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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Why Novellas are Hot and How to Write One: a Step by Step Guide

We're so jazzed! Our blog has been nominated by Indies Unlimited for "Best Resource for Indies"—one of just 7 blogs—along with the fantastic Kristen Lamb, Joel Friedlander "The Book Designer", The Passive Voice, The Creative Penn, David Gaughran's "Let's Get Digital", and The Indie View. It's so amazing for a slow, once-a-week blog to be nominated with all those major bloggers.

Anybody can vote over at Indies Unlimited. Voting closes on February 21st at 5 PM Pacific time.

Of course, we don't just write for self-publishers. Our guest today is with a small niche press, as I am, and Ruth was with several of the big houses (and edited for them) before she started self-publishing. That means we have experience with all types of publishing. We don't want our readers to feel we're trying to push you onto one path or another.

It seems I'm not the only blogger who thinks "Short is the New Long," which I wrote in a post last May.

Penny Sansevieri, CEO of Marketing Experts Inc., said in her predictions for 2014 in the HuffPo:

"Short is the new long. You don’t have to be writing 500-page tomes. Create one or two full length books a year plus micro-content such as novellas or shorter books. It’s a great way to gain visibility and stay in front of your readers."

No doubt about it: novellas are hot.

  • Traditionally published authors self-publish them to fill in the time between the snail-speed production schedule of their own publishers and increase their revenue stream.
  • Indies use them to explore characters in their series that readers want to know more about. 
  • Readers who have less time to read than they used to enjoy getting into a meaty story that has a satisfying beginning, middle and end, but doesn't take weeks to get through.

Perhaps the popularity of the novella also comes with our love of movies. As Paul tells us, the novella has a lot in common with a screenplay. It is also the fiction form most easily adapted to film. 

My own publisher keeps encouraging me to write novellas to fill in the gaps in Camilla and Plantagenet's history.

Have I followed the advice? 


That's because I find writing novellas really hard. I think in terms of the "long game". For me an 80,000 word novel is short. How can I explore a big topic in 20,000 words? 

I decided to ask award-winning novella author Paul Alan Fahey for some advice. Paul's book The Other Man was honored by the American Library Association last month, and received a Rainbow Award in 2013. The View from 16 Podewale Street, the first of his beautifully-crafted novellas set in WWII Britain, won a Rainbow Award in 2012. 

I hope his advice will help us all to keep up with the new trend....Anne

Paul Alan Fahey

Years ago, when I started writing fiction—as opposed to journal articles for career advancement in academe—I fell in love with flash fiction. That love affair lasted throughout the 1990’s, well into the millennium, and beyond. I loved the form and was quite content to stay within those teeny-tiny word limits. At the time, I also took classes in flash, presented writing workshops on the form, and participated in several online critique groups for flash writers.

When I taught at Allan Hancock College, I edited Mindprints, A Literary Journal, devoted to flash fiction and memoir pieces of 250-750 words. Here's a piece I wrote giving tips for writing good flash fiction. 

During that time, I managed to write and publish a few short stories other than flash, but nothing beyond the 5,000 to 6,000-word range.

With the advent of the E-Age, I began to think seriously about writing longer work. The novel absolutely terrified me, so I gravitated to the novella: something in between a very long story and a novel.

When I began writing my first WWII novella, The View from 16 Podwale Street, and later with Bomber’s Moon, I told myself I was only writing flash, and that each scene or chapter was a kind of mini-flash piece with its own story arc. Little did I know that this strategy would work, and I’d soon be off and running with a romance series and a much larger story to tell.

Novellas in the E-Age: A Definition

Searching for a precise definition of a novella can be a maddening experience. Some consider novellas very long short stories, while others call them short novels, or say they’re synonymous with novelettes.

Nothing specific there, right? I was just about to give up when I stumbled upon a terrific article in the New Yorker by British novelist and screenwriter, Ian McEwan. Not only did he define the form, but he specified word limits most publishers, including my own, would agree with—give or take a few thousand at the top or bottom of the range.

“Novellas are between twenty and forty
thousand words, long enough for a reader to inhabit a world or a consciousness and be kept there, short enough to be read in a sitting or two and for the whole structure to be held in mind at first encounter.”

McEwan went on to discuss the strong similarity between novellas and screenplays in their overall unity and economy.

"To sit with a novella is analogous to watching a play or a longish movie."

