the state of the novella

I’m still fucking writing it. So, there’s that.

Awhile ago, I wrote about trying to expand beyond short stories and trying to write something new. There’s a call for novellas and shorter novels by a press in November. So, I thought that I would give a novella a shot.

Caveat: I’ve never finished a novel. I have written something that was about 100 pages, but I could never get my head around it. I’ve tried on a few occasions to write long form and failed.

I think I didn’t have the patience or the ideas or the skills to throw together a book. It’s not an easy process. It’s a really nasty, long task. You need to know what you are getting into and you need to be ready for the big ups and downs that come with it.

I’ve been writing steadily for a year, so I sort of feel like I can move forward with a little more confidence. But it is still nasty, man.

I had five failed attempts to get the novella started. By the fifth, I had changed the genre completely.

Yes. Each of those five failures were a lesson that I needed to learn. That is important to note. I don’t take them back. But god damn did they suck.

I was pulling hairs out trying to figure out what was going wrong and, eventually, I decided to scrap the premise and plot and dive into something that would be fun. And, so far, it has remained fun.

Some days are harder than others. There’s no getting around that. I’m also paranoid about the word count. I have to meet a threshold to even have the novella considered. I’m not entirely sure that I will make it.

But I think that it is really important that I finish this project regardless of whether or not it can be published.

I need to finish something long form to show myself that I can. I’ve walked away from too many would-be books. I really think it’s time to see what can happen if I finish something bigger. Will there be something even longer in the future? Could I actually have something that could be salvaged? No idea.

I’m more hopeful than I anticipated. I’m over 50 pages in and it’s not bad. I think it suffers from being a first draft. I know that it is going to take a lot of cleaning and managing to make what I’ve written into something that could be read by others or published by a press.

That’s okay, though. I’ve always thought of writing as clay. You can mold and sculpt clay. You can move it to where you want it to go and, more often than not, it will conform to the parameters that you set.

In order to do any of that work, you need the clay. The draft I have right now is about half finished in terms of the words and pages I need to tell the story. However I think that in the long haul, the book at completion of words and pages will only be a quarter of the way done.

It’s all about editing.

Anyway, that’s the state of the novella. Overall, it’s going fine. The good days I average about 1,000 words (which I see as about the ideal for the size of a chapter). On the shitty days, I will let it drop to 400-500 words.

I also find myself writing in ideas that haven’t always been supported by the previous chapters or text. That’s a weird thing that I’ve found. With a short story, you have to move so quickly that you can change a paragraph and shift the entirety of the story. I now find myself adding something new in on page 45 and knowing that I will have to shift the story in earlier chapters in editing to justify the changes that I’ve made. I just don’t have the time to scour those pages right now. 

I guess the process has to change when you have something so big. I’ll keep you updated and we’ll see how it goes.


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