How to Know If It’s Time to Write a Novella

Novels have long been treated as the ultimate, most legitimate story form for fiction writers. Novels are still the dominant story form, but with the changes in reading tech other forms are gaining popularity.

Transformation in technology over the past 20 years have created an entirely different landscape for creators of written entertainment. Readers now consume short stories on their cell phones while sitting in waiting rooms, children play with interactive stories on computer tablets, episodic serial fiction is making a comeback and novellas are just the right length for a lazy afternoon of reading.

Photo credit: Andrew LihShorter fits the modern lifestyle

I enjoy reading, but my life is so packed with projects and family activities that it’s difficult to get through an entire novel. It can take a month for a single book. Still, reading short stories doesn’t bring the same experience as a longer work. A novella is the perfect compromise: long enough to immerse me in the story, but short enough to read in an evening or over the course of a couple of days.

Not only that, but as a reader I find the wait between novels to be problematic. If an author puts out a book every year or two, I often forget the story arc between one book and the next. That’s why I try to wait until a book series is finished before starting on the first novel in the series.

Satisfy your fans and don’t let them forget you!

Just think about it. Sometimes a year or two feels like a really long time to wait to see something new from an author you really love. One of my recent #specfic author discoveries, Stant Litore, has been putting out shorter works in between book releases, and this totally satisfies that itch to read another Stant story. If you have a fan base, or if you’re trying to build one, this is an effective way to stay fresh in your readers’ minds.

Is It Time for YOU to Write a Novella?

  • Do you have a novel in the works that won’t be published for at least another 6 months?
  • Was your last novel published more than 2 months ago?
  • Do you have a story idea which isn’t necessarily suited for a full novel?
  • Do you think you can write a quality 20,000-word story more quickly than you’ll write your next novel?
  • Do you have a month or two available to devote to a novella?

If your answer is “yes” to any of the above, go for it. Give yourself a month to draft it, a month to polish it, and put your novella out into the world. If you have a novel you’re working on, make the novella do double duty (if possible) and use it to flesh out your characters or story world.

Binti CoverWant to read a novella to see what they’re like? My latest favorite is Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Novella Advice From Around the Web: My 10 Best Links

Ready to try writing a novella? These authors (from various genres) share their insights. You’ll see similar advice from each, but I find it helpful to read at least 4-5 articles from different perspectives to glean what fits my own style.

  1. Eve Deverell’s How to Write a Novella (& Why)
  2. James Scott Bell on writing novellas (I’ve taken his classes; he’s an excellent teacher/mentor)
  3. Now Novel: How to write a novella: 6 essential tips
  4. MMU Novella Award’s Top 10 Tips for Writing Novellas (mentions using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method, of which I’m also a fan)
  5. Ink & Quills: 5 Reasons Why You Should Write a Novella
  6. Aerogramme Writers’ Studio: Top Ten Tips for Writing Novellas
  7. Why Novellas are Hot and How to Write One: a Step by Step Guide by Paul Alan Fahey
  8. Tips on Writing Novellas by Melissa Jagears
  9. Delilah S. Dawson’s 10 Steps to Writing a Novella
  10. WikiHow: How to Write a Novella (a simple, but fetchingly illustrated page)

Got a #SpecFic Novella and Wondering What to Do With It?

If you’ve written a speculative fiction novella, here are some awards to target:

Novella Writing Pinterest Board

If you have a Pinterest account, follow my Novella Writing board!

Now Go Write!

Ding dong, the darlings are dead!

Bring me your dead darlings

Stephen King’s clarion call to writers lives on:

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.

Let’s celebrate the death of these overly beautiful descriptions, the excising of our explanatory exposition, the bits and bobs that got cut from the final version of our stories.

On the last day of each month, I will post on my blog some of my “dead darlings” and invite you to share yours. As you edit your work throughout the month, save these bits! Or just come on over and add them to the comment section of the latest month’s dead darlings post.

(I’m actually a bit late for October’s last day, but I’m back-dating this post for consistency’s sake.)

My Dead Darlings

I’ve been lied to all my life. For some, it was self-preservation. For most, it was self-seeking and power-grabbing. I don’t like liars. I killed most of them. But the lie I never expected, the one that unmade me, was the lie told by the one who Made me. The one who raised me. Who gave me everything I ever needed and more than I ever wanted. Who fed me with his own blood and told me he lived to see me on the throne of the underworld. Must I say his name? My father and Overlord of the New World, Sargassus.

