This is something I’ve been struggling with lately. And damn y’all, I wish I didn’t struggle so much with so many things, especially when it comes to this writing business.
At the same time, with each struggle, whether internal or external, mental or emotional, I learn something new about myself. This is a really good thing. And… by the time I’m 100, I should have my path pretty much figured out.
In all seriousness, though, I have been struggling with relevance in regards to book length. Can I still call it a book if it’s a novella? Do I call it a story? Is it worth publishing? Charging for? Is it worth even bothering at all?
I have written short short stories before… 3000-5000 words.
I have written longer short stories, too… 10000-15000 words.
I have written many novellas… 18000-40000 words.
I have also written 45000, 50000, almost 60000 words.
That novella line though… more than 25 of those in the years I’ve been publishing.
There are some authors who make a really good living writing novellas. They publishing 10 or so a year. They charge $0.99 for them most of the time. And they’re usually part of a series, released in quick or at least methodical succession. This is something to learn from. Something to watch closely for someone like me who writes novellas.
My writing productivity has fallen off the last few years as all of you know. Self publishing has made me incredibly uncomfortable and doubtful in my ability to write. While it’s giving many authors a sense of power, it’s given me a great deal of anxiety and stress and way too many ‘what the fuck am I even doing anymore?’ moments. This has to change. There is no choice, no other option but for it to change.
And as the two big small press publishers have closed their doors in the last 60 days and the books that had been published with them revert back to me… It’s the majority of my catalog. 15 titles between Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing. I have several titles that have reverted to me from Loose Id as well. All of them… there’s 18 in total… They’re novellas.
It’s my preferred length. That’s obvious.
I can write longer. I can write shorter.
But there’s a lot that can be done with novellas. It’s something I’d forgotten. It’s something I’d pushed to the back of my mind in the face of conversations that talk only of the success and desire for novels of 70000-120000 words. I don’t write that. I don’t even read that most of the time anymore.
Then, I began looking again at those who do write novellas and who do find success with them. And I remembered a conversation I had with someone in Amazon’s Kindle Worlds division about the success that writers are having writing novellas in different worlds.
I suddenly felt foolish at having doubted myself and what I wrote. For years I made money and wrote a lot of words in a lot of different stories that touched a lot of different people who still talk about those characters and want them.
So, yes… I… am a writer.
And that’s pretty damn awesome. It took me a long ass time to come back around to that realization. And it’s a strength, not a weakness as I was trying to convince myself it was, as others tried to convince me it was. Maybe for those writers, it is their weakness. But it’s not mine.
I think I’m going to take a page put of Kathleen Kelly’s book in You’ve Got Mail and begin as though we’re in the middle of a conversation… Or, maybe I’ll just talk. Or maybe… Who knows…
I’ve been writing and wondering and second guessing every word, every phrase, every scene. Time is really of the essence and I don’t have it to waste. This is a busy writing year. Or supposed to be.
See, I’m going to end something in a way that will pass off the majority of people who read it. That’s just all there is to it.
It’s like in Stranger Than Fiction. Emma Thompson’s character Karen is at a point in her novel where she doesn’t know how to kill off her main character. She doesn’t believe in writer’s block, but she’s struggling to land on the death of this man.
I was struggling, too. Not on how to kill a character, but on how to end a book.
How do you end something when you never intended it to be what it became? How do you do that without passing people off? The truth is, you can’t. I can’t.
People will hate it. Readers will be disappointed. Upset. And that’s rather daunting for me and perhaps other writers as well. To know that I’ve written a tale that has made someone else FEEL something.
But if those who read it, dislike it… Then I’ve done my job. Then I’ve stayed true to what had evolved across the pages. Do I want that? To have my words disliked, my work reviewed harshly? No. I’d rather people love it. It’s much easier when they love it than when they hate it. At least, that’s what we tell ourselves.
Staying true to the work, to the words, to the characters… That’s my real duty. And once I freed my brain of the knots holding my creativity hostage, the What if’s, the Maybe I should’s, the Oh no, I can’t do that’s… That’s when I landed on what I am supposed to do, what the characters and events are leading me toward.
After all, it’s their story. Not mine. Not yours, the readers. But the story belongs to the characters.
One of my favorite lines in yet another movie, Wonder Boys, a classmate says of another’s writing, “He respects us enough to forget us. And that takes courage.”
I’ve quoted that line before on the blog and it has relevance here again.
I respect everyone who reads my books. I respect their opinions, whether good or bad. But I can’t write the story anyone else wants. I can’t only write the story that belongs to the characters who’ve come to life through me.
When I get an older book back from a publisher or in the case of Christmas Wishes, out of an anthology, I tend to not release it back into the wild blue yonder of the book world without a few tweaks.
