Last month, I finished writing the first draft of my first novel, reaching over 65K words. This is a milestone in my writing experience as the longest manuscript I have ever written. I may never pick it up again, and it may never see the light of day again, let alone publication. But that is alright with me – I set out at the beginning of NaNoWriMo 2014 to write my first novel, and write my first novel I did.
With a completed book-length manuscript under my belt, I feel as if I have completed a “write” of passage. (Please feel free to roll your eyes or groan at my pun here!)
However, this book was not the first thing I have ever written. Prior to completing this manuscript, I had written six novellas – six manuscripts over 17,500 words. This word count is a long leap away from the draft of my novel, making the writing processes vastly different.
Writing anything takes time, dedication, and an intensity that drives the project to completion. In my experience, writing a novella is straightforward, while writing a novel is more in-depth. Multiple aspects are taken into consideration in the writing processes, such as length, outlining, and the characters themselves. (Please note that I am writing this from the perspective of my own experience – a novella may take years to write under certain circumstances. Nor am I trying to say that either form is better than the other.)
Length. The most obvious difference between a novella and a novel is the length. To put it bluntly, more things happen in a novel with more detail and sometimes more characters. With more characters come subplots, and with more subplots comes more…book-ness. I found it hard to keep track of this “book-ness” while writing my novel; I had to work overtime to keep track of every nuance I had developed in the beginning of the draft.
Outlining. With a novella being a fraction of the size of a novel, it takes me less time to plan. I can create a basic outline in a portion of the day, and build on the outline from there. My outline for novellas is a string of plot points; the outline for my novel consisted of maps and lists and character names and the meanings of the character names and the rules of the world and…etc. Since aspects tend to be more detailed in a novel, my outline will usually be longer than one for a novella. I had at least two different outlines for the novel, while I can get away with two pages stapled together for a novella’s outline.
Cast. As mentioned earlier, with more characters come subplots. These extra details can go off into their own sub-subplots, and continue onward. For both a novel and a novella, the characters need the same amount of attention – every character needs character development. A project with more characters becomes a need for more time for character development. This means more dialogue, description, and “book-ness.”
Writing any project is therapeutic, and completing a project is a triumphant achievement. Understanding the differences in book types can help determine in which format your project is best suited to. For me, novellas are quicker to write. I look forward to writing more novels and becoming more familiar with the process.
How do you write your projects – and how do your projects differ by format/planning?