The Long and Short of It: Varying the Length of Your Writing Projects

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As I prepare to finish my latest manuscript, which will come in at about 90,000 words, I’m pondering where to go from here. I have an UF that’s been kicking around in my head, in various incarnations, for over a year now. I want to write it. I really, really do. But the prospect of facing another 90,000 words is more than daunting right now.

I’ve heard it said by some authors that they benefit creatively from varying the length of their writing projects. They will write one or two full length novels, followed by a novella. In this day and age of e-publishers, we are no longer constricted by strict word count guidelines. It’s now easier to write a novella that might actually get read by someone other than you and your family.

So what are some of the pros and cons of writing the occasional novella? Here’s what I came up with:

Pros

  • Gives you recuperation time between big projects. Less word count equals less conflict, and let’s face it, dreaming up conflict can be exhausting.
  • If you’re the sort of person who’s refreshed by new ideas, writing novellas might allow you refill that creative well.
  • You can complete a novella much faster than a novel.

Cons

  • If you haven’t written a novella before, you might find it as difficult to write as a novel. Novellas need the same level of worldbuilding and plotting as regular length novels, but you have less word count in which to do so.
  • If you’re looking for that NY publishing contract, you probably won’t get it with a novella. Novellas can be part of print anthologies, but these are usually reserved to authors who are already NY published.
  • The total payout potential is less with a novella than with a novel.

So I’m wondering, how many of you vary your writing projects, interspacing novels with novellas? If you do, do you find it beneficial? Does it refill that creative well?

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16 thoughts on “The Long and Short of It: Varying the Length of Your Writing Projects

    Katalina Leon said:
    January 28, 2011 at 10:05 am

    One of the things I love best about e-publishing is the flexibility of story length. Some stories are best told in brief concentrated form, and some need space to grow. I like being able to chose the right fit.
    XXOO Kat

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 28, 2011 at 11:22 am

      You’re so right, Kat. Not every story can be forced into 80-90k. Some stories can be told, and told well, with a smaller number of words.

    Julia Rachel Barrett said:
    January 28, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Look at it this way, NY pubs used to introduce new authors with short story anthologies. They rarely ever do that anymore. The world of epublishing revives the art of short story writing!
    I love it!
    This year I’ve come up with a sort of flexible plan – three shorter works of between 30,000-45,000 words and two longer, full-length works – over 90,000.
    The change between length is very refreshing and actually invigorating.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 28, 2011 at 11:23 am

      I agree, Julia. To me, the thought of writing 5 stories is more exciting than writing 3, even if the word count works out to be the same.

    Rachel Firasek said:
    January 28, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    My first novel, which will be released soon, is full of action and plot twists, but fell short of your average UF novel at 75K. But, it sold. I’ve since written book 2 which is again sadly only 60K but I write emotion last, so I know that I’ll have plenty to add. I wrote a 12K erotica piece that is close to submission quality and a 30K novella. I like writing the shorts to give your mind a rest, but the problem is that my shorts turn into series. Doh!

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 28, 2011 at 5:59 pm

      Nothing wrong with that, Rachel, as long as you’re still having fun. 🙂

    sapphyredragon said:
    January 28, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    I admit I never thought I’d write anything over 50k. I’m currently working on my first UF novel with a target word count of 100k. The fact I’ve made it to 77k so far tells me I can do it. But I also enjoy writing novellas and short novels. So the idea of alternating varying word counts appeals to me.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 28, 2011 at 6:01 pm

      I wrote my first novella because I was having a hard time getting past 70k in my writing. It gave me some recuperation time between projects, and now I’ve worked my way up to 85k. I still like writing shorts, though.

    Marsha A. Moore said:
    January 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    I do intersperse longer novel writing with shorter novellas and some short stories for anthologies. The varied pace keeps me fresher and more motivated. By the time I’m finished with a shorter work, I’m recharged to begin again with a full-length novel.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm

      I do think varying the pace is a good thing, but being halfway through a series, I fear that I’ll lose the momentum if I work on something else for a while. I think I’m just being obsessive, LOL.

    Marianne Stephens said:
    January 28, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    I write around 50,000 word books. Although I’ve done short stories for free reads, I need more words to tell my story.
    I can’t seem to write more than that (although one book did go over 60,000 words…but none came close to 100,000 words).
    Quite honestly, few books over 50,000 words entice me as a romance reader, so maybe that’s why my brain gives me a word limit when I write!

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 28, 2011 at 7:54 pm

      That makes sense, Marianne. Write what you know and love!

    laradunning said:
    January 28, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    I break up the montony by writing flash inbetween writing and editing larger pieces. Who knows, maybe a piece of flahs will make it into a longer piece.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 29, 2011 at 11:06 am

      That’s a really good point, Lara. You never know how shorter pieces may end up working for you.

    claudia celestial girl said:
    January 29, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    I just finished up two short stories, and I think I learned a lot from having a finished product where I could work the beginning and the ending (and the middle) in a short span of time – not waiting a year to get to the end before I could start editing. It was refreshing to try to do that, and I think I’ll continue to try to work shorts into my line-up.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 30, 2011 at 9:30 am

      There’s a lot to be said for being able to get it done much quicker!

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