Life is busy.
We dash here and there.
We balance this responsibility with that one.
We prioritize and organize and commit and decline.
Our calendars fill up and our cups overflow.
And, sometimes, squeezing in a few minutes of pleasure — of sweet indulgence — becomes a challenging task.
I have always been the sort of person that prefers to consume a book in one sitting or one day. A trip to the library when I was young was usually followed by hours of reading, stopping only for the things Mom made me do such as chores and eating. She also made me go to bed, but that did not stop my reading. I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning to finish a book. (Of course, having been told not to do that very thing, I would have to pretend not to be tired the next day or risk getting in trouble. 🙂 )
In high school, I had both little sisters to babysit when mom was working and a part time job to squeeze in around having fun with friends and going to school. However, I would still find time to steal a few moments in the library. There was this little room off the adult collections area and up a couple of steps that was a favourite place of mine to read. In that small room on the top shelf on one wall, there was a book I visited frequently. This book was a collection of short stories by Guy de Maupassant. These stories were just long enough to enjoy in one short sitting. There was no need to wonder about what might be happening in a story while I was away tending to other activities because I could begin and finish one story before I had to move on. I have always enjoyed short stories. I still do. And I also still prefer to read books that I can be read in one sitting.
Here’s an interesting fact that I read somewhere on the internet: Edgar Allan Poe, the famous American author regarded to be one of the earliest writers of short stories, defined a short story as a short piece of fiction that can be read in one sitting.
I also tend to write what I like to read. Therefore, my books, even my novels, tend to be short. They are books that can be read relatively quickly. They are the sorts of stories that fit very well into a busy schedule. That does not mean, however, that the stories are either easy or necessarily fast to write. Writing 25,000 words for a novella or writing 25,000 words for a novel take the same amount of time for me, and you still have to pay attention to story details — perhaps more so.
In a short story, novelette, or novella, you still need to have a beginning, middle, and end, as well as some sort of transformation and character growth, just as you would in a novel. Where the shorter form story takes a deviation from the longer form story and where the great attention to detail comes in is in the absence of anything extraneous. The plot needs to be kept tight. There isn’t room to ramble down side paths. The action must rise and fall at a quick but not rushed pace. Resolutions should never be cut short and development of character, tone, theme, etc must still take place but with fewer words. This takes skill, which I hope I am honing and developing over the course of my writing career.
“That’s the real trick to short stories is a novel-length idea without any fat on it. It’s a marathon runner as opposed to a weight lifter, you know. It’s just like, lean, and fast.” — Alan Baxter, award-winning author of dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi with 6 novels and over 70 internationally published short stories, when speaking on the Creative Penn Podcast, August 22, 2016
Fun Facts: The novella is not a "new" form of reading material. I did a quick search and came up with these two lists of famous novella length works. I have read a few of them. How about you? Twenty Brilliant Novellas You Should Read Wikipedia's List of Novellas
About a year ago, I had an idea to write something I called Dash of Darcy stories. These stories would ideally fall within the 20,000 to 25,000 word count range, a very comfortable amount of words to read in just a few hours. They, unlike many of my other books, would focus on Darcy and Elizabeth’s love story. The first two books in this line were Finally Mrs. Darcy and Waking to Mr. Darcy.
As I wrote Waking to Mr. Darcy, something happened. A character stood up and demanded exploration. But as I said above, a good short story is tight. It doesn’t ramble down side paths. So, instead of letting the book sprawl all over hither and yon, I wrote a sequel to Waking to Mr. Darcy called A Very Mary Christmas.
I thought that a sequel such as this would be a one-time thing. However, as I wrote my third Dash of Darcy story, Discovering Mr. Darcy (see excerpt, publication, and giveaway information below), it became obvious, thanks to comments from readers in my Leenie’s Sweeties Facebook Group after reading an early draft of Discovering Mr. Darcy, that sequels to these stories would become regular writing fare.
And so, I am starting a second line of books called A Dash of Darcy Companion Stories. These will be short stories, novelettes, and novellas that focus on secondary characters. The first draft of my second Companion Story, Not an Heiress: A Sequel to Discovering Mr. Darcy, is nearing completion, and, if all goes well, should be available for purchase in June. (If you follow my blog at all, you have already gotten a few snippets of what this story will be about in my Music Monday’s posts.)
Looking into the near-ish future, I have another Dash story in the line up for this year (hopefully), and I can see a possible Companion Story for that one as well.
