Writing–the long & short of it

I have five e-books online.  I read a post on marketing that said that it was smart to post short fiction inbetween your long fiction, and since I like writing short, I thought Why not?  And that might have been a smart decision, but I didn’t stop there.  No, I decided to write five different series of novellas.  Why? you ask.  Because I didn’t have a clue.

E-books and marketing have been a totally new experience for me.  I’m still learning as I go.  And I was having so much fun writing novellas, I didn’t stop and ask myself, How will you market them?  Would concentrating on one set of characters bring more readers to your novels than offering five different series?  Or will people look at the twenty-some things you’ve posted and run for the hills?

The reviews and comments I’ve received have been interesting.  I chose to write Lunch Hour Reads.  Jen, at Goodreads, thought of the term, and it conjured quick, fun stories that would entertain a reader for one or two sittings.   The very first novella I wrote was One Less Warlock–a short, 22 pages, something you could fly through and pass a pleasant lunch break or short commute.  Readers enjoyed the story, but wrote that they wanted more–more time in River City, more time hanging out with Babet and Prosper.  I bumped the stories to about 40 pages each, still short enough to be considered a quick read.  And some readers still ask for more.  They’d still prefer longer.  Which makes me happy.  It means they like where my story’s taken them, but I’ve written enough of each series, that I’d like to keep the stories consistent, at least for now, so 40 pages, it is.

It’s summer writing time again for me.  Ty’s home from college.  There’s yard work and gardening.  That’s when I like to write short stuff, because I can pound out some pages without holding so much back story and so many plot lines in my head.  But my novellas have morphed into a life of their own.  They, too, have more and more characters, more and more back story, and broader story arcs.  I have to ask myself, Are my characters growing in each story?  Is the setting intrinsic to each story line?  Is there movement from the first story to the last?

I’ve gotten hooked on some of the series, but how far do I want to go with them?  Should some end at four novellas and some go farther?  Which ones?  And how do I choose?  Novellas started out as a fun break from novels, but they’ve gotten more complicated.  And how many book covers does a reader want to see when he visits your site for the first time?

I don’t have any answers.  I’m still in the learn-as-you-go phase of e-books and novellas.  But I think too much can be overwhelming.  I intended to put novellas together on amazon to form series, to show that there were five story lines to choose from, but there’s no way to do so that I’ve found.  I can bundle them on bitly, but not at Barnes and Noble or other online publishers.  So not only am I challenged as a writer, I’m technologically challenged, as well.  But I’m learning.  And for me, that’s what the e-book experience is all about.  Hopefully, some day, I’ll stumble my way to success.  But in the meantime, I’m having one heck of a good time writing.  But I have to ask myself:  Do readers long for longer?  Or can short be satisfying?

What about you?  Do you have a length that appeals to you more?  Even in novels?


10 thoughts on “Writing–the long & short of it

  1. Loved your blog today. So interesting to be at the beginning of the phase your thinking about novella length brought you—five novellas later for you: congratulations. I’m set to release the first novella at the end of the month, and almost as much work (design/formatting/writing copy) went into this one as it did for my first book-length story collection. Love the new world of shorter work being recognized and freely available on eReaders. ever . . .


    1. How long will your novella be? There’s a lot of leeway since they can be posted online. I read a twitter that amazon wouldn’t let authors charge 99 cents for 20-something page stories any more, but I haven’t checked. I’ve known other authors who write 120 page novellas. Once upon a time, there was a distinction between novellas and novelettes, but I think that’s gone mostly by the wayside these days. Good luck with your novella! The end of the month will be here before we know it.


  2. Wow, Judy, how wonderful that you’ve found so much enjoyment writing those novellas. And that your readers want more? Fantastic!

    Just a thought: give them what they want! Write a full (doesn’t have to be a million pages), and put the novella out there free, with the full to follow shortly at a price. Your novella is doing the marketing for you! 😉


  3. I’ve thought about that. I’m working on a novel now–the second Norse/Greek myth story–but I’ve had so much good feedback on Babet & Prosper, I might try a LONG novella for them and see what happens. Thanks for the suggestion!


  4. Hi Judith – I just wanted to let you know, I’m reading your posts on my smart phone, but something is off with my home computer. It simply will not let me load your site! I’ve so enjoyed your posts – this one included. You always manage to teach an old dog a new trick (and never kill a dog, right?)
    I feel the same way about your novellas – they are so delightful, but I always want more! Too funny, as that’s their point. Short and sweet.
    Ah well, I would definitely take it as a sign – you are a wonderful author who crafts intriguing stories.
    I guess there are worse things.


    1. I’ve missed hearing from you. I pictured you chained to your computer, writing 5,000 words a day, only taking time out to kiss your husband, feed your kids, and suck down coffee. I’m actually starting to rethink my novel/novella strategy. That’s why I wrote the post. I’m still not sure what works & what doesn’t, but maybe 40 pages is TOO short. Or maybe I should keep some 40 pages and make some longer and experiment with different lengths. I’m sort of learning as I go.


      1. I wish! 5,000 words a day would put me right over the edge!
        I have been writing, though. I joined an online critique group for historical fiction a month ago – what a great experience! It’s a small group, well monitored that has produced published authors (one just left the group because he signed a multi book deal with a ya pub). It’s like taking a masters class in writing!
        It must be satisfying as an author to craft some shorter pieces – and frustrating when you get feedback that the reader wants more! It’s an evolution, isn’t it? All this keeps you fresh and current.


  5. Yes, I have the exact same complaints, I even read recently that most readers are not attracted by cheap books (under a dollar) but rather but a longer book and willing to pay more. And since I am also a short story author, that discourages me a great deal…marketing is so tough :(.


    1. I think you can attract readers with short fiction, but to really have a career, you need to write longer. Just my opinion. Some novels are 40,000 words, about 200 pages. If you could stretch your story to that, it would help. And once you do that, I bet you’ll keep getting longer. I couldn’t make 60,000 words the first time I tried (since I started out writing short stories too), but if you add a couple of subplots, it helps. If you could even get to a LONG novella (120 pages), it would make a difference.


  6. Your online critique group sounds wonderful. I’ve belonged to a writers’ group for years, and they’ve taught me so much–and pushed me to keep improving. I consider myself really lucky to know them. My novellas have taught me a lot too. Since I’m writing short, I notice all the story elements and how they work together a lot faster. A book takes so long to write, some of the elements get muddled, but not in something short. It’s been a good experience for me.


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