About the Author
Beth Cato hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham.
She’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER (a 2015 Locus Award finalist for First Novel) and THE CLOCKWORK CROWN from Harper Voyager.
Beth Cato on Writing Novellas
When Harper Voyager Impulse approached me about writing new stories set in my Clockwork Dagger world, I was really happy to tell one tale in particular. It had been stuck in my head since I wrote my last book, The Clockwork Crown. In that novel, a rather unpleasant fellow named Balthazar Cody played Dr. Frankenstein and cobbled together chimeras known as gremlins. He manipulated gremlins even more to create a part-metal war machine monstrosity.
Readers adore my gremlins. The green-skinned winged menaces are both hideous and cute, though the manner of their creation is cruel beyond comprehension.
The book’s plot pushed along pretty fast, and Mr. Cody was left with full power to continue his experimentation. I needed to change that.
To do that, I needed to figure out how to write my very first novella. Novellas tend to range from 17,500 to 40,000 words. It’s a length I have avoided in the past because it’s notoriously hard to sell. Most short story markets pay by the word, with 6-cents and up considered professional rates, and many have a word cap of around 6000 words.
Advantages to the Novella Format
Novellas have become a more popular format in just the past few years, though. Tor recently announced a novella-only imprint featuring some of the best authors around. Other major publishers are following similar models to that of Harper Voyager Impulse and encouraging authors to build out their novel worlds with novellas that will sate readers as they await the next full book.
Novellas have an advantage with size, too. They are about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the average fantasy or science fiction novel, but allow a lot more room for growth than a short story. Also, they can be competitively priced as ebooks for anywhere from 99-cents to $2.99. That’s a cheap, fast read.
Challenges in Writing Novellas
Pacing was my biggest concern as I set out to write my first novella. I had to think like a novel… but not. I needed deep development, but not an overwhelming cast of characters. It helped me a lot to read other novellas to get a sense of how they handled the development and pace.
I outlined my story in great detail, following the method I use for novels that I call “plot vomit.” I threw the whole rambling, messy story on the screen. From there, I broke it up into chapters.
I still felt very insecure as I wrote since the structure was far outside my comfort zone. It was a huge relief when I sent it to my first readers and they confirmed that the full story did work. By golly. I was a novella writer!
The end result is out as of November 10th: “Wings of Sorrow and Bone: A Clockwork Dagger Novella.” The final draft clocks in at about 27,000 words.
Would I write another novella? I’m open to the idea. It’s a length I enjoy reading and from a business perspective, it’s becoming more viable, too. After all, this is a business; I want to be able to sell what I write.
I also want to take down the bad guys who abuse creatures, and that’s a big reason why I love how “Wings” turned out. Two teenage girls without any magical powers confront one of the most powerful scientists in their world as they fight to save gremlins.
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