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Rant about Reviews

Monday, July 17, 2006
No, not my reviews. I don't have any yet. But I think I've identified something that is guaranteed to make me tear out my hair. It's not the first time I've seen it and I doubt it'll be the last.

"Gosh, if only this novella was a full-length novel."

GGAAAAHHHHH!!!!! Well, it isn't!!!! And you knew that when you picked up the book!!! Twit!!!!

Now, if the novella feels incomplete, that's one thing. But what the HELL is up with "if only the author had tacked on a completely unnecessary subplot or two and introduced a cast of thousands, I could have taken this more seriously."


It is what it is, people. If you don't like novellas, don't fricking READ THEM!!! Read longer books! There are plenty of them out there. Hell, I can recommend a few if you're that hard up.

What's tough is finding a good novella. I should know. I read enough of them. Lord knows I've ranted on this before, but writing a good, tight novella is a dying art -- one that should be appreciated as something separate from writing a novel.

Unfortunately, that seems to be what people expect. All the qualities of a novel, in less than 100 pages. Uh-uh. Ain't gonna happen.

A novella is a unique being. Part novel, part short story, but with a different sensibility.

Very focused, the plot is magnified, intensified to provide the characters with constant contact. The characters MUST be fully faceted and complex, but their backstories -- except for what's necessary to move the plot forward -- remain just that. Backstory. Behind them.

As a novella writer, I can't afford to spend a chapter reminiscing about how the heroine's daddy used to take her fishing on sunny Sundays and how much she learned about the value of silence from those trips. No. It's enough for the reader to know that SHE knows how to shut the hell up when she needs to.

Just...just...take things as they are. Review what's in front of you, not what you wish it would be. That way lies madness.

Also, I will be very pissed off at you.
7/17/2006 08:45:00 AM : : Sela Carsen : : 25 Comments


I just joined your yahoo group. Member #2!!! I think having group is a wonderful idea. If you build it they will come!

Jennifer L.

By Blogger Jennifer L., at 9:50 AM  

Yeah. I've read novellas that I felt really should have been novels -- the plot was like that of a novel, but it was squished into a much shorter length. Some novellas, it's their natural length. Others, the writers sacrifice worldbuilding, characterisation, and plot in order to make it fit ... and I kinda have a problem with that.

By Blogger Nonny, at 9:54 AM  

I'll agree with you on that point, Nonny. One of my pet peeves with novellas is authors who try to cram in too much info, but end up short-changing the reader by doing it poorly.

That's a different rant. :)

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 10:13 AM  

I think the same thing about short stories, personally.

One of the things I like about short stories is that all the info isn't there, there are things I have to fill in with my imagination!

Apparently I'm one of the few like that though.

By Blogger Emma Sinclair, at 10:43 AM  

Woohoo, Jennifer! Member #2! They should give out badges for that -- "I'm Member #2!" LOL

Seriously, thanks for joining. I did it last night in the blur of insomnia. I should probably post it at the Cafe now.

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 10:45 AM  

I find the same type of annoyance with flash fiction. People need to realize that sometimes the format of a work is just as important as the work itself.

With Flash, I'm not going to explore why the couple is fighting - it's a flash piece, you only get the fight. That's it!

I've never written a novella before but I imagine it bears some of the same challenges. Full plot, characters and setting in few words.

Glad I found your blog! (I came here by way of Ivan)

By Blogger H.E.Eigler, at 10:45 AM  

I don't get it either, Emma. Obviously, I'm with you, but I didn't realize we were such a minority. I like the pared-down aspect of short stories and novellas. It's like eating a slice of really great cheesecake, as opposed to the whole thing. I can do it, but I'd rather not. Just a taste is enough.

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 10:48 AM  

I knew you'd be ranting about something sooner or later. It had just been too long.

By Blogger Kristen Painter, at 10:51 AM  

Glad to meet you, H.E. And yes, I agree. I've written flash fiction, too, and I just love the way it makes me work to bleed every drop of meaning out of every word.

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 10:52 AM  

It was either this or flip-flops, Kristen. *gg*

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 10:52 AM  

Sometimes it may be meant as a compliment - that the story and writing is so engrossing that the reader wants more, more, and more.

By Blogger Bernita, at 10:56 AM  

Sometimes. And I get that, I truly do. There are a very few novels out there that I wish hadn't had to end, too. But they did. Because that's what novels do.

