We are celebrating Edith’s debut novella “Christmas Cocoa and a Corpse” in Christmas Cocoa Murder from Kensington (written as Maddie Day, because it’s in the Country Store Mysteries series). We are asking Edith questions about how writing a novella was different from writing a full length novel.
Sherry: Did writing a novella make you cut down on the number of characters? Was it harder to introduce new ones?
Edith/Maddie: Good question, Sherry. Yes, the whole scope had to be tighter. I relied on my usual cast of characters, introducing only two new ones, bringing a minor character back from a previous book, and getting to know two who had been mentioned but whom we hadn’t yet met (Abe’s parents).
Jessie: How does writing a novella differ from writing a short story?
Edith/Maddie: I asked myself the same thing! The longest short story I’ve written was five thousand words and my editor asked for twenty-five thousand for the novella, so there’s one difference right there. I used the structure of a novel rather than that of some short stories, which lead you astray and surprise you with a twist – or two.
Liz: Did you find it easier or harder overall to write this kind of story? Not a short, but not as long?
Edith/Maddie: At first I was daunted. Could I fit a whole book into 25000 words? Being a pantser, I just barged ahead. I found I was relieved not to have to worry about getting up to my word count, as I usually am (Barb knows what I’m talking about, we of the Sparse First Draft Club).
Barb: Laughing. I am dealing with a too sparse first draft right now. And I loved writing novellas for just that reason. My question is about the novella collection. Did knowing two other authors would be writing on the same topic effect how you approached your novella in any way–inciting incident, weapon, crime, anything?
Edith /Maddie : Great question, Barb. You might recall that when we were at Boothbay Harbor on our 2018 Wickeds retreat, several of us brainstormed with the group and it was time for me to start thinking about the novella. The black Labrador puppy named Cocoa came out of that session at Jessie’s suggestion. She said, “Everybody’s going to have poisoned cocoa. You need something different.” A brilliant idea – and thanks, Jessie!
Julie: The 25,000 words intrigues me! Did you start to explore a subplot and decide to save it for the next novel? Is this a separate entity, or will it have repercussions on the novels moving forward?
Edith /Maddie: I don’t think I purposely excluded a subplot, Julie, and I’m not sure what you mean by repercussions. This novella slid perfectly into book time. Strangled Eggs and Ham took place in August, and book seven, Nacho Average Murder occurs in February, so sliding a Christmas book into slot 6.5 was easy, and Robbie harks back to those events in later books. Book #8 will also be a Christmas book – and you all get to hear the title first here: Candy Slain Murder!
Readers: Do you have a preference in how long a story is? Do you like epic novels, short stories, or something in between?
My preference of story length depends on my mood. I love crawling into the world of a long novel when I have the time, but I also love picking up an anthology for a quick short story. A novella perfectly fits all those times in between.
I agree, Annette!
Interesting to learn about the writing process. I love stories of all lengths if well written. That’s why I enjoy Edith’s books so much.
Can’t wait to read “Christmas Cocoa and a Corpse” in “Christmas Cocoa Murder” (as well as the other novellas).
Love the title “Candy Slain Murder”!
2clowns at arkansas dot net
Thanks so much, Kay.
Congratulations, Edith! I like novels – but short stories and novellas are perfect for those times when I just can’t devote the time or energy to 90,000 words.
I prefer novels although I do like novellas when I’m between books or just want a quick read. I don’t read many short stories because it’s hard to find really good ones
Sandy, have you checked out Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock mystery magazines? They are the premier outlets for the best shorts.
Sandy G! I’m popping in to recommend The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense. Edith has a short story in the collection, and the book is getting rave reviews!
Writing a novella fascinates me. I’ve only written long (novel) or short (my sweet spot is 2000 words), so this concept would pose a real challenge. Congrats on your multi-accomplishments and the twist you took in this novella.
I don’t mind what length the book is, I just care if the story is completed and it does not feel rushed like information is missing from it.
That’s the challenge when we write shorter pieces!
Actually, no one used poisoned cocoa in the book. There is poison in one of the stories, however. I appreciated how different the stories were in this collection.
I did too, Mark! Maybe we ALL thought the other would be poisoning the cocoa…
I love novellas! For a long time, it seemed as though my typical “short” story fell in the range of 19K-25K. A novella gives the writer room to explore, and it gives the reader a lovely evening’s read (or two, if the novellas are short and the reader is fast!).
Edith, thanks for the advice. I have a novella idea in mind but didn’t even realize it could be as short as 25,000 words. Love it! Good luck with yours.
That’s what my editor wants for these collections. I don’t know about anyone else!
I don’t care about the length so much as the content. I’m fine with long but needs to hold my interest and keep the pace moving without getting wordy. Same with a short story- fine as long as the story covers what it needs to and leaves a satisfactory conclusion.
Before this year I’d of said novels only. But i got a couple of free novellas & short stories & saw how complete they could be. Now I prefer them because I get to read more books that way!
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