Writing Novels and Novellas in the Same Series

My friend Deborah Blake has just released her latest “Baba Yaga” novel, Wickedly Powerful.  Last month, she also released a novella in the same series, Wickedly Ever After. Here she explains the challenge of writing different types of stories in the same series.

And leave a comment for a chance to win a signed book!

Deborah BlakeSomeone asked me in an interview recently what the difference was between writing novellas and novels in the same series, and if one was easier than the other. The answer, of course, is that they are both hard. But that each one has its own challenges and its own rewards.

So far in my Baba Yaga series, I have written two novellas and four novels (the third one just came out February second, and the next one will be out in October) and it has been interesting to play with the different forms.

Unlike my pal Alex, I haven’t written very much short fiction. Other than a couple of short stories (including the one published in The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction, where Alex and I first “met”), I’ve almost exclusively written in the long form. In fact, when Berkley asked me to write a prequel novella for the Baba Yaga series, I’d never written a novella before.

It’s harder than you’d think.

wickedly powerful coverWith a novel, the challenge is mostly in coming up with enough story to fill the pages—about 90,000 to 100,000 words worth. You need to build complicated characters and intricate intertwined plotlines and create enough tension to keep people reading chapter after chapter.

Of course, in a series, you may have some of the same characters showing up over and over, but since an author can never assume that his or her readers have actually read the previous books in the series, each book also need to recap the necessary information from the other books without using the dreaded “info dump.”

In a novella, on the other hand, you don’t have time to explore either the characters or the plot in such depth, so you need to be able to get across much of the same feeling in a lot fewer words. On the other other hand, it is a lot shorter, so it is way faster to write!

I had two different goals with the two novellas, in part because they fell at different places in the series. The prequel novella, Wickedly Magical, came out before the first novel and was intended to introduce the reader to all three of the Baba Yaga characters who would be featured in the first three books, but most especially to Barbara, the protagonist from Wickedly Dangerous. My hope was that the story would intrigue people enough that they would go on to read the longer novel. (Side note: as far as I can tell, it worked! Yay!)

Wickedly Ever After coverThe second novella, which fell after books one and two, and before three, was more of a fun piece that allowed me to follow up on what happened with Barbara after her main “story” was wrapped up at the end of her book. (She does show up in book three and book four. Very pushy, our Barbara.) It was, in some ways, a gift for my readers, who wanted to know what happened next. Wickedly Ever After is a glimpse into what happened after the fairy tale ending. Did she live happily ever after or didn’t she? The novella got to answer that question.

I wouldn’t say that I prefer writing one form over the other. Each has its plusses and minuses. What I really love is being able to tell the stories of the Baba Yagas (and now, their companions The Riders) and share them with my readers. Hopefully my modern take on the traditional Russian fairy tale witches has pleased my readers, no matter what the length of the story.

So, here’s a question for the folks here: Do you prefer reading novellas or novels? I’m going to be giving away a signed copy of the new Wickedly Powerful novel to one lucky commenter.

 

8 Comments on “Writing Novels and Novellas in the Same Series”

  1. As a writer I can see the fun in changing up the format a bit and getting to write different types of stories. I have seen a lot of that happening as a reader – finding the short stories from my fav authors in various anthologies, or the novellas on kindle. It can be a refreshing tease for the reader in me, waiting for that next book in a series, or having that nagging question about something cut or glossed over in the novel – or as you say, after the novel ends. We think of these characters as fictional friends and acquaintances so who wouldn’t want to know what they’re up to? So I say bring them on! I have even seen minor characters being tested out for their own stories – a short or novella is a good testing ground, I would think. All the stories in all their forms, for anything the characters want to tell us!

    1. I agree! A shorter work can be a great way to introduce a character. In fact, VEILED MAGIC, my urban fantasy series, was prompted by a short story I wrote years ago (which was published in The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction, along with one of Alex’s). Readers kept saying they wanted to see more of the protagonist’s story, so I wrote a novel that featured her.

      1. So really using the novella and short story as a way to explore a new idea, character, situation that you find interesting, that may not fit into a current novel. Hmmm, gives me ideas about a storyline my friend and I have for a joint project…perhaps we might be better off writing a few short stories to help us get a handle on the characters more.

    2. Sue W! You’re the winner of the signed book. Email me at magicmysticminerva at yahoo to let me know where to send it. Thanks again for stopping by!

      Deborah

  2. I prefer novels, the longer the better, in my opinion! Novellas are OK if they are part of a larger series, a short tale that perhaps tells the story of a minor character that was in the novel, for example. Thank you for having this giveaway!

    1. I like novellas and short stories as a way to get a taste of a new (to me) author. Not literally, of course. I rarely go around licking authors.

      But I do mostly read novels, it is true.

  3. Sorry, I don’t read novellas. I picked up the first book in Patricia Briggs Alpha and Omega series, because I do like her work–I don’t care for the Mercy Thompson series as much as her early work, but I read them all. The first Alpha and Omega made no sense, and I found out the original story was one of a four story anthology thingy. I felt ripped off! I was so annoyed that I have refused to read anything else in that series. But that’s me.

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