Last year I wrote a novelette called The Bone-Men. It’s dark fantasy, set in primeval Scotland with a few twists and turns along the way.
Novelettes are traditionally stories between 8,000 and 50,000 words. They’re uncommon and hard to sell (to traditional publishers, at least). So why did I write one?
It was an accident
The Bone-Men began life as a response to a writing prompt and sprawled into a bigger story (just not sprawling enough to be a novel!). It was one of those projects born from a rush of creativity. It felt fresh and exciting – for once I allowed myself to get side-tracked and fell down a wonderfully dark rabbit hole.
Novelettes are quicker to write
Novels take a lot of time and energy. Multiple drafts later and Children of the Mist is still unfinished. There are more characters, subplots and themes to keep track of. After what felt like an age in the novel writing trenches I needed a ‘quick win’ – something I could write, edit and share within a shorter time frame. The positive feedback I’ve received for The Bone-Men boosted my morale and reminded me why I write in the first place. If you’re struggling with a longer piece of fiction, I highly recommend writing something short and fun – it will give you a sense of accomplishment and the motivation to continue your bigger project.
I love short fiction
My favourite books are rarely weighty tomes. The writers I admire most say a lot with a little. The Fox (D.H. Lawrence), Orlando (Virginia Woolf), Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys), Death In Spring (Mercè Rodoreda), Ice (Anna Kavan), Grendel (John Gardner), Iris Murdoch novels…I could go on! These books contain an intensity, depth and dynamism that would be difficult to sustain over a longer book.
Creativity loves constraints
A shorter length forced me to make my point with less words. It was a lesson in economy as I had to create tension and fully formed characters from page one. Attention spans are getting shorter these days, so the ability to captivate a reader and hook them beyond the first page is a great skill to cultivate.
To create an additional income stream
I want to acknowledge that my goal is to make a living from my writing. Although I was sick with fear at asking folk for money, I’ll never achieve my dream unless I believe in my work enough to stand by it and sell it. So that’s what I did. As it turns out my fears were unfounded because more people than I ever thought purchased The Bone-Men – I’m so grateful. While I’m still far away from fully supporting myself with writing I’m one step closer thanks to those supporting me.
Done is better than perfect
Finally, it was a way of overcoming perfectionism. ‘Done is better than perfect’ is a motto I’m trying to embrace. Improving one’s craft begins by creating a body of work and that means finishing things. My tendency is to obsess over a piece of writing until I talk myself out of sharing it with anyone. Writing is vulnerable – there’s nowhere to hide your mistakes. The Bone-Men was a step towards overcoming these fears. It’s not perfect, no doubt I could rewrite it all over again, but it’s bloody close to what I was trying to achieve and, dare I say, I’m proud of it.
A heart-felt ‘thank you’ to everyone who has purchased The Bone-Men – your support gives me the courage to keep writing and pursue my dreams of living a big, creative life.
(And if you’ve not read it yet, you can buy a copy here)