The dancers looked at me like they wanted to eat me alive and well, I found out later that’s pretty much exactly what they wanted to do. But I didn’t know that. And that’s good, because I think my voice would have dried up like a prune and only a pitiful squeak would have come out if I’d known what they were thinking.

The Agency’s science geeks call us lycanthropes. Lycan, werewolf — whatever. A rose by any other name still wouldn’t smell as well as I do.

Post some of yours in the comments below!

Pssssst. Spread the word.

To make this even more fun, share this post on Twitter or Facebook and tag all your writer friends.

Let’s honor the fallen phrases, the lost alliterations, the retired repetitions. Our stories are better without them, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth a final salute!

Packing an Emotional Punch in Flash Fiction

Last month I had another chance to guest blog at, under the monthly Splickety Sentinel column. In my role as associate acquisitions editor at Splickety, I’ve seen a lot of stories. I share some tips about how to engage a reader’s emotions in less than 1,000 words.

There were some examples I included with my article that didn’t get hyperlinked from the AaA site, so here’s the links that should have been there:

  • Voidrunner – This story covers decades of a life in 823 words. It also uses setting and repeated imagery to enhance the emotional impact.
  • The Circle of Life – This story contains the familiar emotions of a sibling helpless in the face of her sister’s selfishness and then turns it upside down.
  • Sparg – I first read this story in 2013, and will never forget it. So sad!

Click the image below to go to the full article.

Almost An Author - Packing an emotional punch in flash fiction

Bring me your dead darlings

Bring me your dead darlings

We’ve heard it so many times, that quote from Stephen King:

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.

Well, today I’m here to offer those beautiful little bits of writing a second chance at life. And not just life, but life everlasting. Well, as everlasting as the Internet, that is.

On the last day of each month, I will post on my blog some of my “dead darlings” and invite you to share yours. So as you do your edits throughout the month, save them aside — or just come on over and add them to the comment section of the latest month’s dead darlings post.

My Dead Darlings

Here’s a few bits that I’ve left on the cutting room floor, though I thought they were clever when I first wrote them:

The smell of cinnamon pinecones. The sparkle of glitter that made its way into each wrinkle of your coat, the strand of tinsel clinging to the cuff of your pants, whether or not you’d touched a single decoration in the past twenty-four hours.


She couldn’t raise a Jewish child around goyim who didn’t respect her people, their traditions. Amelia had always defended a woman’s right to choose, no question. But she arranged her own life at every step so that she would never face that choice.


A significant blood trail led from his seat to the pillaged medkit. Oh, snicks and rutting nesters!

Post some of yours in the comments below!

Pssssst. Spread the word.

To make this even more fun, share this post on Twitter or Facebook and tag all your writer friends.

I want to see ALL the dead darlings! *rubs hands together in morbid glee*

How To Reconcile Orders with Credit Card Charges

I’m the type who reviews my credit card statements and reconciles them with my receipts and online orders. Occasionally I run into puzzling issues and end up calling the vendor or credit card company to verify, clarify or challenge a mysterious charge on my bill. However, I hate wasting time on a customer service call (or chat), and would much rather solve the mystery myself when I can.

This post is a way for me to remember the clever trick I discovered today and to share it with the world. ‘Cause I’m generous like that. You’re welcome.

The charge on your credit card that doesn’t match up

Have you ever had a charge from on your credit card that doesn’t match any orders around the date that your card was charged? I’ve found two common situations — and some clever ways to verify them without bothering Amazon customer service. (Here’s a shout-out to Mark of Amazon customer service, who revealed one of these clever tricks to me this week… Hi, Mark!).

1. An item with an order date significantly distanced from its ship date (the credit card is usually charged when it ships)

Often, this is easily reconciled by looking at orders within 5 days before/after the credit card charge date. But if that doesn’t give you any orders that match the charge, try using their Order Reports feature.

Go to and navigate to your Account > Download Order Reports. > Your Account > Download Order Reports

Set the report dates for anything 1-2 months before/after the credit card charge. Order Report data parameters

Download the CSV file and then do a search for the charge amount. Usually that will solve the mystery. (And if not, you can resort to Amazon’s email, phone or chat support options.)


