René Penn

Author wannabe. Blogger. Follow me.

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10 Reasons I May Write a Novella Instead of a Novel

Don’t know whether to write a novel or novella? Me neither. And I’m still not sure where this train is headed.

my_tweet-12I’ve been diligently working on a novel for the last six months, and it’s been tough. No surprise there—that’s part of the writing journey. But while digging up writing tips, I stumbled upon various articles about writing novellas, like this really good one. Something about the concept speaks to me.

What is a novella?

A novella is typically a work of fiction between 10,000 – 50,000 words. It’s longer than a short story and shorter than a novel.

Here are some reasons why I’m interested in writing a novella instead of a novel—and reasons that the devil’s advocate whispers against it.

  • My novel manuscript is too short. This isn’t the first time I’ve struggled to get a manuscript to an ideal 80,000 word count. I abandoned a previous project because of that issue. When I come against this problem, I create subplots just to beef up my story to a novel-length. Many times I think it’s to the detriment of the story.

Devil’s advocate: Perhaps I need to pick better subplots.

  • I tend to write fast-paced scenes. I like to get in and out without a lot of languishing. This could be a fault to work on, or it could just be my style. I’m still trying to figure that out.

Devil’s advocate: If I work on my technique, the scene can be expanded without feeling like fluff. Should I consider writing a suspense or thriller where fast-paced scenes are expected?

  • A novella still uses the three-act structure. I like the format of a novel. It provides good guidance for the writer and leaves a reader feeling fulfilled. A novella adheres to that same structure, which still gives me plenty of room to play around and have fun.

Devil’s advocate: If I like the novel structure, then I should just write a novel!

  • I have a lot of story ideas. Like many aspiring authors, I have a lot of ideas swarming around in my head—nine at the current moment. I have a list of them so I don’t forget. But there is something to be said for striking while that iron is hot. When the iron cools, I lose the creative boost that got me excited to begin with. This leads me to my next point.

Devil’s advocate: There will always be ideas. Just stick with one idea at a time until it’s done. Improve my “writer-stick-to-it-ness.”

  • I want to start working on the next idea. If I write shorter manuscripts, I wonder if I can crank through them faster, which will allow me to get to my next idea quicker. It’s all about feeding the creative beast.

Devil’s advocate: That’s an excuse. I’m a writer—which means, as long as I’m alive, that writing beast will be hungry.

  • Novellas are series-friendly. My current WIP is about one character, but I envision writing separate books with points-of-view of two other characters. Series are hot and hook readers. They can follow the continued life of a character, provide a spinoff for other characters, develop more opportunities for world-building, or link a connected, interesting theme.

Devil’s advocate: I can use these ideas as subplots to increase the length of my manuscript to the size of novel.

  • I want to finish. I’m impatient. I want the satisfaction of completing the novel, having it proofread and completed. I love writing, but there’s something to be said for finishing a project. The sense of accomplishment is satisfying, and it could happen more often with novellas.

Devil’s advocate: Patience is a virtue. With practice and perseverance, I’ll finish novel-length projects faster.

  • I could self-publish. Novellas are getting more and more popular, especially within the digital space. The shorter length works well for readers who like snack-size books, as well as meal-size novels. This market is perfect for the self-publishing industry, giving authors the chance to have total control of their creativity and marketing.

Devil’s advocate: When writing novellas, there really isn’t much choice but to self-publish anyway, for the most part.

  • Novellas can be bundled into a novel. If I decide to follow the same character through two or three novellas, for instance, they could be bundled together to create a novel. That book could then be sold separately to satisfy the needs of readers and agents interested in a conventional, novel-length work.

Devil’s advocate: If the end result is to get to a novel-length book, then why go through the trouble of working on shorter ones?

  • I can test the waters. Releasing a novella allows for faster feedback from readers, especially with a series in mind. If the feedback is good, it will provide incentive to keep going, all while building a reader base.

Devil’s advocate: I can also receive feedback from beta-readers—on a book of any length—without having to release a novella.

As you can see, I’m still deciding what to do. And there are some good cases made here by my Devil’s advocate.

Are you writing novellas instead of novels, or have you written both? Please share why have you decided to write, or not write, novellas.

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Pre-Made Book Covers—They Exist

If you’re like me, you’ve been thinking about your book cover even though your manuscript isn’t polished yet. It doesn’t hurt to imagine what your book will look like, does it? While working on my first draft, I scanned through stock photos online, then put my book title and pseudonym onto images that I liked. Here are examples of what I came up with.


My book cover won’t look like any of these. The photos don’t have exactly the historical romance vibe that I want. The fonts aren’t the style that I imagine. And the type placement doesn’t work well. I’m clearly not a book designer. But these photos represent a vision board concept for my cover. They inspire me to keep going, to keep writing, to keep plugging away.

Luckily, there are professionals out there who are available to design book covers for we writer folks. In fact, there are pre-made book covers out there, already designed and ready for download. I spent way too much time perusing websites that specialize in pre-made book covers. The sites make it easy to search by genre to find a match for your book. Many of them also include pricing, timeline, and specifications.

