I have just finished the first draft of my work in progress, Boundless as the Sea. Okay, not a work in progress now so much as a work-awaiting-revision but there you go.
Big pat on the back, now moving swiftly on. In his truly marvellous part-memoir part-text book, On Writing, Stephen King recommends putting your manuscript away in a drawer and then revisiting a few weeks later. That helps you to read it with a fresh pair of eyes. I completely agree.
So I have a few weeks - what now?
Do I move straight on to the third novel in my trilogy, the story of Ernestina? I think not. That needs more planning, more outlining, more preparation. I fancy a bit of a change. And what I fancy writing is a short story - or a novella.
This isn't the first time I've dipped my toe in the water of a novella. I have tried before. Nocturne Bite anyone? #Fail. Harlequin Historical Undone? #Fail.
I can write flash fiction.
I can write a novel.
Why can't I write anything in between?
Here's what I've learned from writing flash fiction:
1. Have a story arc but...
2. Write tight.
In microfiction or flash fiction you're dealing with 100 words. At best 300 words. You have time to set the scene, have one twist and then complete. In that space you need to be visceral, immediate, intense. All senses need to be invoked.
I can do that in 100 words... 200.... even 300... longer than that and I get sloppy. I have adjectives to play with, back story to pop in. Before I know it, I'm two thirds through a full length novel. And my novels are long. Boundless as the Sea is nearing 110K words - 100K words too long for Avon. Nearly 40K words too long for Harlequin.
You see why it is a Work-in-Revision.
But back to the novella.
Thanks to the ownership of my beloved kindle I have been reading a lot more novellas. I like them. Done well they are a bite-size but fulfilling chunk of fiction. The prose equivalent of a Twirl bar, the perfect accompaniment to a long, hot soak in the bath. Yum!
1. Immediacy. A novella is immediate. There is no time for a slow burn - the heroine and heroine need to be flung together from the get go.
2. Intensity. There is no time for digression, or for dilly dallying with secondary characters. A novella requires a sharp focus - usually on the two protagonists.
3. Time frame. You can't span years. Your novella needs to take place in a rapid time line, from first sight to completion.
4. You still need a structure through which your characters experience conflict and find resolution.
5. You still need back story. Your character has to be believable and rich. The world well conceived.
Where does this leave me?
With chapter one of a bloody novel that's where.
So back to the drawing board. In an effort to escape my own verbosity I'm going to start at the end. That's right. I'm going to write the final chapter and work back from there. A new approach - let's see how it works!
Any hints or tips for writing short?