Animal Farm, Of Mice and Men, Breakfast at Tiffany’s: It may surprise you to learn that these well-known works are written in an often-overlooked genre—the novella. Usually between 30,000 and 50,000 words, a novella is the middle ground between a succinct short story and a fully realized novel. For short story writers who aren’t quite ready to make the leap to creating a novel, writing a novella can be a good stepping-stone. You can even take the plot and characters of a novella and expand them into a novel-length book. If you want to give writing a novella a try, the publishing experts at Writer’s Relief have some tips and advice to help you decide.
Writing A Novella: Questions To Consider Before You Start
What will you focus on? Novellas are limited by their word count, so your story must be more focused and reach a conclusion more quickly. While you’ll still include character arcs, a detailed plot, and appropriate pacing, you shouldn’t try to explore multiple character arcs or cover a big period of time (think hours or days rather than months or years). A novella doesn’t allow for the same depth as a novel.
Keeping within the word count will also stop you from wandering off course into a word dump. As Dr. Seuss so wisely states, “The writer who breeds more words than he needs is making a chore for the reader who reads.” If you find you tend to overwrite, the novella’s word count can help you write more efficiently and effectively.
How big is your idea? Some ideas seem straightforward—until you start writing. The concept for your short story may turn out more involved than you originally planned, or the idea for your novel may be more one-note than you thought. One promising character might dwindle while another grows more interesting, or a secondary plotline becomes more complex. If you have a specific character or subplot you want to explore, a novella is a good way to test the waters. But if you notice that your plot and story arc are getting bigger and more layered, you might want to bump up your short story into a novella, or your novella into a novel. Which leads us to…
Do you want to build up to a novel? Writing a novella may help you transition into longer fiction. A novella can be a good starting point for a longer work, especially if you are testing to see if your idea can reach that scale. Your novella could become a full novel if you discover the world and the characters you created need to be expanded on. Once you have a specific storyline fleshed out for your novella, you can then decide if you want to build on it and add other subplots and characters into the mix.
What is your publishing goal? Novellas are usually harder to market to literary agents than novels. If you are hoping to be published by a traditional publishing house, a novella might not work for you. But small presses, contests, self-publishing, and even some literary journals are all viable opportunities for a well-written novella.
Are you ready to expand your comfort zone? If you’ve been successfully writing short stories or novels, the idea of trying something different might be a bit scary. However, staying in your comfort zone and never trying anything new can get stale for both you and your readers.
If you want to test a new genre and challenge yourself, writing a novella is a good, pressure-free way to do so. Even if it doesn’t work out and you decide zombie horror is too far of a stretch from your usual YA romance, your writing skills and story ideas will still benefit. Remember, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was a best seller!
Writing a novella can help you expand on a promising short story idea without the extra burden of writing an entire novel. And reaching a fulfilling conclusion is easier because you don’t have to go as far to get there! Just keep in mind that, just like their word counts, the markets for novellas are limited.
Question: What is the title of your favorite novella?