It Started as a Novella

Famous Last Words

JessiGage_Reckless_2500pxWhen I started writing Reckless, over two years ago, I planned it as a novella. I wanted to tell the story of a man who, through one reckless act, changes his life irrevocably…and finds love in the most unlikely of places.

I completed the story at just under 20,000 words, a decent novella length, and queried it around, looking for an agent to represent it. This was before Piper Denna, an editor at Lyrical Press and a talented romance author, accepted me on as a Lyrical author when I queried Wishing for a Highlander.

Originally, Reckless was titled Road Rage. It was short and sweet…and, according to the few agents who requested a sample, rough around the edges. I received one personalized rejection in which an agent I have a huge amount of respect for told me the story should be longer. She thought I’d rushed the development of my characters and had a bigger story to tell than I allowed myself room for. I took some time to think about this and eventually decided she was 100% correct.

Anyone who’s written a manuscript, whether it’s 5,000 words, 20,000 or full length at 100,000 or more, knows the sheer terror that grips the soul at the prospect of scrapping a project and starting over. I experienced this terror. As an avid knitter (with some perfectionist tendencies bordering on obsession), I knew well the disappointment of discovering something I’d spent countless hours on creating needed a complete reworking. Opening a fresh Word document and typing “Road Rage, draft 2” at the top of a blank page was about as disheartening as tearing out an entire sweater, re-winding the yarn, and starting over.

Granted, I was able to do some copying and pasting to ease the way, but the book soon became something totally new, something so much more vivid and personal than the novella I had written. I soon found myself envisioning new supporting characters, like the hero’s ex-wife and his eleven-year-old daughter, like my heroine’s brother, who of course had a terrible secret he’d been keeping from her for years.

I gave my heroine some pretty intense baggage. I sculpted her personality into something that closely resembled parts of my own personality, and through forcing her into a situation in which she would have to overcome her baggage, I found myself discovering new strength in myself.

At some point in every manuscript, what goes on the page changes from simple words to something magical. This happened for me when I was deep into converting Road Rage from a novella to a novel. Now, years later, it has a new title and a new life as the first in my Blue Collar Boyfriends series of rough-around-the-edges heroes who can be tender when it counts. Later this year, I’ll be releasing two more contemporary romances in this series. Since Reckless is so special to me, I’m so glad it’s the first.

I wonder if starting Reckless as a novella was an essential step in eventually getting to that place where I felt magic happening. I suspect, for this particular story, it was.

I’ve recently started another novella that I’m planning to release in 2015. It’s the prequel to my Highland Wishes series of time-travel romances. I’ve had several readers ask me whether I plan o telling the story of how Constance and Wilhelm meet. These two make an appearance in Wishing for a Highlander. By the time my heroine, Melanie meets Constance, Constance is an older woman who has been happily married to a Highlander for more than twenty years. Like many of my readers, I began to wonder if their beginning was as happy as their lives once Melanie and Darcy show up on the scene.

I decided I definitely needed to write their story. So all those who have encouraged me to get on that, THANK YOU!

I’m only three chapters in. Not very far. About a quarter of the way, if, indeed, this will be a novella. But I wonder if this one, like Reckless‘s origin, might be a full-length novel waiting to happen.

I haven’t felt that magical spark with The Highlander’s Witch yet, but I know it will happen. It always does, eventually. I just need to be patient, let the characters work through their issues, and keep adding words. Whether this one remains a novella or grows into something bigger, I don’t know, but I’ll certainly let you know as soon as I find out:-)

How about you? Do you like reading novellas? Do they leave you wishing for deeper character development? Do you have to be in a certain mood for a shorter piece?

I want to know!

After you post a comment below, please swing over to my giveaway at Rafflecopter (click the word GIVEAWAY), and enter to win one of five e-copies of Reckless. The giveaway will run for the whole month of April, and you can enter every day to improve your odds of winning (see the giveaway page for details).

Thanks for stopping by!




