Tips for Writing a Stellar Novella Part 2

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Peg Thomas is back today to continue her tips for novella writing. Last week she talked about word count and having a complete story. There is a link at the bottom for part one if you missed it.

Timeline

Another simplification is the timeline. Where a novel may span a year or more, a novella needs to be shorter. This creates some issues with romance, since the characters won’t know each other very long. This is where the writer gets creative. In Her Redcoat, Laurette and Henry meet several times in the forest and that’s enough for them to fall in love. How is that possible? They are lonely people on the frontier. I used the time and place make it feasible.

A Pinch of historic flavor

Simplify the history and the setting. They should be a flavoring like a pinch of salt and not an all-you-can-eat buffet. If you’re writing historical you must have some history, but you’ve room for just a touch. It’s easy in a novel to let history overtake the story, and that’s a bigger danger in a novella. Your setting should be minimal, not portrayed with long, drawn out paragraphs of the sunrise or someone’s ancestral home. In some novels, the setting is almost another character, but you can’t do that in a novella.

Which scenes to cut

In any story, you should cut scenes that don’t move the story forward, but that’s critical in a novella. Even if it’s a great scene with stellar writing. Even if it’s your favorite scene. Even if your mother loves it. If it doesn’t move the story forward, it’s got to go.

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Click her to order this collect that contains Her Redcoat

Pegg has a few more tips to share so tune in for Part 3 next Tuesday and if you missed part one check it out.

 

Pegg Thomas lives on a hobby farm in Northern Michigan with Michael, her husband of *mumble* years. A life-long history geek, she writes “History with a Touch of Humor.” When not working or writing, Pegg can be found in her barn, her garden, her kitchen, or sitting at her spinning wheel creating yarn to turn into her signature wool shawls.

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Tips for Writing a Stellar Novella, Part 1

Novella Tips

Have you ever read a novella that felt like the story stopped with the word count? All of a sudden your at the last page and you felt cheated. Today I welcome Pegg Thomas, editor, author, Managing editor of Smitten an imprint of LPC to share the formula for writing a successful novella.  A novella that keeps you reading and gives the reader a sigh-worthy ending. Today and the next two Tuesdays Pegg will be giving us the tools we need to nail down a great novella.

When Cindy asked me to do a guest post on how writing a novella is different than writing a novel, I thought it would be simple. The answer is obvious—use fewer words. But the real knack for novella writing is learning how to use fewer words.

In my genre, historical romance, full-length novels average 85,000 words. Novellas average 25,000 words. If you’re any good at math, and I’m not, this means you have roughly 30% of the words in a novella that you have in a novel.

Let’s first consider what we can’t leave out.

A novella must be a complete story. That means it must have a hook, a 1st plot point, a mid-point shift, a 2nd plot point, and a climax—a full story structure. Along with that, it must have fleshed-out characters with their own goals, motivations, and conflicts that build their character arcs. You still need to use all the senses as you write. Bring a bit of smell, taste, touch, sound, and sight into your novella to make it real. And in my genre, there needs to be both history and romance.

So what can we leave out?

It’s not so much leaving out as it is simplifying. Novellas typically have fewer secondary characters, for instance. There isn’t the word space to develop any character that isn’t necessary. Even if the character is oh-so-cute and lovable—axe it if he or she isn’t essential to the story. If the heroine is one of fourteen siblings, at least ten of them need to remain off-screen.

Subplots, which are essential to a good novel, get squeezed out of the novella. There may be one, but it won’t get the full attention that it would in a novel. It’ll be more of a mini-subplot. For instance, in Embattled Hearts, the main plot is Alannah escaping her abusive stepfather, and Stewart helping her as they fall in love. The subplot is the end of the Pony Express. I didn’t spend much time expounding on it, but it’s mentioned a few times and things are happening that the reader sees. In a full-length novel, I’d have explored that subplot more.

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Click here to buy this collection with Pegg’s novella Embattled Hearts

Next Tuesday Part 2:  Trimming the timeline, history backgroound and setting.

Pegg Thomas lives on a hobby farm in Northern Michigan with Michael, her husband of *mumble* years. A life-long history geek, she writes “History with a Touch of Humor.” When not working or writing, Pegg can be found in her barn, her garden, her kitchen, or sitting at her spinning wheel creating yarn to turn into her signature wool shawls.

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Cozy up with three of My Favorite New Releases

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you all know I am a verocious reader. As such I am on occasion given an ARC copy and asked to post a review. I am happy to do it. Recently I reviewed two new releases and Michelle Shocklee and Jennifer Lemont Leo are now on my favorite author list. The third book I read was a novella collection with one of my favorite novella authors Pegg Thomas. Below you’ find my reviews, the back cover blurb and a buy link.

