Showing posts with label novella. Show all posts
Showing posts with label novella. Show all posts

Monday, November 12

Is Serial Fiction Profitable? Hugh Howey Says: Yes! Even With Absolutely No Promotion

Is Serial Fiction Profitable? Hugh Howey Says:Yes! Even With Absolutely No Promotion

Hugh Howey's Wool: An Overnight Success

Yesterday I wrote an article in which I asked the question: Is Serial Fiction Profitable? Just today Erica Jackson Curran published an article about Hugh Howey which added a few very interesting tidbits to the already fascinating story of his rise to glory and monetary solvency:
"It feels like it happened overnight," says Howey, a Florida resident who attended the College of Charleston in the early 2000s. Wool started out as a novella. He posted it online in July 2011 and forgot about it, deciding to focus instead on promoting his full-length novels.[1]

"I didn't promote this story, because it's a very dark story, and I didn't know that that's what was catching on " (Hugh Howey)

So the first novella of what would become Wool was a story he posted and forgot about. He did no promotion. No marketing. No advertising. In fact, he was intending to focus on full-length novels. Erica Curran continues:
Howey admits to being almost frustrated with how Wool took off, because he'd worked so hard to promote his previously published novels, and they got little attention. "You like to think you have some control over what succeeds and what doesn't, but for me it just highlighted that the reader is totally in charge of what succeeds and what fails," he says. "I didn't promote this story, because it's a very dark story, and I didn't know that that's what was catching on, but if you look at The Hunger Games and some of the stuff that even young adults are reading now, it's very dark themes, a lot of themes with class structure and class warfare with the downtrodden kind of rising up, and I guess it was just good timing that I happened to write that kind of story while that's what readers were after." [1]
It's a marvelous indie success story.
Hugh Howey has, of course, continued writing and this last August published I, Zombie, a full length novel. I find it interesting that he is going back to writing full length novels rather than novellas since it was a novella that sparked his rocket-ride to the top. But, then, Wool continues to sell fabulously well and I, Zombie is fairing very respectably.

It's no surprise, then, that Hugh Howey has decided to continue to independently publish.
"You do so well self-published, it's hard for publishers to compete with what you can do on your own," he [Hugh Howey] says. "I make 70 percent royalty rates on sales here in the U.S., and if I went with a publisher, that would be cut to almost one-sixth. And so, you know, we sat down with them, and they had some nice offers, but I'm handing them a bestseller with a film contract attached and all of these other things attached and what they're offering is just not as good as what I'm doing currently. I showed them what I'm earning now, and they kind of said, I don't know if we can compete with that." [1]
1) Hugh Howey doesn't need a publisher, thank you very much, by Erica Jackson Curran at Charleston City Paper.

Other articles you might like:

- The MacGuffin: A Plot Device From Screenwriting
- Serial Fiction: Is It Profitable?
- What's The Difference Between Paranormal Romance And Urban Fantasy?

Photo credit: "Edgy Pink" by Pink Sherbet Photography under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, November 2

Ian McEwan Believes The Novella Is The Perfect Form Of Prose Fiction

Ian McEwan Believes The Novella Is The Perfect Form Of Prose Fiction

The Novella Is The Perfect Form Of Prose Fiction

Ian McEwan recently wrote a piece for The New Yorker entitled Some Notes On The Novella in which he eloquently and passionately argues that the "novella is the perfect form of prose fiction".

Some might find this surprising. As McEwan himself notes, many view the novella as something lesser. He writes:
When a character in my recent book, “Sweet Tooth,” publishes his short first work of fiction, he finds some critics are suggesting that he has done something unmanly or dishonest. His experience reflects my own. A novella? Perhaps you don’t have the necessary creative juice.
To counter this, McEwan points out that the tradition of writing novellas is "long and glorious" and points to the work of writers such as Thomas Mann, Henry James, Kafka, Joseph Conrad, Albert Camus, Voltaire, Tolstoy, Joyce, Solzhenitsyn, Orwell, Steinbeck and Melville, only to name a few.

Novella's "don’t ramble or preach, they spare us their quintuple subplots and swollen midsections"

What is it about the novella that makes it the perfect form of prose fiction rather than the novel? McEwan writes:
[T]he demands of economy push writers to polish their sentences to precision and clarity, to bring off their effects with unusual intensity, to remain focussed on the point of their creation and drive it forward with functional single-mindedness, and to end it with a mind to its unity. They don’t ramble or preach, they spare us their quintuple subplots and swollen midsections. 
Swollen midsections, indeed. I'm reminded of Jim Butcher's instruction about how to survive what he calls The Great Swampy Middle (I picture it as something like the Fire Swamp in The Princess Bride, the home of the ROUSes--Rodents Of Unusual Size. But I digress.)

Be masters of the form, not slaves to the giant

True, this November we're writing 50,000 words and McEwan defines a novella as being between 20,000 and 40,000 words. Still, McEwan's characterization of the novella is one we're all familiar with--in fact I don't think I've seen a better description of what most writers are trying to do when they craft a story. Certainly I've never read one more concise or eloquent. He continues:
I suspect that many novelists clock up sixty thousand words after a year’s work and believe (wearily, perhaps) that they are only half way there. They are slaves to the giant, instead of masters of the form.
Been there, done that. (When I was reading McEwan's column I actually sprang up from my chair at this point and yelled, "Yes!" ... Or at least I felt like doing it. ;)

McEwan goes on to compare the novella to watching a play or movie and remarks that:
[T]here’s a strong resemblance between the screenplay (twenty odd thousand words) and the novella, both operating within the same useful constraints of economy—space for a subplot (two at a stretch), characters to be established with quick strokes but allowed enough room to live and breathe, and the central idea, even if it is just below the horizon, always exerting its gravitational pull. The analogy with film or theatre is a reminder that there is an element of performance in the novella. We are more strongly aware of the curtain and the stage, of the author as illusionist. The smoke and mirrors, rabbits and hats are more self-consciously applied than in the full-length novel. The novella is the modern and post-modern form par excellence. 

NaNoWriMo and the novella

Perhaps, as we go through NaNoWriMo this November, we should think of ourselves as writing, not novels, but slightly overextended novellas and take McEwan's advice to heart. Rather than aspire to turn our masterpieces into a "rambling, bloated ill-shaven giant", after NaNoWriMo is completed, strip off 10,000 (or so) words and attempt the creation of what could be "the perfect form of prose fiction".

Everyone's gotta have a goal. Right? ;)

Best of luck to my fellow NaNo-ers! Right now my manuscript is at about 2,200 words, I'm hoping to add at least another 2,000 tonight.

Other articles you might like:
- Jim Butcher On Writing
- Making A Scene: Using Conflicts And Setbacks To Create Narrative Drive
- Dialogue: 7 Ways of Adding Variety

Photo credit: "a walk in to the woods" by VinothChandar under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.