writing novellas

November 7, 2019

Have I talked yet about writing novellas, and how novellas have suddenly become a really big deal for me?  In 2019 – 2020, I’ll have published (just a sec, let me count) six new novellas. Prior to 2019, I think the number of novellas I published, in total, was three. (If you count Refuge of Dragons as a novella — it’s at about 41,000 words, which is technically novel length, but it feels like a novella to me.)

So what happened? Why am I suddenly writing a ton of novellas when I didn’t before?

Part of it is market forces. When I first started writing and submitting stories, I really only knew of three major markets that published novellas — the digest-sized SF&F magazines. And they generally printed one each month, and you’d be competing with folks like Connie Willis for those slots. So I just didn’t write novellas at all. Four to six thousand word short stories seemed to be my sweet spot and plenty of markets would publish those, so in a pure numbers game it made sense to focus on that.

A lot’s changed since then. E-books have made novellas viable on both the traditional and self-pub fronts. I look at what Martha Wells did with the Murderbot Diaries, what Lois McMaster Bujold is doing with the Penric and Desdemona stories — building a big following with these nuggets of stories put out on a regular basis — and I think that’s great. Audio has also become a huge market for novellas.

The other part of it is creative frustration. I’ve talked about the Year of Stalled Projects, when I worked on a bunch of stuff that I had to move to the back burner for various reasons. 2018 was also a bit of a creative stall-out for me. One of the things I did at the end of 2018 was go back to that list of stalled projects from 2015 — and realize that maybe some of the projects I had thought were novels were actually novellas. One of those 3/4 finished novels? I streamlined it and got Dark Divide.  “Gremlin,” which appeared in Asimov’s SF earlier this year, was an idea from my novel file that I decided might be better served as a novella.  The Ghosts of Sherwood (due out next spring) was also an idea I had tucked away for years and years until I decided if I couldn’t get a novel out of it, maybe I could try a novella. And it worked.

I don’t have a novel out in 2019, and it’s looking like I might not have one out in 2020 (but there’s one finished and in the hopper, so we’ll see).  But novellas have saved me. They’re faster to write than novels, but they still offer the satisfaction of big stories with multiple threads. It’s kind of the best of both worlds:  instant gratification and meaty storytelling.  I may be taking a break on the novel front, but I’m still working and still getting my stories out there, which feels great.

Here’s the list:

Gremlin (Asimov’s SF)

Dark Divide

Badlands Witch (due out next week!)

El Conquistador tel Tiempo (Part of The Immortal Conquistador, due out next spring)

The Ghosts of Sherwood

The Heirs of Locksley


One Response to “writing novellas”

  1. Aerik72 Says:

    I find I’ve been really enjoying novellas the past couple of years, too!

    I love the Penric and Desdemona stories, as well as Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children books. A shorter commitment just seems to fit into my adult life better.

    I’m really looking forward to Ghosts of Sherwood!

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