Sunday, August 11, 2013

Size Matters Not

The 800 year old Jedi Master once uttered the words, "Size matters not." As a fantasy writer that prefers epic fantasy (as a reader and a writer) these words are normally not in my vocabulary. I think epically in everything that I write. Lots of earth shaking action and consequences with unreasonably large casts of thousands. (I blogged about this in one of my tropes of the week entry, an element to my blog that is going to make a return, maybe on a monthly basis instead of weekly.) As a young adult writer, I've sort of learned to rein in my word counts while keeping the "size" of my story the same. My trunk novel THE FALLING DARK, a traditional epic fantasy, topped out somewhere around 180k, short by many epic fantasy standards but long for a first fumbling at novel writing. My two SEASONS books came in at around 130k each (interestingly enough each was close to the books that I remember reading in my youth that I sort of compared them to: the DRAGONLANCE books, which my reread/analysis will be continuing this week) and SISTERS OF KHODA came in at about 115k. Not as big as say the 300k of A GAME OF THRONES or 305k of THE EYE OF THE WORLD, but big for Young Adult.

As I toiled on these for months and months at a time, I always found the appeal of something shorter, not quite short stories (my epically wired brain struggles in that confined place) but things like novellas and novelettes intrigued me. But there's no market for them, right? So, I concentrated on writing books. But that appeal was always there. But then some things happened that changed my thinking.

First, I read the very brilliant Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Before I read them, I read the four novellas that she and her publisher released for 99 cents each before they released the book. You didn't need to read them to understand the book, but I decided to read them...and they were terrific. But I still wasn't sure what I could do and how I could do it. It came in a conversation I had with my agent about my own worlds. Why not write my own prequels for my books as a way to get people talking about me? As my agent is apt to do, he nudged me in the directions of some things to read as "research" for the project and let me do my thing. (That promised post about research is coming!) It took me about a month to write the 30k novella prequel to SEASONS OF DESTINY. (The title is in flux right now or I'd tell you.) I sent it to betas, who pounded it out in good time. I did a rewrite and sent it off to my agent, who has in turn returned it to me to do another rewrite.

Now, the plan is to release this novella on my own for a buck or two and get people talking about me, but something happened along the way....I fell in love with the format. I can't explain it. I'm a big guy. I like big things and big stories, but there's something about this method of writing that I love. And I've become a little addicted. I wrote down multiple ideas in my writer's notebook in two of my worlds: another prequel novella to SEASONS, a "sidequel" novella to WINTER'S DISCORD involving a melee team (it makes sense in context) and novelette in the SISTER'S world.

I know what some of you are thinking, why would I spend my time writing something where there so little return?

There are a lot of reasons. I'm an unknown commodity right now. I want to get people talking about it and, more importantly, me. I like writing them. It's not as constricting as a short story and it's not as sprawling as an full blown fantasy novel. It's a great way to build depth for your world. Yes, worldbuilding, the ugly stepbrother to plot, character and theme, is made clearer and deeper with a good novella. Finally, it's practice. Writing is a muscle and it needs to be worked out. Just like working out, you do big compound movements like benches and deadlifts, but you also do things like shoulder presses and rows to build up the support muscles too. That's what novellas and novelettes are.

In this day and age of being able to put something out on your own, why not? Is there a better method of self promotion than offering your writing up on the cheap/for free? I think not. 

So, keep your eyes out in the coming months as I start slowly writing and releasing some of these for your enjoyment.

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