Author Topic: What to put in a Novella?  (Read 1981 times)  

Offline Josh Handrich

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What to put in a Novella?
« on: August 19, 2011, 11:25:48 AM »
As the subject suggests I'm trying to decide what to put in a novella, based off my fiction political thriller Kingdom of Rage. I'm doing what I can to not spoil my plot and am only offering vague insight but plenty of suspense.  It will be offered free as a marketing tool, I have also referenced the blog that features Moses Siregar III as a guest.  I'm shooting for between 20,000-25,000 words.
Ideas?

http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/guest-post-by-moses-siregar-iii-using-free-to-generate-pre-release-buzz/

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Offline Josh Handrich

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2011, 09:31:05 PM »
No takers?

Offline Krista D. Ball

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2011, 09:32:10 PM »
I have no idea what you're asking...

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Offline BTackitt

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2011, 10:08:47 PM »
Put in what MUST be in, leave out anything not essential.
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Offline Josh Handrich

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2011, 10:13:04 PM »
I have no idea what you're asking...

I should have been more specific.  I'm looking for people who have experience writing a novella as a marketing tool for their full-length novel. Is there any set criteria besides page length?    Is it a good idea to have it be backstory for my novel or a separate story with its own independent plot?  Wiki says that the story should not be divided into chapters but instead use white space.  What, if any differences should there be between a novel and novella when used for marketing the novel? Kingdom will be the first of a series so I'm leaning towards writing the novella as backstory for it. Linking the two plot-wise I think would make good marketing sense.
Josh

Offline swolf

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2011, 10:14:07 PM »
I have a couple of questions.  Will this be a complete story, or just a teaser for your longer book?   Sometimes readers don't like incomplete stories, and show their displeasure in their reviews.

Also, you say you're going to offer it for free.  If you're talking about Amazon, then it's a bit of a crap shoot on when and if the story goes free.  So it may be not free for a while, and possibly a long while.  And during this time, some people may purchase it.  Will you be ok with that?

But good luck.  I hope it works out well for you.

Offline Josh Handrich

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2011, 10:16:40 PM »
Put in what MUST be in, leave out anything not essential.

Could you elaborate or give me an example of what you mean, that's a pretty broad statement.  Thanks

Josh

Offline Josh Handrich

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2011, 10:32:09 PM »
I have a couple of questions.  Will this be a complete story, or just a teaser for your longer book?   Sometimes readers don't like incomplete stories, and show their displeasure in their reviews.

Also, you say you're going to offer it for free.  If you're talking about Amazon, then it's a bit of a crap shoot on when and if the story goes free.  So it may be not free for a while, and possibly a long while.  And during this time, some people may purchase it.  Will you be ok with that?

But good luck.  I hope it works out well for you.

I'm ok with whatever increases my marketability.  I wasn't even considering a novella until I read the blog above about it being used as a tool to create hype for their novel.  I want to create buzz before I put out my novel, not after.

With that being said about customer reviews I'm going to have to reevaluate how I end my novella because I was originally going to have my final section transition into the first chapter for the novel; essentially the novella would be a long intro chapter for the novel (maybe not the best idea ???).  Or should I just ditch the novella and go back to concentrating on the novel?  I'm thinking too hard.

Offline Mel Comley

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2011, 11:07:37 PM »
I've just released a Novella 33,000 it's a complete story. I think what you're trying to do is deceive the customer and would advise against it.

As Swolf says you're going to get hit with bad reviews.

But not only that I think Indies get a rough ride sometimes, we're trying to encourage readers not put them off.

that's my two cents worth anyway.

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Offline Kevis Hendrickson

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2011, 11:45:43 PM »
I think it's dangerous to put out a short story/novella just for the sake of promoting another work (speaking from experience of course). When I published my short story trilogy, I did so knowing that it is a complete story with a proper beginning, middle, and end. The first two installments do feature cliffhanger endings. But readers can download and read each segment separately fully expecting that there will be a resolution in the third book. For promotional purposes, I have included a sample from three different novels in each ebook. But as I said, it's a complete story, so if a reader chooses not to purchase my longer works, they won't feel cheated.