(This section added to this post 12/14/16) Pre-ordered e-books have proven quite tricky. Let’s say I pre-order an e-book on November 3 and the book is released November 15. Everything in my Amazon Order History for Digital Orders says November 3. The invoice, the order record, everything. And yet, my credit card is not charged until November 15.

While I’m thankful that they don’t charge me until they actually deliver it, it’s horrible that there is no record of that charge date anywhere related to my order. Downloading an order report won’t help. Viewing the invoice to check the date it was actually delivered won’t actually tell me. TIP: The only thing that helped me solve this scenario was clicking on the book title, which then tells me at the top of the page, “You purchased this item on November 14.” Well, that’s not exactly true, either, but at least the date is close enough to the credit card charge (and for the correct amount), so the mystery is solved.

2. An order with multiple items that ship separately from each other

Sometimes the confusion enters because of how Amazon groups the orders for shipping.

Let’s say you put in an order and the total is $79, but three items ship for a total of $36, and a week or two later another item ships for $17, and then a week after that the last item ships for $26. When you scan your orders, it’s possible you won’t find one on the date you expect it (close to the original order date) AND/OR you won’t find any orders at all with the $17 charge because of how Amazon summarizes the orders.

The best way I’ve found to illuminate this situation is to find an order that shows as having several separate ship dates (and one of them around the charge you’re reconciling).

Then click on the Invoice link for that order.

Click the Invoice link for the order

The invoice will outline the charge for each part of the order as they shipped and clearly show at the bottom the exact credit card charge amounts associated with it and the dates they were charged.

Amazon invoice with order shipping summaries

3. Recurring subscriptions

(Post edited 12/14/2016 to include this third scenario:) Another common oversight is recurring subscriptions. The annual Amazon Prime membership charge itself is one. Under “Orders” if you click on “Manage Prime Membership”, you can see the last payment date and the next time it’s due for renewal.

Check under “My Account > Digital Content” and review “Your Video Subscriptions” or “Your Digital Subscriptions” and see if the mystery credit charge shows up there. I don’t know why they don’t include these items in your downloadable report, but they didn’t as of the writing of this update. So if you have a monthly video subscription to a service like Acorn TV, it will be listed here for the months it was active, and you can view receipts to verify the amount.

Did this help? Have a tip to add?

I hope this helps someone (or myself in the future) when they’re troubleshooting an unknown charge on their credit card from I really enjoy the convenience and excellent service that Amazon provides, and when I do need to get help from their customer service, I’ve always been impressed with their responsiveness and willingness to please me.

That said, I also enjoy figuring things out for myself. How about you? Add your tips and insights on this topic in the comments below!

Help Me Find a Cure for an Insane Unicorn

Thea van Diepen
Author and artist Thea van Diepen is crowdfunding her second book of the White Changeling series. I’m hoping you’ll find her work as delightful as I do and support her efforts. After all, a unicorn’s life (or at least its sanity) is on the line.

I’m a big fan of her web comics and you may recall that I blogged about receiving a book from the future when UPS delivered the first book of the series last year. Her writing and art is whimsical, lyrical and thoroughly delightful.

Kara the Brave web comic by Thea van Diepen

Which is why I couldn’t just do a normal author interview with her. Instead I took a whimsical character of my own named Izzie and caused space-time to warp so she would run into the protagonists of Thea’s book while she was on a walk in the woods.

I hope you enjoy the story, get a taste for Thea’s world of magic, fairies, mad unicorns and fantasy adventure, and decide to support her Kickstarter campaign for “Like Mist Over The Eyes“.

Like Mist Over the Eyes by Thea van Diepen

In Which Izzie Meets Nadin and Adren of “Like Mist Over the Eyes” (Not An Author Interview, Not an Excerpt)

The forest changed today.

Everything was normal at first. I said hello and the trees began telling me their stories. They complained about the summer heat, the way cicadas made them itch, the disrespect of the woodpeckers. Then the scene rippled around me, like a stone had been thrown into reality. When the wave passed, it was different. The air tasted like toasted marshmallows, not redwoods and dust. And the ground, it was darker. Richer. The trees were silent.

And then there was him. He. Someone. He looked like the guy from Slumdog Millionaire. What was he doing in my woods? I didn’t expect him, so the words jumbled on my tongue. “Oh, hi. Who are–um, are you alone?”

“Well, you’re here. So, no?”

