~ By Deborah Blake
Someone asked me in an interview recently what the difference was between writing novellas and novels in the same series, and if one was easier than the other. The answer, of course, is that they are both hard. But that each one has its own challenges and its own rewards.
So far in my Baba Yaga series, I have written two novellas and four novels (the third one just came out February second, and the next one will be out in October) and it has been interesting to play with the different forms.
Unlike some of my author friends, I haven’t written very much short fiction. Other than a couple of short stories (including the one published in The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction), I’ve almost exclusively written in the long form. In fact, when Berkley asked me to write a prequel novella for the Baba Yaga series, I’d never written a novella before.
It’s harder than you’d think.
With a novel, the challenge is mostly in coming up with enough story to fill the pages—about 90,000 to 100,000 words worth. You need to build complicated characters and intricate intertwined plotlines and create enough tension to keep people reading chapter after chapter. Of course, in a series, you may have some of the same characters showing up over and over, but since an author can never assume that his or her readers have actually read the previous books in the series, each book also need to recap the necessary information from the other books without using the dreaded “info dump.”
In a novella, on the other hand, you don’t have time to explore either the characters or the plot in such depth, so you need to be able to get across much of the same feeling in a lot fewer words. On the other other hand, it is a lot shorter, so it is way faster to write!
I had two different goals with the two novellas, in part because they fell at different places in the series. The prequel novella, Wickedly Magical, came out before the first novel and was intended to introduce the reader to all three of the Baba Yaga characters who would be featured in the first three books, but most especially to Barbara, the protagonist from WICKEDLY DANGEROUS. My hope was that the story would intrigue people enough that they would go on to read the longer novel. (Side note: as far as I can tell, it worked! Yay!)
The second novella, which fell after books one and two, and before three, was more of a fun piece that allowed me to follow up on what happened with Barbara after her main “story” was wrapped up at the end of her book. (She does show up in book three and book four. Very pushy, our Barbara.) It was, in some ways, a gift for my readers, who wanted to know what happened next. Wickedly Ever After is a glimpse into what happened after the fairy tale ending. Did she live happily ever after or didn’t she? The novella got to answer that question.
I wouldn’t say that I prefer writing one form over the other. Each has its plusses and minuses. What I really love is being able to tell the stories of the Baba Yagas (and now, their companions The Riders) and share them with my readers. Hopefully my modern take on the traditional Russian fairy tale witches has pleased my readers, no matter what the length of the story.
Have you written a series? What tips to you have? Please share in the comments!
Deborah Blake is the author of the Baba Yaga paranormal romance series, including Wickedly Magical, Wickedly Dangerous and Wickedly Wonderful (Berkley) as well as eight books on modern witchcraft from Llewellyn Worldwide. She has an ongoing column in Witches & Pagans Magazine and was featured in The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction. She can be found at www.deborahblakeauthor.com.