I have seen other authors such as James Patterson and John Jackson Miller do what you suggest. But it's a gamble that could cost you some very harsh reviews if readers feel exploited by being forced to purchase your novel in order to complete the story. If you choose to go this route, my suggestion is to be careful of your price. Best case scenario would be to offer your novella for free (like the aforementioned authors). But since there is no way to set your book for free in the Kindle store, you'll be at Amazon's mercy. In the meantime, reader reviews will reflect their expectation of what they hope to see in a novella/promotional book.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2011, 12:19:31 AM by Kevis Hendrickson »

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Offline RCombes

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2011, 03:15:28 AM »
I was thinking about doing the same thing. My idea was (and still is) to center the novella around one of the characters of my novel, and to tell a complete story about his past. I'm also toying with the idea of applying this to other important characters of my novel, which would result in several novellas (priced at a lesser price than the original book) surrounding the novel. They could be perceived as much as promotional objects than as bonus material.

Offline JoshuaPSimon

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2011, 04:47:06 AM »
I was thinking about doing the same thing. My idea was (and still is) to center the novella around one of the characters of my novel, and to tell a complete story about his past. I'm also toying with the idea of applying this to other important characters of my novel, which would result in several novellas (priced at a lesser price than the original book) surrounding the novel. They could be perceived as much as promotional objects than as bonus material.

This is something similar to what I'm working on now.  I agree with other posters that regardless of how you structure you novella, it needs to read as an independent story which is what I believe Moses did as well.

Offline A.R. Williams

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2011, 05:07:56 AM »
I should have been more specific.  I'm looking for people who have experience writing a novella as a marketing tool for their full-length novel. Is there any set criteria besides page length?    Is it a good idea to have it be backstory for my novel or a separate story with its own independent plot?  Wiki says that the story should not be divided into chapters but instead use white space.  What, if any differences should there be between a novel and novella when used for marketing the novel? Kingdom will be the first of a series so I'm leaning towards writing the novella as backstory for it. Linking the two plot-wise I think would make good marketing sense

Like some before me have mentioned, the story/stories should stand on their own and be complete works. What to write about? There are a lot of different things. Consider some of these:

#Characters:

-Main character, minor character, or antagonist at a young age during an event that shaped who they are in the later book
-An important character in the history of the world who never appears in the story, but other characters have talked about
-An important character who helped create the condition that appears at the beginning of your novel

#History/Events:

-Write about the worlds history
-Were there wars that took place? Changes in governments? New discoveries in science or magic or learning? Catastrophic events that changed the globe?
-Write about a difference that exists in the past when the novella takes place and the future when the novel takes place
-Write about any important event that is mentioned in the novel to provide insight into that event

Regarding white space. When I published my novelette, I created "chapter breaks" for my scenes and titled them. The reason I did this was because I wanted to create a table of contents. In my opinion, a TOC looks better with "Scene 1: Arrival" than it does with a single numeral referencing the scene(ex. 1...2...3...).
« Last Edit: August 20, 2011, 05:13:05 AM by A.R. Williams »

Offline Andrew Biss

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2011, 06:17:31 AM »
Put in what MUST be in, leave out anything not essential.

Josh, I think, if I understand your question correctly, that this is the best answer to it. It's really not a broad answer - it's actually quite specific if you think about it.

Write the story you want to tell. Make it complete in and of itself. Then put it up for sale (or free) secure in the knowledge that you've produced something that's worth the investment of someone's time and/or money.

However, if you're simply writing something to act as a teaser/trailer/tie-in to a longer work, I would make that very clear in the product description. That way you're being fair to the consumer and true to your marketing plan.
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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #14 on: August 20, 2011, 06:22:55 AM »
This novella idea sounds too contrived and is likely to do the opposite of what you intend it to.
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Offline Todd Russell

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #15 on: August 20, 2011, 06:57:57 AM »
Quote
As the subject suggests I'm trying to decide what to put in a novella, based off my fiction political thriller Kingdom of Rage. I'm doing what I can to not spoil my plot and am only offering vague insight but plenty of suspense.

