Blog Archives

Novellas: The Writer’s Quick-Fix

Writers often slave over their manuscripts for months, sometimes missing out on sleep, and the writing is only half of it. Then comes editing, revising, editing, and so on. But because we love our craft we keep going – book after book after book. There is nothing like the reward of a finished book and a story well told.

Another option for those who need a writing ‘fix’ is to try your hand at writing a novella. Longer than a short story but shorter than a novel, novellas allow us to tell a story in a shorter amount of time but with that same thrill of creating characters and scenes that will take us (and the reader) on an emotional journey.

Shorter doesn’t necessarily mean easier though – you have been warned! You still need to work on characterisation, goal, motivation, and conflict, and be able to show enough character growth through the shorter word count. But they are usually much quicker to write and edit, and because of the advance of e-publishing and self-publishing, novellas seem to be more widely available nowadays.

Novellas can be produced more quickly, you can explore certain ideas that may not be sustainable through an entire novel, they are good for seasonal stories (eg: Christmas), and they can also be used as prequels or sequels to longer works of fiction. For the reader, they are a bite sized read that can be devoured in one go during a lunch break or before bed, but often still providing that same sense of emotional satisfaction that comes from reading a novel. They are a good way to discover new authors too, without committing to a full length book.

I recently wrote my first novella, STARSTRUCK IN SEATTLE; the first in a series of novellas linked by a quirky character named Lulu. It took me about three weeks to write the first draft. And when I say three weeks, I don’t mean three full-on weeks, I mean snippets of writing time here and there around motherhood and other duties! So if I didn’t have much else to do, I could probably have written it in about a week (says the optimistic part of me 😉 )

How did I come up with the idea for my novella? Sleepless in Seattle was on television and because I am a sucker for stories of ‘fate’ and romance that is ‘just like magic’, an idea about an online matchmaker and Love Coach came to me. But in this case, the matchmaker has a little secret. Here’s the blurb for the story…

Actress Anna Hilford has a major crush, but not on just any guy – Karl Drake, the leading actor in the television drama on which she works as an extra. Sick of being loveless and second best in the shadow of her famous sister, Anna seeks the help of Lulu from LuluTheLoveAngel.com to give her the courage and determination to follow what she believes is her destiny and transform from ‘extra’ to ‘leading lady’ in both life and love. What she doesn’t realize however, is that Lulu really is an angel and destiny has other ideas.

I found writing this novella fun and rewarding, though still a bit of hard work here and there! And in case you’re wondering, Lulu’s website does exist, though she told me she’s having a little vacation on Cloud Nine and will hopefully be back soon 😉

~ Have you written a novella? Feel free to give yours a plug in the comments.

~ Do you read novellas? What are some that you’ve enjoyed reading recently?

It was a dark and stormy night… (First Sentences)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. That is how Jane Austen started her book, Pride and Prejudice in 1813, and made it into the top 100 best first lines from novels according to the American Book Review.

A knockout first sentence can immediately draw a reader in, and helps set the tone of the story, so I think it’s important to create the best first line possible. Having said that, a good first line means nothing if the rest of the book is terrible! So of course the second sentence, and the third, and right up till the end all matters too.

When I’m in a bookstore choosing a book, not only do I go by cover design, author name, and the blurb on the book jacket, I always read the first sentence, and often the whole first page to see if it grabs my interest. If a writer can come up with the goods on the first page I know they’re more likely to keep me interested throughout the whole book.

As a reader, how important is the first sentence to you? As a writer, how easy or difficult do you find it to come up with a winner of a first line?

I love writing first sentences. I usually write them first before working out a detailed plot, because I find if I just let the words flow it’s easier to get a feel for the story idea and the protagonist.

Here are a few of my first sentences from completed stories, short stories, and works in progress…

Some first sentences are short:

Birthdays suck. (The Big Four-O, short story)

And some first sentences are long:

For most people, the worst time to get an attack of the hiccups would be at the dentist just as the drill is approaching your mouth, or on a date, just as he leans in for The Kiss, but for me, the unfortunate diaphragmatic spasm came when Channel Four news crossed to my live broadcast at the Sydney Travel Show. (February or Forever, work-in-progress)

And others are somewhere in between:

Damn you Barbie! You and your size four figure, all over tan, and legs to the moon! (The Life Makeover Club)

Dr. Sylvia Greene had never done anything like this before in her life. (The January Wish)

‘Oops’ is not the word you ever want to hear from your hairdresser; scissors in one hand, a large section of hair in the other. (Untitled, work-in-progress)

 

And here are some great first sentences I’ve found from other authors:

If a road could look welcoming, then Summer Street had both arms out and the kettle boiling. (Past Secrets, Cathy Kelly)

Under normal circumstances, Faith and I should not be home when my mother calls and invites us to come see her brand-new coffin. (Keeping Faith, Jodi Picoult)

What would you do if you thought you were about to die? (Heaven Can Wait, Cally Taylor)

Of all the crap, crap, crappy nights I’ve ever had in the whole of my crap life. (Remember Me, Sophie Kinsella)

 

Why not comment and share a favourite first sentence or two, or maybe you’d like to share the first sentence of one of your novels, or a work-in-progress? I’d love to hear some more 🙂

 

Manuscript Monogamy – are you an adulterous author?

