Why a Novella?
A guest blog by Craig Hansen
Written for Lisa’s World of Books for SHADA, Bewitching Book Tours
When people ask me why I chose to write SHADA as a novella-length story, I offer up the most basic answer possible: that’s all the story I had to tell. I can expand and explain about why I didn’t toss in more subplots and characters, complicate matters a bit, and draw it out to a more standard novel length of 62,000 words or so, the length of MOST LIKELY, my first novel.
Yet whatever justifications and explanations I come up with, whatever marketing strategies I use to take advantage of the book’s length, it all boils down to that same simple truth. For this book, that’s all the story there was to tell.
Well, perhaps that’s not completely unvarnished. In an earlier form, SHADA was a little longer. Not novel length, mind you, but longer. By maybe two or three thousand words; it might have even been five thousand words longer at one point.
But once revisions began, I started “clearing away the brush.” Pruning scenes and dialog that were extraneous or duplicative. And even once I thought it was bullet-proof, I sent it off to my trusty beta-readers, who reminded me I’m as human and imperfect as any other writer. In other words, they showed me there were still flaws in the story. Easily fixable, but I needed their input for me to see them.
So more pruning commenced. And amid all that pruning, I sometimes expanded here and there, as well, but for the most part the story shrank. Its current length of roughly 32,500 words is perhaps a bit misleading, as that count includes samples of two other novels that I tacked on at the end of SHADA. The actual length of SHADA itself is about 28,000 words, once you discount all the front matter and back matter. That translates to about 117 printed pages.
SHADA is our first exposure to the world of Ember Cole. I wanted that glimpse to be just that. An introduction. A getting-to-know-you event.
I also wanted a rather tight focus. SHADA needed to be mostly about the camping trip. Why these friends go on it, what motivates it, what leads up to it, the camping trip itself, and some of the immediate fallout from it.
Sure, there are ways the story could have been expanded to make it a longer read. But those events would have softened the focus of the lens, and either made it about more than the pivotal events I wanted to portray, or add new pivotal events in that weren’t really the main point of the story I was telling.
One entire chapter ended up on the “cutting room floor.” Two others were condensed and merged together.
I was completely comfortable doing this. These choices forced the story to become for focused and, therefore, create more of an impact on the reader. There would be no reason to expand it, because expanding it would make it necessary to force it to be an entirely different book. A book that was about a lot more than just that paranormally-tinged camping trip.
Some readers desire long reads. There are times I do, as well. In fact, I love these sprawling Stephen King novels like UNDER THE DOME because there’s so much life there. Sure, it’s over a thousand pages; but in many ways, it’s written with the economy of a short story. King just as much bigger stories to tell, quite often.
Often, but not always.
My favorite story by King is the novella that partially inspired SHADA, “The Body,” from his DIFFERENT SEASONS collection; the tale that came to be known to movie-goers as STAND BY ME. In many ways, I see it as the best work of fiction King ever created. My hope is that SHADA deserves to at least stand in the shadow it casts.
Originally, I had planned for SHADA to be about ten thousand words longer. I wanted it up near 40,000 words. But then I reached the climactic scene, during the séance, and realized that my narrative had found its own fitting climax and denouement. Suddenly, those post-séance scenes that kept them in the woods longer seemed pointless. It would add length, but not meaning, not impact, not anything interesting.
I’ve written elsewhere that I wanted a shorter novel introducing the world of Ember Cole to readers, one that I could feel comfortable selling at just under a buck. But that was a goal. I was prepared for SHADA to be a third longer than it now stands.
But when a story finds its resolution, wise writers stop writing and move on to the next one. While it’s a brief read, I hope SHADA will stay with you, even haunt you, as much if not more than any novel that takes five times as many words to tell.
That’s what I intended.
By Craig Hansen
Book 1 of the Ember Cole series.
Genre: young adult paranormal suspense
Word Count: approximately 32,500 words.
SHADA Book Blurb:
“If you could talk to a dead person, anyone at all, who would it be?”
A year ago, Ember Cole witnessed the death of her grandfather. Now, with her grandmother slipping away into dementia, she seeks answers from the only person who loved her grandmother more than her, even if he is dead: Grandpa Normie.
Joined by three of her closest friends, Ember treks deep into the woods of northwestern Wisconsin, seeking the advice of a dead man on how to save the living. But sometimes, the dead have their own agenda.
Craig Hansen wrote stories from an early age, but when his SF short story, “The S.S. Nova,” was published in the Minnesota Writers In the School COMPAS program’s 1981 anthology of student writing, When It Grows Up, You Say Goodbye To It, he decided to dedicate himself to writing. Several unpublished novels and short stories followed.
Hansen earned two degrees atMinnesotaStateUniversityatMankatounder the mentorship of young adult novelist Terry Davis. In the years that followed, Hansen worked a variety of jobs related to writing, including editorial work at a small publishing house, holding a position as a Web site editor, and five years in journalism in northwesternWisconsin, where he earned several state awards for his writing and editing.
His work has appeared in the Meadowbrook Press anthology, Girls to the Rescue, Book 1, as well as the true crime journal, Ripper Notes, in volume 28.
His first novel, Most Likely, was released in May. Shada is the first installment of the Ember Cole series of young adult paranormal suspense books. Hansen is hard at work on the next installment in the series, the novel-length book, Ember.
Hansen recently moved toOregonwith his wife, a dog, a cat, and his 89-year-old father, a World War II veteran.
Craig’s interests include the music of Johnny Cash, reading the novels of other independent authors, blogging, and the study of Messianic theology. On his Web site, you can sign up to receive a periodic email newsletter that will notify you when he releases new novels.
Connect With Craig Online At:
Blog and Web site: www.craig-hansen.com