Without knowing what your novel is about, who and what characters are involved, it's difficult for others to brainstorm good story branch ideas that make sense and add to your work (although A.R Williams offers some good advice). Maybe it would be best to get this kind of feedback from your beta readers? Those who have read your novel and would want to read another story?

Other examples...

You might check out what Robert McCammon has done with his novel The Hunter in the Woods.  He started by writing the novel The Wolf's Hour in the 80s, never intending to write any other stories but his character was so compelling and the original novel left open other adventures. Fast forward to the future and he wrote several novellas. One of them was released by his publisher as promotional called The Room at the Bottom of the Stairs. It's a 36,000 word complete story novella of one of Gallatin's adventures. I just finished reading, it's a great story. Since his book was about spies, the framework led to the ability to write about shorter missions. I don't know if your political thriller leaves open the possibility for other adventures involving one or more of your characters.

As for indie author examples of starting with a novella? I see you already have included Moses Siregar. Have you picked his brain privately, yes/no? He started with a novella and then later came out with his novel. He might be someone to chat with privately for some ideas of how he structured his work.

Personally, as a reader, I'd rather see the novel first and then supplemental adventures like McCammon did versus a shorter work and then a novel...but that's just one reader's opinion. The latter way suggests some sort of sales pitch to me and I don't like sales pitches from authors. I want to read great stories, period.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2011, 07:00:16 AM by Todd Russell »

Offline ashel

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #16 on: August 20, 2011, 07:11:03 AM »
Probably the best thing you can do is to read lots of novellas that do what you intend to do. If you havent done this already, I think it's probably a bit early to come to this board and ask for clarification.

I haven't read as many novellas (and I haven't read them as thoroughly) as I would have if I were in your position, but my feeling is that they are complete stories in themselves, usually without complicating subplots and side characters, and that they are often related to the larger world of a novel. I'm not sure it really gets more specific than that, but again, I cite my complete lack of expertise. My suggestion would be to use all the ideas you have that are cool or interesting, but don't have the heft of a novel. In other words, worth telling, but isn't going to fill 75k.

Also, I find that specific questions always get better answers. If you have an idea for a novella, or that you think might work, ask questions specific to that.

Offline dgaughran

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #17 on: August 20, 2011, 07:24:39 AM »
Hi Josh,

I think the link to my blog above is incomplete.

Anyway, I think Moses was in a somewhat unique situation. He saw that he was able to carve out a novella (using non-sequential chapters and a bit of rewriting) from his unfinished novel. But it was a complete story, with all the characters arcing in a satisfying way etc.

I think it's a clever move to use a free story or novella in the same world do generate interest. But you don't have to literally do what Moses did, and I would argue that its quite tricky to pull off, and if you don't do it correctly, it could lead to some readers feeling duped. I can't remember who the writer was, but some large publisher tried something similar, and the free story wasn't complete, and was basically just an excerpt which ended in a cliff-hanger.

It blew up badly in their face, and got a string of one star reviews, with formerly loyal readers of that poor author swearing they would never buy anything from him again.

Needless to say, you don't want that to happen.

I would suggest that it may be better to write a brand new short or novella that is either a prequel to the novel, takes place in the same "world", or is a development of some sub-plot or red herring in your novel.

The story/novella must stand on its own two feet, and not be dependent on a reading of the novel for the reader to get a satisfying ending. You can still  p*ss  off readers of free books - after all, their most valuable resource is their time, not their money.

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Offline BTackitt

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #18 on: August 20, 2011, 07:38:17 AM »
Put in what MUST be in, leave out anything not essential.
Could you elaborate or give me an example of what you mean, that's a pretty broad statement.  Thanks

Josh

Actually, like a novella, it is exactly the answer it needs to be.