Many authors advise writing only one manuscript at a time, so you can completely immerse yourself in the world you’ve created and the lives of the characters. This ‘Manuscript Monogamy’ makes sense, however in reality while writing a manuscript you may be editing another, and planning a future story simultaneously.

But what about writing more than one manuscript at a time? Not writing one while planning another, but actually writing scenes in one story, and then writing scenes in another story? In other words, being an Adulterous Author (gasp!).

Are you guilty of this? And if so, is it really a sin, or is it possible that two different stories can be written simultaneously and still have a convincing plot and strong characters? Who knows, but I think it depends on the writer. If you’re the sort of writer who’s able to switch your mind easily from one story to another and stay true to the characters, then I say go for it – go ahead and cheat on manuscript number one with manuscript number two, and even (heaven forbid) manuscript number three! Just don’t tell your characters 😉

But, if the thought of this horrifies you and you think being the monogamous type is the right way to go, then repeat after me; “I (insert name here), promise to love, honour, and obey my current manuscript, till ‘the end’ do us part.” Sure, you can jot down some simple ideas for other stories as they arise, but be warned; one thing may lead to another and you could find yourself in a compromising position at third base when you only intended to go to first. Try explaining that to the revenge-driven gun-wielding action hero you created in manuscript number one.

Anyway, what do you think? What works for you? I personally am filled to the brim with ideas I want to pursue, so it would be detrimental to my family and friends, and possibly anyone within a five kilometre radius of my house, if I didn’t at least do some work on these other ideas while writing my current manuscript. I would quite likely explode if I didn’t. Having said that, I try to work mainly on one manuscript, but allow myself to write scenes in another when the inspiration strikes. Inspiration is such a random and beautiful thing, and like the Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston movie, sometimes it’s good to ‘Just Go With It’.

 

 

Don’t Just Write What You Know, Write What You Care About

This is one of my favourite bits of writing advice, and as soon as I read those simple words in Donald Maass’ book, ‘Writing the Breakout Novel’, I grabbed my trusty pink highlighter and slid it across the page. Mostly because I liked the advice, and partly because I love highlighting things! (I love the smooth feel as they glide along the page, and the colours you can get these days are gorgeous! But I’ll save that discussion for some other self-indulgent blog post, perhaps about stationary addiction).

It is SO important to write what you care about, because as Donald says, ‘If you don’t care, why should anyone else?’

Don’t write something just because you think it’s popular, or there’s a gap in the market. You have to like and care about what you’re writing in order to enjoy it and do it for the long haul.

This advice got me thinking about what I care about, and why I have written about certain topics.  In my novel, The Life Makeover Club, I’ve written about women getting a chance to create the life they always wanted. I care about people being able to enjoy their lives and do the things they’re passionate about, rather than feeling like they’re stuck in a rut, or trapped in a life that isn’t what they want. Too many people settle for second best, or say ‘this is just my lot in life’, without thinking or taking action towards making their life better. Sure, there are some things that can’t be changed, but a lot can be, and probably one of the most important things you can change is your attitude.

My novel also explores motherhood, and how to be a good mother while still keeping your own identity – something I know many mothers struggle with. I’ve also highlighted (there I go again!) the humourous side to motherhood, as daily parenting can bring with it both challenging and funny moments, and sometimes you just have to laugh!

Another thing I care about creating awareness of is the often silent ‘emotional abuse’ in some relationships. Domestic violence gets a lot of press, and rightly so, but those suffering in an emotionally abusive relationship often suffer in silence because it is not seen, and the affected partner can feel like they are making a big deal out of nothing, or that maybe they are just too sensitive. I wanted to show a character going through this and finding the strength to come through it; to say ‘I don’t have to put up with this.’

Other themes, issues, and topics I care about, and are writing or plan to write about in future are:

– reconnecting with family

– personal empowerment

– trusting your intuition

– the reality of autism and the gifts it can provide

– the importance of being proactive with your health

– remembering and celebrating life’s little pleasures

– the need for a ‘place to call home’

– the valued role of grandparents

– thinking outside the box – ‘What if?’

– entrepreneurship

– accepting people as individuals

– the valuable role of ‘the arts’ in our lives

– second chances, persistence, never giving up

– miracles

What about you?

What do you care about?

What are you inspired to write or read about?