To Novella or not to Novella

In the world of fiction, there are novels and there are short stories.  The money of course is in novel-length fiction, but short stories have made a comeback with the advent of ezines, and hey, you can read one on your phone.  But the middle ground, the valley of death for writers, is the novella. Writers can sell 100,000-word novels or 1000-word short stories, but finding a market for a 15,000 to 40,000-word novella is a challenge.

Which is too bad, because both as a writer and as a reader, I like novella length.  It’s chewy enough to get lost in yet you can read it in one sitting. Perfect for airplane flights for example.  As a writer, I like being able to tell a full story without having to worry about so many plot holes, not to mention eliminating the bane of many writers and all readers – a saggy second act.

Fortunately, there is a glimmer of hope for this middle ground. The ebook revolution has eliminated the book printing and binding overhead, and attention spans for everything these days seem to be shortened.  A few major publishers like Tor (a Macmillan imprint) have started publishing novellas; the Kindle Singles program is very successful; and there is even an award category for novellas in some cases (e.g. the Hugos).

Which puts me in a dilemma.  I’ve had good success writing and selling spec fiction short stories (30 so far). Interestingly, one of my short stories, “Gho,” which was really novella length (25,000 words), got picked up in an anthology, Bardic Tales and Sage Advice VI. Originally novel length, I pruned it way (way) back. Somewhat surprisingly, it read so much better. And it even recently got republished in a best-of anthology, Bardic Tales and Sage Advice X. So I’m trying that same trick with another shoebox novel, culling it to 35,000 words. Too soon to judge that, but again I think the shorter cut actually reads far better.

Back to the dilemma, should I purpose-write a few novella-length works and see how that goes?  The effort of writing a book tends to go exponential as the word-count climbs, keeping all the plot threads tied off and not getting all knotted up (think how much more work it is to untangle a 100-foot strand of Christmas lights than a 50-foot strand…). So I could probably write 5 novellas in the time it takes to perfect 1 novel. But, given the limited publication options, is it worth the risk?

That is the question.

C.R. Hodges

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Gotta have a day job

Almost every writer who isn’t (yet) a Patterson or a Collins has something in common–we have day jobs. Many of us are fortunate to have jobs that add fodder in some way to our writing while other of us just pay the bills.

Me. I run a product design services company, Zebulon Solutions, which–shameless plug–helps companies make their products manufacturing-ready. As such, I was recently interviewed by a really cool podcast–Integrate & Ignite–about working with entrepreneurs, the importance of being a straight shooter, and a favorite from my old HP days, management by walking around. Check it out at

And how does my job actually influence my fiction writing? Well, I’m not a spy or a lawyer or even an astronaut, but I do get to travel a lot, especially to places way up north where Valkyries may or may not still dwell.

CR Hodges

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“Ghosts of the Texians” published in 4 Star Stories

“Ghosts of the Texians,” a historical ghost story set during the Texas Revolutionary War, has just been published by 4 Star Stories. It’s available to read for free online.

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Learning to live with rejection, 500 times over

Rejection is a part of life for everyone.  We get rejected by colleges, for jobs and very occasionally by runaway brides.  But us writers, we get rejected more.  A lot more. Me, I’ve been rejected by one college (___ me, Princeton), turned down for a dozen or so jobs, lost a few score customer proposals, and never have been left at the altar.  But as of last week, I’ve garnered 500 rejections on short stories.

It wasn’t always like this. The very first short story I ever wrote, “Walking with Great Uncle,” sold to the first journal I submitted it to (thank you, The First Line). Which, perhaps needless to say, got me hooked on writing shorts. But reality set in and my hit rate dropped.  But I sold a few more and got cocky, started submitting to pro markets, and my hit rate dropped even further, at one point to sub 2 %.  But I’m getting better, and as of last week I stood at 27 acceptances and 500 rejections, for a 5.1% hit rate.  Even better, I’m up to 6 acceptances in pro markets, with 261 rejections, so I have a 2.2% hit rate in that higher league. Interestingly, while I write both fantasy and science fiction, and my hit rate is nearly identical for the two genres, although I’m doing a little better in the Sci Fi pro markets.

Still, rejection is tough. Almost 85% of the rejections I have received are form letters, which at one level I understand (hey these editors have to read a LOT of submissions) and at another, it’s hey, be a human being.

Note that I haven’t written 500 stories, rather I’ve submitted ~50 stories on average ~10 times each.  Some stories sell fast—that first one for example—and some take forever.  My personal record is 34 rejections for “How a Valkyrie Flies” before I sold it to Sci Fan Magazine.  And my favorite was selling “Run” to Escape Pod, a pro market, after 15 rejections.

Better yet, sometimes I can sell the same story twice (the second go is called a reprint, which only a few markets will accept). I’ve got three in this category.

But still rejections sting.  Since I started this blog, I’ve received 2 more form letter rejections. But I’ll keep at it, I have 20 that I’m currently shopping and a couple more I need to finish.

Keep on writin’!

CR Hodges

Posted in Fantasy, Rejection countdown, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Updated list of paying spec fiction short story markets: July 2017

It’s hot. Very hot.  Glaciers are melting, fields are withering, an eclipse is nigh.  But all this is perfect fodder for spec fiction writers. So write something scorching, filled with fire or brimstone, volcanos or supernovas, hot romance or boiling rage. But write.

And it’s a great time to submit short stories.  I’ve updated my list of paying spec fiction markets.

If you do find this list useful, come say hi on Facebook, I’m C.R.Hodges.Author.


The following markets have been added:

The following markets have temporarily closed:

  • Cast of Wonders
  • Sockdolager
  • Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

The following markets have permanently closed / appear to be dead / website down:

  • Wisdom Crieth Without
  • Science Fiction Blaster
  • Triptych Tales
  • Red Sun
  • Shattered Prism

Keep on writin’.

CR Hodges

Posted in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

How a Valkyrie Flies

My short story, “How a Valkyrie Flies,” has just been published in Sci Fan Magazine’s 7th Edition, available in ebook and paperback format at Amazon.

Two Valkyries, one young, one old, battle atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge for the domination of near-future Australia.

CR Hodges

Posted in Fantasy, Mythica, Short Stories, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Updated list of paying spec fiction short story markets: May 2017

Summer is the perfect time to write, whether out by the pool or sitting on a balcony overlooking the harbor or just up early with the sun.  Let’s do it.

Stockholm by sea

If you do find this list useful, come say hi on Facebook, I’m C.R.Hodges.Author.


The following markets have been added:

The following markets have reopened:

  • Lamplight
  • Compelling Science Fiction

The following markets have temporarily closed:

  • (none — yay)

The following markets have permanently closed / appear to be dead / website down:

  • Fictionvale
  • Lakeside Circus
  • Black Treacle
  • Betwixt
  • Sorcerous Signals
  • Urban Fantasy

Other changes:

  • Phantaxis has increased payment

Keep on writin’.

CR Hodges

Posted in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments