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NaNoWriMo Versus The Novella

October 9th, 2020

First, thanks to Barry for last week’s post. In these difficult times, when far-flung travel isn’t always an option, it’s good to get some advice on using what’s on your doorstep to craft a successful travel piece.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) will soon be upon us. But, what exactly is it? Their website says:

“National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 as a daunting but straightforward challenge: to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. Now, each year on November 1, hundreds of thousands of people around the world begin to write, determined to end the month with 50,000 words of a brand new novel. They enter the month as elementary school teachers, mechanics, or stay-at-home parents. They leave novelists.”

But if the thought of trying to write a complete novel in a month scares the living daylights out of you, then why not consider a novella?  Most novellas range from 12,000 to 16,000 words. So, they’re not as demanding as a 50 to 100,000-word novel but you’ve more scope for plot and characterisation development than in a short story. At one time, this genre was seriously out of fashion because such short books weren’t considered commercial. But with the surge in e-publishing (and people’s growing desire for a quick read) they’re now a very viable proposition.

On the Penguin website they say:

 “The humble novella, that most slippery of literary inventions. Too long for a magazine and too short for a book, Stephen King once called them ‘an ill-defined and disreputable literary banana republic’ (though that hasn’t stopped him from writing several himself).

Ian McEwan, on the other hand, called the novella the ‘perfect form of prose fiction…the beautiful daughter of a rambling, bloated, ill-shaven giant.’ No wonder: his debut novel, The Cement Garden, clocked up a meagre 144 pages but helped him establish a formidable literary reputation. ‘If I could write the perfect novella I would die happy,’ he said in 2012.

Actually, the form has a long and glorious tradition, and provides the perfect gateway into brilliant but sometimes tricky writers like James Joyce or Albert Camus, or those with intimidatingly large bibliographies, like Toni Morrison or A S Byatt.”

Novellas are often considered an old fashioned genre: Dickens, Conrad, Melville, James, Wharton: but this is not necessarily the case. Here’s a mixed bag of suggestions spanning the years that you might want to sample before deciding whether this genre is for you.

Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka

The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemmingway

Orlando – Virginia Wolf

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote

Morpho Eugenia – A S Byatt

Home – Toni Morrison

The Sense of Ending – Julian Barnes

The Alchemist – Paul Coelho

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption – Stephen King

The Photograph – Penelope Lively

I don’t yet have a guest for next week, but before I leave you I’d like to remind you that our 2020 Flash Fiction Competition is now open for entries. The closing date is 30th November, so you’ve still plenty of time. The prizes are £300, £200 and £100 plus each winner will also receive a Writers Bureau course of their choice worth  up to  £444.

 

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