1. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Formatting a novella

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Lea`Brooks, Aug 5, 2016.

    Hey all! I had a dream last night that I want to turn into a novella. However, I've never written one before (or even thought of doing so), so I'm not sure how it differs from a novel or short story. Obviously length plays into it. But other than that...

    1) Are they divided into chapters as well?
    2) Are they or should they be divided into acts? Not the "three act structure" but actual page break acts.
    3) Do you need to get into the action with them right away? Or can you delay it a bit?

    For some context, it's a horror story essentially about rabid dogs. The MC goes to a foreign country to visit a friend who's been there studying abroad. I wanted the first "act" to be about them living together for a couple weeks and having fun. Then I wanted the second "act" to follow them trying to survive. But I don't want to bore the reader by not getting into the action immediately. Of course, I'd pepper in some drama in the first act. But the real story is in the second act.

    Is this the wrong way to go? Should I simply condense the first act to a couple chapters and jump right into the action? If so, it would end up being more of a short story than a novella...

    Thoughts?
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you able to inject a sense of foreboding into the first couple chapters? If so, I don't think there's anything wrong with spending a little while setting the scene - I think horror is one of the genres where this makes the most sense, to me.

    In terms of formatting - I don't really know what you mean by acts, but, yes, most novellas I've read and written have chapters.
     
  3. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you've written short stories, I'd just treat it as a long short story, or if you like, a very short novel.

    Like BayView I don't know what you mean by 'acts' (aren't they something used for plays?) but as far as chapters, again as BV says, novellas use them just like novels do.
     
  4. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    @BayView, yes, I was going to have a character bit by a dog and slowly become sick. So that would add some foreshadowing.

    To both, what I mean by acts is literally dividing the story in two. Have a blank page that says "Act I" at the first part and "Act II" at the start of the second part, essentially dividing them up into two short stories. I've seen this done before but I didn't know if it was necessary or just annoying.
     
  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would say it's absolutely not necessary, and to my taste would likely be annoying. A novella just doesn't seem like it would be long enough to justify another level of division, unless there was a definite reason for it.
     
  6. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Why would you pick a novella? Seriously, even the best novella is still a hard sell. Why not just go for a novel with it? Especially since it doesn't seem like you read many novellas or really know the market. On a side note, dreams don't always make the best stories, but that's your call. Not saying your idea is bad, but be open to writing a story and not just rehashing a dream.
     
  7. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Every single story I'm writing has come from a dream in some form or another. Trust me, I'm more than experienced at turning them into a story, not just rehashing a crazy dream.

    And I'm turning it into a novella for several reasons. But mostly because I have just enough content to make it a novella. It'll be a quick and easy write this way, and I'll be able to get it done in no time. Also, forcing it to be a novel would just end up with loads of filler chapters and would eventually turn boring.

    And I don't care about it being a hard sell. I write because I enjoy it, not to please publishers or agents.
     
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  8. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Well, if you don't care about publishing you can do whatever you want.
     
  9. Dr. Mambo
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    Dr. Mambo Active Member

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    I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who does this.

    Which is the last thing you want to do with a horror story.

    Stick with the novella length, especially if it seems natural. I actually think a novella is one of the best formats for a good horror story. I've read so many horror novels that just drag on and on unnecessarily or spend way too much time on backstory or buildup, and obviously there are just some ideas that just won't fit into a short story.

    I don't see the harm in sitting on stories anyway. Maybe you get a novel published some day and it does well, and whoa! You have a handful of novellas sitting around and now your publisher wants to release a collection of those straight away.
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Try reading a few novellas. Jim Harrison (author of Legends of the Fall) practically made his living out of writing them. Most of his books are collections of two or three novellas each. Check him out! :)
     
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  11. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Will do! :D Thanks!
     
  12. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wrote one once. It had chapters, and was on the verge of being a novel with its 39000 words. I treated it as a novel but without subplots and not so much backstory. But it had character development. Do you mean how to structure it? I don't understand how formatting fits in here... But maybe I'm missing something?
     
  13. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Just wanted to add that my favorite novellas are by Rody Doyle. His stuff can be both edgy and funny. Some of his novellas have been published in literary journals like McSweeney's Quarterly. Though there isn't much of a market for novellas, I enjoy reading the ones I come across. Rody Doyle is a master.

    I wasn't trying to discourage you. I just don't really understand writing a novella on purpose. I've written a few, but they were supposed to be novels or they were supposed to be short stories. And what I was left with was something nobody wanted. You say you don't care about publishing. Maybe that's true now, but when you're 20,000 words in, you might feel differently. Of course then you could decide to make it longer, maybe. That didn't really work for me.

    I think it takes a lot of practice to be able to write a story to a certain length. I know most short stories that sell are between 3,000 and 5,000 words. I have trained myself to tell a story this length. I know when things need to heat up. I know when they need to climax. For a long time, I paid very close attention to my word count while writing. It's almost formulaic. And it has taken me a long time to get this down. Now it's like second nature so all I really focus on is the story. I fear that the novella is becoming my accidental novel length. Nothing I write is over 30,000 words. I can't seem to teach myself the same sort of story to word count relationship that helped me with short stories.

    I wrote a novella earlier this summer. It was supposed to be a novel. A great novel. A novel that would get published. It clocked in around 17,000 worlds. And it is pretty much completely useless. The good thing is you should be able to get it done in a month or two. Good luck!
     
  14. Laurin Kelly
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    Laurin Kelly Active Member

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    Depends on the publisher. Mine explicitly announces calls for novella length submissions to be included in their collections (i.e. individual books that are tied together by a common theme).
     
  15. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I didn't say I didn't care about publishing. I said I didn't care if it was a hard sell and that I'm writing it for myself, not to please publishers. I'm writing this story because I want to. I think it'll be interesting and engaging. When it's finished, I might shop it around. If it gets picked up, great. If it doesn't, that's fine too. But I'll never intentionally cut or add words just to make it easier to sell. All that results in is a poor story. Either I take out important information and make it hard to follow, or I add a bunch of shit I don't need and make it boring.

    You don't have to understand why people intentionally write novellas. If you don't like them, don't do it. But it isn't your place to talk someone out of it just because it isn't your cup of tea. As Laurin said, some publishers do look for novellas. And in my attempt to publish a short story, I saw several places looking for novellas. So there is a market for it. Just because you haven't found it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

    But thank you for your input.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2016
  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Another writer who wrote a lot of novellas was Joseph Conrad. He's a classic. Henry James also wrote novellas. James Joyce's "The Dead" is technically a novella. H.P. Lovecraft wrote novellas. William Gass wrote (and probably still writes) novellas. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote many novellas, as well, including classics such as "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

    Take a look around. There are lots of novellas out there - maybe more than you think. ;)
     
  17. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Whoa. Did you not read my post? I recommended an author who writes novellas. I said I had done some. I even said I felt a little bad about the way I might have come across is my post yesterday. Only looking to make friends and offer up what I know about the biz. Talking shop and that sort of thing. There's nothing to take issue with, really. I hope your novella is everything you want it to be. Are we cool?
     

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