Thursday, November 29, 2012

Make Your Words Count: Novels vs. Novellas

First, let's start with some famous novellas (generally considered a novella with less than 40,000 words):

 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Novellas can pack a punch.

A story should only be as long as it needs to be. Don't spread a novella thin by writing towards the 50,000 word goal that qualifies it as a novel, etc. Just let the story tell itself, irrespective of word count.

And then some say, "Self-publishing has brought back the novella!" and I hope they're right.

But for all the "Yay!"s and "Huzzuh!"s, there's the real issue of classification and finding a readership.

Smashwords has this nifty sorter feature that allows people to click on an ebook length to help narrow down search options. But Smashwords also estimates your ebook's word count. So what if you've written a book that is 52,000 words long? This should qualify it for the "50,000 word +" category, right? Wrong. Smashwords, as was the case with my first book, can estimate a book's 52,000 word count at about 48,000 words, and in so doing, lump the book in with the 20,000 word novellas. This can be a problem because it can prevent a book from being discovered by its intended audience.

But you just said word count was a superficial assessment. Quality is better than word count. Right?

Yes, but some people think in terms of 1.) Novel and 2.) Short Story

Anyway, so I wanted my 52,000 word count to be just that and get me into the 50,000 + word category. How did I get around this conundrum? I tacked on the first few chapters of my second book to the end of my first book. This can work with any extra material you might have--author's bio, book teasers, etc.--so long as you aren't misleading your intended audience. If you've written a 35,000 word novella, don't include an additional 15,000 words at the end just to bump it into novel territory.

But maybe readers just need to catch on to the fact that that they can enjoy their favorite genres in less than 40,000 words.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review: The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life

The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life by Jen Naumann

Seventeen-year-old Emma Ferdig has spent her entire life stuck in an itty-bitty town that is basically smack-dab in the middle of nowhere. She’s not bored because there are always the same mundane things to do with her best friend Finn every single weekend, but bored as in there is literally nothing for a teenage girl to do that doesn't involve farm animals and the threat of law enforcement.

But now she would do pretty much anything to go back to that boring life.

Emma's life is turned upside down after a night of senior pranks by the discovery of a real, live (better make that dead) zombie in her own backyard. In a breakneck journey across the rural Midwest, Emma will recruit a minivan full of teenage misfits while trying to survive, and uncover the secrets behind this zombie invasion. She’ll discover the true identity of Finn’s mother, the dark conspiracy that has infiltrated the U.S. Army, and maybe even realize the person she has been waiting to save her was right by her side the whole time.

As it turns out, life in a boring little town hadn’t been such a bad thing, after all.

Page Count: 
Paperback, 338 pages

June 2012 by At or With Me Publishing 
3.5 / 5 Paw Prints

Jen Naumann's The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life is an apocalyptic zombie novel about seventeen-year-old Emma and her band of oddballs and misfits. Together, they strive to uncover the truth behind a virus outbreak that claims the lives of loved ones and changes the landscape of the United States forever. The action propels the novel forward at light speed, but the characters slow down the reading for all the wrong reasons.

It took me a third of the novel to accept that the characters were all pretty cheeky, and that if enough jokes were made, one or two might actually make me laugh. I wasn't really a fan of the protagonist, Emma, mainly due to her strange bout of self-hatred for all things "womanly." There's nothing I can't stand more than a female protagonist who's all, "I don't really like other women. I'm a tomboy! I get along with guys sooooo much better!" However, Emma does eventually somewhat redeem herself when she finds an ally in Marley.

Anyway, so her character was a huge annoyance in the beginning, but after accepting that that was just her voice, etc., she became less distracting, and I was able to enjoy her point of view and all the comedic bits it had to offer. I found myself rooting for her, and felt sympathetic for her inability to emotionally process the horrors that she had experienced.

But it was the pacing of the novel that really stole the show--the plot that races along with the characters in souped-up cars, the seamless transitions from one fight to the next, and the mounting horrors looming around every corner.

The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life certainly has its share of surprises. At times, I really did feel like I was kicking back and enjoying an X-Files episode. The plot keeps getting new layers added to it, and I was eager to watch the band of misfits survive or at least experience some degree of closure. I was disappointed with the ending, which seemed abrupt, but it was the kind of disappointment that accompanies a strong desire to keep reading. I'll definitely be checking out Jen Naumann's other books and recommend this gem for YA fiction lovers, especially those with a hankerin' for action/adventure, humor, and zombie/apocalyptic genres.