiction has been published in Jim Baen’s Universe, Writers of the Future, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Fantasy Magazine, among others. Her website can be found at http://www.jkathleencheney.com
In the last year, I’ve had three novellas published ranging in length from 15,000 to 38,000 words. It’s rare for anyone who isn’t a ‘big name author’ to be paid a large amount for a story of this length. I certainly didn’t get 5 cents a word for any of them. So why do it at all? Why write a novella, when you can write a handful of short stories that might sell at much better rates, and be far more marketable?
Well, the truth is that some stories simply demand certain lengths. Before I even began writing “Iron Shoes”, I knew it would be a novella. It was to be a historical/fantasy/romance. That alone told me I was going to go long. In order to cover all the things I wanted — the character development, the historical details, and the ‘rules’ of my fantasy world — and set up the romance’s pacing properly, I would need a lot of words.
The novelette and the novella give the writer more words to make their introductions. It gives us space to do more ‘worldbuilding’, and time to ‘get to know’ our characters before they’re cast into peril. Because I tend to start with the characters rather than the plot, writing longer is more natural for me.
As a writer, what length is natural for you? Do you challenge yourself to write at lengths you haven’t mastered? (Flash still terrifies me!) And as a reader, what length do you like best?