It’s a short tale with the constraints of a novella. With a word count that places it somewhere between a brief story and a long novel, it is one of the most exciting yet difficult genres for writers to attempt.
It may seem obvious, but reading a few novellas before you start writing will assist you in grasping the unique rhythm of these shorter works.
It’s also a fantastic method to figure out what readers want from a novella, as well as to assess the form’s distinct features. Read them with the aim of viewing them from a writer’s perspective instead of just for pleasure.
Another trait that you might notice in your reading is the fast-paced narrative. While novels have the luxury of thorough explanation and complicated timelines, most novellas stay on a single path to keep the reader moving towards the conclusion.
Here are some things to keep in mind while reading novellas to get a sense of how they maintain momentum:
- Are there subplots? If so, how many? How much space is devoted to them? Do they involve the protagonist?
- Are there flashbacks and backstories? If so, are they mentioned briefly, or perhaps just alluded to in dialogue?
- How long are the sentences? Do they report action or are they highly descriptive?
In this article, we will explore what is a novella, how long is a novella, the difference between a novella and a novel, which are the different types of novellas, and finally we will give some tips on how to write a novella.
What is a Novella?
A novella is a stand-alone piece of fiction that is shorter than a full-length novel but longer than a short story. Novellas incorporate many narratives and structural elements of novel-length stories, but they often focus on a single point of view.
It would be reductive to think of the novella (or novelette) as simply a short novel, as there are many other hallmarks of the form that separate it from novels beyond just a basic word count.
If you’re interested in writing a novella, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
First, novellas need to have a strong central plot. This is because readers will have less patience for subplots and side characters in a novella than they would in a novel.
Second, novellas should be focused on one or two main characters. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have supporting characters, but the focus should be on the protagonists.
Third, novellas need to have a tight structure. This is because there’s less room for meandering in a novella than there is in a novel.
Finally, novellas need to have strong writing. This is because readers will be expecting high-quality prose in a novella since they’re investing less time in reading it.
How Long is a Novella?
Generally, novellas are around 20-40 thousand words in length. The difference between a novella and a novel can be tricky to define, as there are no hard and fast rules.
Some people might consider anything over 50 thousand words to be a novel, while others might say that anything under 100 thousand words is still considered a novella.
In general, though, the main distinction between these two genres lies in the complexity of the plot and the number of characters involved.
While novels can often feature intricate storylines with multiple points of view and a large cast of characters, novellas tend to be more focused, with fewer subplots and a smaller group of protagonists.
The Difference Between a Novella and a Novel
The most apparent distinction between novels and novellas is the number of pages and words.
However, beyond these surface distinctions, novellas have many structural and thematic characteristics that distinguish them from other types of writing.
Some of these include:
A single central conflict.
The majority of novellas focus on a single, overriding problem. Novellas have less time to include subplots and concentrate more on the primary story because they are shorter.
Novellas are short works, generally with one primary character and a few supporting characters. Because of the length limits, the protagonist’s development will receive the most focus.
Fast-paced novelettes are typical. While novels may deviate from the main conflict to explore deeper elements of character, and as a result have several viewpoints, novellas typically give a quick interesting tale with a single viewpoint.
Unity of time and place.
Writers should present their actions in continuous time within a restricted area, such as a single location when writing novellas.
Different Types of Novellas
Different readers will have different preferences when it comes to the type of novella they enjoy. As such, novellas can be classified into particular genres in order to better cater to reader interests.
Some of the most popular genres for novellas include romance, mystery, and suspense. However, there are always exceptions to the rule and there are many other types of novellas out there for readers to enjoy.
As a writer, consider which of these genres appeals to you and what story ideas you have that would suit the novella structure.
Different genres will have different requirements in terms of length and style, but approaching your first novella with a clear idea of what you want to write can help make the process more smooth and more enjoyable.
A literary novella is a type of story that typically focuses on an in-depth exploration of characters’ psyches and emotions, rather than on elaborate plotlines. This genre originated in the 18th century and has since produced some truly classic works of literature.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad are all famous examples of literary novellas.
While these stories may be shorter than full-length novels, they are often just as powerful and impactful. In fact, the focus on character development can make literary novellas, particularly moving and relatable to readers.
If you’re looking for a thought-provoking read that will stay with you long after you’ve finished it, look no further than the literary novella.
