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Friday, June 22, 2012


Writing a novella is just as difficult as writing a novel. Yet some will say it's more difficult, because you have to give the same impactful story in fewer words.

The secret to writing a shorter work is to simplify the plot. Forget the subplots, and concentrate on the main characters. If it's a romance, you'll want the POV (point of view) of the heroine, maybe that of the hero, and possibly the villain's POV, but only if it's absolutely necessary.

When asked to write novellas, I definitely had to plot and outline in advance to know exactly where the story was going. You cannot wander in the wrong direction when you only have 25,000 to 35,000 words to tell your story. You must make every word count... yet this is no excuse to glaze over setting, description, or emotion. It still has to be there. And forget about telling. You still have to show (in dialogue and action), not tell. Once in a while, you may have an event happen off stage, and summarize it in a few lines of dialogue, but that's it.

This said, you treat the story just like any novel. It has to have a pacing curve. The characters have to evolve. If it's popular fiction, the ending has to be satisfying, in a romance, the couple has to end up together, in a mystery, the criminal has to be caught. All the loose ends must be tied at the end, unlike in some off the wall short stories where the ending is left for the reader to imagine.

The research is the same as with a novel. When writing COYOTE GORGEOUS, my shapeshifter romantic suspense novella, I had to research Native American legends of skinwalkers, Hopi legends of the Great Coyote, and the legend of the Chupacabra, etc. When writing A DESPERADO FOR CHRISTMAS, my border patrol romantic suspense novella, I researched the Arizona border patrol. When writing BOREALIS: BLACK DRAGON, a science fiction action romance novella, I still had to research and project the most likely style of life on a space station at the fringe of conquered space in the 27th Century.

While it takes me five months to write a novel of 85,000 words, it takes me three months to write a 30,000 words novella. Personally, I find it more difficult than writing a novel, but I like challenges.


  1. Short stories are harder for me. I prefer writing another chapter on my book. To each his own, though. I do sometimes enjoy reading short stories. For the most part, I prefer full length books.

  2. A short story demands brevity and specificity. In plot, characterization and the most crucial, I believe, in delivering the crisis and the resolution in dramatic prose as close together and as close as possible to the ultimate resolution.
    Fast and Smart are my watch-words!!!
    good topic.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Caroline. I agree on both points. Some readers prefer shorts,others full length novels. It often depends on their schedule.

    And Cerise, you are spot on regarding the delivery. Since I write action, I love upping the stakes and the tension until the very end.

  4. Shorter work should have a simple or simpler plot. But they still can have a huge impact emotionally on the reader and be an exciting read.


  5. Thanks, Janice, for your input.
    I do agree.

  6. Digital publishing has been a boon for short story and novella writers. Short story markets had dried up, but now there's a new renaissance for short fiction writers.