How To Write a Novella

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There are some stories that just cannot be told in a short story, and are not large enough in scope to be a full-length novel. This in-between form is novella, encompassing more time than the standard short story as well as having room for deeper characterizations. Some novellas are published on their own and some are published in collections along with other novellas.

  1. Span of time.  A novella may encompass a short time span, such as a day or a week, or it may chronicle events that took place over a longer period of time. It is not, however, generally suited for stories that take place over years or generations. The time span that you choose should be a time that is easily encapsulated by this short form.
  2. Create characters. Some people like to start with a plot, and some prefer to start with the characters. Each has its pros and cons, but I always prefer to start with the characters. If you have well-developed, fleshed-out characters, the plot may arise simply from them. There should be protagonists and antagonists, and some variation in personality that lends itself to conflict. There should be at least one character (who is likable) for the reader to identify with. A novella has some room for secondary characters, but they should still be kept to a minimum because of the short length of the work. Too many characters in a short work can make it hard to identify with any of them. Novellas generally do not have room for the number of characters that may be present in a novel. But, there is room in a novella for deep characterizations and secondary characters.
  3. Outline a plot. The plot should have a clear story arc of conflict, climax and resolution. The plot should be believable and make sense. Keep track of your continuity and your timelines to avoid any plot errors. The novella offers the writer the opportunity for deeper, more complex plots than a short story. A novella, unlike a short story, can contain subplots alongside the main plot.
  4. Make it feel real. If you have realistic characters and a plot to carry them, there should be a depth of emotion that invokes feelings in the reader. Readers like to have characters they can sympathize with, and this can be accomplished through the characters themselves, through what transpires in the plot, or both.
  5. Come to a conclusion. The conclusion of a novella should show how the plot has changed the characters. If the characters remain static, there wasn't really much point to the plot. The characters should grow and change with lessons they have learned throughout the novella.

Novellas come and go in popularity, but they have remained on the scene as a form serving the market between the short story and the novel. They are also a good way for beginning writers to make the move toward writing longer works. The novella offers the writer the opportunity to take a story that is short in scope and fill it out with a wealth of detail and characterization.


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