Inspirational novellas are often seen as simple, uplifting stories that have a message for readers of all ages. However, these stories can also be complex and deeply moving, as is the case with Antoine de Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince.
The story follows a young prince who becomes stranded on a small planet and befriends a fox. Through his conversations with the fox, the prince learns about the importance of caring for others and living life to the fullest.
Similarly, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist tells the story of a shepherd boy who embarks on a journey to find a renowned treasure.
Along the way, he meets a wise alchemist who teaches him about the power of following one’s dreams. These novellas are not only inspirational but also provide valuable lessons that can be applied to our everyday lives.
Genre novellas are a type of fiction that usually falls into one of several subcategories, including science fiction, suspense, horror, and fantasy. These genres are generally conducive to stories with a single storyline that can be told quickly and fit standard novella length.
Famous examples of genre novellas include The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.
Genre novellas often have a specific audience in mind, and they are typically shorter and faster-paced than other types of fiction.
This makes them ideal for readers who want to be entertained without having to commit to a longer book. If you’re looking for a quick read that will keep you engaged from start to finish, a genre novella is likely the right choice for you.
How to Plan a Novella?
Planning is key when writing any story, but it becomes even more crucial when writing a novella. Because a novella is shorter than a novel, you have less room for error.
Every scene and every character must serve a purpose, furthering the plot and helping to create a fully-realized world.
Before you start writing, take the time to outline your story. Map out the major beats of the plot and decide which characters will play which role. By doing this work upfront, you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches later on.
In addition to plotting, it’s also important to think about the setting and atmosphere when crafting a novella. Because of their length, novellas tend to be more intimate than novels, focusing on a smaller group of characters in a specific location.
This can be used to create a claustrophobic feeling that builds tension, or it can be used to create a sense of community and intimacy between the characters. Whatever mood you’re trying to create, make sure that your setting supports it.
These are just a few things to keep in mind as you start planning your novella:
Create a compelling central character
Novellas, on the whole, focus on a single protagonist. It’s critical to flesh out your protagonist in advance during the pre-writing process.
Make certain you know this person inside and out, and that you’re sufficiently interested in them to finish the tale.
If you’re planning on writing your novella in the first person, you should understand how this character communicates and talks since you’ll be telling the story from their perspective.
Focus on one or two central relationships
Decide on one or two major relationships that will feature in your narrative after you’ve established your protagonist.
You don’t have the time or space to develop a lengthy narrative that covers numerous relationships, so stick to the one or two that appear most interesting to you.
Decide on the main plot
Before you get started, make a plan for your novella’s plot. You should have an idea of the story’s beats and be able to clearly chart the dramatic arc of your narrative.
Structure your story
Decide on the type of dramatic structure you’ll employ to convey your narrative.
Your story may not be long enough to utilize a classic three-act structure, therefore keep this in mind as you plan out your narrative and make sure there’s enough material to support a novella rather than a short tale.
It’s time to start writing once you’ve sufficiently prepared and think you understand your narrative and characters.
While the writing process might be intimidating, if you’ve done your research, you may take solace in the fact that you already have a map for your story that you can now just follow.
Once you’ve completed the first draft, it’s time to get started on the editing process. Because novellas have a smaller word count than a lengthy narrative, editing is all the more crucial.
Take the time to remove sections that are not essential and ensure your novella is as succinct and engaging as possible.
After you’ve finished a novel, it’s time to start sending it out to any contacts you may have in the publishing industry.
Getting a literary agent can assist you in connecting with book publishers who are interested in your work.
Short story collections or literary magazines might be interested in publishing portions of your novella, or perhaps serializing it, depending on how lengthy it is.
Self-publishing is always an option, and short works like novellas can often do quite well when sold as digital ebooks accessible on handheld devices like the Kindle.
How To Write A Novella – Conclusion
So, in conclusion, my top tip for writing a novella is to read a few before you begin. Novellas you’ve read in the past don’t count unless you re-read them.
The reason I recommend this is because it really helps to have the rhythm and pace of a novella in your mind as opposed to the slower, more leisurely pace of a novel.
By pace, I don’t mean how much running around your character does; rather, I’m referring to the rate at which you introduce new plot points, and how long you spend on exposition.
You’ll find it much easier to have that sense of the pace of the novella in your mind than to try to work according to arbitrary word counts. So go ahead and crack open a few novellas – they just might inspire you to write one of your own!