Oh. Yes. That. “No, I mean…” I stared and he glanced from side to side, like a confused child. A series of images flashed through my mind, almost too fast to catch. A gathering of people. A party? He was being held still. Something had fallen to the floor, and they wouldn’t let him pick it up. His voice interrupted the vision.

“Are you… might you be… oh, wow, this is weird. Are you human?”

I started to laugh, then stopped.

I didn’t want him to feel bad. I’ve had that thought before, more times than I could count: sometimes people just… didn’t seem human. I get that.

“Yes, mostly.”

“Oh. Okay.” He paused. “Because your skin is… different. Um. Yeah.”

I looked at my arms, bare to the shoulders in my tank top, then looked at his face and the hands at the end of his long sleeves. Those awkward hands, like flighty birds, fluttering and not lighting anywhere. Brown, smooth skin. Normal enough. I held out my hands, stepping closer for a better look.

“What’s different about it?”

“It’s… white.”

Well, I wasn’t as brown as he was, but I actually did have my summer tan. What would he think if he’d seen me in winter? “You don’t have white people where you’re from? Where are you from, anyway?”

Who in California hasn’t ever seen a white person before?

“You mean where I was born, or where I…”

I waited for a few breaths, but he didn’t finish the sentence and wouldn’t look directly at me. An image flashed into my head again, and before I realized I was speaking, it was out: “Why don’t you tell me about the place where you dropped your Saints’ Day candy on the floor?”

His mouth pulled sideways like a goat at the fair chewing its hay and his nose scrunched up so that his eyes were a glittering line between the tops of his cheeks and the heavy eyebrows. His adam’s apple bobbed a few times before something finally came out. What else had he tried to say before the one word fought its way to the front of the line?


Another thought spilled out, and I wondered at it even as I said it. “The unicorn is white. Doesn’t it count?”


Flummoxed. It’s a beautiful word, but I’d rarely seen someone in real life actually flummoxed. This was what it looked like. I could see the whites around his dark, dark eyes. Fascinating.

I was so focused on the boy that I must have missed the approach of the girl, because it seemed she just appeared out of nowhere. She stalked towards the boy, sparing me only a glance but obviously knowing who he was. And, hello people, she had white skin. Just like me. This guy was nuts.

“Nadin, what’s going on?”

“What, you don’t know?” Nadin turned back to me. “Do you know what’s going on?”

I snorted. Ruby always told me it wasn’t ladylike to snort, but I did it anyway. “It looks to me like you’re hiking in the woods with a white girl and pretending you’ve never seen a white girl before. Is this the sort of pickup lines they use where you come from?”

The girl scowled, looking me up and down. “Why would he have seen another white girl before?”

At the same time, Nadin said, “Pickup line?”

They seemed so sincerely confounded. And he had been flummoxed. I was picking up the strangest vibes from them, and the forest still smelled like marshmallows.

“Who are you?” The girl crossed her arms.

“Izzie. I want to know about this white girl issue he has. How could you have gotten here without passing a million white girls along the way?”

“You’re obviously delusional. I’m the only person with white skin anyone we know has ever met before. Except you.”

I’m not the delusional one. They are. Just like the unicorn. I didn’t know where that thought came from, but as usual, it was out of my mouth before I could stop it. “You’re as crazy as the unicorn.”

“All right, you need to explain what’s going on right now. How do you know about the unicorn? Are you an illusion?” She strode toward me with alarming speed. “Did the fairies do this?”

Nadin shook his head. “She’s not an illusion.”

The girl threw her hands into the air, shouting, “Well, what else could be going on?”

“Silver scars on alabaster fur, a song to soothe its mad, mad heart…” I hummed a bit of the tune in my head, twirling away from the girl, my feet taking me on a little dance path around the two. The sun felt good on my bare arms, filtered through the foreign trees.

The girl sucked in a sharp breath at my song, and I smiled. Unicorns, fairies, a forest that wasn’t my own. Yet even with these odd ones my strange gifts hit their mark. I didn’t have to understand it to enjoy it.

“Can we start over?” I asked. “My name is Isabel. You can call me Izzie.” I looked at the girl and decided not to try and shake her hand. She looked like she could bite my head off. “You called him Nadin. What’s your name?”

“My name is none of your-”

Nadin piped in, “Her name’s Adren.”


“What? She seems nice!”

Adren watched me finish my dance, her eyes narrowed, muttering, “Nice has nothing to do with it.”

