Thomas Steinbeck
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NaNoWriMo, NovNov and A Month of Steinbeck.

Hands up who’s doing NaNoWriMo?

Wow, good on you.

Now, hands up who signed up for NaNoWriMo and is yet to write a word? Oops, is it just me? That’s embarrassing.

I have used every excuse in the book so far, much to my own disgust. The only thing that is preventing a total shame spiral is the fact that my ‘novel’ of sorts already has 40,000 words to its name. But that’s not really the point, is it.

How is everyone else going with NaNoWriMo? If you’re not doing as well as you hoped, feel free to compare yourself to my hopeless attempt and thus feel better about yourself. If you have kept up with NaNo, I send you a huge congrats and a couple of enthusiastic virtual high fives. If you have only managed to write 100 words, but you are thrilled with those 100, then count yourself a success. You’re doing great. If you have yet to write a word, join me in a commiseration glass of wine. There, that feels better, doesn’t it.

IMG_6893[1]Commiseration wine.

November is a huge month, no matter which way you look at it. We are gearing up for the summer holidays over here in Australia, so that means digging out those old bikinis and reinstating those old gym plans. November is also the slippery slope towards Christmas, the month where you begin the budgeting and the planning and the arguments over who is organising the ham this year. Christmas decorations have been for sale over here since mid-October, so there’s just no forgetting that mother of all holidays. At least we don’t have Thanksgiving to organise in the middle of it. I don’t know how you guys do it. Superhero’s.

IMG_6858[1]November sunsets.

I just discovered something awesome about November the other day, while aimlessly sifting through the blogoshere. Rick over at Another Book Blog has come up with a fabulous reading challenge, the pleasantly alliterative Novellas in November.  Rick suggests that the novella as an art form is slowly dying. He says,

No one is reading them, no one is writing them, but at least one person – this November – will be celebrating them. 

He puts forth an excellent argument as to why we should be supporting this particular form of writing; it is well worth popping over to his blog to check it out. He includes some great quotes, one of which I am shamelessly appropriating here:

The demands of economy push writers to polish their sentences to precision and clarity, to bring off their effects with unusual intensity, to remain focussed on the point of their creation and drive it forward with functional single-mindedness, and to end it with a mind to its unity. They don’t ramble or preach, they spare us their quintuple subplots and swollen midsections.

– Ian McEwan. 

I was thrilled to stumble upon this challenge, as it ties in superbly with my own goal of making November A Month of Steinbeck. I am reviewing the latest works by Thomas Steinbeck, all of which happen to be…you guessed it…novellas. I reviewed Cabbages and Kings a few days ago, click on the link to check it out. The novella is available now through Amazon, so why don’t you kill two birds with one stone, and celebrate Novellas in November and A Month of Steinbeck in one hit.

CABBAGES AND KINGS, Steinbeck - Cover

In the spirit of A Month of Steinbeck, I suggest you watch this interview with Thom where he speaks about the four novellas I will be reading and reviewing. It is a fantastic insight into the books, and a fantastic insight into the man behind the words. He says of the works:

They were meant to be light entertainment, I mean they all had morals to them and they all had things to say beyond just the punch line of the book. 

But the part of the interview that I found most endearing is the following statement:

There are a lot of things I want to say, but I find it’s much easier to put it in somebody else’s mouth, which is why I think I write to begin with. I think I’m too self-conscious to stand up in front of an audience and say these things.

I was immediately reminded of his father John Steinbeck in these words, a man who had so much to say about the state of the world yet preferred to say it through his writing rather than through some public forum or arena. I am so glad to have discovered the work of Thomas Steinbeck, a man who is fast approaching his father in terms of my ‘homeboy’ status. Please see this post if you have no idea what I am talking about.

So, whatever you’re plans are for this November, I hope you will set aside a little bit of time to delve into some novellas and some Steinbeck appreciation with me. The lead up to the festive season can be so hectic, sometimes it’s nice to put the demands of the world aside for a few hours and read a good novella.

And if you are working your way through NaNo, think of it as research. Anyone who can sit down with a laptop while waiting for guests to arrive and churn out such novellas as these is probably going to be pretty decent inspiration.

Happy NaNo, NovNov and Steinbeck month.

375544_555513546436_1561835979_nDon’t worry, this is from last year. I’m not that organised. 


