A Novella

A novella has a word count of between 17,500 and 40,000 words. I have got mine to between 25 and 26,000. Less and I am giving into my tendency for brevity, more and it felt like I was trying to just get wordy. So I quit writing. I like it more than I thought I would when I started. It is an interesting story with interesting characters.

As an artist the word “interesting” is not something we are happy to hear our work called, but as a commentary on a book/story it seems better than acceptable. Anyway that is my reaction to the words I put on the ninety-two pages.

It all started a few years ago when I was trying to find out why spending time in a group of women is not really all that comfortable for me. Men, fine. Women and I can get twitchy. Book club is where I lasted the longest but then that was only once a month, an easy endurance. So knowing I was not being really fair to whatever the joys of sisterhood are, I decided to write a story that only had women characters. If I got to know them individually, than maybe putting them together and keeping company with them would be a big step forward for me. It sort of worked but not totally.

What happened is I simply wrote down seven women’s names with their ages next to them. Then I went off with paper in hand and let each of them sort of “talk” about who and what they were. I pretty much stayed out of it. Giving them an age made it easier. Giving them a town to live in got even more interesting. Some were new comers and some lived there their whole lives.

When I read the prologue in a writing class a few months ago one listener and writer of plays said she thought I walked a tight line between insult and praise – not an easy thing to do according to her. So I took that as encouragement to just finish off the book. My first thoughts with what I had put together then was to turn it into a full length novel. Since the whole story takes place in twelve hours of one day, that would be hard to do without a whole lot of backstory and recollections. Frankly I don’t know these women well enough to give them more memories than needed for this story, so I decided to just let them be for now and then return to the town of Oliver, North Carolina and pick up some of their lives later with another novella. Why not?

The total number of women grew from seven to ten and I did throw in some men because I thought they were needed – when aren’t they?

One of the characters is Lydia an artist, divorced and living alone. I got into her head on how she paints, how she approaches the canvas and engages with the lone figure she places there. I thought I would give it a try. My canvas is only three foot square and not the four to five she uses, but close enough to get the idea of how to do what she talks about. It is not finished. I have scraped it down several times and sanded the daylights out of what I had painted. The hardest part is yet to come – that section where she encapsulates a feeling in a tight photo realistic space on the figure’s body. I may not ever finish it but if Lydia can do it and I made her up after all, I should really give it a try.

Lydias painting startedLydias painting revised

So for now it just hangs in the studio while I try to avoid it. I am wondering if bold black lines wouldn’t be a bad idea. Anything to avoid that small untouched, except for a penciled in drawing of subject matter section, located near the center of the canvas.

Here is an excerpt from how Lydia works…..”And there he is; standing so close that more than half his legs are below the edge of the canvas. At arm’s length she crosses his in front. Strange, but this arrangement of his arms seems to stop him from getting closer….the give and take of artist and subject begins.”

For now I am letting some people read the story. Hopefully I can get someone else to do an edit and then I am not sure where to go next. I avoid writing conferences and groups probably because there are so many women at them. Self publishing seems self-indulgent but my age is a consideration. How old does one want to be before they see some covers on their story? More on all that later. Back to the studio to work I do have some control over. Too bad I did not make Lydia a print maker……