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Monday, 7 December 2015

It's not just a big one with bits taken out...

I'm really amazed by how well 'The Art of Christmas' has been going. If, perchance, you haven't read it yet, go ahead, I'll wait, it won't take you long...



Right.  When Choc Lit asked me to write a novella, you should have seen my face! In fact, as you were likely pressed against my front window at the time, you probably did - no, it's no good denying it, I know you stalk me from time to time.  Well, if it's not you, then who is it? Somebody has been trampling through my undergrowth and I don't mean that in a euphemistic way because I distinctly heard the cries of 'ow, ow, ow!' as somebody limped away through the waist high nettles.
Does this look familiar to you?
Anyway.  I'd never written a novella before. In case you're not sure, a novella is usually somewhere between 20,000 words and 50,000 words, much less and it's a long short story, much more and it's an actual novel, which is pretty much how Wiki defines it. I've done short stories (a few for Your Cat magazine particularly.  They tend to have quite a lot of cats in them).  And, of course, I've done novels.  But a novella is a strange beast.  It's got plot enough for a book,  and it runs across the savannah grazing on bushes...oh, no, wait, that's antelope. Novellas are the ones where you concentrate on just the central characters and their journey and don't wander off into subplots and additional characters and, like a short story, you have to tell a lot with very few words.

It's tough.  Not enough words to explore everyone's backstory (no, that's not a euphemism either), and half way through I started thinking 'why don't I just make this a novel?', but I was determined to write a novella, so I refused to be sidetracked by motivations (although I was sidetracked by many HobNobs and cups of tea), and I stuck to writing the story of Harriet and Kell and whether her marriage to the deceased Jonno had ever been quite what she thought it had.

It's a bit like...say a novel is like a film.  You've got three hours (or more if it's Lord of the Rings, but I'm presuming that you aren't writing Lord of the Rings because I think that one's taken) to tell a story, so there's plenty of time for lots of loving panoramic shots of the countryside and sunsets, and telling close-ups of people's faces.  In that case, a short story is like a photograph, a snapshot of a particular moment, and you have to get a lot of detail in to that one frame; a single tear on a cheek, a figure in the background staring longingly in through a window (yes, I am seriously affected by your stalking me, you can tell, can't you?).  And a novella?

It's like one of those three minute adverts on TV.  Like the one where the boy mends his father's scarf and then loses it on the bus when he's grown up and the lady finds it and brings it back, or the boy delivering bread through the century.  Or the girl sending a Christmas present to the man in the moon (and yes, all of the above make me sniff and get something in my eye, I am so suggestible it's almost frightening. But, in my defence, I can't tell you what any of them are advertising. Except the bread one, that's pretty obvious. It's bread. No idea what kind though).  A small story, but enough of one to tug at the emotions.
It's John Lewis, apparently. I looked it up.  If John Lewis ever decide to bring out a novella, this will be it..

And I hope The Art of Christmas gives you a good tugging...

4 comments:

linda said...

Well you certainly mastered the art of writing a novella. I absolutely loved it. Tissues at the ready!

angela britnell said...

It's a different thing to write that's for certain! I've got yours on the Kindle for entertainment when I'm being felt up by the airport security people next week because we know people with fake hips are dangerous :)

Jackie Ladbury said...

Loved your short story- read it in one sitting x

Chris Stovell said...

Congratulations! Write another quickly. (Which is what I intended to do before, oh, you know)