N is for Novellas (and then some)

I can’t believe how quickly April is flying by! But here we are, more than halfway through the month, and jumping into letter N for the A to Z Blog Challenge. I’m being a bit cheeky here and using the word “novella” to go with the letter of the day, but I want to talk about more than just that. Let’s talk series/standalones and their potential ancillary materials.

Some story ideas work best as standalones. There’s nothing wrong with that. You aren’t obligated to write a sequel, prequel, or series, and trying to draw out a story that shouldn’t be can ruin the experience, as I talked about in my post on duologies (found here if you’re interested).

On the other hand, some stories require a great deal of scenes and character experiences to get to the end result. Trying to squish everything into one novel can also be detrimental, whether you rush through everything to keep the novel length reasonable, or you write a 200k manuscript that few people with pick up (some genres have typically long narratives, but even sci-fi and fantasy shouldn’t top more than 120k-125k at the very outside—unless you’re already a well-established author who might be able to get away with it). So you might be better off with two, three, or even more books to tell the story.

Fortunately, if you have more small ideas for your characters, it doesn’t matter if you wrote one book or created a series—you can still tell the story.

Sometimes, you have a brilliant idea as you’re writing a story about something that happened in a character’s past that you want to mention. Or maybe even their future. You could have an epiphany while you’re planning or outlining your story (if you’re a plotter, that is) but know there isn’t a good way to work it in without being forced or out of place. Worse, what if a lightbulb goes off about some critical event, but your book is finished (or even published), and you can’t squeeze it in?

Well, my friend, ancillary materials to the rescue!

You have numerous options if you don’t have enough story to justify a whole extra book. You could write a novella instead! Perhaps you only had a single scene in mind. Then perhaps flash fiction is better. Below are several options for writing shorter works that support your novel/series, though they also stand on their own. Some people choose to only write these types of work, so they are definitely not just for support pieces.

Keep in mind that most of these word counts are approximate. Different sources vary slightly in where they cut off word count for each type, but they’re usually within a thousand words or so. There are even more types than this, but these are the more common ones (there are also dribbles, six-word stories, etc.)

You can certainly publish these shorter works, perhaps in a collection if you have several, or as a novella/novelette by itself, but there is also another option that lends itself beautifully to writers automatically, and that’s FREEBIES.

There are a few different ways to take advantage of this (and probably more I don’t have listed), or you can do any combination of them.

One of my favorite options is to use them as giveaways to readers who sign up for your newsletter/email list. If you have several shorter ones or just one long one, they can be great giveaways. You can also use them as incentives for people who sign up for pre-orders or who order your book on release day or within the first week, or whatever timeframe you want to put on it.

If you don’t feel like doing either of those things, or you already have a freebie you provide, you can always just post them for free on your website or wherever else you can be found. Perhaps you make them free stories with their own special section, or even as blog posts. I’ve done a version of that in this blog challenge where I’m giving brief backstories for some of the characters in my upcoming novel, Capturing the Wylde Wolf, that won’t be covered in the book. This gives readers who check out the blog inside info that others won’t have. I didn’t write them as scenes or stories, but it’s still bonus info.

If you read my April 4th post on duologies, you’ll know that I intend on writing a duology that starts with Capturing the Wylde Wolf. I also have a novella in the planning stages that will cover the backstory in depth of a key character in the novels. Then, I had an idea I wanted to share about a critical set of events that happened over twenty years before the first novel that set EVERYTHING into motion that happens in these other three stories. That will be a short story (maybe a novelette), and will be a freebie exclusively for those who sign up to my list (that is upcoming).

There are so many choices, and I love them all! And who knows? Maybe I’ll get more ideas in the future for pieces to add to this mini-series.

8 thoughts on “N is for Novellas (and then some)

  1. Interesting. I write short stuff. My long stories are quite unwieldy to say the least. This year I want to really pull some of my long stories together.
    You made a good point about a novel’s size. I’ve heard a publisher say that having a long manuscript is a no go for them.
    Visiting from a to z annbennett2.blogspot.com

    • It can be incredibly difficult as a new(ish) author to convince readers to invest in an epically long book that falls outside the genre standards. I’ve yet to write anything over the 100k word mark, but that’s fine for my current and previous genres. Good luck with gathering up your longer stories!

  2. I’ve used the freebies strategy as well. I mostly write either novels of between 80 and 100K words or short stories, generally between 1 and 3 thousand. I rarely go above 5K for short and although I have written a number of flash stories, I feel like 2-3 is the sweet spot. Interestingly, I can never predict how long a story will be. With novels I’m much more intentional, both overall length and chapter lengths. I’m loving your stuff here.

    • Thank you so very much! While full-size novels are great, I also enjoy writing short stories. It’s a quicker payoff to write and to read, satisfying that itch. I’ve entered challenges/contests before with flash fiction because I love the challenge of trying to tell a whole story in a limited number of words, crafting each sentence to pack the most punch within the guidelines. And it’s a fun writing exercise to get the creative juices flowing! And I completely agree about being more intentional with novels, whereas the short stories just end up where they end up.

  3. I run short, always, and most of that goes up on my blog for no one to read. On a rare occasion, the story keeps going and I get a novella. I’m going to try and do a few more long stories this year, but depends on the job situation. Time to work and time to write compete.

    • I know the feeling about trying to find time to get everything done! Good luck with the stories, no matter how long they take!

  4. This post explains something I saw on a website just the other day. An author I like, Ann Aguirre, wrote a dystopian series called the Razorland series. There were books 1, 2, 3 and 4, all of which I read several years ago. A few months ago I became aware of a story numbered 0.5 via Goodreads; a prequel to book 1. It’s actually free to read on Tor. Today, I was doing some more research and found there was also a story numbered 2.5 in the list of Razorland works. This one was on sale on Amazon as an e-book only. I don’t know if these were additional materials or materials she originally cut from the books, but I was certainly happy for the free 0.5.

    • Exactly! Sometimes you think of something that can really enhance to world you’ve written, and you want to share it, even if it’s not enough for a book itself. And free is always great!

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