Publish Insights 8 January 2022
Author of Novellas Shares Insights
The ClinicalPosters website is broader and deeper than most visitors realize. You may pop in to purchase some posters or read a health article. But not only is there much more than posters to shop, there are four blogs with different audiences.
The latest blog gaining traction is Novellas. We have some questions for the brainchild and author of its diverse stories—Kevin RR Williams.
Pam: First, let’s clarify the double initials.
Kevin: With or without an initial, my name is common. The double-R adds distinction. Truth be told, I actually have two middle names. One is an alias of the other so legal documents will often have just one initial.
Pam: You have been writing for over a decade. But is it true that your creativity goes back further?
Kevin: Yes, I had a passion for art as a child and studied fine art at university. Working in print shops, art studios, ad agencies, and an art gallery shaped my perception of visual arts.
Pam: So now you are also a creative writer?
Kevin: It appears so. Creative people must discover an outlet for ideas. Whether it’s cooking, painting, drawing, sculpting, singing, or writing. If not, we ruminate on thoughts that lead to sleepless nights and anxiety.
I have always had stories in my head. They often mashup while falling asleep. The time came to release them via the computer keyboard.
Pam: Do you come from a creative family?
Kevin: Actually, yes. My brother is a phenomenal artist who also began writing in later years.
Pam: Will we see some of his work soon?
Kevin: That’s up to the author. By his own admission, his stories need to run through a profanity filter strong enough to reach a PG rating. There are other obstacles. He is not a typist and lives in an analog world.
Pam: Is creative writing somewhat new to the site?
Kevin: There are typically 100–200 articles pending publication. With long lead times, creative writing had a staggered introduction early in 2021. Health articles began transitioning from technical pieces to evocative short stories with health benefits. This year, with characters and themes, some of the Health stories resemble shorter Novellas.
Pam: How do articles you call Novellas differ?
Kevin: For one thing, I don’t use grammar checkers for Novellas because the grammar of different characters varies. Length is another distinction. Instead of 500–1,000-word single-page articles, Novellas represent miniseries with thousands of words. Technically, most are short stories. Some have upwards of 13 episodes or over 20,000 words.
A work of fiction between 20,000 and 49,999 words is considered a novella. Once a book hits the 50,000 word mark, it is generally considered a novel. (However, a standard novel is around 80,000 words. —Author Learning Center
Pam: What literary distinction would you make between your Novellas and traditional mystery novels?
Kevin: Novels include much more descriptive content. Adjectives describe the dampness in the air or prickly texture of knitted fabric. Dialog includes subconscious thoughts and regressions. This helps readers to visualize settings and adds to the length of novels.
It might describe the action this way: “The aged detective slides his large calloused hand from a blood-stain glove in the foggy dim light, to touch the cold flesh of the victim’s neck, confirming her death.” The Novellas include far less atmospheric adjectives.
Pam: Most novels or novellas have chapters. Why do you call them episodes?
Kevin: Good books are often made into movies. These Novellas are a hybrid between the two with narration, character dialogue, and images. I want the reader to experience the sense of watching a movie. To that end, we are looking into the inclusion of audio in some stories.
Pam: Did you just suddenly begin writing longer articles?
Kevin: My first inclination was to hire freelance novelists. I provided an outline, plot, subplots, and character descriptions. But getting someone else to write stories that are in my head proved daunting. I hired someone to write the first 1,000 words of a 10,000-word story.
The plot of Escape Death, ripped from the headlines, contained some disturbing scenes that can take an emotional toil on authors. The dynamic public health and humanity crisis required knowledge of the news, geography, and ingenuity of navigating danger.
The freelancer exhausted himself just expanding my 200-word description to 1,000 words. After correcting factual details and grammar, and lengthening the story, it reached over 5,000 words.
Pam: Is that when you gave up on outside writers?
Kevin: No, I hired a creative writer to bring my descriptions to life within two 10,000-word stories. Perhaps half of each was useful. But there were inconsistencies in verb tense, chronological sequence, and identification of characters within dialogues. The endings were also vague.
In the time it took to correct one of these stories, I could write three new ones. So my role that began as a collaborator evolved to primary author.
Pam: It sounds like you developed a system. Are you now writing all articles yourself?
Kevin: Not entirely. Some outside authors write or review health articles and I may publish guest posts for this Insights blog. The methodology for writing Novellas has been published. It helps if contributors are consumers of the content who understand the format.
Pam: The Novellas blog was introduced as clinical mysteries or miniseries. Are these health articles as well?
Kevin: Every aspect of our lives involves health to some degree. We eat, sleep, and exercise for our health. Many of us do so despite dealing with inherited or acquired infirmities. These situations get woven into the novellas with links to health resources elsewhere on the website.
Pam: Your themes are quite diverse. From where do you derive ideas for your stories?
Kevin: Before Netflix and iTunes, there were music subscription services that mailed out monthly CDs. This expanded into VCRs, then DVDs. In these clubs, I acquired hundreds of movies. Some were comedies. Others were dramas. My favorites were mysteries and noirs.
Pam: Can you give me an example of the brainstorming process?
Kevin: Think about the plight of conjoined twins. How do they cope with ostracization? What is like to go though puberty without privacy? If they marry, are they limited to similar twins? How would this affect intimacy? Research the answers, add some dialogue, and you have the premise for a story.
Pam: Is that a novella we can expect from you?
Kevin: I gave it some thought. But it is a rare situation about which there are few resources on the ClinicalPosters site to supplement. I also read an article elsewhere that already covers pertinent details. So it did not make it past the mental incubation stage.
Pam: How does your movie collection of whodunits affect your writing?
Kevin: In the 1940s and 50s, actors were under contract with studios. So all year long, they showed up for work to make movies. Since then, services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu stream movies. But, the amalgamation of decades of mysteries in my head gives me an edge.