It’s good to determine if the designer will sell each cover design only once. That will minimize the possibility of seeing a repeat of your cover image all over

Even if you don’t buy a pre-made design cover, it’s still good to see what types of covers are out there. It may even help you determine what kind of cover you want for your book.

Have you used a pre-made book cover design?


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6 Questions to Ask Beta-Readers

Curious to know what to ask beta-readers? I was, too. I had toiled over my novel manuscript, rewrote it, and then sent it off to beta-readers—I released the baby bird. I knew the manuscript had flaws, but I needed confirmation on what the flaws were and how to tackle them. I needed validation and maybe a hug.

An article about what a beta-reader is, and how to work with them.

Sending out that draft to beta-readers was the first time it had been seen by anyone other than me. Was my novel just creative, nonsensical dribble, or was there something good there? Something likeable and interesting?jon-tyson-518780-unsplash

I fretted as I waited to hear back from my first beta-reader. I thought: I should’ve done this and that differently. I should have given the main character a different personality. I should just start over. I have a dribble draft!

During lunch with one of my beta-readers, who is a dear friend, I was nervous to receive feedback. I kind of regressed to my 6 year-old self—I was very close to crawling under the table. What was I so nervous about? This was the moment I had been waiting for. I should’ve been excited not nervous.

Thank goodness, I matured to my current age—or thereabouts—and asked some “beta-reader questions.” I wish I had the following list printed out, so I could’ve been more organized. But that’s life. Lesson learned.

Here are 6 questions to ask beta-readers:

  • Pacing?

Is it too fast, too slow?

  • Plot?
Is there too much going on? Not enough? Are there things missing? Is anything not believable?
  • Characterization?

Do you like the characters? Are they believable? Stereotypical? Are there things about them that you think are missing?

  • Points-of-View?
I switch between different points-of-view. Is it too much? Does it work/not work?
  • Dialogue?

Is it believable? Does the dialogue of each character match their personality?

  • World-Building?

Do you feel immersed in this imaginary world? Is it believable? Does it feel contrived, or are the details too sparse to believe?

Still looking for more questions to ask beta-readers? Check this out.

I got some great feedback from my first beta-reader, including some of these paraphrased nuggets.

  • “I wanted to know more about what the main character was thinking.”
My writer translation: I need to add more of the character’s internal thoughts. Intersperse more of it between dialogue.
  • “I know what the secondary characters want to accomplish, but I’m not as sure about the main character.”
My writer translation: The main character’s goal isn’t clear. Ouch! I need to go back to the basics, work on a character sketch, clarify her goal, and rework her sections. Those changes may also help the first bullet above, with increasing the character’s internal thoughts.
  • “When the main character was talking to her lady’s maid, I felt like they were discussing things that they would have already known.”
My writer translation: I was over-explaining—perhaps I need to look for instances where I need to do more “show don’t tell.”
  • “I think there are ways to incorporate more humor. I remember you said that you wanted it to be a funny book. I think you accomplish that more with the secondary characters, but not as much with the main one.”
Writer translation: The tone isn’t exactly right. It’s not consistent. Again, the main character is soggy.
I received some positive beta-reader feedback, too. But obviously, I have some work to do.
How do you work with your beta-readers? What kinds of questions do you ask them?

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Relationship status with my second draft: It’s complicated.

my_tweetWhy does working on the second draft of my book remind me of a relationship? And I don’t mean that in a Beyonce-Single-Ladies-carefree-dating-kind-of way. I’m talking about the awkward stage. Where you’ve been dating someone for a while, and it’s starting to feel like “work.”

It wasn’t always this way. When we were in the first draft stage of our relationship, it was organic and stress-free. Things seemed to click. Sure, there were a few hiccups. But nothing that we couldn’t get over. The more time I spent with it, the more I liked it—especially because it made me laugh.

I’d lose track of time when I was writing it. There were late nights and early mornings. I daydreamed of what the cover would look like when it was published. I even made a mock-up of it in Microsoft Word. I know, I know I was gettin’ all carried away. Silly me. But what can I say? I was excited about it. Vested. Committed.

Now that we’ve passed the first draft phase, and we’re now into the second draft, things are more complicated. I’m really starting to notice the quirks. Like, I’m not sure if it’s as funny as I thought. We don’t spend as much time together as we used to, either. Sometimes, I’ll go a whole day without being in contact. And when I do spend time with it, I’m picking it apart, examining the flaws, trying to fix them, make it better.

I compare it to published books, and I wonder if it’ll measure up. Worse yet, my mind has started to wander. I think about other story ideas, and how much easier it would be to start from scratch, a blank page. That’s where the thrill is, when you’re still trying to figure it out, the plot’s turning points, the characters’ motivations. Discovery is exciting. After that, it starts to feel like…work.

I’m too far into this manuscript to give up now, though. As I rewrite the first few chapters, I’m realizing that the foundation is there. The dialogue still makes me laugh, and I find that I still enjoy reading it. Sure, some things are being fine-tuned, but that’s part of the process. I’m too far along to turn back now. I think I’ve got a good thing going, and I’m not going to give it up.