I have to admit I was totally stoked when I read that. I’d been using screenplay techniques as a pre-writing strategy for flash fiction and short stories for years. In fact I wrote an article for Byline magazine about the flash-screenplay connection in 2005. It's since been reprinted at Fiction Fix.  Is it any wonder I was drawn to the novella form?


Let’s see how this prewriting thing works. We’ll take a look at my novella, Bomber’s Moon, and apply the strategy.

Step 1: Find a Story Idea

The idea for Bomber’s Moon came from an incident in my childhood. Mom and I were sitting at the breakfast table discussing a lovely Englishwoman she worked with in an upscale dress shop, someone who had lived through the London Blitz and still suffered in the late 1950’s from what we’d probably now call PTSD.

I took this idea and went into a “what if” frenzy, asking myself all sorts of questions: How did Londoners manage to survive day to day under such unimaginable conditions? What was it like being gay back then, and in a relationship, having to keep it all a secret except perhaps from your closest friends? These questions and many more would later guide character development as well as plot development in Bomber’s Moon.

Step 2: Turn the Idea into a Logline

Anne has previously written an excellent post on loglines. So there’s really no need to reinvent the wheel here other than to say a screenplay logline is a short, one-sentence statement of the film’s premise. Think TV Guide descriptions of cable movies.

Here’s an example:

Nebraska: An aging, booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize.

And another one:

August: Osage County: A look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Oklahoma house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them.

Here’s the logline for Bomber’s Moon:

During the London Blitz, and after losing his life partner in a tragic accident, Leslie Atwater, a young gay man, discovers his lover’s death may not have been an accident and sets out to uncover the truth.

**I know, I know. It ain’t Shakespeare. You’re using it as a guide or throughline for developing your story. No one but you will see it.

Step 3. Write the Story Theme from the Logline

Often I know the book’s theme before I start to write. Sometimes I don't and it surfaces later in the writing. Still, it’s a terrific bonus if you do can articulate theme because it provides a wonderful subtext for scenes and dialogue.

"Journeys end in lovers meeting" is the main theme of Bomber’s Moon.

Step 4: Determine the Three Acts and As Many Plot Points as Possible

First, here’s a quick overview of three-act structure.
  • Act I, Set Up: Introduces setting, characters and the main story conflict or the inciting incident.
  • Plot Point 1: The first major turning point or event that closes the first act and moves the characters into… 
  • Act II, Confrontation: The main character struggles to achieve his/her goal amid ever increasing obstacles. 
  • Midpoint: A subtle turning point in the plot midway through the story.
  • Plot Point 2: A devastating setback or reversal in the main character’s fortune that leads to…
  • Act III, Resolution: The final confrontation and highest point of action (climax) before the character reaches goal.
Here’s what I knew about Bomber’s Moon before I began writing:
  • Act I: Set Up: During the day, Leslie works as a clerk in a modest bookshop in Central London. By night, he’s an air raid warden in his district responsible for the safety of his “flock.” In an effort to feel closer to Edward, he spends his evenings in their flat reviewing his partner’s sketches and soon discovers irregularities he can’t explain.
  • Plot Point 1: Leslie, convinced his lover’s death wasn’t an accident. Despite warnings from friends to let well enough alone, he sets out on a journey. How did Edward die?
  • Act II Confrontation Leslie learns more about Edward’s work assignment the day he died. He begins to question family members and colleagues at The Globe. This leads him on a journey through London and into the countryside as he follows the clues. (Vague? You bet, but it works for now.)
  • Act III Resolution: I envisioned a climax in a lighthouse overlooking the English Channel with enemy aircraft overhead. The ending would be a happy one—journeys end in lovers meeting—since Bomber’s Moon is a romance, and I was following conventions of the form.

This pre-writing three-act paradigm for Bomber’s Moon, adapted from a screenwriting text by Syd Field is far from complete. But having the structure planned out as much as possible beforehand, kept me focused on the storyline, while I filled in the blanks of the paradigm as I went along in the first draft.

For a more thorough discussion and examples of the three-act structure, please see: The Elements of Cinema.

This process may or may not work for you. I can only say it does for me. And in a big way.


Paul Alan Fahey created and edited Mindprints, an international literary journal for writers and artists with disabilities, at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, California. During Paul’s seven-year tenure, Mindprints made Writers Digest’s “Top 30 Short Story Markets” list for two consecutive years. He is the author of the Lovers and Liars Gay Wartime Romance series, published by JMS Books. Paul is the editor of the 2013 Rainbow Award winning anthology, The Other Man: 21 Writers Speak Candidly About Sex, Love, Infidelity, & Moving On. His first WWII novella, The View From 16 Podwale Street, also won a Rainbow Award in 2012.

