The Weeping Willow (yes, the title stays, ha!) in its expanded and fully rewritten plus revised form is now in my publisher’s hands. I only have enough time to down a couple of dozen teabags’ worth of Jasmine Fancy Tea before diving back into the fray and getting started on Eve of St. Agnes.
After a fairly shaky start – and an equally shaky time spent on the learning curve, so to speak – I think I’m now pretty comfortable writing novellas. What I do know for sure is the fact that I’m utterly incapable of answering submission calls now for multi-author anthologies. ^^;;; I’m too entrenched in – for lack of a better term – writerly independence, i.e., I can only write what I want, when I want, and at whatever length I want. Or, in the case of my previous two efforts, at whatever length is required to tell the story.
And here comes the irony of novel vs. novella writing for me.
When I write novels, I have a very specific word count target, and I aim to complete a book whose length falls within 10,000 words of it, either over or under. That means more room to expand, of course, but also to pad, which isn’t a good thing. Trust me, padding can be very, very tempting, and sometimes I’m not even aware that I’m padding stuff until I go back and reread the draft. Sometimes an editor will point that out. I try, anyway, during the revision phase to cut out what I consider to be padding in my books, and I’m hoping that readers find not much extraneous material in any of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they disagreed, but hope springs eternal. And as you very well know, writers are the worst judges of their work.
Oddly enough, when I wrote the novellas, I started out with a target word count, which in the end, didn’t matter, and I had to ignore it and let the story write itself to whatever length was needed. Benedict started out with a 20K-word count target, and it ended up being 24K+. The Weeping Willow started out with a 25K-word count target, and it now clocks in at 28K. Heaven knows how long Eve of St. Agnes will be, but judging from the notes I currently have, it’ll likely be within the same range as the other two.
The biggest plus to writing a novella is the fact that the plot is really limited, and there’s no need to complicate things with subplots or a gazillion side characters. Sticking to what’s necessary was what required a bit of a learning curve to me as I’ve long been used to letting it all hang out and write this, that, and the other till a full-length (YA length, that is) novel is born.
As I’m not a writer of action or adventure (unless it’s Masks), I think a novella works best with the more internal stuff that I tend to gravitate to insofar as conflict’s concerned; otherwise, readers might get bored or complain that my stories are too slow. And that’s another reason why I’d like to hone my skills in this story length. This would be a good platform to develop a strong, more solid but still complex plot dealing with a character’s maturation without all the appendages required in a full-length novel.
So I’m moving on to Eve of St. Agnes with a bit more confidence while still crossing my fingers and uttering a desperate prayer. Yeah, I know, ironic.