The novel version of the answer is :
Make sure you include anything you deem essential to the story. Yes, it must be a COMPLETE story, not a scene from a story or a partial story with a to be continued ending. Fastest way to never have the second book bought is to  p*ss  off readers. Leave out anything that is not essential to the telling of that story. It can be a world building, history fill-in book like LK Rigel's Space Junque, which sets the stage for her two later novels Spiderwork & Bleeder. It can be a character driven piece, delving into the unknown depths of the protagonist OR antagonist of your novel.
Either way, it should have a narrow focus, and get down to brass tacks. Cut descriptions that aren't needed, If a person is walking out of their house to go to work, you do not need an itemized list of all of the brand names for everything in the living room. If dialog is not helping to move the story forward, cut it. Don't cut ALL dialog unless you are just a truly amazing storyteller. The book has since been redone, but Guido Henkel's Demon Night book had, I think, about 15 lines of dialog when it first came out. GREAT Story, but the missing dialog really hurt it.
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Offline Courtney Milan

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #19 on: August 20, 2011, 08:18:17 AM »
*raises hand*

As someone who has now (twice) written a novella to promote full-length work, and had it "work" to some extent both times...

1) It needs to be a complete story. Anything else, and readers will hate you.
2) It should be connected to the full-length work in some fashion.
3) It should be as good as the full-length work.

I haven't had significant negative reviews for either of my novellas because they're a novella, or because they're connected to the work. The most important thing about a novella is that you get one main plot, and a small (small!) handful of deeply connected subplots. No more. It's not about what you "put in" to a novella. It's about what you leave out. The focus is tight.

The other thing is this: For a novel, the darkest moment is usually right around the 75-90% mark, with an earlier (not so bad) climax somewhere in the 30-50% mark. For a novella to pace right, I've always had to put that darkest moment at the 25-50% mark, with a later (not so bad) climax right around the 80-90%. I don't know if this is necessary, but it's twice turned out that way for me.

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Offline Alain Gomez

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #20 on: August 20, 2011, 12:27:49 PM »
As the subject suggests I'm trying to decide what to put in a novella, based off my fiction political thriller Kingdom of Rage. I'm doing what I can to not spoil my plot and am only offering vague insight but plenty of suspense.  It will be offered free as a marketing tool, I have also referenced the blog that features Moses Siregar III as a guest.  I'm shooting for between 20,000-25,000 words.
Ideas?

http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/guest-post-by-moses-siregar-iii-using-free-to-generate-pre-release-buzz/

http://www.josh-handrich-books.com/

Perhaps there is some confusion as to what a novella is.  A novella, aside from a word count, should read like a mini-novel.  That's kind of the point of them.  Yes, they are shorter than a novel.  But 20-25k is more than enough to create a substantial beginning, middle and end.  So if this is the length of story you're shooting for, I would suggest featuring a side character from your novel having his own adventure.  It should be completely standalone but those who look at the rest of your work will understand that there is a connection.

A teaser would probably come from the short story range which is 1-8k.  It's common practice for a short story to end right at the climax in order to allow the reader's mind to finish the story.  But even if it ends abruptly, the story itself should still be complete.  The challenge is the create a character, scenario and outcome that a reader would care about in not very many words.

If you merely want to create an extended preview or sample of your book, you should say that in your product description.

Offline Victorine

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #21 on: August 20, 2011, 04:27:20 PM »
I don't think it's a bad idea to put out a free novella as a teaser for a full length novel, but as others have said it needs to be a complete story and should focus on something other than what you get in your novel. (Don't just put the first five chapters up for free, in other words.)

My thought is, though, that your best bet to get a lot of attention to your full length book would be to put them out at the same time. Free books get the most downloads right when they come out. (Ask anyone who has had a novel free on Amazon. Don't the downloads go crazy at first and then drop off?) That means most people who are going to read them will do so right after it comes out. If there's nothing to buy after someone reads it, they'll go on to the next free download, even if they really liked it.

I think you'll get many more sales if you put them out at the same time.

Just my take on it.

