Writing · Writing Process

5 Lessons Learnt in Writing a Novella.

book-419589_1280Last week I finally completed the first draft of my first novella (yay)! I’m still short of my intended word count, but I’ll leave that for later when the ‘real’ writing starts – that is, the dreaded edits and re-writes. 😉

Some years ago I made my first attempt at writing a bush poem and during a critique it was recommended that I could convert it into a short story. That idea grew to the extent that I decided to try my hand at writing a novella. So now that I have a rough draft behind me, what exactly did I learn when it comes to writing a novella?

1. Do Some Research Before You Start

In order to help with the plot for your novella, it’s handy to get some research done before you start. Even if you have some idea of facts for your novella, when you stew over your plot you may find you require a bit more information. You don’t want to leave a hole in your plot while you are writing, as this only prevents you from moving forward (note to self). By having some research up your sleeve before you start writing frees you up from having to do a lot of it when you’ve finished.

2. Do Up an Outline

Like short stories, in a novella, you need to concentrate on one plot with a limited cast of characters. I tend to sit on the fence a bit when it comes to being a plotter or a pantster. I usually do up rough outlines for my ‘novel’ ideas, whereas for short stories, there is no planning involved; I have an idea and run with it. In the case of writing a novella, I found that doing a rough outline helps. It allowed me to help focus on the relationship between the two main characters (in this case a husband and wife) and how they came to be in the situation the novella finds them in. Breaking the plot outline down into each scene also helps build tension and conflict.

3. Know How it Will End

As I was converting my bush poem into a novella, I already had my story’s ending. I found this quite helpful in telling the story, because from there I could work backwards by asking myself the ‘why’ questions, resulting in digging deeper into my characters personalities and their relationship with each other as well as helping with the plot. Because I knew the ending, this was one of the first scenes I actually wrote. This helped with the setting, giving me a better picture of what time of year the events took place and setting up the mood for the rest of the novella. Writing the last sentence also gave me an unexpected idea that could possibly be worked into the novella.

4. Don’t Think about Word Count

You need to make sure that both your characters and your plot are strong enough to last anywhere between 20,000 – 40,000 words. I’m used to writing short stories (the longest short story I have written so far is about 2,500 words), so stretching for a longer word limit appeared somewhat daunting. I was reaching a point where I became more focused on the word count than the actual story itself. My husband, being the helpful accountability buddy that he is, mentioned that the story itself should dictate how long it will be. It was at that point in time when I told myself to worry about that later in the re-writing/editing phase.

5. Go Where the Story Takes You

I know this flies in the face of what I mentioned before about doing an outline, but bear with me. There are occasions when stories can go off in a completely different direction than what we had originally planned. Sometimes characters can take a life of their own; you want a particular character to go one way, when they decide they want to go another. Like a determined child, no matter how much you try to rein them in, things don’t always work out the way you want it to. That’s when you need to give up and just go with it – you may find that the character knows better than you do. The same can also be said if a novella takes you along the path to an entirely different genre. Experiment, but above all, have fun!

Have you written a novella and what did you learn from the experience? Are you a plotter or a pantster? Do you worry about word count when you’re writing? Have you found your plot and/or characters take you on a completely different direction than what you had planned?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

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Inspiration · Writing

Using Cemeteries for Writing Inspiration.

local cemeteryGrowing up in suburban Sydney, I lived near Rookwood Cemetery, the largest cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere. Generations of my mother’s family have been buried there and we would make regular visits. Graves and cemeteries had therefore become second nature; so when I spent a quiet, misty morning some years ago in winter at my local cemetery, I found it to be quite peaceful.

I’ve always been fascinated by death and the thought of an afterlife. It could explain my interest in ghosts and other spooky subjects. I found walking alone amongst the graves intriguing. Each and every one of them had a story to tell. I was surrounded by history; some dating as far back as the 1880s. I was surprised by the number of smaller graves – one child died the day it was born, either still-born or it was too late to be christened. One grave was of a twelve year old girl; another girl dying at eighteen. My curiosity aroused the writer within me. What happened to these children to die so young? How did they die? Who were they?oldgrave

Some years ago, while visiting relations on their property, I encountered an old grave of a six year old boy. Apparently he had drowned in a nearby creek during a flood and straight away all sorts of questions came into my head. The writer within me thought of the many hardships encountered by our pioneering women and this idea became the inspiration behind my first bush poem.

I entered that bush poem in a competition, without success. Now I have dusted it off and begun to breathe new life into it (don’t throw anything out remember 😉 ). It had been suggested to me before that the poem could become a short story and I am currently trying to work this into either a long short story or novella. I am having fun using Pinterest to help with inspiration for setting, characters and undertaking some research.

So next time you’re struggling for a bit of inspiration, try your local cemetery. I’m sure the residents won’t mind you telling everyone their story.

What unexpected places have you found inspiration for your writing? Are you comfortable around cemeteries? What are you currently working on?

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