Shelley Widhalm

Archive for May, 2016|Monthly archive page

Novels vs. novellas

In Writing, Writing Novellas, Writing Novels, Writing Processes, Writing Short Stories on May 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

I wrote a short story I intended to be a short story, but then I thought when it kept going on and on, it might be a long short story.

Now, at 15,000 words, it’s anything but.

Nor, is it a novella.

That means I’ll have to cut a few thousand words or add a few scenes and more words, develop the characters more deeply and add to the plot strands.

So, what makes for a novella and is it a viable option for storytelling?

Novellas are typically 20,000 to 50,000 words or 17,500 to 40,000 words, depending on the definition you find.

Comparatively, novels can be 50,000 to 90,000 words (or more), or an average of 80,000 words, and short stories can range up to 10,000 words (though I’ve seen some literary journals accept longer short stories).

A novella, intended to be consumed in a single sitting, typically has fewer conflicts than a novel but is more complicated with more scenes than a short story. There is more time to develop those conflicts and the characters engaged in or instigating the conflicts.

The conflicts are part of one storyline, instead of part of several subplots which can be developed in longer works but are difficult to fit into the framework of a short book. There also is typically one point of view, though there is space for more details and description than in a short story.

And the setting can be varied that unlike a short story is best confined to one time and one place or a couple at most.

In essence, a novella is a shortened novel or a very long short story that isn’t here or there, but there are a few that have had success, like Edith Wharton’s “A Lost Lady.”

As for mine, I will review what I’ve written and see if it fits the arc of a complete story, or if I stopped early because I’d set my mind to writing a short story and had just gotten carried away.

On to editing and revising and reconsidering the next step for my short story-novella-novel, or whatever it will be.

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Short stories vs. novels

In Writing Flash Fiction, Writing Novels, Writing Short Stories on May 15, 2016 at 11:00 am

I find writing short stories more challenging than going for the long haul of writing a novel.

A short story requires you to get in, get out and do it in a way that brings in all of the story elements—plot, character, setting and dialog—without boring the reader. With a novel, you can take your time—but not too much—setting up the igniting spark, storyline, theme, character identities and other story elements.

The length of a short story varies from 1,000-5,000 words or anything or up to 10,000 words, depending on the publication or publishing house doing the defining. Generally, anything less than 1,000 words is considered flash fiction.

Novels are 50,000 words or more, or average 75,000 to 90,000 words.

Because of their length, novels need to sustain readers’ interests over several reading sessions, while a short story can be consumed in one sitting in a few minutes or a couple of hours.

Because of limited space, a short story focuses on a specific time, place, event and interaction. The timeframe typically covers days or weeks, and the setting cannot be in too many places.

Short stories typically begin with a crisis or conflict, getting to the point right away, lacking the time or space for long setups. They have one or a few characters and present a snapshot into the lives of those characters, avoiding long character histories and descriptions.

Also when writing short stories, consider the following:

  • Show, don’t tell with the action.
  • Use first or third-person, or two characters shifting point of view.
  • Express a single theme, or message to get across to the readers.

Essentially, think of a short story as a scene or two that tells an entire story in a quick-to- consume fashion.

Flash fiction vs. short stories

In Flash Fiction, Short Fiction, Short Stories on May 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

I love the term flash fiction, because it makes me think of storytelling that is quick and flashy.

It’s writing that is short, descriptive and to the point but deceptively complex in its tightness.

Flash fiction is a micro or mini version of a short story, though the length varies depending on the publication. It can be anywhere from 100 to 1,000 words or even 1,500 words, while short stories are defined as 1,000 to 10,000 words.

An ultra short story, flash fiction is a style of fiction of extreme brevity with a definable plot pared down to the core of the story. It’s called micro-fiction, micro-story, skinny fiction, fast fiction, furious fiction, postcard fiction, short short, short short story and sudden fiction. It’s part poetry and part narrative.

To successfully write flash fiction, avoid fragmented storytelling. Tell a complete story with the traditional format of beginning, middle and end, making every word essential, without the extras. Retain the elements of storytelling, because otherwise it will become a snippet of a moment of a larger story or an episode without a theme or story.

I find that it’s best to write flash fiction in one sitting with one idea for a character or plot and work from there. Ask if there’s a point to the story, but don’t get too focused on theme. And write when you are in your own emotional moment, getting words out without worrying about word count.

Begin at the moment of conflict when most of the action is nearly complete, avoiding any kind of introduction or back story. Make sure every conversation, action and gesture is important to the telling of the story. Focus on powerful images. And end with an emotional impact.

Once the piece is finished, here are some tricks to tighten and polish the work:

  • Get rid of adjectives and adverbs.
  • Get rid of unnecessary sentences and descriptions.
  • Make sure every conversation, action and gesture is important to the story.

And remember, what’s left out is just as important. Be concise. Keep the essential details. Cut the rest.

(Note: I recycled this blog from a year ago, because I am so behind with my personal writing and editing projects that I didn’t have time to blog this week. I have a deadline for one of my projects at the end of May.)

Taking on the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge

In NaNoWriMo, Writing, Writing Goals, Writing Inspiration, Writing Motivation on May 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

A friend of mine kept sending emails about signing up for the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge, and I was reluctant to even try, feeling burned out on writing.

But after half a dozen emails, I was like, “Fine, I’ll do it. I’ll take on the challenge.”

Camp NaNoWriMo is a virtual writer’s “retreat” in April and July where writers encourage each other on their personal writing projects, forming cabins or groups as a virtual writing group and community.

The camp is open to multiple writing projects, such as new novel drafts, revision, poetry, scripts and short stories. I decided to continue working on my short story collection, tentatively called “Coffee Shop Tales,” with all the stories set in the same coffee shop with something tying them together at the end (though I don’t know what that is, being a pantser writer).

Campers set a word count goal between 30 and 1 million. I didn’t get started until May 5, when I signed up and set my goal at 15,000 words. I’ve done NaNoWriMo twice before, meeting the goal to write 50,000 words, but I wasn’t up to that fast of a pace for writing. I was kind of tired of writing, but somehow by having a goal and just doing it I felt reenergized and excited about my project.

My aim became writing words, so I lost the editor and the insecurity and let the story come out as it wanted to (rough and sloppy with the idea that revision is for later). I loved seeing my words tally up, and that inspired me to keep going.

Camp NaNoWriMo keeps track of your average daily word count (mine at the end of the project was 520 words, though I wrote nine days with a count ranging from 550 words to 1,000 or 1,500 most of the days).

On my first day, I wrote 1,150 words. On day 10, I was up to nearly 5,000 words. I got kind of busy, so faced a time crunch on April 27, when I was at nearly 11,000 words.

The next day on April 28, I got to 12,600 words, leaving 2,400 words for April 29. Since my birthday is on April 30 and I wasn’t going to do anything but have fun, I had to get those words in that day—I divided the count into two writing sessions and wrote more than 2,500 words.

I concluded the month with what I thought was 15,135 words, but the device that tallies final word count said I had 15,090 words.

I wonder where the other 45 words went. It doesn’t matter, because I lost my burnout (and those words, too) and am inspired to write again.

Thanks Camp NaNoWriMo.