What about you, scriveners? Have you written a novella? Any advice to add to Paul's? Any questions you'd like to ask him?

Book of the Week

Paul Alan Fahey's latest novella, LOVERS AND LIARS is available in paper (and on sale!) at JMS Books, Amazon US, Amazon UK, and  Nook

"Brimming with atmosphere, this historical setting envelopes the reader and transports them to a place and time that is both real and vividly imagined. These are glamorous people set against the backdrop of a time spare in luxuries, and in the reading of these books, they have become friends with whom I’m always glad to spend time, participating in their adventures, commiserating with their trials, sympathizing with their cause, and I look forward to their continuing journey."...Lisa Horan at Novel Approach Reviews

The other novellas in the series are also available as ebooks from JMS Books and most retailers.

Deal of the Week

In honor of the Beatles 50th anniversary, Michael Harris's bestseller, ALWAYS ON SUNDAY is only 99c this week. It's on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks and AmazonUK (All the other Amazons, too.)

Michael worked for the Ed Sullivan Show in the 1960s, and was assigned to meet the Beatles at Kennedy Airport that day in 1964. He says Ed was warned not to sign the Beatles: "You're crazy! No British group has ever made it big in this country." A month before they arrived, they were still unknown in America.

Two weeks later, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" rocketed to the top of the charts and Beatlemania had begun. On February 14, Michael greeted the Beatles again, this time in Miami for a second Sullivan show. Thanks to papparazzi determined to cash in on every shot of the Fab Four, Michael appeared in photos published around the world. In the captions he was identified as "a Beatle".


The 11th Yeovil International Literary Prize now open for entries. Aspiring writers throughout the world are invited to enter this prestigious writing competition. Prize categories for novels, short fiction, poetry. Entry fee £11 for novels. 1st prize £1000. Deadline May 31st.

GLIMMER TRAIN FAMILY MATTERS CONTEST $1500 prize, plus publication in Glimmer Train Stories, plus 20 copies. $15 ENTRY FEE. They're looking for stories about families of all configurations. It's fine to draw on real experiences, but the work must read like fiction. Maximum word count: 12,000. Any shorter lengths are welcome. Deadline March 31.

Write Flash? INNOVATIVE SHORT FICTION CONTEST $15 ENTRY FEE. $500 prize plus the winning story will be published in The Conium Review's next issue. Innovative short fiction should take risks that pay off. Don’t tell us a story we’ve already heard before. Show us something new with your subject, style, or characters.Your submission may include any combination of flash fictions or short stories up to 7,500 total words.  Deadline March 15, 2014. 

Dark Continents Publishing's Guns and Romances anthology. They're looking for previously unpublished short fiction from 3500-9000 words. Any genre as long as there's a tough protagonist, weapons, and... at least one reference to music. Sounds interesting. Payment rate is a one-off of $20 per story plus a percentage of the ebook royalties. Publication estimated in late-2014. More info on the website. Deadline February 28.

ERMA BOMBECK WRITING COMPETITION $15 ENTRY FEE. Capture the essence of Erma's writings and you could win $500 and a free registration to the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop!  Personal essay must be 450 words or less (entries of more than 450 words will be disqualified). Two categories: humor and human interest.  Deadline February 17.

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My full length novels are only 75,000-80,000 words. I should try a novella. Considering I just hit the halfway point of my current manuscript and it's only 21,000 words, I might be writing one right now...

February 9, 2014 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Hey, Alex, I know you're always the first to comment so wanted to say hi. Give the novella a try. I bet you'll not only enjoy the experience of writing something shorter but expand your publishing horizons as well. All the best, Paul

February 9, 2014 at 10:18 AM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Just wanted to thank you, Anne and Ruth, for having me on the blog today. It's a terrific honor and I'm having great fun.

February 9, 2014 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Vera Soroka said...

Nice Post! I just learned how to do a novella and short story this past summer. That was huge for me as before all I could do was novels. I'm an erotic romance writer who writes for both straight and gay (M/M) and the novellas is what I'm starting out with. I just uploaded my first novella up to Amazon the other day. I did a small series. I'm so excited to have finally mastered doing novellas and short stories as in the romance genre, it's perfect.

