Sunday, October 25, 2015

Death of a Novel, Maybe

Not only has the novel nibble reported in July become null -- I’m on notice that I don’t have a novel at all. I have a novella. Forty-six-thousand words does not a novel make, I’m told, and I may have been sealing my own fate by specifying that number in the pitches I’ve been sending to agents.

This leaves me in a quandary. The work is too long to try to pass off as a short story but too short for a comic strip. (I had actually considered that format for it at one time, but comic strips go on for years or, in some cases, decades, while this story has an end.) 

Trying to force something into a new format is unpleasant work. It would mean creating new adventures for the characters to satisfy the comic strip form or adding thousands more words to make it a conventional novel. Either would be like patching together a Frankensteinian monster; it might walk, but you wouldn’t want to spend time with it. Might individual chapters, excerpted, make coherent stories? Maybe, but it would be by lucky coincidence at best.   

There is a last resort: self-publishing. It used to be called “vanity” publishing, but like many other things it’s been renamed and made respectable, the literary equivalent of “erectile dysfunction.” I've always held out against it as being an admission of defeat: your work couldn’t make it in the competitive arena.

 I believe there have been instances of self-published books going on to become wonderfully successful, but it’s so rare as to be comparable to winning the lottery. There must be countless books in print, sort of, with readership in the single digits, slightly more for authors with large families. I prefer not to put myself in that category, especially since my circle of relatives has greatly diminished over the years.

The saving of the situation is that not being published, while it’s a disappointment, isn’t a crushing defeat, because I’m not a novelist. I’m a business/technical writer who felt a story coming on one time and put it down on paper. Maybe it’s time to put it down altogether. Appropriate; it’s about animals.