So when life seems to become a “succession of busy nothings,” and you just need a bit of refreshment, why not try a Dash of Darcy with your cup of tea? Here is the beginning from A Dash of Darcy you might wish to try:
“Fitzwilliam,” Lady Catherine called to her nephew, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, as he passed the door to her sitting room. “Your call can wait,” she said in answer to the reply she knew was coming.
Richard sighed and turned into the room.
“Just Fitzwilliam.” Lady Catherine’s tone was stern as she looked down her nose and made a brushing motion with her hand, indicating that her other nephew, Fitzwilliam Darcy, should leave the room. “Close the door,” she called after him. She waited until it was latched, and she heard footsteps moving away from the room. Then, she took Richard by the arm and pulled him further into the room.
“Sit.” She motioned to a golden tufted chair on the edge of a grouping in front of a window that looked out onto the front garden of the house.
Richard rolled his eyes and did as instructed. It was pointless to do otherwise. Lady Catherine always had her way, or there was a price to pay. It was far cheaper and easier to just listen. “To what might I ascribe the honor of this private conference?” It was likely some matter regarding the groves that she wished him to see to during his stay, for a stay at Rosings was rarely one of pure leisure.
Lady Catherine’s eyes narrowed at his cheeky tone, but she did not reprimand him for it. He was always attempting to stir her ire, but today, she would allow no such distractions. She stood near the window and tilted her head to peer out and around toward the door where Darcy was just exiting. “It is time he marries,” she said.
“Darcy?” Richard’s eyes grew wide in surprise. This was not the conversation he had expected. In fact, it was a conversation he had always wished to avoid — at least with his aunt, that is.
She nodded and leaving her vantage point at the window, took a seat across from her nephew. “Yes, Darcy. Georgiana is not getting any younger and will need someone besides just her brother to guide her through her first season.”
“But Anne –” Richard began. He knew neither Darcy nor his cousin Anne wished to marry the other, and he was prepared to argue their points.
“Not Anne,” Lady Catherine interrupted. “They would not suit.”
“Pardon?” Richard was at a loss for words. His aunt had always insisted that Darcy would marry Anne. In fact, it was a supposed engagement that had kept Darcy from feeling a need to begin looking in earnest for a lady to help him secure his estate for future generations.
Lady Catherine picked at a small flower on the arm of her chair as she avoided meeting his eyes. The supposed engagement to her daughter had been merely an elaborate ruse to prevent a most disastrous outcome for Darcy. “He was not ready to begin a family. I had to keep him from rushing forward into doing his duty somehow.”
Richard’s mouth dropped open and then snapped shut. There were still no coherent thoughts forming in his mind. What his aunt was currently saying was clashing with what she had always said previously. Had she not taunted Darcy about doing his duty by marrying Anne?
She shook her head as if reading his thoughts. “Darcy was never going to marry Anne, and Anne knew it.”
Richard’s brows furrowed, and his lips pursed into a perplexed scowl. “You will need to explain.”
Lady Catherine rose and walked to the window. Darcy was still pacing in the front garden. She watched him take six long strides away and then back. One foot fell in front of the other in perfect time and in equal measure. It was very much who he was — proper, dignified, well-ordered. “I promised his mother that I would see him marry well and for love.” She raised a brow at Richard, causing his mouth to snap shut on whatever exclamation of surprise he was about to utter. “When Darcy’s father died, he was not ready to take on the responsibilities of an estate and make a proper decision about a wife. He would have rushed pell-mell into an untenable marriage that would have perhaps resulted in a family, but not a happy one. He would have sat down, drawn up some supposed list of qualifications of a proper wife, and gone about the business as if he were hiring a maid — without one thought about the misery he would face as a result of his calculated methods.” She tipped her head and gave Richard a firm look. “Do not tell me he would not have done so. You know as well as I that he puts duty before everything.” She shook her head. “I still think he has no idea what sort of wife he requires.”
Richard laughed. This conversation was not at all what he had dreaded it would be. In fact, it was proving to be rather entertaining. “And you do know what sort of wife he requires?”
Lady Catherine returned to her chair. “I do, and I have found her.”
Discovering Mr. Darcy is available now for preorder with a release date of April 18, 2017
If you would like to be entered to win an e-book copy of this novella leave a comment below.
Contest Closes at 11:59 PM EST, April 18, 2017.