Yay. I had made new friends in the woods. Not my woods, but new friends are fun. Even ones who looked ready to hit me over the introduction process. I smiled at Nadin. “So… What about the fairies? Are you friends with the fairies?”

The two looked at each other uncomfortably.

Nadin spoke. “That’s… debatable.”

“Oh! Let me show you…” I shrugged off my backpack and fished around inside, hoping my new friends wouldn’t disappear before I could find my sketchbook. “I drew some fairies last week…”

Izzie's fairy sketch

Adren and Nadin peered at my drawing, Adren hanging back as if reluctant to come within arm’s reach.

“Why does it have wings?” Nadin asked.

“How else could it fly?” I paused, thinking. “I suppose it could use fairy dust…”

Adren glared at me.

Nadin looked from me to the drawing. “I’m so confused.”

“Fairies don’t fly,” Adren stated flatly. “Where in the name of all the saints did you get that idea? Fairy glamour is one thing, but this…” She gestured dismissively, clearly flabbergasted.

Flummoxed and flabbergasted in the same day. Wait until I told Seth about this.

“And why is that flower so big?” Nadin asked. “Or is it the fairy that’s small?”

“Peter Pan, you know? Tinker Bell?” Tinker Bell wasn’t ringing any bells, so I sang them the song. “When you wish upon a star…” I trailed off at the mildly terrified look on their faces. Closing my sketchbook and shoving it inside my backpack, I sought for something to calm them. “So… your fairies don’t grant wishes?”

Adren snorted. “Definitely not.”

“And they don’t have wings?”

“Oh, of course they do. And I’m the king of Breim.”

So they have sarcasm in Adren’s world, even if they don’t have white girls.

“Don’t be mean,” Nadin said.

Adren did not look apologetic.

They seemed very serious about this whole fairy thing. Maybe it would help if they talked about it. “So what are they like? You sound like you know a lot about them.”

Adren, shrugged, one eyebrow raised. “I grew up with some.”

“And we just left one of their mounds,” Nadin said, and then added quickly, “Uh. Not the one of the fairies Adren grew up with. Different ones. Really nasty ones.”

“That’s your opinion,” Adren retorted.

“I’m sorry, remind me again how we just got out of there?”

Adren glared.

Nadin gulped, and lifted his hands, taking a step back.

I savored the awkward silence. It’s not every day that I’m the observer and not the one being stared at. I kept staring, especially at Adren. She turned her glare from Nadin to me, and I flinched. Just a little.

“They’re fairies,” Adren finally replied. “Don’t get on their bad side.”

Nadin muttered, “Or their good side.”

Adren rolled her eyes. “Ignore him. Now. How do you know about the unicorn? Are you a magical creature, or a human?”

That tickled me, given the things that had happened in my life. “Yes, um…” This is where it gets hard to explain. Sometimes a human is more than human. Hm. “Yes, well. I know about the unicorn the same way I know about the man with the sword that you keep seeing.”

Adren stopped with her mouth half open to say something. Nadin went as still as a rabbit who suddenly sees a hawk’s shadow.

“How could you possibly know about that?” Adren demanded. If she glares at me any harder, it’s gonna leave a burn mark.

“Wait, why are we confirming this?”

“I think it’s pretty obvious that we know what she’s talking about, Nadin. But she still hasn’t answered either of my questions.”

Questions? I was still thinking about fairies not having wings. What were the questions again? Before I could ask, my phone vibrated in my jeans pocket and the theme from Sailor Moon blared through the woods. Time for dinner. I pulled the phone out and silenced it.

My two new friends were staring at me like they’d never heard the Sailor Moon theme before. I suppose it’s possible someone in the world hasn’t. I held up the phone. “Sorry. Dinner time. I gotta run.”

So many questions unanswered, but if I wasn’t back by six o’clock, Ruby would find a way to make me pay for it. I spun away and ran back through the woods, trusting they would transform back into my woods so I could find my way home.

I wondered what kind of world had mad unicorns, fairies without wings, and people who’d never seen another white girl besides Adren.

* * *

In a forest in Ider (but not a forest in Ider – where was that sweet smell coming from, anyways?) Adren and Nadin watched the girl vanish.

“I’m good for pretending that never happened if you are,” said Nadin.

“So long as she’s harmless.”

“Is she?”


The true forest shivered back into being.

Like Mist Over the Eyes by Thea van Diepen

Click to support this lovely artist and author on Kickstarter!