The Widow of Rosehill

I received an Advanced Readers Copy of the Widow of Rosehill. I am under no obligation to give it a good review. Which made me feel comfortable checking it out. I loved the first book in the series The Planter’s Daughter. But I didn’t care for the secondary character of Natalie. She was spoiled and spineless. She is the main character in the Widow of Rosehill. Six years later with the Civil War just ended and her horrible husband dead Natalie has grown up a lot. Her focus is raising her son. Being informed by an official decree that the south has lost the war and her slaves are free was an awakening for this southern belle. I loved Natalie’s willingness to change, work alongside the slaves who decided to stay and help her. Enter an abolitionist Colonel and the sparks fly between Natalie and Levi. Each learning that the other is not the enemy. It was fun to envision the hero with a full beard. Very much in keeping with the era. Michelle Shocklee has a gift with words. And her historical accuracy brought the story to life. I stayed up too late reading it and the plot haunted my dreams until I finished it. I look forward to more books by this author.

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Widowed during the war, Natalie Ellis finds herself solely responsible for Rose Hill plantation. When Union troops arrive with a proclamation freeing the slaves, all seems lost. How can she run the plantation without slaves? In order to save her son’s inheritance she strikes a deal with the arrogant, albeit handsome, Colonel Maish. In exchange for use of her family s property, the army will provide workers to bring in her cotton crop. But as her admiration for the colonel grows, a shocking secret is uncovered. Can she trust him with her heart and her young, fatherless son?

Natalie Ellis is everything Colonel Levi Maish loathes: a Southern slave owner. When he and his men arrived in Texas with the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves still in bondage despite the war having ended, he feels little concern for the trail of plantation owners left in its wake without workers. But the plight of the beautiful Widow Ellis stirs to life his compassion and the heart he’d thought cold as stone after witnessing the carnage of war. While the army camps on her land, Levi finds himself contemplating a future with Natalie and Samuel. But when he learns where her husband perished during the war, he knows a life with Natalie is impossible. How could she ever forgive him for what he’d done in battle on the banks of the Bull Run?

Buy links:

 

Ain’t Misbehavin’ is the sequel to You’re the Cream in My Coffee. Sequels are not always easy to write, and they need to be every bit as good as the first one. I found Ain’t Misbehavin’ as engaging as the first book. I loved looking back to a by gone era. Jennifer Lemont Leo has sprinkled tidbits of culture, inventions and history throughout the story of Charlie Corrigan and Dot Rogers. We were introduced to them in You’re the Cream in My Coffee.

The characters struggle with their own versions of low self-esteem. Charlie was injured in World War I, feeling unworthy of any woman’s love.  Dot had a father who verbal abused her and she’s made some bad decisions leaving her convinced she is unworthy of true love. Many of the characters from the first book help frame Charlie and Dot’s story. Some giving great advice, others causing trouble. At one point I found myself saying “Oh no, Dot don’t do it.” When I’m talking to the characters then I’m totally hooked on the story.  The setting may be 1929 but the heart of the story is timeless.

I was given an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for my honest opinion. I can honestly say this well-written, well-researched novel is well-worth the reader’s time.

 

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In Jazz Age Chicago, Dot Rodgers sells hats at Marshall Field while struggling to get her singing career off the ground. Independent and feisty, she’s the life of the party. But underneath the glitter, she doesn’t believe she’s worth the love of a good man. Why would a strong, upstanding man want to build a future with a shallow, good-time girl like her?

Small-town businessman Charlie Corrigan carries scars from the Great War. After all he’s been through, he wants nothing more than to marry and start a family. But the woman he loves is a flamboyant flapper with no intention of settling down. She’s used to a more glamorous life than he can offer. As his fortunes climb with the stock market, it seems he’s finally going to win her love. But what happens when it all comes crashing down?

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Bouquet of Brides.

This novella collection spans from colonial times to the early 1900s. Every heroine has a flower name. Every hero has to win his flower. The backdrops of each story is very different. But the basic dilemma remains the same—finding love and declaring it amidst what appears to the characters to be insurmountable odds. Nice historical research and characters to root for.

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Meet seven American women who were named for various flowers but struggle to bloom where God planted them. Can love help them grow to their full potential?

Holly and Ivy by Mary Davis (1890, Washington State)
At Christmastime, Holly Harrison accompanies her impetuous younger sister on her trip across the country to be a mail-order bride. But even as she tries to persuade her sister that loving a stranger is foolhardy, Holly loses her own heart to a fellow traveler.

Periwinkle in the Park by Kathleen Kovach (1910, Colorado)
Periwinkle Winfield is a hiking guide helping to commission a national park. But a run-in with a mountain man who is determined to keep the government off his land may place her in great danger.

At Home with Daffodils by Paula Moldenhauer (1909, Oklahoma)
When her childhood sweetheart returns to town, will Dilly Douglas accept the worthy heart he offers, or will the old wound he opens keep them apart?

A Song for Rose by Suzanne Norquist (1882, Rockledge, Colorado)
Can Patrick O’Donnell, a tenor disillusioned by the performance industry, convince Rose Miller that that there is more to music than her dream of joining an opera company?

Beauty in a Tansy? by Donita K. Paul (1918, South Dakota)
Tansy Terrell was named after a weed. When she opens shop next door, Arthur Blake recognizes Tansy’s need to be valued as a beautiful flower but fails to see his own worth as a maker of instruments and music.

