So now that I’m finished with Desert Stars, the next project I’m working on is a companion novella to Bringing Stella Home titled Sholpan. While Bringing Stella Home is about James and his quest to rescue his brother and sister, Sholpan is entirely from Stella’s point of view and traces her rise in Hameji society, from prisoner and slave to…well, I won’t ruin it for you.
I started writing it on Monday, and so far it’s been a lot of fun. In some ways, it’s kind of a break for me, since I already know the story (most of the material is lifted straight from Bringing Stella Home, with a few extra changes to make the viewpoint tighter and build more character development).
For the purposes of the Nebula Awards, the categories are defined as follows:
- Novel — 40,000 words or more
- Novella — 17,500–39,999 words
- Novelette — 7,500–17,499 words
- Short Story — 7,499 words or fewer
However, I can’t help but feel that there are many other artistic elements to consider. For example, the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms gives this definition:
novella [nŏ‐vel‐ă], a fictional tale in prose, intermediate in length and complexity between a short story and a novel, and usually concentrating on a single event or chain of events, with a surprising turning point.
Other sites I’ve browsed (including this post from The Galaxy Express, this review from 2009 of several small press novellas, and another interesting post on short stories vs. novellas vs. novels) leave me with the impression that novellas typically
- can be read in one long sitting, such as a train ride,
- center around one major conflict, idea, or issue,
- have more room for rich settings and lavish descriptions,
- tend to focus more intimately on character,
- are compact enough to take risks with voice and theme, and
- can end without a definitive conclusion to the central idea or conflict.
I must confess, I’m not an avid reader of novellas. I’ve read some of the classics, of course: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, The Time Machine, Animal Farm, etc, but in terms of modern sf novellas, all I’ve really read is I Am Legend (and a few golden/silver age “novels,” if you count them). Point is, I’m not an expert on novellas by any means.
However, the novella seems like a very promising format for epublishing, especially in conjunction with a novel. Readers can pick up the novella for $.99 and get both a sample of the writer’s longer novel-length stuff, as well as a complete story in itself.
That’s what I want to do with Sholpan. I want to write a less-expensive derivative work that’s artistically sound in its own right, while also driving interest in the full length novel. Besides, it’s just fun to experiment with new styles and formats.
If this is successful, I can see myself writing a companion novella to most, if not all of my novels. And who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to sell some of those to more traditional print and electronic markets. It’s worth a shot, and no matter what happens, I’m bound to learn something new.
So yeah, that’s my current writing project. If all goes well, expect to see it out sometime this fall. And if you have any comments or suggestions regarding novellas, please share! I’m very interested to learn anything I can.