February 9, 2014 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

It's great to see Paul here on your blog, Anne. He's a heck of a guy. I'm a big fan of novellas. Though I've written some long short stories & some short novel-length pieces, I haven't quite written a novella. It's definitely something I'd like to do at some point, but being a pantser, I'll have to wait for some future story to let me know it wants to grow up to be a novella.

February 9, 2014 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Hi, Vera, congrats on your amazon novella. Looks like you're taking advantage of the resurgence or the shorter forms in the E age. Good news to hear.

February 9, 2014 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Hi, Charlie, hope you write that novella. Given the way folks define novellas in the E Age, you may have something just right in that form already. Great to see you, too.

February 9, 2014 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Paul, this is a sensationally helpful post. Thank you soooo much for writing it. I've been thinking about a series of novellas and you've given me the guidelines I've been looking for!

Anne, Thank you for highlighting Michael's showbiz memoir. A few funny anecdotes, too. At the time Ed signed the Beatles, no one in the US had heard of them. Michael's job was to get press for their debut but every reporter he contacted turned him down. A few weeks later they were breaking down his doors begging for interviews/tickets. Ha. Such are the ways of show biz! lol

February 9, 2014 at 10:56 AM  
OpenID haydenthorne.com said...

Well, what a koinkidink. I was just whining about how bloated my current WIP seems to me and whether or not I should strip the heck out of it and turn it into a novella. I've been writing nothing but novels since 2008, and it's been getting harder and harder for me not to deviate and lose my way in the course of writing 70,000+ words.

I thought at first my recent problems were the result of overall burnout, but I'm now wondering if it's got more to do with LENGTH burnout than anything else. I've tried my hand at writing three novellas recently and found them to be a challenge, but maybe that's what I need to find my "feet" again. Being forced to whittle things down to what's necessary and not be tempted with fluff and X number of subplots could very well be the kind of medicine I need right now.

February 9, 2014 at 10:57 AM  
OpenID haydenthorne.com said...

BTW, hello, fellow JMS author! :)

February 9, 2014 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Trekelny said...

Another very interesting post, thanks Paul. I can't really comment about the writing part of it ('cause I don't), but I CAN say that with epic fantasy the tales tend to be enormous. And of course that begs for you to think about inserting a logical break along the way. Earlier publication, draw a new audience (people DO have less time to read today, it seems). E-pub makes it a breeze, and that's what happened to me in my current WiP (part three of a four-part tale that will eventually combine to a classic-size epic fantasy novel, but with 30-50k parts). I'm selling the set along the way, and then will probably combine them once it's all done. Sure, someday!

February 9, 2014 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Linda Adams said...

I do tend to run shorter on my books, so I'm playing around with the novella idea. Plus, it's something longer than a short story, but short enough that it can be produced faster. I just read one by Lee Child that took his series character back to the age of 16 -- something he probably couldn't explore in his his Reacher series.

But the three act structure is definitely not for everyone. It seems logical and reasonable to use the 3 act structure and plot points, but it's also the fastest way for me to completely wreck a story. I'm a pantser, and figuring out where everything goes in advance makes me write to that instead of following the natural course of the story. I know people say you can change things along the way, but I've found that's not true for me. I do much better if I only know exactly what is in the scene I'm working on.

February 9, 2014 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

I have a few novellas under my belt. I love writing them but my fans hate them. They always say they wish it had been longer. I take that as a great compliment.

However, I have always tried to publish a novella at the same time I put out a novel. I like giving the readers different price points.

I've written short stories, but I'm not really a fan. I need a really tight structure for those and I'd rather expand in my pantster pants. Thus, novels and novellas.

Great post. Thanks Paul and Anne.

February 9, 2014 at 12:14 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Hi, Ruth, Thank you for that nice note. I'm glad you think my post is helpful. I just bought Michael's book. Yikes, he met the Beatles! I am soooo envious. Love the anecdote, too. Paul

February 9, 2014 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Hey, Hayden, Glad to see you here. And yes, writing shorter does free you quite a bit from dealing with subplots and adding fluff as you mentioned to meet a specific word count. I had a terrible time with NaNo this year. My first attempt. But it was hell meeting the total word count. What I'm finding in revision is I'm whittling it down to novella size anyway. Hope you give novellas a try. Paul

