To cut a long story short…

Now is traditionally the time to leave behind the Christmas excess and forge ahead with new plans… I’m quite keen on the forging ahead bit, but will miss the excess. I find I’ve got used to it. Why are there only crumbs left at the bottom of the mince pie tin?

River Cam towards Clare Bridge
Wintery days have (mostly) encouraged me to stay in the warm and write…

Last year (as you may know, since I’ve banged on about it) I signed a contract for my debut suspense novel, You Think You Know Me, with the very wonderful publisher, Choc Lit. The book was released in December and, in the run-up to publication, I wrote a new Cambridge-set mystery featuring writer Ruby Fawcett and ex-PI Nate Bastable. With that out of the way, I was on the lookout for a new project for the start of 2015.

And then Lyn at Choc Lit happened to mention novellas. I’ve enjoyed reading several recently, including some by my fellow Choc Lit authors. It hadn’t occurred to me to have a go myself, (I was a bit nervous about trying a new length), but suddenly I thought, why not? And it’s good to have a goal to stop me thinking about Baileys and chocolate (almost entirely).

Since signing my contract, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to write shorter fiction. In the summer, Choc Lit authors were invited to produce 3,000-word stories for the publisher’s latest anthology, Kisses and Cupcakes.

And then, when You Think You Know Me was released, I was asked to write some flash fiction – two stories of 800 words each. These were sent out to Choc Lit’s mailing list, one during my release week, and one as part of a Twelve Days of Christmas series. These very short stories are free, and arrive in your inbox in pdf format. If you’d like to receive them periodically, then email info@choc-lit.com with the word Treat! in the subject line.

But a novella’s another thing entirely. Reading a particular format should be one of the best ways of learning about it, but I still felt too unknowledgeable to plunge straight in. I wasn’t even exactly sure what the accepted length of a novella is. Following some research it seems it’s pretty flexible, and individual publishers have their own guidelines. 20,000 to 40,000 words is commonly quoted.

I found this article on the MMU Novella Award site both useful and inspiring.

And Choc Lit’s Liz Harris wrote this very informative post on The Write Romantics’ blog, just before her second novella, A Western Heart, was published.

Then I happened to read this Novelicious article on the topic, just as the idea was taking hold.

I’m revisiting the characters from You Think You Know Me and have been plotting away over the last few weeks. I think I’m almost ready to start, but have no precise idea how long the story will be. It feels very odd, given that I normally plan a thing within an inch of its life.

In other New Year’s good intentions news: I have bought a bottle of Cillit Bang.

I have used this blog post’s title as a tenuous excuse to finish with Spandau Ballet:

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8 thoughts on “To cut a long story short…

  1. Like you, when Choc Lit suggested that I write a novella – mine was to be set in the American West – I researched the ways in which a novella differed from a full-length novel and did a guest blog about these. Aiming for 30,000 words, which turned out the perfect length for the story I’d planned, I wrote A Western Heart. It’s a lovely length of book to write and I’m sure I’ll do another again. Having read a number of novellas before writing my own, I also found it a lovely length of book to read, and I look forward to reading yours.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Liz. I’ve just found the blog post you wrote, and it’s wonderfully helpful! I’ve edited my post so it links to it now; it’s just the sort of advice I was looking for!

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  2. Well, I shall certainly be looking out for your novella as I so enjoyed ‘You Think You Know Me’. I’ve learned to be very versatile since being published by Choc Lit – okay, I didn’t exactly jump for joy at being given ‘Four Calling Birds’ but once I’d overcome the terror it was a terrific writing exercise! I think of all of these experiences help to develop us as writers.

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    1. Thank you, Chris – that’s really kind! I was pretty terrified by the flash fiction… But I’m sure it was good for me…! I loved Four Calling Birds: it was such a satisfying story, and packed with atmosphere. I think that can only happen in flash fiction if every word works perfectly.

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  3. Thanks for all the fantastic tips and links Clare. I would love to try writing a novella when I’ve finished book 2 (who knows when that will happen, of course it will be this year…). A belated Happy New Year, and hope the Cillit Bang does what it needs to do 🙂 Look forward to seeing you at lots of RNA events in 2015!

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    1. Thanks so much, Anita – I am finding it fun to try something different. Good luck with book 2! As for the Cillit Bang, I have a nasty feeling you’re not meant to let the limescale build up for 10 years before you start using it…! Yes – look forward to seeing you at the RNA get-togethers! x

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