For weeks now I’ve been kind of raging against the current state of affairs in the novel writing business. Notice I say “novel writing”, because the general condition of the publishing industry is a whole different subject. The thing is that so many new authors have been publishing so-called novels that are less than 10K words and that grates on the nerves of traditional, grumpy old writers like me.
But between the short stories masquerading as novels and the 100K+ word books of the past I’m starting to see the reality of the new, respectable novel (for want of a better description — which I’m supposed to be able to write being an author an’ all). Many new readers are happy to get their novels in more bite-sized chunks, perhaps around the 20-25K mark. It’s the rebirth of the novella, something that’s not a new idea, but still an idea a lot of writers haven’t quite grasped.
Because writing a good novella is an art-form all of its own. A lot of successful fiction is judged on the merit of its characterisation, plot development and complex story arcs and these important ingredients need to be condensed, not ignored, in a novella — and that’s not easy. We have to go rooting among the likes of Conan-Doyle and maybe Edgar Allen Poe who were masters of the “long” short story to rediscover how to write thriller or horror novellas. Many of the recognised experts at crime fiction wrote a lot of novella-like stories for magazine in the 60’s. Sure, romance writing has been doing this forever, but the formulaic style of romance is another challenge.
So I’m keen to try my hand at this “revolutionary” approach to writing books. The crucial thing is I want to write true, properly structured novellas — not just lazy, too-short versions of books, if you get my meaning. At the end of each book (here’s a thing — they will always be “books” according to Amazon… okay, fine) I want my readers to be satisfied they got a complete story and it was well worth the journey.
And as a writer I will admit it’s exciting to be looking at shorter projects with a foreseeable conclusion, rather than beginning a new full-length novel which can sometimes feel like standing at the bottom of a mountain and looking at the top as the published pinnacle.
Is this a case of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”? Not really. It’s more an admittance of the way things are despite how hard the “old guard” would prefer it otherwise. It’s not a revolution in writing, it’s an evolution. I don’t want to be a dinosaur.