February 9, 2014 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Trekelny, epic fantasy. I can see why those tales require a certain length. The way you're going about your WIP makes good sense to me. Very similar I think to what I'm doing in my WWII series. Each is a stand alone piece but part of a much larger story. Here's to your great success in completing the series. I'm sure you will. Paul

February 9, 2014 at 12:32 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Hi, Linda, I had an answer to your post right at my fingertips then unfortunately did something with my elbows and lost it. So here goes again. You're right. The three act structure may not work for everyone. It does for me since I'm the kind of person, anal maybe, who has to know where I'm going before I set out on a journey--even if it's only a tentative or loose outline. To be honest, I often deviate from the paradigm when I write but at least I know at a certain spot in the story something needs to happen. Sometimes it's not what I thought initially in the pre-writing but something that happens as a result of knowing my story and characters better as I write it Paul .

February 9, 2014 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Carmen Brooks said...

I love novellas. I am also thankful on the authors for providing real good qualities. I hope that you will always be inspired in doing the thing that you really love.

The power of positive thinking

February 9, 2014 at 12:44 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Hi, Anne, love the idea of your writing both, novels and novellas. I think I'm always going to be a short writer. (Well, I am 5' 10'' but you know what I mean.) I get that sometimes, too. Readers wanting my stories to be longer. But don't think it will happen too soon. I'm really in love with the short form. Being skilled as you are at writing both is a very good thing. Paul

February 9, 2014 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Thank you, Carmen. Do appreciate your comment. I think with the E Age, you'll have a lot more opportunities to read novellas. Paul

February 9, 2014 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger Leanne Dyck said...

Short is the new long. Nice! Like you, Paul, I love writing novellas. In fact, I've entered one in the Malahat Review novella contest. Fingers crossed on that.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go vote...

February 9, 2014 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger The Happy Amateur said...

Anne and Ruth, congratulations! Whatever the outcome of the voting (you have my vote!), your blog is tops. It teaches so much and makes it fun.
Ever since you mentioned you'd be talking novellas, I've been anxiously waiting. Paul, thank you very much for your post. I'm almost finished with the first draft of my novella. Your post was very encouraging to me. I was happy to see that things that I did intuitively might actually work (writing "flash chapters or scenes", for instance.) I've been telling myself that writing a novella feels like writing a screenplay, and I've been wondering about that, now I know they're indeed similar. Your post is so helpful, I'm certainly printing it out and having it by my side as I write. Thank you!

February 9, 2014 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Hi, Leanne, best wishes for snagging that prize in the novella contest. I entered one a few years ago before I got into writing for JMS Books and won an honorable mention. That story went on to become my first published novella length e-book, "The View from 16 Podwale St. Voting for Anne's blog is a win-win. Paul

February 9, 2014 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Thank you, Happy Amateur, but you sound pretty professional to me. Flash chapters with an arc work well in the E Age and especially well for shorter works like novellas. Novellas really do have a lot in common with movies. Do you see the scenes in your head as you're writing them? I sure do. Wishing you the best on your novella. I bet it will find a home. Paul

February 9, 2014 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul, thanks so much for joining us today. I'm definitely going to try this method. Like Linda, I'm a pantser, but we need to get that 3-act structure in there, whether we do it in edits or first draft, so it's worth a try.

Also I wanted to point out that on the Passive Voice today, there's a piece from Moira Rogers--a writing team that has been making 100K a year--mostly writing novellas! I can't make this link live, but you can cut and paste http://bit.ly/1iDwJnk

February 9, 2014 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Hi, Anne, I'm having fun. Great to be here and even more so to be invited. :)

February 9, 2014 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger The Happy Amateur said...

Thank you, Paul. I was happy to see some of the ideas I have might work, but now I have to make them work. Still a ways to go.. But, yes, I do see the scenes I write!

February 9, 2014 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

I thought you might. Keep going. You'll get there. P.

February 9, 2014 at 2:30 PM  
Blogger Judythe Guarnera said...

I forgot my password after writing a comment to your post and then I lost my comment, so...I'm starting over. I appreciate your tips and confess that I've read them before, but always had an excuse why I didn't use them. Now I'm sitting here wondering if I should use them to: edit my WIP, look at my shorts to see what might work as a novella, or begin a new story using the techniques.

Learned something today: I didn't know what a panster was, but now I do and I am definitely that. But, since I'm stuck on where to place a number of scenes in my novel as I edit, I think it might be time to finish outlining my book (after the fact) and then use the 3-act to place those scenes and probably do some scene shifting.

