Call Me A Rebel (Or, My Life As A Novella-ist)

I know that this website is hosted by SFNovelists.  I know that, by definition, we focus on novels around here, on full-length speculative fiction.  And for all of my writing career, I’ve been a novelist.

But last month, I branched out a little bit.  I published my first novella, Capitol Magic.

This wasn’t my first short fiction.  I have published two — count ‘em, two — short stories.  (Staying true to form, I expanded one of those into Darkbeast, the novel that will be out, as by Morgan Keyes, in late August.)

So, why did this leopard change her spots?

Quite frankly — I wanted to help readers find my novels.  Capitol Magic is set in Washington, D.C., a version of our nation’s capitol where magic actually works.  I laid the groundwork for this version of my hometown in the Jane Madison Series, my novels about a librarian who finds out that she’s a witch.  I built further on those foundations in Fright Court, a novel about lawyers, vampires, and cupcakes.

So, it seemed completely reasonable to bring together witchy Jane and vampire-ish (but not a vampire!) Sarah in Capitol Magic.  I could have written a full-length novel.  I could have relied on supporting characters, and sub-plots, and sprawling tales of midnight derring-do.

But, instead, I wanted to focus on characters, on the quirky lives of two specific women.  But they have a lot of quirks.  There were a lot of details to fit into the story, so that readers would recognize Jane and Sarah.  There were too many bits and pieces to fold into a short story.

And so the answer became clear:  a novella!  25,000 words to flesh out a story, to set up an actual plot, to let the heroines shine in their unique ways.  Perfect!

So far, Capitol Magic seems to be finding its audience.  It has enjoyed various slots in the relevant Top 100 list on Amazon since the day it was issued.  Some readers have come to the novella through their love of the Jane Madison Series; others have approached from the vampire side of the fence.

Years ago, conventional wisdom for breaking into speculative fiction was “write short work, find your audience, then write a novel.”  That wisdom has been broken for a long time (in my not quite humble opinion).  There just aren’t enough venues for good short fiction, and those that exist don’t pay anything approaching a professional rate.  By the time I was coming up, I wasn’t deemed a freak for avoiding the short fiction ladder.  I’m amused, though, that I’ve “broken into” short fiction at this relatively late date in my writing career.

So?  How about you?  If you’re a writer, do you write short and long?  If you’re a reader, do you read at multiple lengths?  Why?  Or why not?

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  1. 1. carmen webster buxton

    Hi, Mindy!

    Funny you should mention it! I rarely write anything shorter than 90,000 words, but I did just publish an alternate-world fantasy novella called Where Magic Rules, also as an ebook only. I didn’t intend it to be a novella; it just came out that way. I am experimenting with the Kindle Select platform so that I can make the novella free from time to time.

    I love your new cover– you have cupcakes! Looks like the book is doing really well– at least the ratings looked great in the Kindle store when I bought it just now.

    I’m glad digital publishing is freeing up “books” like this!

    carmen

  2. 2. Elizabeth Moon

    I write both long and short…now. But until I’d written the entire Paks trilogy, I could not write short stories (they all grew into long, longer, and finally *that long* stories.) Long comes easily to me–natural novelist. Short sometimes falls into my lap and sometimes can be crafted by lopping off the arms and legs of an idea that wants to be a novel, leaving only heart and lungs and maybe a brain. When I intend to write short, the story usually bulges up (requiring that drastic surgery) or goes way off track or (worst case) becomes a cardboard cutout story, suitable only for shadow theater.

    However–I did write and sell short pieces for two years before the first novel sold (it was written, but being rejected by publishers.) That was back in the ’80s, when the short fiction market was stronger.

    I read novels more than short fiction (and nonfiction more than either.) Read a lot of short fiction when I was a kid (much of it in the magazines that then filled the stands–not genre, but general interest) and younger adult (mostly genre, up to maybe age 25, in anthologies & genre mags) and then found that most short fiction just didn’t satisfy me. A story was the reading equivalent of eating one potato chip. Sometimes I want a potato chip (but then I want a whole bag full) but not as satisfying as braised short ribs done with garlic, onions, mushrooms, red wine, and the right herbs and spices, two or three side dishes, the loaf of crusty bread, and apples & cheese after.

  3. 3. Stevie Carroll

    I’m rather fond of novellas. There are two in my short story collection for a start.

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Author Information

Mindy Klasky

Mindy Klasky is the author of eleven novels, including WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD and HOW NOT TO MAKE A WISH in the As You Wish Series. She also wrote GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL, and MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL, about a librarian who finds out she's a witch. Mindy also wrote the award-winning, best-selling Glasswrights series and the stand-alone fantasy novel, SEASON OF SACRIFICE. Visit site.

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