Why a Novella Instead of a Novel?

Guest post : Cathie Devitt is a writer from Scotland.

Some writers get caught up with word count, but I reckon that quality is better than quantity. Let me take you on my creative journey with has ended with the publication of my first novella (which is the first in a trilogy).


I set out to write a novel a few years ago. Motivated by my success with short stories and plays, I really wanted to get that novel published. I had no aspirations of becoming rich and famous as a result (but I am open to offers). I have written since I was a child and my motivation has always been to prove to myself that I can write well and that I can build a good readership. Basically I wanted to write the type of book that I would like to read and that just wasn’t out there.

I joined a writers group about 10 years ago. The first couple of groups that I tried I didn’t stick with. One, I felt was just a social gathering with no real focus and the second seemed too pretentious for my writing style, with the focus being heavy discussions on the great works of literary kings. I Found Erskine Writers a local group who were structured and affiliated with the Scottish Association of Writers This enabled me to build a network of friends and contacts in the writing world. In my experience most creative are happy to share their experiences and knowledge to help new writers progress: bit like giving space to learner drivers on the open road. We are not in competition with each other.

I read across a range of genres and have no particular favourite author although there are many that I admire for different reasons: For example :Daphne Du Maurier  John Grisham  Mary Higgins Clark   Marian Keyes  Rose Trumain  Frank McCourt  Gustave Flaubert  and Dr Suess!

I also studied via a distance learning course in creative writing with Open College of the Arts You will find a range of creative writing courses aimed at beginners and professionls. Your local library is a good place to ask about courses and groups. There are loads of on-line creative writing groups too. Go Google!

I also read a fair number of “How to write a novel” books. I am not recommending any as I feel that you have to discover what is best for you, but here are some that I have read –

.Stephen King   Creative Writing for Dummies  Snowflake Method    Ernest Hemingway  Creative Writing

There are also software packages available such as The Novel Factory  My Novel  New Novelist Again, I am not endorsing these products just giving you some idea of what is available.

As a working mother time to write was short and crammed into any spare moments I could fnd. I spend a lot of time driving my daughter to activities and events and used the waiting time to read or write. Travelling on public transport gave me some head room. Walking the dogs to get fresh air and exercise blew away the cobwebs on my imagination. Being observant in public places helped me to develop characters. I wrote chapter plans, I used post it stickers on my wall. I wrote in biro in notebooks. I recorded ideas into my mobile phone. I typed on my laptop until my fingers hurt. I treated myself to time away at writer’s retreats and hid away in cheap rented caravans for peace and quiet. Finally, I have over 90,000 words that I was fairly happy with. I edited, re-drafted, edited, wrote more, printed it off on hard copy, had my PC read it out to me, read it out to myself and shared the manuscript with friends I trusted to give their honest opinion.

I buried the novel under my bed. I became sick and tired of the protagonist and her problems. I feared failure and I feared success.

I had to make the decision whether to abandon the project or pull it together in a way that I was happy to share it with the general public. My publisher suggested that I break the novel into a trilogy of novellas. At first I felt as though I had failed, but then I thought, “Size really doesn’t matter”. A novel isn’t automatically more enjoyable than a novella, nor a novella better than a short story, nor a short story better than a poem.

What matters, to me, is that I have honed my work to a point where I am happy to have it published to enable readers to meet and get to know my characters, understand the plot and follow the protagonist’s story over the three novellas. I have written them in a way that each can be read as a stand-alone, but by reading the three in sequence, the reader will benefit from all of the jigsaw pieces falling into place.

Cover-“Don’t Drink and Fly” is available from 31 Oct 2014 on Amazon and from all good book shops. Kindle version also available.

Bernice is a witch with many skeletons in her closet. She has an addictive personality, works as a holistic therapist, and struggles to maintain any intimate relationships. Her spells are not always as accurate as they could be, often the result of her having a few too many goblets of red wine.

When mysterious letters start appearing at her door, she begins to think about her childhood and, with the help of her long-suffering friend Maggie, tries to come to terms with her past and the family she left behind. But nothing in Bernice’s life is ever simple…

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