So, thanks for your tips and thanks to Anne and Ruth for inviting you today. I did vote. Congrats.

All About Connection (Judythe Guarnera

February 9, 2014 at 2:57 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Hi, Judy, good to see you here on Anne and Ruth's award winning blog. I've had to pinch myself several times to realize, yep, I'm here. I know you've been working on your WIP and are in the editing phase, right? Personally, and you know me, I'd forge ahead with the first revision to the end of the novel and then on subsequent revisions, think about adding or subtracting scenes. Imposing the three act structure then will help you see the full arc and I think also help you decide where those scenes will go. Love the idea of expanding your short stories, flash or whatever, into novellas. Thanks so much for dropping by. Paul

February 9, 2014 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

When I had first started scribbling in 2006, that was my preferred length of choice. I found it to be, and still do, my personal comfort zone. While I did come out with a novel in 2012, I do believe that was simply an anomaly. The story was there, and by the time I had it completed, I had cranked out 69K words.

Right now, I have at least two completed and waiting to be self-published, and I'm busy rewriting a third. I'm not sure if I'll ever write another novel, but as for the novella, I can always churn those out because those are the easiest to for me to write.

February 9, 2014 at 3:08 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Hi, G.B. I started a response to your comment and for some reason keep losing it. Weird. It's great to write within your comfort zone and I think that really applies to word length. I don't think I've ever written anything close to 69K words other than my dissertation. But who reads those? In any case you have two novellas completed and working on a third. Congrats. WIth the E age and the redefinition of novellas, you're in very good shape. Word length wise. Paul

February 9, 2014 at 3:32 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

GB--Paul says Blogger is eating his comments. Very annoying. I hope it will let him respond soon. I think you should count yourself very lucky. You're good at the form that's trending. Did you see my comment above about the author making 100K a year on novellas?

February 9, 2014 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Here's a comment from a newbie, Willy Bruijnsm who doesn't have an ID that Blogger likes:

This is my first visit to your blog, or - in fact - any blog, but it certainly will not be my last. I found the writing advice excellent! Anne, Ruth and Paul, you make me want to go back to the keyboard and start writing again. Good luck with the voting, although it seems to me that you don't need any luck. Your blog should be a shoe-in. Thanks for introducing me to the world of blogs and thanks for introducing me to this particular blog spot.

Willy Bruijns

February 9, 2014 at 4:37 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Willy--Welcome! I have no idea how that extra "m" got in there. Keyboard gremlins. Blogs are the best way to establish an online presence and get info on the publishing world. I hope you'll start writing again. If you do, joining Google Plus is probably the easiest way to get an ID that allows you to comment on blogs like this one. Some blogs allow people to comment as "anonymous" but I had to eliminate that because I was getting 1000+ pieces of anon spam a day. Deleting them was getting me carpal tunnel syndrome. Thanks for the vote!

February 9, 2014 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

Anne, et al ... this is like the song ... "when everything old is new again." All but two of Steinbeck's books were novellas... Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea and dozens more. We forget that the short work ... the novella and the short story was at one time the rage. How many of them were pub'd in magazines back in the day?

Thanks again and always for your great posts. Gives a new generation (and many of us older) something to think about :) AND OF COURSE, you always have my vote !!!

February 9, 2014 at 4:46 PM  
Blogger The Happy Amateur said...

I have a question: when you say that novellas are trendy, do you refer mostly to self-publishing and mainly e-books? I've been on the lookout for traditional publishers that would be interested in short fiction, and I haven't had much luck. The number of words they would require is usually way above novella's upper limits. With rare exceptions, nobody seems to be interested in short stories or novellas. Am I looking in the wrong place?..

February 9, 2014 at 4:59 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Hi Florence--You make a great point! I'd forgotten that so many major books were really novellas. The Great Gatsby, too. I think it's about 50K words, not book length by today's standards. And yes, novels and novel excerpts used to be published in magazines all the time. I know the New Yorker used to publish a lot of what's now considered book length. Thanks!!

February 9, 2014 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

I've had terrific luck with a small LGBT press, JMS Books. I think if you narrow down your search for smaller markets that take and are looking for your genre--e book markets are great--you're much better off than subbing to traditional presses. Anne, and others may have something to add. Paul


February 9, 2014 at 5:06 PM  
Blogger Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Congrats on your nomination. Lots of writers I know are diving into the novella market. I took some notes from Paul's advice.

