Now that I have my first official deadline (so excited!!!), my fingers have been burning the keyboard and I find that I am going to have to do some serious pruning to get the word count down. Writing a novella is very different from writing a novel. After only a couple of writing sessions, I began running into problems with having too many ideas for one short story. So, this past week, I took a little break from writing and have been reading a novella collection, With All My Heart, and studying how the writers not only format their chapters, but how they cover an entire story with only 20-25k words.
Comparing the styles of The British Bride Collection and With All My Heart, I found a few things that the authors did in common that made for a wonderful, page turning novella:
1. Focus on the main plot. While you can have a little bit of subplot, your storyline has to be good enough to stand on its own feet and you don’t have the luxury of a billion subplots to support your main story (think about the ABC’s TV show, Once Upon a Time, which has so many subplots that it has almost entirely taken over the main plot).
2. Only focus on a couple of characters. You still need to develop your characters as you would in a novel, but you have a super limited word count, so pick your descriptions and personality choices carefully so that they enhance your story, make your characters likable and do not needlessly steal from your word count.
3. Setting is still important, but don’t go to the Faulkner extreme in a novella. Keep it brief and enlightening and again, remember that it is there to add to the story.
4. Action turns the pages. The goal is to get your readers to blaze through the novella in only a couple of sittings and how you do that is by building the tension in your likable character and using your tight, well paced plot to push their internal and external struggles in such a way that has the readers devouring each chapter.
5. And finally, make the ending worth the read. As the saying goes, your first chapter sells this book, but your last chapter sells your next book!
Photo Cred: (Top) Unsplash.com (Middle) ABC.com ‘s Once Upon a Time.