In early 2017 I read an enthusiastic review about a newly translated novel by Argentinian author Samanta Schweblin. The review gave very little away but described the book as surreal and horrifying and something to be read in one sitting. That sounded pretty intriguing, so I headed to the bookstore and bought a copy. The novel was called Fever Dream.
I did indeed read Fever Dream in one sitting. Not only was it everything the reviewer had promised—strange and foreboding and beautifully written—it was also incredibly brief. At fewer than 30,000 words, this masterful slice of horror is technically a novella—a story that falls somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 words.
Many renowned classics are novella length: John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is around 30,000 words; Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is 27,000, and Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle is fewer than 45,000.
There’s just something about a story carved down to its bare essentials that feels especially potent.
Horror stories in particular can benefit from brevity. Sustaining an atmosphere of claustrophobic dread is easier to achieve in 150 pages vs. 600. A narrower word count naturally leads to more clarity and focus, something that can get lost with a wide cast of characters and multiple subplots.
When writing the novella, get to know your protagonist well and keep the story focused on her. Make sure your plot doesn’t stray from the main conflict; limit or eliminate subplots. Carefully consider backstory; for every detail you give about your main character’s past, ask yourself if it really matters. Finally, use a narrow time frame for your story, and only a few settings.
It takes discipline to simplify your story and choose your details wisely, but learning the art of brevity pays off with a tightly plotted narrative that your reader won’t want to put down.
About the Author
Elizabeth Maria Naranjo is the award-winning author of The Fourth Wall (WiDo Publishing, 2014). Her short fiction and creative nonfiction have been published in Brevity Magazine, Superstition Review, Fractured Lit, The Portland Review, Hunger Mountain, Hospital Drive, Reservoir Road, Literary Mama, Motherwell, and a few other places. Her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best American Essay, and Best of the Net. All links to Elizabeth’s work can be found on her website at elizabethmarianaranjo.com.
Social Media Links:
– Blog Tour Calendar
September 19th @ The Muffin
Join us as we celebrate the launch of The House on Linden Way by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo. Crystal interviews the author about her book and also gives away a copy to one lucky reader.
September 22nd @ Deborah Adams
Today, The House on Linden Way is in the spotlight at Deborah Adams blog with a guest post written by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo titled: Exploring our Deepest Fears Through Speculative Fiction.
September 23rd @ The Faerie Review
In today’s spotlight at The Faerie Review is Elizabeth Maria Naranjo’s latest book The House on Linden Way – readers will be thrilled to learn more about this fabulous read!
September 26 @ What is That Book About
Elizabeth Maria Naranjo is in the spotlight at What is That Book About as readers learn more about Naranjo’s thriller: The House on Linden Way! Don’t miss this blog stop on Naranjo’s WOW! Women on Writing book blog tour!
September 27th @ Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire with Mindy McGinnis
Elizabeth Maria Naranjo pens today’s guest post at Mindy’s blog. Learn more about Naranjo’s latest book The House on Linden Way as well as today’s topic: Traditional vs Self Publishing and My Experience with Both as Naranjo offers some insight into her stories!
September 30th @ The Faerie Review
Hear some of Elizabeth Maria Naranjo’s favorite October stories as she pens today’s guest post at The Faerie Review. This is also your chance to learn more about her latest thriller: The House on Linden Way. Don’t miss this opportunity!
October 1st @ Boots, Shoes and Fashion
Linda at Boots, Shoes and Fashion shares her thoughts after reading Elizabeth Maria Naranjo’s latest book called The House on Linden Way. This is a thrilling read and we can’t wait to hear what Linda thinks!
October 2nd @ Word Magic with Fiona Ingram
Fiona from Word Magic is hosting Elizabeth Maria Naranjo today. This is a great opportunity for readers to learn about Naranjo’s latest book: The House on Linden Way as well as read her guest post titled: The Lingering Ghosts of Our Childhood Homes. Readers will be thrilled to hear from Naranjo!
October 3rd @ One Writer’s Journey
Sue Bradford Edwards offers her review of The House on Linden Way by fellow author Elizabeth Maria Naranjo. Find out what Sue thinks and learn more about this thriller!
October 3rd @ World of My Imagination
Nicole Pyles of WOW! Women on Writing offers a thoughtful review of The House on Linden Way by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo – readers won’t want to miss the opportunity to learn more about this thrilling book and it’s talented author!
October 8th @ Boots, Shoes and Fashion
Linda interviews Elizabeth Maria Naranjo about her latest thriller, The House on Linden Way! This book blog tour is one readers won’t want to miss – it’s THRILLING!
October 10th @Girl Zombie Authors
Chris at Girl Zombie Authors shares her review of Elizabeth Maria Naranjo’s The House on Linden Way – will it be too thrilling for this fellow author? Find out TODAY and be thrilled!
October 10th @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Today’s post is titled: Tips For Getting Unstuck While Writing Your Novel and it’s penned by none other than Elizabeth Maria Naranjo as she just released her latest thriller The House on Linden Way. Find out more today!
October 11th @ Author Anthony Avina
Author Anthony Avina puts fellow author Elizabeth Maria Naranjo in the spotlight today as readers learn more about The House on Linden Way – this is a book blog tour stop that will thrill and delight!
October 13th @ Knotty Needle Creative
Judy reviews The House on Linden Way for readers at Knotty Needle Creative – find out more about this thriller and it’s talented author Elizabeth Maria Naranjo!
October 16th @ Literary Quicksand
Jessica from Literary Quicksand reviews The House on Linden Way by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo – what will she think? Will fellow author Elizabeth be able to thrill Jessica? Stop by today to find out!
October 18th @ Author Anthony Avina
Author Anthony Avina reviews the work of fellow author Elizabeth Maria Naranjo and offers his thoughts about The House on Linden Way!
October 20th @ Reading is My Remedy
Chelsea from Reading is My Remedy offers her review of Elizabeth Maria Naranjo’s The House on Linden Way for readers of her blog. This is a thriller and we can’t wait to find out Chelsea’s take on it!
October 23rd @ Literary Quicksand
Jessica from Literary Quicksand interviews Elizabeth Maria Naranjo – learn more about this talented author and her latest thriller, The House on Linden Way!
October 25th @ Author Anthony Avina
Author Elizabeth Maria Naranjo pens today’s guest post at fellow author Anthony Avina’s blog with the title: The Art of Brevity; Writing a Novella. Hear from Elizabeth and find out more about her latest thriller, The House on Linden Way.
October 27th @ The Frugalista Mom
The Frugalista Mom offers her review of The House on Linden Way by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo. Find out more and stop by today!
October 30th @ Wildwood Reads
Megan from Wildwood Reads offers her review of the thriller The House on Linden Way, by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo! Stop by and get in the mood for tomorrow!