How Long is Long Enough?
No, we’re not talking about that. Get you minds out of the gutter. We’re talking about story length. Today is release day for my first novella, The Treasure of Como Bluff, and since both my previously published books have been full length novels, writing a much shorter story was a new challenge for me.
The Treasure of Como Bluff is part of the Love Letters series from The Wild Rose Press, so the story length was already set at 20-25K words, about one quarter my usual length. Like any story, a novella needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. In a romance, the beginning must set the scene, introduce the hero and heroine, and establish the conflict that will drive the story. Even at this shorter length, the middle has to stir up the conflict until it erupts into the inevitable black moment, and the end resolves the conflict and wraps everything up in a satisfying package for the reader. My challenge was how to accomplish all this in 25K words.
If I were a pantser, I’m not sure I would ever have figured out how to approach the problem, so this is one point where I’m glad to be a plotter. I decided to take my usual process and apply mathematics to find the answer. Now, I am completely NOT a math person, but this method worked for me.
When plotting a full length novel, I usually plan for 20-21 chapters of approximately 20 pages each to end up with about 90K words. That seems to be the most natural fit for my style. For my novella, I started by cutting each number in half—10 chapters of approximately 10 pages. That meant one scene per chapter instead of the usual two and allowed me to write normal-length scenes instead of feeling pressure to abbreviate them. Of course, I had to plot my scenes carefully to be sure to include all the necessary elements for telling a complete story.
Another choice I made was to dramatically reduce the time frame of the story. My novels usually cover a period of many months. The action chapters of the novella take place in only a couple of weeks. There is a one-month gap between the black moment and the final chapter (conclusion), but I make that clear in the first paragraph.
I can’t claim this method will work for everyone, but if you’re struggling with a novella or are interested in trying a new length on of size, give it a shot. It worked for me.
In her race against rival bone hunters, the last complication paleontologist Caroline Hubbard needs is an unconscious stranger cluttering up her dig site. Nicholas Bancroft might have the chiseled features and sculpted physique of a classical statue, but she's not about to let him hamper her quest to unearth a new species of dinosaur and make her mark on the scientific world.
Nick has come to Wyoming in search of silver but, after a blow to the head, finds himself at the mercy of a feisty, determined female scientist. Despite his insistence that he's just passing through, he agrees to masquerade as Caroline's husband to help save her job. Once their deception plays out, they face a crucial decision. Will they be able to see beyond their separate goals and recognize the treasure right in front of them?