Pam: Not every Novella story is a mystery, right?
Kevin: That’s correct, though it was the original intent. Some cross the line into thrillers. Others are dramas. You will find some that highlight women’s empowerment. Events from my past, news stories, articles elsewhere on this site, or photos can spark an idea that leads to finger-straining typing.
One miniseries occurs hundreds of years ago while others are far in the future. However, when developing a conclusion, the goal is to craft a logical, yet unexpected, ending. In that respect, most stories are mysteries.
Pam: It seems like there’s something for everyone. Can you shed light on stories inspired by your past?
Kevin: Any writer has influences from life experience. The similarities to my past are tangential. By the time creative license is in effect, the names, gender, and actual events are 80 percent fiction. In some cases, creative writing affords the opportunity to explore alternative better or worse outcomes to events.
Drawing from personal experiences can exact a price. It can rekindle suppressed feelings. This can result in more emotional stories.
Pam: What makes your plots so engaging?
Kevin: In addition to an overall good plot, there are subplots for multiple characters. One may be battling a physical or emotional issue that affects the larger plot. Progressively resolving these personal stories contributes to intermittent cliffhangers.
Going beyond the story outline, the images we gather provide inspiration. Even though the are stock, they may undergo retouching. This allows the story to describe characters as readers view them.
Pam: How important are plot twists?
Kevin: Plot twists are like an unexpected splash of water or slap in the face. They keep you from falling asleep. There are several ways to do this. The main plot or subplot can take a detour. Another method is to develop a character’s personality. Then reveal a unanticipated side of it.
Pam: New articles are being published every week. Do you have a favorite?
Kevin: Favorite is subjective. While writing a novella, you must believe that it is the best one yet. During 2021, I endeavored to cover a wide range of themes for different audiences.
On a personal level, I feel that Organ Island represents an extraordinary amount of mystery and action. It was the best of about eight completed articles when the Novellas miniseries began. Now there are dozens of stories in the pipeline. Which is your favorite so far?
Pam: Without plot spoilers, Sickless Future kept me on the edge of my seat. What is most difficult about writing novellas?
Kevin: Sickless Future is also one of my favorite stories. Three things are difficult. First is resolving a story with all its subplots. This is not just something you can do by word count. I find that some stories get boring beyond 2,000 words, while others exceed 15,000 with no end in sight. Freelance writers often charge by the amount of words.
Pam: What if the amount of words you contract for then veers into the wrong direction?
Kevin: That is a very real problem. Outside writers fear that collaboration will extend the amount of time and words they are willing to put into the project. (It will.) So they prefer to deliver all 10,000 words for editors like me to sort out.
The story is not over when you reach a predetermined word count. It ends when you resolve an appropriate conclusion. In some cases, thousands of words are thrown out.
Pam: That’s apparently another reason for bringing the writing in-house.
Kevin: Yes. The second difficult aspect of writing is thinking like multiple characters. As writers must sometimes get into the minds of people we would not have as friends. Some stories delve into the psychological behavior of miscreants.
Pam: I can see how that is a challenge. What is the third most difficult aspect of writing novellas?
Kevin: Proofreading. I can’t just read through a story once. I must read it through six to ten times or more—even if it is 15,000 words. With each reading, there are edits to make the dialogue more natural.
The goal, as an editor, is to become immersed in the story without the need for more copy changes. On occasions, I was writing one novella while proofreading a couple others. It is difficult to become immersed in multiple stories with a critical proofreader’s eye.
Pam: Is your most difficult novella to write already available or yet to come?
Kevin: Good question. The most difficult story so far may have been Escape Death. It required much research so the geographical details within the fictitious plot could be factual. The goal is for the reader to have empathy not just for the characters in a story, but also for the real plight people are undergoing in those areas. The final episode includes references.
Another difficult article has a future publication date. The first version was only about five episodes with an anticlimactic conclusion. During subsequent reads, insufficient emotion was evident. After additional edits, it became more than twice as long, with too much emotion that required more editing to dial it back. The mental anguish of the characters got into my head. I was happy to finally provide a proper conclusion.
Pam: Sounds riveting. How is the current lineup arranged?
Kevin: Twice per week, you can read two episodes of a miniseries. Each ranges from just under 1,000 words to a little more than 1,500 words. It should take under 9 minutes to read—often under 4 minutes.
Pam: But according to the schedule, there are some gaps between new stories.
Kevin: That’s correct. They publish on Wednesday’s and Sundays. Generally, we skip a day between stories to give people a chance to catch up. So if one ends on Sunday, the next begins the following Sunday. In a couple of instances, the gap is longer. I feel it builds more anticipation for a new series to begin. Occasionally, there are extra episodes on different days.
Pam: How do you keep people from reading plot-spoilers out of sequence?
Kevin: Episodes within a series are numbered. Final episodes require login. Casual readers may not login and try to figure out the conclusion on their own. But the endings are rarely what you might anticipate. In fact, after building to what should be the conclusion, it often veers in another direction.
Pam: Is it correct that you also suggest logging in for each episode?
Kevin: This site has some incredible features. One is the ability to reveal text and images to people after they login. The stories are actually illustrated with photos that the casual viewer misses. There are also clues and additional dialogue that become visible to readers who login. There may even be significant details that affect the story outcome.
Pam: Sounds like we get the uncut version with login. I don’t want to spoil it, but there is another surprise benefit….
Kevin: Yes. A male or female character can take on the name of the reader. Alfred Hitchcock used to insert himself into his movies with a cameo appearance—about forty of them throughout his career. Instead of the writer or editor, you can have a cameo in some of the stories. If female, the current reader becomes the current interviewer with login.