Considering Novellas

Novellas are a form I haven’t given enough thought.

I’m generally not great with short stories. My mind wants to make things too complex to be constrained to 8,000 words or less. The ideas I typically get are just too big for the format. Any ideas I have which would fit tend to be less than stellar. There have been a couple exceptions … “Dreaming the Life” might be the best thing I’ve ever written, but it’s a rare example.

Novels take time, though. Given a good enough idea, I can write a story like “Dreaming the Life” in five or six days, and polish it up on the seventh. But a novel? Worse yet, a series of novels? (Then again, when I started work on the Voidstrider books, writing was my only job and I had so much more time to work on it than I do now.)

I think one reason I never really thought much about novellas, specifically the writing thereof, is that I just hadn’t read very many. I’ve read shorts, and I’ve read novels, and I’ve read series. But other than the occasional anchor for a collection — say, a novella with two or three accompanying shorts — I hadn’t much exposure to the form.

Then, of course, came Murderbot. Man, those are good. I devoured some Murderbot during the lockdown.

And, thinking about it, there are of course novellas in most issues of magazines like Asimov’s and Analog, both of which I pick up semi-regularly. I think maybe I never really considered those in the right light, until I read a couple novellas that were self-contained, in-and-of-themselves, standing alone, marketed to me as a singular thing rather than an entry on a table of contents. Maybe? I dunno. Whatever.

So the thing is this: 5,000 – 8,000 words usually doesn’t give me enough room to stretch my bones; 60,000 – 90,000 takes me about a year, anymore, although I could once manage it in about 6 months. But 20,000 – 40,000? Hmmmmm, that’s a different beast, now, isn’t it?

This was a lot of words to say not much, and if I were to revise this post it’d probably end up being a paragraph, but the wisdom is that I’m going to give some serious consideration to the novella form. I’m already kicking around an idea or two, which I may pick up when I finish the cyberpunk book.

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