Wednesday, December 12, 2012

the novella and Christmas

Until now, the only books I have written are novels ranging in length from 80,000 to 135,000 words. I don't really think in terms of short story ideas and had little interest in taking the time to develop characters only to end a story at less than 40,000 words.  I kept seeing novellas popping up in Kindle which got me more interested in finding out more about them from the writing standpoint.

"The novella has ambivalence built into its DNA. It's neither one thing nor the other and tends to make you think even as it lures you down blind alleys and serves up irresolute endings." from  the novella is making a comeback

As I researched the form to determine if I wanted to do this, I learned length determines what it is. A short story runs from 3500-7500 words. A novelette from 7500-17,500. Novella 17,000-40,000. Novel 40,000 or greater although the average novel will be 80,000-120,000.  Of the three shorter options, novellas allow for more characters, more complications, actually more freedom of form, but ideally sticks to a theme (which might be unconventional). It will most likely have one point of view. There is some disagreement on whether it should have chapters as some believe it should be read at once to fully experience it. Others still see the value of chapters for readers without time to do the whole thing in a sitting.


It was while we were driving south to Tucson that I firmed up  my ideas for writing my own. Some of why I wanted to do it was the challenge of something I hadn't done but more was because I had begun to think it'd be fun to write a Christmas story where my own Christmas this year will be very nontraditional.

If I was in Oregon, I would do some decorating. It's become more minimal through the years as I used to go all out for  it. We would go to our son and daughter-in-law's for Christmas Eve. Our kids and we will, however, have our gift sharing and Christmas in January at a home rental in Sunriver so don't feel too sorry for me not being with them December 25th. Okay so you don't feel sorry at all knowing I will be in Tucson likely with sunshine and a morning hike on the desert.

None of that will be like my own Christmases as a child and growing up with the large Trueax family who gathered regularly for holidays-- Christmas always at my uncle's home. As that changed with the old ones dying and our own babies being born, it would usually be our home and big dinners, often including friends who might not have family nearby. That has disappeared except in my memory and my memory is what I was counting on to write this story.

Generally speaking when I write, I don't rush a book. I like to know where it's going but be open to surprises along the way. Surprises come out of writing and thinking, going off and thinking, writing some more. Surprises require being aware of where the story might have something to add beyond the original concept.

To write this novella in time to be available at all before Christmas meant writing 5000 words a day. Now I have done that but I think writing that fast makes it too easy to go with the trite event, to slip into stereotypes or pigeonhole characters not allowing for interesting nuances. 5000 words a day doesn't give a lot of time to develop secondary plots or characters. None of that a problem with a novella.

In the case of this novella it would especially be made easier since it would use characters and a setting from a book I'd already written-- From Here to There. It would bring the story forward three years and set it into the holidays. Writing it felt like just continuing on with that book. Even with more words in a day, I still took breaks after a thousand words where I'd go off, do something else, think about what happened before heading back to the keyboard.

As has happened to me before with my writing, what starts out simple comes to have a broader theme than I originally anticipate. This story is about the season-- ranch style but also and more importantly about two families where one has been very estranged. My heroine wants to bring them together as she is ready to start her own family. With thoughts of babies in her head, she wants a big family to be part of her someday children's lives. She also wants her husband to know the kind of Christmas she experienced through a beloved aunt and uncle.

So my story is about traditional Christmases (with a Solstice thrown in) and about the healing of a family. It has lended itself well to writing 5000 words a day but mostly because so much of it is about tradition, family, and with characters I already knew.

Hopefully A Montana Christmas will be available on Kindle by December 16. For this one, I am using an editor to catch my glitches as there is no way I can write something this fast, instantly edit it, and not miss things. Although I will edit myself, I wanted another perspective.

It will be out a bit late for this season but still around next year-- the beauty of Kindles. I don't know if I will write another novella but maybe someday a secondary character or some offshoot from a book will suggest the time is ripe. Where it comes to my life or writing, I like to leave myself open for new ideas and changes.

2 comments:

Dick said...

This sounds good. I enjoyed "From Here To There" and will like to follow the characters and find out what happens with the developers. Tomorrow is the 16th- will it be out on the Kindle list?

Rain Trueax said...

Thanks Dick. I will let readers here know when it's actually up. It got submitted today and they say 12 hours but some say it's taken a lot longer recently.

The fun part is it kind of led to a possible future book with some of these characters. I added some fun ones with a possible romance for seniors if I can come up with another aspect to the plot :)

But I won't let myself get distracted from the Arizona historical that I really want to finish before I get myself anymore wrapped up with new stories. This is the first time ever that I have had two books partially written. I can't add a third to that ;)