#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop – Just The Facts Ma’am

just the facts

Holy moly it’s May. With everything going on in the world, time has been wonky for me. Today is the official last day of school for my kids, although finals for the two that had them were last week so they had nothing to do these last three days. I’m glad to be done with the digital learning. I know they are as well.  This is the third Wednesday of the month, so new #Authortoolbox blog hop.

As I’m attempting to write my first full length novel in a while, I knew what I wanted to post about today. My last three book releases have been novellas. All three are books that are 20k or less in word count. There was a time I didn’t think I could write a book that short. My first attempt at a novella ended up being a short end, yet still full length novel ending at like 57k.

I’m wordy.

Want to know how much? My first book…200k+ the second 100k+…yes you are seeing those numbers right and no they aren’t epic fantasies.

But I needed to learn how to tighten the story. Hence the much shorter one but was still longer than expected at 57k. Then came the Carina Dirty Bits line. I’d not started a book wanting a to write a specific trope, I didn’t think about the stories that way. But that line gave a list of what they wanted to see AND (this is the most important part) a word count limit! The stories couldn’t be more than 25k and since I was writing this during the time I was on the query train I had to stick to the guidelines.

It was hard folks!

And let me just say that writing short doesn’t mean writing faster, at least not for me.  But what I learned from writing that first novella—Being Neighborly—was I had to…

Keep it simple.

Which is where the post title comes in. Just the facts ma’am. I couldn’t give extra back stories, and side plots. The angst is super low if there is any at all. Figuring out how to make these people well round instead of cardboard cut outs with no depth took some gymnastics. Giving them friends, family, hobbies, but making sure I didn’t make it into an info dump. Wanting to let their personalities shine through individually while also building their relationship, I had to choose the most dynamic parts to share.

Need just the meat of the story.

Writing the novella meant I had to narrow down all of the stuff that bloated my first two stories. Not that those stories didn’t require a ton of words, but I probably could have cut some, especially from my debut novel. There couldn’t be long drawn out descriptions of things that probably didn’t matter. I didn’t need to share that childhood memory of how she got the scar on her knee that the love interest seems to take interest in. It had to be A and B get together. Flirt, have some sex, maybe have some small issue to deal with, and get to the believable and satisfying HEA or HFN ending.

The pace needs to be faster.

I’m not a fan of insta-love, but at the very least we need insta-lust. There isn’t room for long wooing to take place. I write romance, so the characters have to meet, have that attraction, and act on it much sooner. No slow burns here. Which was something that was hard for me. I liked taking the reader step by step so see the whole process of them falling in love. It takes time. But with a limited word count, that couldn’t happen. I had to figure out that chemistry sooner and rely it in a way that felt real and not rushed so that the reader wasn’t missing anything.

But the biggest thing I learned from writing a novella, is that I COULD write one. I seriously had doubts in my ability to craft an interesting story in such a short word count. Remember, I’m wordy. But somehow I did. Now as I attempt to write a full again, I’m applying some of these lessons to that project. How well that turns out is yet to be determined, but I do know it won’t be another epic novel at over 100k. I don’t set limits and I’ll wait to see how many words the story needs (#pantser) but I’m hoping with the new lessons I’ve learned it will top out at the “norm” for contemporary romance 60-80k.

That’s it for me. I hope you all have a wonderful rest of the moth.

Until next time
~Meka

15 thoughts on “#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop – Just The Facts Ma’am

    • Meka James says:

      Sometimes it is. My second book I don’t think I had as much extra fluff, but there was a lot to deal with so it was still a beefy story. Editing can help both ways. I have a friend that tends to underwrite and like to fill in the emotion and fill things out later. Knowing *what* to cut will always remain the hardest part for me, but I’m working through it.

      thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Meka James says:

      Thank you. It took me a long time, probably longer than with my full lengths to get them completed. But I’m slow no matter what. Writing a novella does make you think about the story in a different way. It’s just another tool in the writer box to have.

      thanks for stopping by

      Liked by 1 person

  1. raimeygallant says:

    I hadn’t considered some of the implications of writing a novella as opposed to a novel. Thanks for that. There’s this story about Diana Gabaldon, and I can’t remember how or where I read or heard this (maybe on her website) or even if I’m recounting it accurately, but the first time she wrote what she thought was a short story and gave it to her publisher, her publisher was like, but this is 80K words, that’s not a short story, it’s a novel. All of her prior books were so long, it felt like a short story to her I guess. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meka James says:

      LOL yeah, well I guess if all she’s penned has been epic length, then 80k would be short for her. Writing a novella is a different mindset and you have to realize that going in. I follow some writers who have it down to a science and can crank them out like crazy. I’m still working out the kinks for myself, but something I’d like to continue doing from time to time.

      thanks for stopping by

      Like

    • Meka James says:

      Yes! The first time I did it, I wasn’t sure I could work it out. Like how do you get all the elements needed in such a short word count? I *think* I’m understanding my process with them better now which will hopefully help me move a little faster on future ones.

      thanks for stopping by

      Liked by 1 person

  2. D.E. Haggerty says:

    I love writing novellas! I just finished the rough draft of my next one yesterday. Yeah! I find I do need to have a good outline before I get started, not just a vague idea of where I’m going. Then, I write the first chapter and make an outline of each chapter. Good luck with your novel!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meka James says:

      That might be my downfall, I’m a pantser so I do start with a vague idea and it grows from there. Never know where I’m going until after I’ve seen where I’ve been. hahahaha Some writers love doing them, like yourself, and have a solid plan in place to get them completed.

      thanks for stopping by

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Vania Margene Rheault says:

    writing a novella does take some pressure off. i enjoy them. i wrote a “where are they now” for a trilogy that i hope will inspired some new sales and it came out to 30,000 words. i’d wanted it to be a novelette, but i guess I’m wordy too. It remains to be seen how well novellas actually sell though. I’ve been told they don’t. So. (If you care about that kind of thing. LOL)

    Like

  4. S.E. White says:

    Good luck with the longer story! May it be just wordy enough to be rich, and just pointed enough to get straight to the facts. It’s a fun balance, after we’re finished tearing our hair out over the edits.

    Like

  5. charityrau says:

    Interesting post. I tend to be on the other side of things. I write and then realize there are still a lot of things missing. I always end up adding in more scenes probably because I don’t outline anything before I start writing. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Like

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