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 11:50 AM  

I'd take it as a compliment. I critted one of your stories in a RD contest and the only reason I advised you to make it full-length was because it really seemed as though you'd have enough there for a full-length and I thought it was definitely good enough. (Not saying that novellas are for those who can't write well enough to write full-length...not that at all, as my only pubbed pieces are shorts) I'm just saying that I loved the characters enough to want to be with them longer than just the length of a novella.

And actually, some review sites don't tell you ina dvance whether it's a novella when you sign up to read it. And if you're expecting a novel and it turns out to be a novella, sometimes you feel sad.

By Blogger Amanda Brice, at 2:08 PM  

Truth is you will recieve less stars, what have you because you are a short and for the exact reason you stated. Just life.

You'll do fine.

By Blogger Eva Gale, at 4:26 PM  

As someone who writes all lengths, I thank you. I hate hearing from a reviewer that they think it should've been longer (Both short stories and novellas) I have one short story that I agree should've been longer, but it was somethign I was trying, it didn't work as well as I thought it would, I learned.

But when it's meant to be a novella and I feel good about whats in it and the length, then I choose to take that comment as they (reader or reviwer) enjoyed it so much they didn't want it to end. *grin*

By Blogger Sasha White, at 4:30 PM  

Hugs Sela.

This will get me into trouble someday, but you know, I've yet to figure out how you find out whether an idea's big enough for a novel as opposed to being small and more suited to a novella.

By Blogger Milady Insanity, at 7:37 PM  

Milady, I don't know about anyone else, but I approach writing the same way I approach life -- haphazardly. I rarely know what my word count is going to be when I start something.

Honestly, every day that I wrote NQD, I'd finish for the day and think, "Well, I guess I'm not done yet, so I'll write more tomorrow."

Seriously. It would drive normal people up a wall.

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 8:07 PM  

Amanda, I do know that I prefer to read a simple story than a complex one. What can I say? I'm ADD. Too many storylines and I get lost, confused and irritated.

That's why I deliberately -- well, as deliberately as I do anything -- set out to write short stories. They're simple.

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 8:07 PM  

Eva, I'm set for it. As set as possible. In all honesty, I'll probably be a rampaging bitch, but I'll try to keep a lid on it.

I'm just hoping I don't get panned across the board.

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 8:10 PM  

Sasha, I love your short stories and novellas. I know the one you're talking about -- I think I reviewed it!

I'd love to have people wanting more of my characters. That's got to be a great feeling -- that you really touched a reader.

But on the other hand, I wouldn't know what else to do with them. When the story is over, it's over. Adding more on just feels weird. Like padding for word count. Yech. And it's so easy to tell when someone has done that.

On the other hand (I think I'm up to 3 hands now), Eileen Wilks took a novella she'd published in an anthology and turned it into a single title and, I think, the beginning of a series.

I think that's great. To revisit a story and see the spark of something more.

I keep thinking that I need to write the *other guy's* story (not gonna just GIVE it away, folks -- you have to read it!), but his heroine is elusive.

On a final hand, the word verification for this comment: CHAOS. I kid you not.

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 8:15 PM  

I love reading well-written novellas. It's the ones that feel cut off or incomplete that drive me nuts. There's definitely an art to them!

By Anonymous Michelle, at 8:39 PM  

You have a Yahoo group? Must find. Will join.

By Blogger Bebe Thomas, at 11:14 PM  

My experience with novellas is that they are completely different stories and sure, sometimes I wish they hadn't ended so soon, but I've felt the same about 150,000 word books as well. That doesn't mean it should be a longer story. One of the best things about a novella is that it's short, complete, and satisfying!

By Blogger April, at 1:57 AM  

Michelle, I agree. In fact, one of the reasons I look forward to novellas is that I know/hope the author has the knack for it. The ones that don't are the ones who try to cram too much story in and end up doing everything badly.

Bebe, yes I do! Scroll down to the bottom of my sidebar to find the link. Wheeee! More stuff I don't know what to do with! lol

April, check your yahoo e-mail. And yes, they are a completely different form. I've got anthologies among my keepers because I find a well-written novella at least as compelling as a well-written novel. Sometimes more so. Even in my favorite novels, there are sections I skip. Can't do that in a novella, where every word counts.

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 7:48 AM  

LOL Note to self: Don't piss Sela Off

By Blogger Amie Stuart, at 9:53 AM  

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