I often go back and add words. Most of the time, double what it was originally, or more. Different writers have different philosophies about revisions on older books, but here’s mine, or at least, here’s one of mine… There’s more to the story than was previously told.
Take, for instance, The Swing. It is a re-release from Ellora’s Cave. It was part of a line of theirs that limited word count to a certain number. No more than 13K or maybe it was 15K. I told the very basics of the story to meet those requirements. I did that a lot. I could write a fairly completely story in 15K words or less. I didn’t write a lot of extraneous words. I didn’t use a lot of backstory. I simply told what needed to be told right then and there.
Other things that were considered when writing for publishers, was price points. The longer the book, the higher the price and a lot of readers balked at paying $5 for a 20,000 word ebook.
With many of my older books, my first books, they were short for those specific reasons. But now that I self publish most of my writing, I can play with price and I can add length, give more story to the readers.
I don’t write long winded epics. I don’t write sagas. I don’t write 300 books in a series. I don’t write 400 page novels.
I write novellas. It’s where I’ve been most comfortable and happiest. I’ve been experimenting with length and series or on-going tales and I’ve enjoyed it and will begin incorporating more of those things in my work. But I primarily write novellas. 40K max for most.
My books don’t change the world, but for a couple of hours in someone’s day, they can change a mood, a moment, provide an escape from reality. Some readers don’t want to spend 3 days reading the same book. I don’t. I like all in one sitting books.
I have added new scenes and extended scenes and changed scenes in The Swing. I have added a bit more emotion. A lot more tears. The sex is still there and is still hot. But I am leaving the time frame of a few years after 9/11. It works for the book. It works for the story. It works for the characters. I’ve freshened things up some. And I think that’s important with books coming back from publishers. As indie authors, we have the freedom to make those decisions now and I like that.
And I’m glad that you, my readers, have enjoyed the books that I’ve re-released, re-worked, and made new again.
It’s a new year and another chance for us to write ALL THE WORDS!
I pledge to be better at this. And I hope… Like really, really hope I can’t get more people involved. This could be such a fun thing, if I could just get it to grow.
So, the way this works is…
From today, Thursday, January 5th through Sunday, January 8th, you, me, whoever, writes or aims to write 10,000 words. Broken down that’s 2500 words a day for 4 days. It’s a lot, or it sounds like a lot. I’ve been averaging about 1000 words a day this week on revisions. I’d like more.
I have several WIPs going and haven’t decided yet which one I’m going to pull out and try to make some progress on. Yet. I’ll have that decided by the end of dinner.
There is a Linky at the bottom of the post where you can add your name and website, blog, etc…
You can grab the button from the sidebar if you’d like for your own site or for social media. The hashtag is #10kweekendsforwriters
Invite your friends or your enemies. I don’t care. I’d just like to have a crowd of people this year join in.
Leave a comment with what you’re working on or just with your starting word count. Or, leave a comment on social media (don’t forget the hashtag #10kweekendsforwriters) with your starting word count and throughout the weekend with your progress and with your final word count on Sunday evening.
If you’ve been reading my books for any length of time, you know there are some that have the beginning of more stories embedded inside. Whether it be characters or scenes from places or maybe a minor unresolved thread. Not all of my books start off as series and not all of them need or warrant additional books. I do this for several reasons that might not be apparent to all readers.
One… So it leaves the readers wondering and questioning. I always like shows and movies that leave me curious as to how the characters are doing after The End. I do, most of the time, prefer my own imagination and fantasy. I like to imagine the characters are still together five, ten, twenty, forever years after.
Two… It leaves the door open for more stories if there’s enough interest from either the readers or from me.
Three… Not every book is supposed to be more than what it is. Some books should stop after roughly 100 pages, but instead the author goes on and on and on for another 100 or 200. Um… No. There’s a point to a story. The author knows it. It’s up to the reader to figure it out. For instance, maybe a character needs to learn something, grow, kick a bad habit to the curb, or come to some realization. Not all of these things take 300 pages to tell.
Four… Shorter books are fun. A quickly little ditty. Something to make the reader forget reality for a while. Something to provide an escape. A couple hours mental vacation. Not everyone wants or has time for 300 page epics. Personally, I like both.
Christmas Wishes is just over 25,000 words. 86 pages. Are there characters who could get their own little stories? Yep. Are there a few things left to be answered? Sure. But there ALWAYS is in any size book. There’s an insatiable desire for more. Always for more. I get that. Sometimes I want more to a story. Sometimes I don’t.
If you’re wanting more of the characters and places and atmosphere of Christmas Wishes or any of my books, drop me a line in an email or leave a comment. Doesn’t mean it’ll happen. Doesn’t mean it won’t. But at least I’ll know one way or another.
P.s. YES Courtney, I know. Book 3 and Riko’s book and Mac’s book, too. Got it!