Writing a Novella – A Different Kind of Animal

There were other reasons why I was enamored with the concept of writing my first novella. A very big plus, was that Pelican was accepting open submissions so I didn’t need an agent. Another reason this was a great opportunity is that I would be writing something completely different. The heroine had to be spunky—something I am not, (I’m more of a laidback kinda girl), and she had to be a woman in the 25 to 35 year range—also something I’m not anymore (although I like to think I still remember…)

In addition, for each of the countries listed, three items must be worked into the book. The list is different for each location so I checked out the items listed for Manila, the Philippines.

Now, if you have perused the About Jan section of this website, you will no doubt notice pictures of my two cats. In my bio, I talk about my first cat, Snowball. Animals are near and dear to my heart. And…one of the items on the list for Manila was…a tailless cat. Add in the intriguing addition of a stick of gum and a faded photograph, and you can see why I was excited.

You’ll have to read the book to see how I worked them in, but I was up for a challenge. The perfect country, the perfect ingredients, and I was off and running.

Pelican was looking for novellas between 30,000 and 35,000 words. After writing my first, “plus-sized” novel of 109,000, writing a novella couldn’t be too hard, right? It was sure to be a walk in the glorious sunshine, right?


Walk in the scorching heat of the Sahara was more like it. Not as easy as I thought. Think sheltie rather than collie. Both fine companions, both fuzzy and furry, both good tempered and fun to play with, great family dogs, but there are enormous differences. Whereas, with that full-length novel, I could expand my storyline, introduce a large number of characters, and flesh out the book with nuances and subplots, a novella was a totally different animal.

I won’t bore you with the process, but suffice it to say, I needed to write this one with more thought in mind. Has anyone out there heard the term “pantser?” Author Steven James prefers the term “organic writer,” as do I, and I was used to writing a story the way a person reads the story. When I compose, I have no idea what’s coming up next until my fingers type the words and commit the thought onto my computer screen. To write tighter, with a “less is more” attitude would require (gasp) some kind of an outline (ugh). Not a happy thought.

For all of you organized people out there, I just want to let you know that writing an outline can be quite a painful endeavor, at least it is for me. It would surely inhibit my creativity. Box me in and keep my story from flowing in the direction my characters wanted to go. For goodness sake, the dear souls TELL me things. My characters whisper in my ear (sometimes in the middle of the night which, by the way, is certainly a sleep deterrent but I do wake up with some good ideas.) What if they wanted me to turn left and my outline said turn right? Nevertheless, I tried it, in a loose fashion, mind you.

Surprisingly, it worked for the most part. I kept my outline thoughts a bit vague with few parameters, and while the ending was clear (it was a ROMANCE after all), I added in a “wiggle room” in which to stretch out. My outline might have been a box, but it was a big box with air holes.       

By the time I’d finished, and written those magic words “The End” for the second time, I was feeling relatively confident that Pelican would be thrilled with my work. But Houston we had a problem. It had to be as perfect as I could make it, and that meant I needed a real, live, professional editor.

So… (continued next post)…

An aside for writers, Pelican is still actively seeking submissions for the Passport to Romance series. If you are interested in reading more, go to:


Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestEmail this to someone

2 thoughts on “Writing a Novella – A Different Kind of Animal

    1. Thanks, Kasara. I enjoyed writing Manila Marriage App so much that I have another novella coming out at Christmas. Perhaps I’ve found my niche.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

five × 2 =