  1. I’m about 10 000 words behind on NaNoWriMo. On the other hand, I’m about to pass 14 000 words, which is the most I’ve ever written on a single piece. As for how good it is, we’ll see when I read it in January…

    I also love novellas. They’re more meaty than short stories, but can still pack that profound punch. If I think of Steinbeck Sr’s The Pearl, Orwell’s Animal Farm and Asimov’s Bicentennial Man to name just a few. It’s a shame most publishers are hesitant to publish novellas (and short stories). But if more people started reading them that might just change.

    • Congrats! As I say, any amount of words is incredibly impressive. Good luck with the rest of it. Great novellas you have listed here, ones that do the genre proud. I think we should all start promoting novellas again, see if we can change the readership of the world!

  2. I’m a good bit behind on NaNo thus far, but I’m still writing away and I’ve gone through the calculations to see what it will take to catch up. If I manage to write double the daily word count for a week, I’ll be back on track. I’ve found it much easier to think of it like that than to think of it as “If I write 5,000 + words a day, I can catch up quickly!”

    • Wow, good on you! Keep plugging away, I’m sure you can do it! And I agree, it’s easier to think of it in terms of one day at a time, than as the overall wordcount.

  3. kingmidget says

    I started NaNo. Got to 4,000 words in the first few days and haven’t written a word since.
    I’m curious … what’s your definition of a novella?

    • Haha you’re still doing better than me King Midget. The question you have asked here is a good one, and as far as I am concerned there is no answer. I’m going to put it in the broadest terms, and say that a novella is shorter than a novel but longer than a short story. Which obviously begs the question – how long is a short story. I don’t think anyone has satisfactorily pinpointed the magical word count, but here is a link to some fairly reasonable definitions:

      • kingmidget says

        I’m in the process of writing three long short stories or short novellas and I’m not sure what to call them. The first one is 16,000 words. The second will probably be in the 18-20,000 word range. The word will likely be longer than that. So, long short story, novelette, and novella. I think.

  4. Thanks so much for the kind words! It’s definitely been a fun month so far. Happy to hear you’re joining the fun.

    You might be interested to know that you’re not the only one who’s going on a Thomas Steinbeck journey with Novellas in November:

    I’m a big fan of John Steinbeck, and have been interested in Thomas’ work ever since I read a letter John wrote to him as a young man. Such incredible heart. I find it fascinating that Thomas grew into an author himself. I might have to give him a go. Which of Thomas’ books would you recommend I read first?

    • Thanks for coming up with a great challenge Rick! Interestingly, the post you have linked to here is the one which led me to find out about your challenge 🙂
      I am working my way through his novellas which have just been released, then I hope to track back and read some of his earlier novels. Start with ‘Cabbages and Kings’ if you like, it was released in October. Thomas waited until very late in life to pursue his writing career, mainly due to the worry that he would be accused of ‘riding on his father’s coat tails’. I will be doing a post about his writing and his life soon, stay tuned!
      P.S. You might like this post I wrote about John Steinbeck:

  5. I’m doing well with NaNo (thanks for asking :)) but actually find myself in the dumps over it. I think it’s the mid-month blues. Your post has perked me up, though and not because of your word count. It’s just a delightful post. I love novellas and I have never heard of Thom Steinbeck and so I feel richer for having been here 🙂

    • Thanks so much! I am glad you enjoyed the post. Good luck with NaNo, any achievement is a massive achievement as far as I’m concerned. 🙂 I hope you grab yourself a copy of something by Thom Steinbeck, I think you will really enjoy his writing 🙂

  6. *sheepishly raises hand* I’m in the “was planning to do NaNo and then only wrote 2,000 words” camp. I could list a zillion excuses, but none of them really stick. I do want to try and get back on track for the rest of the month, though.

    I’ve read some interesting articles about novellas and e-books — namely, that the electronic media is perfect for novellas to make a comeback. People are much more likely to want a quicker read for their e-readers — something they can read in a couple bus commutes, for example. With digital self-publishing, too, it’s easier for authors to get their novellas out there.

    • I’m going to try and get into it too Laura, but I can feel the month slipping away from me! I agree with what you say about novellas and electronic reading devices, they certainly are the perfect format for them. A long trip in the car would be the perfect amount f time to get through one, or a few bus trips as you say. Let’s hope they do make a comeback 🙂

  7. Pingback: Highlight: Review of CABBAGES AND KINGS on The Paperbook Blog « S.M. Grossman

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