February 9, 2014 at 5:10 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Thank you, Susan. I'm very happy what I said was helpful to you. Go ahead and dive in. The market's fine. :) Paul

February 9, 2014 at 5:11 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Happy--Paul is with a small niche press, and they definitely take novellas. I think erotica publishers like Ellora's Cave and Samhain are also looking for them. The Big 5 probably don't want them--and they definitely don't want short story collections if the stories haven't been previously published in something like the New Yorker, but smaller presses--especially digital presses--are looking for shorter books. Novels are especially lucrative for trad pubbed novelists to fill in between releases. So write them now and keep looking for a trad publisher for your novels and you'll have those novellas ready to pop out to supplement them. Some agencies like Foreword Literary suggest you do that and they'll help you publish the novellas through them after you get the trad contract.

February 9, 2014 at 5:12 PM  
Blogger The Happy Amateur said...

Anne, Paul, thank you very much.

February 9, 2014 at 5:36 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

You bet, Happy. Thanks for the great comments. Paul

February 9, 2014 at 6:25 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Hi, Willy, I agree. Blogs are terrific for getting the word out about your work and also sharing ideas and networking. Great to see you here. :) Paul

February 9, 2014 at 6:27 PM  
Blogger Lexa Cain said...

Thanks for the great pointers on writing a novella! I voted for you on Indies Unlimited. Good luck!! :)

February 9, 2014 at 11:39 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Hi, Lexa, hope the pointers will be helpful in your writing. A vote for Anne is a vote for the best. :) Paul

February 10, 2014 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

I have a novella I wrote years ago and really like. I got it out after reading this post. It is nice to know that I could actually publish it someday (after major editing!) now that we have so many publishing options. Thanks for the advice and encouragement!

February 10, 2014 at 8:58 AM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Go for it, Christine. The time has never been better. You may be closer to a final draft than you think. Paul

February 10, 2014 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger T.F. Walsh said...

Voted.... and loved this post because it confirms what I've thought for a while now, plus it helps that I love writing novellas:)

February 10, 2014 at 6:22 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

T.F. Really good to hear. Keep on writing them. The time is right. Paul

February 10, 2014 at 8:27 PM  
Blogger Greg Strandberg said...

Great tips!

I've begun putting out shorter works, around 18,000 to 22,000 words. I break them up into three parts of three chapters and then stick a intro and conclusion on the ends.

Doing that makes it easy to break the three acts down, and then I further try to follow the plotting elements using the beat method of Blake Snyder.

They're fun to write, but they don't sell real well. Still, I'm doing the same thing now with the G.I. JOE Kindle Worlds. Everything there is pretty much a novella.

February 12, 2014 at 1:00 AM  
Blogger Meghan Ward said...

I guess my ebook "Runway" is technically a novella. The form is definitely burgeoning with Kindle singles, the Atavist, Shebooks, etc. I'm going to attend a panel about longform journalism and short-form fiction in March about this topic.

February 12, 2014 at 5:29 AM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Hi,Greg, Sounds like you've got the right idea. I do the same to a certain extent. I break the three acts down into three parts and often give them titles relating to the arc of the act. Often with a novella, I find that the middle is somewhere between parts two and three. Your method sounds right on target. Thanks so much for responding. Paul

February 12, 2014 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Hi, Meghan, hope you'll share with us what you discover on the panel in March. I'll have to check out Runway. All the best, Paul

February 12, 2014 at 8:46 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Greg--Great to see you here! I'm giving you a shout-out in next Sunday's post. I'm linking to the great piece you did on Joel Friedlander's blog evaluating blog tour companies. You're right that a lot of Kindle Worlds fanfic is novella length. Another growing genre of novellas. About the length of an hour TV show screenplay.

February 12, 2014 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Meghan, major congrats on the debut of Runway! I'm off to buy it now. Shebooks looks like a fantastic new small publisher.

February 12, 2014 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Greg Strandberg said...

Thanks Anne, shout-outs always help!

Wow, Paul, you have the same problem as me (I think)! Why won't those three acts fit nicely into my three chapter structure?

Aaahhh! I think I spend too much time on buildup in the first part and then the things get skewed, the middle starts to get pushed into Part 3 and then it seems like everything has to end faster than I wanted.

Oh well, I bet in a few more months I'll get them toned down how I want.

