Got all your ideas for NaNoWriMo?

where do you get your ideas? all keyed up for NaNoWriMo
Mists and mellow fruitfulness – it’s the season for NaNoWriMo

It’s on the doorstep, howling to be let in. Forget about Hallowe’en tomorrow – it’s NaNoWriMoe’en…

Are you ready? Got your ideas lined up, got names for your characters and your setting? How about sub-plots and your supporting cast? Are your main characters rounded and complex, or do they feel like rice paper?

If you’re keyed up, your imagination might be locked up…

Some people are admitting to an excitement bordering on panic, which doesn’t help the flow of creativity we will all need in the next four weeks.

Here, on various pages, you’ll find help in conjuring up great names, settings, real life stories to plunder, images to inspire you, character quirks for your key people… All you might need is a tiny nudge to unlock a whole world.

Raid as much as you like, and feel free to share with your writing buddies. Open to all, no catches, no sign-ups – November is mutual help for authors month.

 [That’s not permission to filch, though – if you share it, do please share the credit, too!]

I’m going to be with you through the caffeine-fuelled, RSI-inducing month – my NaNoWriMo name is Abbs Pepper, so if you’d like another writing buddy, say hello.

Good luck! Happy scribbling! All power to your fingers…

 

The novella is back – and this time it means business

With the rise and rise of the e-reader – Kindles and the like – we have seen the return of the novella as online fiction-buyers demand stories shorter than a fully-fledged novel, but longer than a short story.  Enter… the novella.

But what is it?

To encourage entries for its novella competition, the Paris Literary Review gave its readers some links to explore the art of novella. [Please note: the competition is closed for 2012 but you have 352 days to get your entry polished for the 2013 Prize. More details here.]

According to the Encylopaedia Britannica: “Novella, short and well-structured narrative, often realistic and satiric in tone, that influenced the development of the short story and the novel throughout Europe. Originating in Italy during the Middle Ages, the novella was based on local events that were humorous, political, or amorous in nature; the individual tales often were gathered into collections along with anecdotes, legends, and romantic tales. Writers such as Giovanni Boccaccio, Franco Sacchetti, and Matteo Bandello later developed the novella into a psychologically subtle and highly structured short tale, often using a frame story to unify the tales around a common theme.”

In a Guardian article (here) about Julian Barnes’s “short novel” The sense of an ending, Stephen King was quoted as condemning the novella thus: “an ill-defined and disreputable literary banana republic”.

The novella as literary form is discussed in The Daily Beast by Taylor Antrim (here), as does Bliss Kern in Three Quarks Daily (here), but quoting the arch storyteller Edgar Allen Poe’s scorning of the literary novella’s reluctance to end itself.

So is the novella the sole preserve of the literary author? If it is now, it soon won’t be. Some years ago as part of a campaign to get more people reading, the QuickReads series was launched, with bestselling authors writing novellas, aka short novels, for the romance, crime and other genre markets.

On e-book download sites there are many thousands of short novels, not proclaimed as such, but boasting 40,000-60,000 words for those who want a quick, easy read. As long as they are priced right, they sell.

So if you’re contemplating a first book, don’t quail at the thought of a 100,000-word doorstop tome;  kick off with a novella. Or a short novel. Or a long short story. Make up your own rules – who cares, if the story’s good?

What people really want from authors

Author Kate Harrison
Kate

Author Kate Harrison has done her own survey on people’s reading habits – what they love, loathe, buy and borrow, what they recommend and why. Fascinating and informative for writers, publishers and other readers.

Amongst other questions, Kate asked which three words best summed up what you wanted novels to be like. The top 4 words (number 3 and 4 were very close) were:

 4: Funny (39%)

=2: Thrilling and moving (both scored 40%)

And number 1, with 55%: Thought-provoking.

She also surveyed publishers and agents. Here are three of the comments made:

Nicki Thornton, of Mostly Books in Abingdon, said: ‘Readers are always on the lookout for something that really speaks to them. It takes a lot of time to read a book and if it feels like time not well spent at the end  of it I think people do feel disappointed. People do seem to be looking for something ‘a little more’ out of their reading rather than something very throwaway and lightweight.’

Agent Maddy Milburn said that debut authors are having orders cut, and she’s seen an increase in the demand for accessible literary books – as did Avon editor Sammia Rafique, who called these books ‘smart fiction’. But Maddy also pointed out that how the book is marketed makes a huge difference:  ‘ONE DAY is essentially a love story but was given an iconic cover that appealed to both men and women.’ Sammia also called for more imaginative engagement with readers via social networking, to tap into their enthusiasm and interests.

Agent Carole Blake loathes the ‘chick lit’ label and its connotations of air-headedness – for me, she sums up the debate in the following:  Books that deliver a satisfying reading experience, but also leave the reader feeling they have learned something (historical facts, emotional intelligence, anything else) will leave the reader with the feeling that they have not only been entertained but also educated – they are validating their own leisure time and carrying away something more than ‘mere entertainment.’

Have a look here at all the survey results.