When a Short Story Grows into a Novella

Halifax County Ex 23It started innocent enough. My story idea of a woman who takes up chicken husbandry to avoid the doldrums of retirement was fairly simple, a little silly and a bit laughable.

Here are the first few unedited paragraphs.

The accolades and celebration of forty-three years of service with Canada Post dissipated the first week of retirement. At the age of sixty-five years and seven days Mildred Fowler decided she had received the worst possible birthday gift: unemployment.

The smiles and hugs from coworkers still flashed before her eyes and the din of their congratulations hummed in her ears. Even the sweet smell of Sally’s breath as she toasted to long days of leisure lingered on her nose hairs. She now wondered if they truly believed being sent out to pasture was a happy occasion or if they simply wanted to give her a final hurrah before she entered obscurity. In reality, who really wanted to do nothing all day?

Her son Clyde told her to take up a hobby if she got bored, which he sincerely doubted she would. “You’re where everyone aims to be,” he had said. “You’ve earned this freedom. Take advantage of it while you still have your health.”

“You’ll be able to sleep in,” her youngest son Victor had said on the phone from his office in Summerside.

But she didn’t like to sleep in and miss the sunrise. Where was the advantage of sleeping away your day, the remainder of your life?

Her only daughter Donna had told her to travel, to visit old friends, but without a travelling companion she dared not leave the comfort of her neighbourhood.

Mildred flopped on the big comfy chair in her livingroom and looked around. Since her loving husband James had passed away seven years ago, her life had seemed empty. Now it felt meaningless. While working at least she had a purpose, a reason to rise each day. With all the time in the world, she didn’t know what to do.

* * *5x5 BylerThreeDogs

My short stories land somewhere between 5,500 and 6,500 words, so I predicted Fowl Summer Nights would be no exception. When I began the story, I was on a roll. One thousand words a day went down like a thermometer thrown in the freezer.

When I reached 4,000 words, I realised I had a huge problem. I couldn’t fit the rest of the story in 2,000 words. I needed at least another 6,000. Ten thousand words however was reaching the limit for a short story. When I passed that marker, I knew I had a novella on my hands.

My 2013 Progress Report in the right margin tracks the number of words I’ve written for my current work in progress. As you can see, the word count for Fowl Summer Nights is more than 15,000 of my predicted 6,000 words.

At this point, I can better guess that the story should end around 20,000 words.

Has any of your short stories turned into longer works? If so, what did you end up writing? A novella or full-length novel (more than 35,000 words)? Or has the opposite happened? Has a novel idea been reduced to short story size?

Playing around while I think of a cover for Fowl Summer Nights.
Playing around while I think of a cover for Fowl Summer Nights.
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2 thoughts on “When a Short Story Grows into a Novella

  1. Good on you my friend on your writing quest. As I am about to launch my first book I can only attest to that one. My years of journaling then compiling propelled me to continue filling in the missing words and my pen ran rampant. I went immediately into a second book. Perhaps after that one I shall get into short story writing, It seems to flow for you 🙂

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