About fifteen years ago a dream came true when my editor at Kensington publishing asked me to write a novella for an anthology. How honored I felt! It was a big deal to get to be "chosen" for an anthology. At some of the more prestigious publishing houses, an anthology would feature a big-name author paired with up-and-coming authors. We didn't really have any big-name historical authors at Kensington, so I sort of felt as if they selected what they considered up-and-coming authors.
I was disappointed we didn't get to do the most popular anthology, Christmas. We were picked for an American-set historical around the 4th of July. What? I'd only ever written historical books set in England. Even though I'm American, I did not read American historicals and knew nothing about how the Americans in the 1800s spoke. Still, who was I to quibble? I was a chosen one.
All of us authors got together via email and settled on a setting, and one of the authors was enormously helpful to me. Since I like to write about dukes, I made my hero the banker/mayor of our fictional town.
When I started writing that novella--about a third the size of my typical novels--I was on fire. I wrote faster than I'd ever written anything in my life. I had my draft completed in five days. No internet distractions. After the book came out, I'm happy to say the reviews of my story were flattering. I was even asked to do a second one for Kensington Books.
I fell in love with writing novellas. The problem was, in those days you could only publish them if you were invited to be in an anthology.
Then came eBooks.
As soon as I began publishing my stories directly, I decided I was going to offer a Christmas novella. All by itself. And it was only going to cost 99-cents. So I wrote one set in England and called it Christmas at Farley Manor. It immediately ranked very high, topping the Regency charts at Amazon. I sold close to 30,000 copies of it before I decided the following year to bundle it with two other Christmas novellas (not related), call it Christmas Brides, and sell it for $3.99.
I was tickled when Christmas at Farley Manor won Best Novella.
Since that first year (2011) I've written a Christmas novella every year. Each of the ones after Christmas Brides has been tied to one of my existing series, and because they're a series, they attract more interest. These sell for $2.99.
Somewhere along the way I was contacted by Amazon's Kindle Worlds to write some novellas to launch a Pride & Prejudice world, but Amazon eventually decided not to offer a P&P world; so, I kept the rights and published them, too. I've written one more novella on request for a special anthology.
Since I started publishing eBooks six years ago I've written ten novellas and just finished my eleventh. With its completion, each of my historical series will have a Christmas novella. Since I wrote two others for Kensington, my total number of published novellas is a dozen.
None of the other novellas have come as easily as that first, but I still love writing novellas. They're so easy. An author doesn't have to show huge character growth, and the plots can be pretty simplistic. I think my talents (after all, I'm a former journalist) lend themselves to shorter works. Two more of my novellas have placed in Best Novella competitions.
Going over my writing logs, I count writing days, and my novellas have taken anywhere from ten to 16 writing days to write. I don't count the days I edit or do no writing. I only count writing days. That's a pretty easy gig. I do spend more days polishing and editing. Typically, I work on a novella for a month or longer.
How I wish I could write full novels that easily!
Because novellas are only a third the size of my full-length novels, they take far less than a third of the time to write, probably only ten to twenty percent of the amount of time it takes me to construct a full novel. I typically spend around five months crafting a complete novel.
Even though my novellas have been well received, readers enjoy a meatier read. I'll get the occasional gripe, "I wish it were longer." So I have to keep writing those time-consuming novels!
My hope is that readers won't tire of reading my Christmas novellas now that the market is so glutted.--Cheryl Bolen's next novella is ABirmingham Family Christmas, set in Regency England. It's a Brazen Brides book.