Diary of a pocket novel – and an oxymoron …

I’ve always wanted to write a pocket novel.

There are two of our weekly magazines who publish pocket novels (PNs) – or apx. 39,000-word novellas – and as far as I know they both publish something like two PNs a month. The word-count requirement fluctuates, but they’re roughly 35,000 – 45,000 words long at one time or another, as far as I can make out.

I’m also certain that if I looked into it, there’s an even bigger market for the novella-length book worldwide, and you can also self-publish now too.

A lot of people deride writing PNs for the weekly mags. They say it’s a lot of work for a small, one-off payment, and surely it’s more worthwhile to write short stories and serials. However, both of these allegedly more lucrative markets have dwindled to a fraction of what they were in the 1980s when I started writing.

Yet still, it’s not a lot of money, I hear people shout (and I really do). But it’s still much better payment than the virtually non-existent short fiction market, plus you may then be able to sell large print rights – and the large print publishers do publish previously published novellas and pocket novels (and serials, once they’ve been published and rights have reverted back to the author) and self-published ones too, and the large print books go into the libraries so that authors may earn PLR (Public Lending Rights) on them as well.

So that’s the initial one-off fee + the large print rights + PLR + self-publishing. It’s still more than what some authors may get for an advance these days, which they may or may not ever earn out and, thus, start earning royalties.

And it’s a nice, short length that won’t take so long to write. So the novella or the PN is the next way to go for me.

I’m writing it by the seat of my pants.

The only advance work I’ve done so far is all maths. I’ve worked out how many words it’s going to be (apx. 39,000), how many Acts (Acts 1, 2 part 1, 2 part 2, 3), how many chapters (12), how many chapters per Act (3), how many words per chapter (3,250), how many days I’d like to spend actually writing the first draft (30 working days), and how many words per writing session that works out at (1,300). Or thereabouts. (The OCD likes this kind of structure.)

I have the title (The Fool), and I have the opening 109 words. (The opening was written as an exercise for the newly formed writers’ group I’ve just joined – no writing exercise is wasted in this house!)

Alongside this, I’m still doing research work for the new non-fiction (The Life of Richard Cadbury), and I’m still thrashing out the bones of the new Marcie Craig story (The Beast Within). Even Catch the Rainbow is still there in the background.

I like to work like this. I like to go full speed ahead on something, then when I start to struggle, I put it to one side and work on something else while the other one percolates in the background. Joanne Harris calls this “orbiting worlds”. I like to orbit my worlds. (And if it’s good enough for Joanne Harris, it’s good enough for me.)

And, of course, I’m still editing and proofreading for other people.

Oh yes, and that oxymoron?

We’re advised to read pocket novels before writing them (which is good advice) because they’re changing all the time (which is the oxymoron …). 😇

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