Novella to Novel
How I produced my first full length book.
Writing a novella follows the same general guidelines as for writing the long short story or novel.
For quite a while, I wrote and published short stories, poetry, and other brief prose. Many of the pieces received critiques in a number of Internet workshops. I kicked around a lot of ideas for writing longer stories, maybe a novel.
My thoughts were that since I practiced multi-genre writing, surely I could produce a novel. After all, I maintained a long, long list of tips for writing a story.
When some of us in an online workshop decided to experiment with Interior Monologue, the idea of a person caught alone in a rip current gave me an Aha! experience. It was, after all, fresh in my mind because I had just survived being caught in a rip current at Ke`e Beach on the North Shore of Kauai.
I was alone in the water with my thoughts while the current threatened to pull me toward the North Equatorial Current!
I would write my own interior monologue, my self-speak, and fictionalize it to suit the heroine’s predicament when she thought she could be a goner. What a spectacular story that would make! Thus, Caught in a Rip was born.
Again, I entertained the idea that writing a book couldn’t be much different than writing a long short story. Who was I kidding?
After I posted the novella of my experience, translated to my character’s plight, for review and critique in the online writing workshop, the story and my writing received a rating of 10 from each and every reader.
Still, I was faced with the fact that big publishing houses were not accepting novellas for publication. Nor is a single novella the same as writing a book.
At that moment, having written only a novella, writing a book seemed a daunting task.
Getting this novella completed was fun.
Then I hit on the idea of writing another of my short stories into a second novella. For the moment, writing a book slipped from my mind.
I had been on a ketch in the Caribbean that almost sank in a sea storm. Banishing the thought that my long stories wouldn’t be published, Child of a Storm was written next.
Then, returning to the idea of writing a novel, I was in a quandary as to how these stories helped with writing a book. These two novellas still weren’t long enough when combined to call them a novel.
Simply, I had two novellas, as different in content as any multi-genre writing.
Publishers didn’t want to see either, separately or together, and two weren’t long enough to break apart into a trilogy. Not that publishers accepted trilogies at the time either.
In pondering the idea of writing a book, I needed to pull these stories together. Their similarities were that both dealt with living in the tropics, one story in the Caribbean, one in Hawaii.
Both were written from my own life-threatening episodes at sea.
The stories being related gave me another Aha! experience.
I conjured the idea of interrelating the two separate main characters, giving each of them their own story but having the women as good friends. The only thing left to do was bring them together in writing a third story, completing the trilogy.
This was bending the rules of the standard format for writing a book, but, well… perhaps not.
I wrote the third story, Hurricane Secret, loosely at first. I knew that I had to have threads from each story intertwined in the others. That is the beauty of writing fiction.
I then went back through each story and wrote in some threads that I left dangling. In writing jargon, that means I did not totally wrap up the action at the ends of each novella, even though each story can stand alone. Instead, I left questions unanswered. After all, readers would know more intrigue was to come because there was much more of the book to read.
Another important element was that I began the time period of Child of a Storm much earlier and had the two women meet in the first story. Then the timeline in each story progressed forward, as did the ages of the characters.
Caught in a Rip takes place in a much later time period, perhaps two decades later.
In the third story, Hurricane Secret, all the threads have been woven toward the climax and denouement. And yet, each story stands alone and could be published alone, but I finally had a book-length work.
For over a year, I submitted the complete package to agents, seeking representation. I received only rejections. If the agents commented at all, most stated that this was not the kind of project their agency represented, in spite of saying my query letter and other documents were well-written and the stories sounded exciting. Without being told, I felt they were rejecting novellas in particular.
During the search for an agent that lasted about a year and a half, I began to research my Egyptian novel, The Ka. My first completed novel was finished. I now felt I could write one story into a full book.
After a string of rejections longer than my arm, I decided to publish The Tropics using print-on-demand.
Though I was extremely pleased with the outcome of The Tropics, when I thought about writing The Ka, an entire novel composed of one story, I knew then that I would really be writing a book.
Still, it doesn’t matter which format you choose when writing a book. All of it amounts to experience. In order to learn, you must get the words out, no matter what you may write.
The most widely known procedure in writing a book is to produce one continuous story, beginning, middle and ending. But, as in everything, there are deviations.
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