A Prickly Affair by Donna Schlachter (1885, Arizona)
A rough-and-tumble cowgirl, “Cactus” Lil Duncan longs for true love, but is afraid to let down her prickly exterior when a city slicker from New York City, with less-than-honorable intentions, tries to win her heart and her hand.

In Sheep’s Clothing by Pegg Thomas (1702, Connecticut)
Peter Maltby might be all good looks and charm, working in the new mill fulling wool, but Yarrow Fenn fears he is the Crown’s agent in disguise who will destroy the only livelihood she has.
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I obviously love Historical romance. But I do read in other genres. And I will be blogging about those in the future. If you’d love to read more reviews don’t forget to subscribe so you can receive each new post in your email.

A Conference Gem

Pegg Thomas is my guest today as I continue to post about the benefits of attending conferences.   I can so relate to her experience. Welcome Pegg.

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There’s nothing like a writers’ conference to open the new writer’s eyes. Wide open. In danger of plopping from their sockets. At least, that’s what happened to me.

 

Maranatha Christian Writers’ Conference in Muskegon, Michigan, is where I got my start. Small numbers and an emphasis on getting published—that it’s in my home state was a plus—were what drew me to Maranatha. The first year, I waded through the week-long conference in an overwhelmed daze as all my preconceived notions of writing were ruthlessly torn apart. It took me the entire following year to digest everything I’d learned.

 

Convinced I was on the road to writing the next Great American Novel, I signed up for my second year at Maranatha. To my delight, Jerry Jenkins was Maranatha’s keynote speaker that year. Attendees were invited to send in the first page of their novels for a “Thick-Skinned Critique” session. Whoa! I couldn’t get my submission emailed off fast enough. How exciting to have Mr. Jenkins critique my first page.  This was the chance to strut my stuff and put my year-long learning to good use.

 

(I heard that sniggering.)

 

At some point, perhaps when I slowed down and read the fine print, I became aware that the “Thick-Skinned Critique” was to take place during the conference’s general session. In front of the whole conference body. Everyone. Every last one.

 

Confidence is a fickle companion.

 

By the time the conference arrived, I’d gone from strutting to, at best, a slouching shuffle into the conference room for the general session. The usual opening of worship music put a little stiff back into my spine. But once Mr. Jenkins pulled out the overhead projector. The one that lit up the huge screen swallowing the front of the room. The one upon which he laid an overlay with carefully typed words now emblazoned across the screen. My words.

 

The only saving grace was that my name did not appear anywhere on the overlay. The organizers, in their gentle wisdom, had deemed it best to expunge the writers’ names. Bless them.

 

Mr. Jenkins took a sadistically long time explaining how he did his “Thick-Skinned Critiques” while my words hung in front of every person there. Each moment corresponded with a half-inch glacier-like creep of my body toward the floor in front of my seat. What I mostly remember about this interminable wait was that if I concentrated on the tops of my shoes, the urge to relieve my stomach of its contents remained manageable. Barely.

 

And then he said these words, “I love this opening sentence.”

 

The glacier-like movement stopped. The rebellion of my breakfast stopped. My backbone coalesced to its solid form once again. All was right with my world. Better than right! It was write-right.

 

Mr. Jenkins withdrew another overlay which he placed on top of my carefully typed words. This overlay had red marks on it. That is to say, it may have been a graphic depiction of the blood patterns taken from a slasher murder scene.  That many red marks.

 

But I didn’t care. Jerry Jenkins had told me that he loved my opening sentence.  My confidence was back. I could do this thing called writing. I could.

And I did.

Bio:

Pegg Thomas lives on a hobby farm in Northern Michigan with Michael, her husband of *mumble* years. A life-long history geek, she writes “History with a Touch of Humor.” An avid reader and writer, she enjoys fiction stories threaded through historical events and around historical figures. Civil War and Colonial are her favorite eras. Pegg is a regular blogger at both QuidProQuills.com and ColonialQuills.com. When not working on her latest novel, Pegg can be found in her garden, in her kitchen, at her spinning wheel, tending her sheep, or on her trusty old horse, Trooper. See more at PeggThomas.com.

The Pony Express Romance Collection

Join the race from Missouri, across the plains and mountains to California and back again as brave Pony Express riders and their supporters along the route work to get mail across country in just ten days. It is an outstanding task in the years 1860 to 1861, and only a few are up to the job. Faced with challenges of terrain, weather, hostile natives, sickness, and more, can these adventurous pioneers hold fast, and can they also find lasting love in the midst of daily trials?

There are nine stories in this collection.

Embattled Hearts by Pegg Thomas
Alannah Fagan escaped from a battle she wouldn’t survive. Stewart McCann left behind a battle he couldn’t face. Thrown together at Horseshoe Station, can they find something worth fighting for?

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Click to order this novella collection of delightful stories.

Have you ever been in a critique group at a conference? What did you learn?