So it’s no secret that Seizure and the novella have a bit of a thing going on. In 2012 we launched our inaugural Viva La Novella comp and were thrilled to present Jane Jervis-Read’s Midnight Blue and Endlessly Tall as our winner at this year’s EWF. Now, after a brief holiday we’re back for Viva La Novella II and this time we’re looking for FOUR winning novellas and FOUR bloomin’ brilliant editors to guide those books to greatness.
HOWEVER, Seizure aren’t the only ones who have been proudly flying the novella revival flag. Just last year the Griffith Review launched The Novella Project – a special edition which published six novellas selected by a panel of judges. 2013 also marked the second year of the biannual ‘Shakespeare & Company Paris Literary Prize’ which awards €10,000 to a winning novella. Not to mention Express Media has just launched their new publishing project, ‘Hologram’, which is looking to publish two novella-length works by writers under 30 in early 2014.
But what’s of particular interest to me (and I hope to you too) are the sneaky eyes being made across the room between novellas and emerging writers.
Some of this attraction has been attributed to the digital publishing revolution – with the online marketplace providing a new space for this in-between length fiction. In an article published by English Pen, Meike Ziervogel, publisher at Peirene Press, makes the point that in an age that's all about 'information overload', too many modern novels spoon-feed or even force-feed the reader and perhaps deprive them of the opportunity to use their imagination. The novella allows the writer to 'focus on one view of voice, highlight one feeling, portray one psychological human trait', and by focusing on one aspect of the story, provoke its readers to fill in the rest (read the full article here – it's great). This is a form that lends itself well to being grounded in the times – a text which can be comfortably situated around a particular character or event and has the added advantage of being easily consumed in a single sitting. Not to mention it’s the most readily adaptable fiction, with its 'ninety-minute' narrative fitting neatly into the two-hour cinematic time-frame.
But aside from all that, it’s the form itself which is seen to provide unique advantages for emerging writers. Seizure started this whole thing with the vision that the novella is a useful (and exciting!) next step in encouraging writers to look beyond the short story – to develop their skills in narrative and allow themselves some space to experiment (read more about the ‘novella vision’ in an interview with David Henley from 2012).
I think out of everything I read, John Dale’s call to arms for emerging writers brought me the closest I’ve been to flinging open my laptop and trying my youthful hand at the novella:
If you have a story, a piece of news or an event worth telling, if you have a character you want to put to the test, or you simply want to try to write something longer and more important than a short story, if you have an interest in trying to write tightly and make every word count, then the novella is the form for you.