How to Write a Novella

Novella Definition in Literature

If to believe Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the novella is “an accomplished unheard of event.” We do not really like this novella definition in literature, but it is like a starting point. Probably, Goethe understood something in novellas. We will not argue with the writer – we only note that this definition makes it unclear in what world the event occurred: real or imagined. We believe that an unheard of event in a fictional, imaginary art world, but narrated in reality, will also be a novella.

novella definition in literature

What Is So Special About the Novella

You are interested in the question: “How to write a novella and what is so special about it?” Unheard of events rarely happen. And you, for example, can not wait to write a novel right now. The guiding idea for you will be two fairly convincing hypotheses. The first hypothesis: before writing a novella, you should come up with its plot (the sequence of events that constitute the “event”). This process of artistic creation will turn into a plot.

The second hypothesis: the easiest way is to write about what is internally familiar – at least to some extent something you’ve experienced in reality. Thus, your task is divided into two sub-tasks:

1) Come up with some story (plot), which can serve as material for the novella.
2) Experience something similar to a fictitious story in order to present it easily and believably, with the interest of an eyewitness or an actor.

how to write a novella

How to Write a Novella: Steps

  1. In one sentence, describe a short summary of your story. Give yourself an hour and write this summary in one sentence. This sentence will be what you use to entice the publisher and encourage them to purchase your work. As a result, the sentence should be the best that you can come up with.
  2. Expand your completed sentence into a paragraph of five sentences; they must outline the beginning, conflict, and end of your story. Then make a biography of one page for each of the main characters. Outline what motivates each hero and the contradictions through which they will have to go.
  3. Return to the paragraph in step 2. Turn each of the five sentences into a separate paragraph. Each of these paragraphs should contain some exciting moments and a conflict; four of them must end in disaster, and the last paragraph is obliged to tell how the story ends. Next, select a day or two, and write a paragraph-based synopsis that captures all the main characters. For all secondary characters, make the synopsis half a page. The synopsis is a brief summary of the main points of the story, the role of characters, and sometimes the reasons for their behavior in the book, throughout the novella.
  4. Take your one-page synopsis from step 3, and turn it into a four-page synopsis. This should be done in one week, expanding all paragraphs of the synopsis to four pages. Then apply yourself another week, and expand the biographies that you created in step 2 for each of the characters. Now it’s time to purposefully select the individual storylines that will work for your novella, and adjust everything that needs correction.
  5. Use a large table to make a list detailing all the scenes that you need, based on a four-page synopsis. Create a line (two columns) for each scene. List the points of view of specific characters in one column and the description of the scene itself in another. So here you can add the numbering of chapters for each scene and list them in a separate column.
  6. Expand each individual line from the table into a multi-paragraph description of the scene. If by the end of the scene you do not find the conflict you are looking for, either rewrite it to make the conflict appear, or remove the scene from the novella.

After you finish all the steps above, take a break and relax. Then, collect the resulting pages which you have worked out. Reprint them in a single novella.

Example of a Novella Analyzed

Read through the following example of a novella if you want to see how this type of writing should be done. You can use it to get some ideas for your writing, but you can’t present it as your own work, because you will be accused of plagiarism. If writing is not easy for you, our example of a novella can help you.

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writing a novella

how to write a novella sample

Novella Length

How many words in a novelette? What about a novella? The novella is longer than a short story and novelette, and shorter than a novel. Its length ranges from 15,000 to 50,000 words. Writing it is not easy. You can not afford exploring themes and developing side storylines as you can in a novel. On the other hand, a novella is not just a long story or an excerpt from a novel. We have gathered useful tips that can help you with your writing.

Tips for Writing a Novella

  • Read as many articles as you can find. Pay attention to the rhythm of writing and how the story develops. You can find reviews on books on certain sites devoted to short stories and novellas, but try not to confuse novellas with novels in the length of 50,000 to 80,000 words.
  • Study your protagonists carefully. Your readers should get familiar with them enough so that they are interested in what happens to your characters during 20,000 to 50,000 words of your story.
  • Take time to describe the situation. In a story, events can take place outside of space and time, but in a novella, you will need to take your readers to a certain place and time.
  • Write about the main scenes, thanks to which your story will develop. The plot should naturally include two or three climaxes. If there are less, then this is a short story, but if there are more, it’s a novel.
  • Plan the development of the plot. It should be more complex than a short story, but the novella is an inappropriate genre for the development of additional stories.
  • Write a draft. There is a chance that your work will be longer than you planned, even if it matches the number of acceptable words in the novella genre.
  • Postpone working on the novella for at least a month. Read it again and imagine the development of the story in the form of a graph, marking the climax with an asterisk. When your work is finished, the next step is to print the book in a good printing house.

writing a novella

How Not to Write a Novella

Now, you can kick back and enjoy while we express to you a scenario on how not to write a novella.

A novella is a short novel, where you need to write about a woman who gets to know a person of the opposite sex. But sometimes, rarely, it is the opposite: a man getting acquainted with a lady. The man is usually much older than the woman. He must have intelligent eyes, and she black hair. If a woman has white hair, then this will absolutely not work, and you need to look for some other woman with black hair. This is a must. She also must be windblown in every scene. In other cases, it is possible that the hair can be wet with rainwater and raindrops beautifully dripping onto her shoulders or other organs. (Here you can draw a 30-page analogy of rainwater with tears, but often you do not need to do this. You may be accused of repetition. You can apply this beautiful analogy in half of the words. In the remaining half you can apply some other obvious metaphor.)

The meeting of these two people should take place in some extremely unusual place. For example, they can meet in a cafe, or on the street. But, in this case, if it is on the street there should be one of the following: either autumn leaves or rain. If you choose a cafe (it’s a good choice, by the way) then music should be playing. So, he (smart eyes), she (black hair), cafe (by no means a dining room!), and Jazz (the best music for a novella) – that’s all you need for a great story.

In order not to make readers think that you are stupid, you need to write some details. Another way to look clever is to indicate any information from related areas of art – painting, literature, theater, cinema, cooking. If you decide to impress the reader with your knowledge of painting, you can simply mention the name of an impressionist painter. In order to give readers an impression of your knowledge of literature, you must indicate in the work the name of some other great writer, such as Shakespeare or Francoise Sagan. At the end of the novella, a man and a woman must be intimate with each other. This is an ironclad rule.

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.

We hope that our guide on writing a novelette and a novella is easily understood by students. When you need to write other work, you can find help on our blog in the form of examples of novellas, guides, and novella ideas. We consider all details and features that are important in papers. So, you will be well-prepared for your writing!