I will say that erotica authors seem to have this down pat, as they typically put out shorter works of that length. Anyone wanting to take shorter novellas seriously might want to consider writing a few 'racier' books to get a feel for it. Just an idea.

February 12, 2014 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger Julie Valerie said...

Anne, I do think your comment section is becoming a great place to meet other people. Like eHarmony, only, not eHarmony.

February 14, 2014 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--I do think blog comments are a great way to network. It's how I met my blog partner Ruth (she commented here and on a bunch of other blogs I visited regularly) and also my publisher. Commenting on blogs is some of the most important networking a writer can do.

February 14, 2014 at 9:54 AM  
OpenID characterfulwriter said...

Good stuff, as always on this blog. That's why it was one of those I discussed as superblogs. The blueprint is useful for novels too.

February 14, 2014 at 12:46 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rosalind--I just read your great shout-out for us on your blog. How cool to be a "superblog!" Being compared to "Liberty's" vs. "British Home Stores" is high praise from a Brit. We're honored. Thanks!

Yes, I think Paul's outline would work just as well for a novel, although you need arcs for the subplots too. Best of luck with your new story collection. (BTW, I had to go to the book to see your name. You might want to put it on the blog. I know it's hard for Brits to toot your own horns, but it's OK. Your name is your brand!)

February 14, 2014 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger Nina Badzin said...

Great information on the novella. And congrats on the nomination! Off to vote.

February 15, 2014 at 3:48 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks, Nina. We really appreciate it.

February 15, 2014 at 3:53 PM  
Blogger Julie Valerie said...

P.S. Just voted! *wink*wink*

February 16, 2014 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks, Julie!

February 16, 2014 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Greg, I do have the same problem and that's why I stretch the middle a bit from end of Part II and into Part III. Not always but sometimes I just have to do that. Middles are always hard no matter how you approach them and I think no matter what length. Still, shorter works like novellas are harder to be so clear cut with. Great comment. Paul

February 16, 2014 at 2:02 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Julie, love your comment about eHarmony. Good to meet you.


February 16, 2014 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Paul, here. It will work with novels but Anne's right about the subplots. Might be why I've never tackled one. I think I'm too tunnel visioned and focus on just one set of main characters. But it's certainly doable.

February 16, 2014 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Thanks, Nina. Hope you'll let us know how the strategy works for you if you try writing them. You may already be doing so. My best,


February 16, 2014 at 2:05 PM  
Blogger Jan Ryder said...

Thank you for this, Paul. Very helpful. I'm also a "visual" writer - the scenes/action play out in my mind like a movie as I write. I'm in the final throes of editing my second mystery thriller (85,000 words). As soon as it's published I intend to write a novella (or two). And yes, the "eHarmony" of this blog is fabulous!

March 30, 2014 at 4:52 AM  
Blogger Paul Keene said...

Excellent post! I've considered writing a novella, and now I have the information and references. I'm happy I found you on twitter, Anne. Thank you Paul!

April 26, 2015 at 10:29 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul--Welcome! I hope you have fun with that novella!

April 27, 2015 at 10:14 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jan--Well, I'm only 13 months late with this reply. :-) Sometimes comments slip by me. I hope your mystery launched to great success and your novella too!

April 27, 2015 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Shah Wharton said...

Brilliant post, as always. I love writing shorts, and find they sell much better than my longer fiction. The same goes for those I ghostwrite for too. I also prefer to read shorter fiction these days, for much the same reasons as you say. Thanks Anne.


May 6, 2015 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Shah--That's great to hear: some concrete evidence that shorter fiction is taking over the marketplace. Thanks!

May 6, 2015 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Jessi L Roberts said...

I have a 35,000 word space opera. The problem is, I don't know where to find publishers/agents who want this kind of thing from an author whose only call to fame is a short story in a small magazine. Any help?

October 14, 2015 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jessi--There's a whole lot of help right on this blog. Look in the "Pages" menu in the sidebar and read the page on "how to get your book published." And I've also written a book with Amazon #1 author Catherine Ryan Hyde called HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE that is packed with information for writers just like you. Only $3.99 for the ebook.

And the #1 thing you can do while you're educating yourself about the business is write another book. The novella series is very hot right now. It's very hard to publish a singleton title--but get a few of them going and you're on your way. So keep writing!

October 14, 2015 at 3:59 PM  
Blogger Jessi L Roberts said...

Thanks for the information!

October 14, 2015 at 4:01 PM  

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