Many moons ago, as the cold winds swept across the lands, I used to scoff, yes I said it, scoff at those writers writing holiday novellas. Hacks the lot of them.
And then I realized something—I’m the hack.
I’m the writer not using all the tools in my utility belt.
It’s me who sucks, not them. And that is the horror or all horrors, besides seeing your grandfather naked.
So let’s talk holiday shorts/novellas. My original dislike of them came from a true consumer perspective, in that, they felt like marketing ads. Why else, I figured, would a writer do it other than to sell me a holiday novella for near the same price as a full length novel? Only a moron would buy half of something for the same cost. It was a total crock. A way to make writerly millions (okay, writerly tens at best).
But publishing isn’t the same world it was then, or even yesterday. Writers build readership by giving the readers what they want. If readers like holiday novellas, then damn it, I’d be truly stupid to ignore the trend, especially given the vast f***ed up fairytale world I have to work with.
If you plan to write novella/shorts for the holidays, I do have some suggestions about how to go about it:
- Don’t cheat your reader.
Sort of a given I know, but here it is, in plain black and white, if your novella shorts the reader in any way, chances are you won’t get that return reader for your next work. So don’t think of shorter as any less content. In fact, you have less time to impact them more. Do you best work.
- Give your secondary characters a chance to come out and play.
One way to keep the shorter story fresh is to open up to other voices. Say you have a series that features one character and his/her/it’s constant plight. Awesome. But think about using the holiday short to give the reader a more in-depth look at a secondary character. Who knows, they might have a breakout series of their own. Try new things. Be bold.
- How you publish matters.
For those who are traditionally published only, I suggest taking a hard look at self-publishing your holiday novellas. It’s a great way to dip your toes in the water and to build your traditionally published books readership. I suggest the self-publishing route for one very good reason, traditionally publishing a novella is hard enough, but adding in the length of lead time and it’s more than my tiny brain can handle. Plus, who doesn’t need a little extra money for Valentine’s Day? Penicillin is expensive. Sorry, couldn’t resist.
- Don’t limit yourself to one holiday.
This is perhaps my favorite part. By holiday I don’t mean Christmas alone, which is the main ‘holiday’ novella. You can create a holiday novella for the most obscure ones, for example, I’d love to see a novella about the Bolivian
Holiday of Tinku, in which neighbors gather to punch each other in the face.
And on that note, I’ll leave you to pound the keyboard or that annoying guy down the street. Either way I look forward to reading your take on a holiday. Oh, and in case you’re interested, I have A Very F***ed-Up Christmas Tale coming out in a few short days, on November 3rd. Pre-order is available now! (See the cheesy marketer in me?)
BTW, hope you have a great Halloween!
Tell me, do you have a holiday novella out? If so, why that holiday? If not, what holiday would you pick?