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Offline mandalync

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #22 on: August 21, 2011, 01:52:40 PM »
The other thing is this: For a novel, the darkest moment is usually right around the 75-90% mark, with an earlier (not so bad) climax somewhere in the 30-50% mark. For a novella to pace right, I've always had to put that darkest moment at the 25-50% mark, with a later (not so bad) climax right around the 80-90%. I don't know if this is necessary, but it's twice turned out that way for me.

Thanks Courtney.  I couldn't figure out why the pacing in my novella outlines felt 'off', but this totally makes sense. 

I imagine placing the most dramatic turning point early in the story makes shorter works more satisfying versus the traditional gradual build-up (every new crisis is worst than the last) followed by a dramatic climax and quick wrap up.

It might also explain why some shorter works, although written as complete stories, leave the reader feeling unfulfilled.

Offline Josh Handrich

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #23 on: August 21, 2011, 08:12:13 PM »
Thank you to all that have replied. My feeling now is I'm going to scrap the bit that I was going to put in the novella and put it instead in the novel- only 25 pages so no biggie and it gives the story some background and builds its credibility. 

For the novella I'm attempting to put a spin on a short story that I worked on two years ago and gave up on (I felt it lacked the gravitas of a traditional thriller). It has potential because the new version will show off my writing ability and it demonstrates my protagonists as a neophyte who suddenly rises in power and fame.

Before I forget, I like the idea of releasing a novella and a novel within a short time timeframe.  Once I read a new author that I like I'll go back to the newsstand and I find anything else by them.  Since I'm new, I'll try releasing the novella as cheaply as possible and then the novel shortly thereafter at a more reasonable price.  Could get burnt, but you never know unless you try.

I hate to go off on a rant, I mean tangent but I've noticed something, a powerful thing on these boards that's impossible to ignore.  What you ask?  Optimism!  People are generally very positive on here and it's hard to resist.  1,000 sales!  100,000 sales!  5-star reviews!  It's endless good news.  Not to to say that everyone is achieving success but this is completely in contrast to the union boards and public airline forums which are cesspools for whiney pilots.  *sigh*  We call it in aviation the "b*tch-boards" -self explanatory.  If you read these you feel like the airline apocalypse will happen at any moment (which is actually not a bad plot line if you think about it).  A Delta captain, a neighbor friend, gave me the best advice ever: find a fallback in case the sh*t hits the fan, because it'll happen.  And this is why I'm getting into writing;  so here I am.

Josh

Offline MosesSiregarIII

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Re: What to put in a Novella?
« Reply #24 on: August 21, 2011, 08:46:30 PM »
Hey, Josh. Sorry I didn't see this earlier.

Before I released my novella, I asked a few indie authors who sold very well what they thought of the idea. Two of the three recommended against doing what I did, but I went with my gut and I have no regrets.

After probably around 20,000 downloads now, I've had one actual complaint about the fact that my novella is a long excerpt from my novel, and that was in a 4-star Amazon review. After that review, I added another sentence to my product description and another note to the beginning of the novella to try to make sure I'd never get another complaint. But do try to make it as clear as possible what people are getting into.

So trust your gut. A lot of people here are saying that you shouldn't do exactly what I did, and by the logic I'm seeing here, what I did was even riskier than what you might be thinking about doing.

But be careful. The more you can offer your readers (in quality, mostly), the better. Give them something that will entertain them for 1-3 hours for the cheapest price possible (99 cents until Amazon hopefully makes it free) and you should be fine.

As to whether to release the freebie much earlier than the novel (as I did) or closer to the time the novel is released (as Vicki suggested) ... I'll go into that in another response (in a few) so this one doesn't run too long.
Author of The Black God's War

Fantasy Book Critic Review | FantasyBookReview.co.uk | 5 Stars from MotherLode

"Moses is a fine writer deserving of success and I think that it will follow. I really enjoyed Mosess work." -NYT Bestselling Author David Farland

Blog: Moses and Dionysus Walk Into a Bar ...

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