The Novella Blues

I need to vent my frustrations, I am suffering from the novella blues. I have been writing a novella for a little under a month, in the hope that it will be all finished and edited by the end of November or early December at the latest. However I am completely losing confidence in it at the moment.

The story started off as a piece of flash fiction, which then developed into a short story. From there on it grew and now I’m pushing around 6,000-7,000 words. Correct me if I’m wrong but for a novella I know it generally has to be 20,000 minimum and to meet my deadline I have to push on and get all the words down in the next couple of weeks.

As I have imposed a deadline on myself, unlike when I took part in JuNoWriMo, I need to make sure all the plot holes are covered and that the first draft is not completely shoddy. Each evening when I sit down the words don’t sit right. Everything seems tedious and I am unsure on the pace. At times I don’t think I am even scratching the surfaces of the character’s depth. The dialogue is extremely sparse, but then I sometimes wonder whether we try to conform our writing to what you think it should be, rather than what comes naturally when writing the story.

It feels like a completely new challenge and very daunting. I am feeling very tested at the moment in regards to my faith in my story and my stamina to keep on going. Each time I read back on certain parts, it feels like I’m wading through sticky mud. My biggest problem at the moment is making the transition from sub plot to plot. The story takes place over a long time period which is probably where I went wrong. It is looking back on the protagonist’s life over the past seven years and how she came to wanting to run out on her fiancé on their wedding day.  I have got the structure for the story, the key events, when things should unfold. But changing it from a 3,000 word story to a 20,000 word novella is in fact very hard.

I am going to set myself a timetable, and write at least 500 words each night between now and end of October, I should hit my word count target. In all honesty, 500 words a day doesn’t seem too bad. I’m starting to feel better already.

Have you ever written a novella and are the challenges you face completely different to those you face whilst writing a novel? How do you beat the writing blues?

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12 thoughts on “The Novella Blues

  1. Paul Ankers says:

    I am writing a novel at the moment, but have no deadline. I just have to write 250 words minimum a day. I suspect you are more experienced than me, but I will offer a couple of thoughts.
    You have a lot of stress attached to the novella and you need to cut loose a bit in my opinion. Write something else, just for a couple of days, on anything, but unencumbered by any requirements. Do some selfish writing just for you or do something so outlandish that whatever you write will make you smile during the difficult times back with the novella.
    Remember you write because you love it, but sometimes love can be a grind.
    NB: An adapted version of this will fill my 250 words! Thanks

  2. EmmaMc says:

    Hi Paul,

    Thank you! I think that’s great advice.

    For the record I am not experienced at all. Feeling my way around in the dark a bit, but I think I have put myself under pressure to meet personal targets for this year. I will definately write something else for a few days and see how that goes, it make spark new thoughts for the novella. Best of luck with your novel.

  3. teeceecounsel says:

    Great challenge you’ve given yourself. Pressure strengthens our muscles. It is good that you have a 500 word target per day. You can handle that. Keep at it, you’ll soon have your novella set for publication! Cheers! 🙂

  4. Capri Montgomery says:

    As far as word count goes I see it vary per publisher. For some publishers a novella is 15,000 words minimum, so who knows what the standard is changing to with all the differences.

    I read great advice on word count once. That advice was to write the story in as many words as it took to tell the story–not one word more and not one word less. If you focus on the story then the word count will come. It might not be 30,000 words, or 40,000, and sometimes not even 15,000, but the word count will come.

    Best wishes with your writing.

    • EmmaMc says:

      Thank you. That really is great advice. I think sometimes we can get so hung up on how long or short something would be that you lose sight of what you are writing about.

  5. Jae says:

    I’m kind of going through the same thing, though with my novel. I can’t seem to get the ending written, let alone come up with a great idea for it. Then it makes me doubt my decision to majorly overhaul it with rewrites, and frustration sets in which seems to make it even more difficult to write. So I completely empathize with you.

    But much like I’m telling myself, give your mind the time to create and trust in your creativity. You’ll come up with the solutions and you’ll have those super productive days again—they’re probably just around the corner.

    At the very least know that your writing community friends are all here cheering for you!

    • EmmaMc says:

      Thanks Jae! It’s so difficult isn’t it? That’s is pretty much what I’m doing at the moment and it’s comforting to know we aren’t alone with our frustrations. The very best of luck with your novel. Are you planning on publishing it afterwards?

      • Jae says:

        I’m going to query it to agents and see if I can get one to pick it up. I may look into contests to see if I can’t get just a little more clout before I do it. That’s so far away right now though. It’s in much better shape than it was, but I know where it needs to be and I’m not sure how long it’ll take. *sigh* C’est la vie!

  6. Anthony Martin says:

    Maybe your writing just requires some more time to develop in your mind. When I hit blocks like this, I put the piece down for a week or two. When I come back to it, it’s usually with fresh eyes and new perspectives on the various elements of the work that were stopping me up before.

    • EmmaMc says:

      I have taken a break of a few days, gone back to writing little bits of flash fictioin here and there. It does sometimes feels like you have to tease the information and right words out of your brain. Thank you for commenting and the follow.

  7. Sugel says:

    The most important thing to remember when writing a novel is that you cannot quit. Even if you think the story is bad, don’t quit. Even if you decide you’re the most talentless scribbler of worthless ideas, don’t quit. Almost every author goes through a period of hating their novel while they’re writing it. You see, sticking to the project is the hardest part of creating a worthwhile story. Once you quit, you fail. And if you don’t quit, you can always keep adding to and editing your novel, until it is something you can be proud of. You should expect to write something new on your novel every day. If you skip a few days, don’t despair – just pick up where you left off. If you’re new to writing, you can try for 500 new words daily. If you’re ambitious, 1500 words daily would be a great goal. Whatever word count you choose, remember that the key word here is “daily”. Do you realize that if you write just 500 words daily for two months and ten days, you’ll have a viable 35,000-word middle grade novel manuscript? Then you’ll have something in hand to edit and polish up, and be on your way to novel writing success.

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