How to Write a Novella

If you are going to write a novella, you should have enough patience. Don’t think that if it is a short work of fiction then it is easy to write it. In some cases it is even more difficult. When writing a novella, your writing should be uncluttered and sometimes it is really hard. In this article, we’ll give you some advice on how to write a novella and tell you about mistakes that you should avoid.

Tips for Novella Writing

  • Describe a single conflict. A novella is a relatively short work of fiction. That is why you won’t have enough room for revealing a lot of issues. It is better, then, to reveal one of them properly, instead of leaving all of them undisclosed. For this reason, you should establish the main conflict and dedicate all actions to its revealing.
  • Focus on the main character. When you are writing any type of work of fiction, you should decide who the protagonist is in your story. As a rule, it is easy to define the protagonist, when you are writing a novella. You can have one or two main characters (for example, if it is a love story or similar). These characters must take the most active part the central conflict. It means that all the events and characters influence them somehow. Remember that you need to talk about the protagonist much more than others.
  • Make the conflict grow gradually. All actions in your novella should lead to the climax. You don’t have enough space for ups and downs. The conflict should grow more and more with every page and after the climax, it is revealed. Don’t forget about the last part. You can’t leave your figures with undisclosed issues. Take into consideration that revealing the conflict it is not telling the whole life story the protagonist. You need to tell a story that changes the life of main character forever.
  • Use one location. It is not obligatory, but we’ll recommend you to do so especially if you have not much experience in writing novellas. It is hard to switch from one location to another for a short period of time (in our case, pages). So if you can’t find the way to do it quickly, don’t give more than one location. Remember that you should be consistent if you would like to write a good novella.

Steps in Novella Writing

1. Decide what to write about

If you decide to write a novella, you probably have some ideas. Perhaps, you feel that you have a full mess in your head, because you would like to write about many things. But do not worry, just start thinking of the main point that you would like to write about. Then, you’ll decide how to mention other points without ruining the plot. Also, you can write a novella now and then expand it into a novel if you’d like to. But if don’t have any ideas yet, we’ll tell you later how to cope with this.

2. Express your story in one sentence

Your idea for the novella should be plain for readers. Before you start writing, you should decide to clarify this idea for yourself. Only in this case your writing will be consistent and have an understandable conflict. Try to express the story in one sentence as if your friend asked you to explain what it is about. If you can’t express your story in one sentence, you need to work more on your idea. You can’t move further until you come up with this step.

3. Describe your characters

You should know your characters better than anyone else. Write down characteristics and background information for each of them. Do not write as if you are writing a work of fiction. Imagine that you are trying to complete biographies for your acquaintances. You should specifically think of your protagonist’s background. What led him or her to this point of his or her life?
Make a list with these features of characters:

  • Age
  • Education
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Occupation
  • Interests
  • Hobbies
  • Children
  • Moral values
  • Habits

This list contains only a piece of information that you should know about your characters. Add some other details that you’d consider essential.
Note: this information about your characters will help you to imagine them as if they were alive. It would be hard for you to write about characters if you don’t believe in them.

4. Make a plan

It would be difficult for you to write a novella without plan. Some people can just sit and write a work of fiction. This is, however, a rare situation. Our brains love structure, not chaos. Of course, it is possible to make a structure in your head, but then you should count only on your memory. Besides, it is easier to see the whole picture and the details when the structure is written on paper. You then have an opportunity to change something, but you should have an approximate plan.

We also recommend that you make a scene list. It should contain a brief description of the scene and the approximate amount of pages that you are going to give for this or that scene. It will help you to stay in this type of work of fiction.

5. Start writing

When you have a plan, and you know the majority of your characters (some you can create after some time if needed) and turn on your computer, you can start writing. During the whole process, you should keep in mind that a novella is a short work.

Some pieces of advice

  • Do not write long descriptions. It is better to show your literary workmanship by adding details that are not paid much attention to but immerse readers in some special atmosphere. For example, you don’t need to say ‘it was summer’. Instead, you can mention dry grass, the scalding sun, and other associations with this time of the year.
  • Remember that you are writing for yourself. Do not think about feedback. Write everything that springs to your mind. Then, you can edit your text for as many times as you consider necessary.
  • Define your genre and follow it. It is impossible to make a literary masterpiece if you are going to change your genre all the time. Imagine that you start with comedy, then it transforms to drama, then to horror. If you are going to do like this, it would be better to write several works of fiction.

6. Cool down

When you finish your novella, put it away. You need a time to cool down. It is better not to return for revising for a couple of weeks. This time is necessary for your brain to digest the information, and maybe you’ll be full of ideas of how to make your novella perfect. Also, you can ask someone to revise your work.

7. Proofread

It is a very important step especially if you are writing for your educational affiliation. You should proofread your novella on your own. It would be easier to see mistakes after some time. Also, you should ask someone who is competent to revise your writing.

Mistakes to Avoid While Novella Writing

  • Too many characters. A novella is a short work of fiction. For this reason you need to create just a few characters. Do not overload your text with figures. When creating a character, ask yourself, ‘what is his or her contribution to the revealing of the central conflict?’
  • Useless dialogue and monologue. Some inexperienced writers think that they need to explain everything to readers. You can just give hints and this will make your novella only more interesting and intriguing. Also, you shouldn’t repeat the information that you already told to readers. For example, if something happened to your main character, do not make him retell this story to his or her friends.
  • Only action. A novella should be dynamic but don’t forget about descriptions. You should immerse your readers in a special atmosphere. They need to imagine the picture. This makes them feel the story and live it along with characters.
  • Too happy ending. Can you imagine a world in which literally everything is great? Too happy endings make us feel that a story doesn’t end. Also, it is not realistic even for genre fantasy. Our world is full of different shades of feelings and this is what makes us feel alive. People like to find themselves in works of fiction. Give them such a possibility.

How to Choose Novella Title

 – Take inspiration from life. No matter who are the main characters of your work (people, animals, plants or whatever) and what your genre actually is, you write about real people with real fates. This means that you‘ll definitely take examples from life even unconsciously. Make notes about interesting situations that you observed, words that you heard, or something similar.

 – Look deep inside yourself. Try to find some issues that concern you, something that urges you to feel this or that way. For example, your internal conflict also can inspire you to write a novella. If you can’t make some significant choice, you also could actually write about it. It does not concern only novella writing, but writing works of fiction of different types.

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