Site icon Douglas W.T. Smith

Four Ways To Start Writing Your Novella

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Last year I self-published my novella, Shadow Of The Wicked, since then I’ve had a lot of readers asking me why I chose to write a novella, and how to write one. I’ve created a quick and general guideline for writing a novella. I say generally because, like all writing principles, they are subject to change.


WRITING UPDATE: I have sent off my book, To Wield The Stars, to my editor at OMAM Publishing and am anxiously waiting for it to return. In the meantime, I have started the draft of my next novel in Three Kingdoms which is the world for my novella, SHADOW OF THE WICKED.


SHADOW OF THE WICKED is available for $0.99 for a LIMITED TIME, so if you haven’t got it, below is the link to download your copy today.

SHADOW OF THE WICKED ON AMAZON


1. One Plot

The length of the novella dictates that it has one plot. It’s too short to support subplots. That doesn’t mean you don’t have plot complications. It’s just that you are doing your dance around a one-story problem.

2. One POV

It’s almost always best to stick with one point of view, however, my novella Shadow Of The Wicked has two POVs and is written in Close 3rd Person. are written in first person POV. I chose this because I felt that to get the picture of the One Story I needed it to be told from two povs. One POV is recommended but remember you’re the author–it’s your choice.

As indicated earlier, more than one POV is acceptable if you have a reason for including it. And that reason is NOT so you can fill more pages.

3. One central question

There is one story question per novella, usually in the form: Will X get Y?

In Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, by Stephen King, the question is, will the wrongly convicted Andy Dufresne survive in God-awful Shawshank prison?

In my novella, Twin brothers–a sorcerer and a warrior–are each tortured for their opposing convictions. Will magick be restored or extinguished?


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4. One style and tone

There are novels that crack the style barrier in various ways, but a novella should stick to one tone, one style throughout. In the old pulp days, novellas were common and usually written in the hard-boiled style.

My two novellas are done by splitting points of view between two brothers. They are different voices but the tone and style throughout my dark fantasy novella are one. Whatever the genre, keep it consistent.

EXTRA NOTE: The Benefits of the Novella

Digital publishing has brought novellas back into favor. There are some story ideas that don’t merit 90k words, but may be just right for 30k. The suspense story is particularly apt for this form. One of the great masters, Cornell Woolrich, practically made his career on novellas of suspense.

An indie-publishing writer can charge 99¢ – $2.99 for novellas. They can obviously be turned out more quickly than a full length novel.

I decided to write a novella and self-publish it while I was waiting for my novel to be published. It’s a quick turn around and if you can publish one or two a year, it quickly builds a catalogue for more readers to buy your books.


If you like what you read, if you have any questions or ideas, make sure you post your comments below. If you think someone has an interesting point of view, a question or an answer, please invite them or share this post with them.


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