Yes, it’s 2015 all over again. That is, it is for me in one aspect of my life that parallels an experience that began in August 2015. In this, 2019, my planned Short Story December crashed because novellas happened.
It’s time for Christina’s time machine…
I often reference 2015 because it was the year I decided to overhaul my writing. I set out to learn Deep (Close) 3rd, overhaul the Ontyre map of Tremjara, better understand story structure, and modernize the country of Carrdia (I hadn’t yet developed Pannulus).
It was going so well I decided to try and do what I hadn’t successfully done before: write a short story. There were a few reasons. One was wanting examples of my writing on the website. Another was to help tighten my writing. Lastly, I hoped it’d accelerate learning Deep 3rd.
It all started in August 2015. My first attempt was a 2K dystopian tale that was posted briefly, but had major issues. Undaunted, I tried again. The second attempt took me back to my fantasy roots despite having heard not to write fantasy short stories because too much worldbuilding was required.
Sometimes, once in awhile, I’m a rebel.
I decided to aim for 5K and the result was Gryphon Gray, which I was pleased with. It eventually ended up on the website, but not until I fixed its Deep 3rd issues. The following month, September, I wrote two more fantasy short stories that were more modern.
Ever get the feeling you’re on the right path? I was there. Those two September tales were closer to what I wanted.
The breakthrough came on November 17, 2015. Yes, during NaNo. I’d won early and finished my experimental novel. On the 17th everything changed. I wasn’t working at the time and rose early with an idea for a fantasy western set in Ontyre.
I wrote Final Stage in one day. Not only that, but I made major advances in my quest for Deep 3rd voice. That short story was also a part of my ten–tales–in–ten–days tear. I’d rise early, spend the morning working out the story and characters, and draft over the course of the afternoon and evening. It was mania. I loved it!
There were a few clunkers, but there were also gems like Bringing Light and The Moon’s Pull. The following month I wrote several more short stories like my beloved Prolongation and never looked back.
Over the years since I’ve added tens of short stories, but the nut I’d never cracked was the novella. Novella ideas would always shrink into short stories or expand into a novel (Exhuming Truths, Stealing Light).
This year that changed, and again it changed during NaNo. After completing Protecting the Pneuma Key I wrote a sequel novella, a real one. Finally! December arrived and it was my intention to do Short Story December, an idea with its roots in 2015 and formalized last year.
I don’t know if my brain was in novella mode, but the first idea I had revealed itself to be a novella in short order. There was a moment when I considered shelving it and returning to short stories, but instead chose to follow inspiration.
There was a learning curve. As it turns out, a novella requires more planning than a short story, but not as much as a novel. Yeah, it seems obvious now. I was moving in fits and starts with no rhythm. I was also ready to quit despite loving the story. I surrendered to the inevitable on the 10th and started a narrative outline. I also made a train schedule for New Year’s Train to Talonspear so I knew what characters were seeing outside.
My frustration and anxiety melted away. I might not be one to plan a story to death, but I’m also not a pure pantser. I see now I like to know where the story is going. That leaves me free to focus on the other aspects of storytelling and makes it easier to move at a steady pace.
I’ve finally found my novella range. When an aspect of writing clicks it isn’t lost. Although I’m not a huge fan, I’ve written four flash fiction stories, but their evolution came over time and was more an offshoot of my short story breakthrough.
Don’t think you can do something? Keep trying different approaches. I’ve now written novels, novellas, short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. I just had to find the way to them that was right for me. Same goes for everyone. It’s a part of finding your process. Don’t be afraid to experiment!