About Jessi Gage

Jessi lives with her husband and children in the Seattle area. She’s a passionate reader of all genres of romance, especially anything involving the paranormal. Ghosts, demons, vampires, witches, weres, name it, she’ll read it. As for writing, she's sticking to Highlanders and contemporaries with a paranormal twist (for now). A career student (aka indecisive and inquisitive bookworm), Jessi brings her love of research to her worlds and characters. Her guiding tenet in her writing is that good always trumps evil, but not before evil gives good one heck of a run for its money. The last time she imagined a world without romance novels, her husband found her crouched in the corner, rocking.
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10 Responses to It Started as a Novella

  1. I haven’t read that many novellas. The one I did read felt rushed, as if it wrapped up to quickly and left me wanting more. It could have been the author or the story, I’m not sure. Last Nanowrimo I wrote a novella, although it did go over the 50,000 words for the Nano, so it wasn’t short. It’s a side story from My Real Estate Paranormal Mystery Series and goes into one of the main character’s past, Marcus Lyons who of course is a vampire. I loved writing his story, his history, what made him who he is.

    I completely agree with the terror of realizing you need to redo an entire story. A story you put your heart and soul into, however, it can only make it better. Writing to me is a journey where getting to the final piece is the fun. I think only after the trials and errors, the triumphs and failures can a story reach its zenith. Or glory or something. I’m getting all poetic. That’s my thoughts.

    Love hearing about other author’s journeys.

    Mary E. Merrell

    I want to win that book!

    • Jessi Gage says:

      I hear you on the novellas, Mary. I usually have to psyche myself up to read one because I worry it won’t be as satisfying as a full-length novel. But, usually, if the author did a good job, I feel utterly fulfilled by the end.

      Yes, that journey is part of the fun. It’s always hard to start over, but once the story takes off or gets to that magical place, it’s an awesome experience.

      Good luck in the giveaway!

  2. Harliqueen says:

    I write novellas, because I like the faster pace they take, I also read quite a lot of novellas for that reason. But then, everyone is different, I mean, I still love novels and don’t turn them down 😀 Novellas have to be well paced, and develop well or it just feels rushed and not complete, but it can be done.

    • Jessi Gage says:

      And it’s so sweet when it is done well! It’s definitely a talent. Thanks for your perspective!! It’s awesome to hear from a writer who focuses on novellas.

  3. Mae Clair says:

    I’m starting to read more novellas as they become more popular. Overall, I enjoy novel-length tales, especially nice, fat, dense ones 🙂 When a novella is done well, I’m happy to indulge. Heck, I even just wrote my first 🙂

    Jessi, I’m so thrilled for you having RECKLESS out there again. It’s a great tale. I especially loved seeing the changes in both your hero and heroine from beginning to end. So nicely done!

  4. Pansy Petal says:

    I have read Short stories that were absolutely wonderful! Then I have read super novels that were awful. It is all about doing the best job for the story, no matter what the length. When it comes to novellas, nothing irritates me more than to be reading a rather decent story, only to have it abruptly end – like they got to the desired word count and quit, with not indication that this might be a serial. (Which I hate. Write the damn book already and quit messing with me!) I have read stories like that. I sure don’t want to go back to that author for another story. That being said, it does my heart good that you recognize that if the story needs more that 20,000 words, you need to write them. Thank you! I look forward to reading Reckless!

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Oh serials. I am not a fan. Okay, to be honest, I haven’t read one. But the fact that I don’t want to is enough for now. I even know some amazing writers who have done serials lately, but I if I’m in the mood for short fiction, I’ll watch a sitcom. You know?

      Yes, it’s all about how the writer handles the story. Thanks for commenting! Good luck in the giveaway!

  5. Jen M. says:

    I prefer full length books, but I also enjoy novellas. They’re perfect when you need a short read or a great way to catch up on characters that are part of a long series. Thanks for the chance!

    • Jessi Gage says:

      I’m with you. It’s like the draw of the book is as big as the book itself, if that makes sense. I just want to read full novels more. But when I commit to a novella, I usually get into it just as well as I get into novels.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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