Monday, June 13, 2011
Tips for Writing a Novella
Janet here. I'm honored to have been asked, along with authors Victoria Bylin and Pamela Nissen, to write an historical novella for Love Inspired Historical. I'm thrilled to join these wonderful authors on the printed page! The Spring Wedding anthology will release in the spring of 2012.
Editor Tina James gave these guidelines for this novella:
The word count for this novella is 25,000 words.
The theme is spring weddings.
The hero and heroine should know each other in this reunion romance.
I'm grateful for these concrete facts to center my story around. Yet I wanted more information about novellas in general so sent out a plea for tips and got great advice on writing novellas.
Cheryl St. John, Marrying the Preacher's Daughter, Love Inspired Historical, June 2011, gave this explanation: A novella needs all the same elements as a full-length novel: Engaging sympathetic characters, internal and external conflict, believable motivation, a realistic setting and hooks that keep the reader turning pages. However, you have a lot fewer pages in which to do all that.
I'm nodding and noting that the 25,000 word count varies depending on the number of novellas in the anthology.
Seeker Glynna Kaye, At Home in His Heart, Love Inspired, August 2011, chimed in with her view of novellas: I think the best ones don't try to cram a 60-100K book plot into 25K. Instead they focus on a "smaller picture" -- a snapshot, a shorter timeframe and a GMC that fits that. Instead of months, they might encompass a weekend or a few weeks. You get a cozier feeling from them than you might get in a bigger novel because of the narrower scope. I always like ones that leave you smiling at the end. That are heart-warming.
Victoria Bylin, Marrying the Major, Love Inspired Historical, October 2011, gave me this advice:
1. Limit the time frame of the story. A day? A week? A month?
2. Keep story locations to a minimum. Setting description eats up word count
3. Keep secondary/supporting characters to a minimum.
4. Instead of starting from scratch, use secondary characters from earlier books.
Cheryl St. John added these tips:
1. The first place I look for a story is in my idea file where I’ve saved ideas that didn’t have enough conflict to support a full-length novel. Don’t ever throw out an idea—the archives are a gold mine when you need a novella.
2. When developing your characters, don’t give both major story people complicated pasts or set them both up with difficult to resolve motivations or conflicts. Keep the major stumbling block to falling in love focused on one character.
3. One character may already be in love with the other or have admired them from afar.
4. Use a secondary character from a previous book as your hero or heroine. You already have their names and descriptions decided and most likely your setting has been established, so your job is easier.
5. Secondary characters are important, but one character may serve several purposes. Look to combine characters if the cast gets too large.
6. Use stereotypes for secondary characters. The reader already has expectations and a mental image.
With all this wonderful advice for writing a novella, I'm ready to forge ahead. I will tell the story of single mother Elise Langley and Doctor Wellman, secondary characters from Wanted: A Family. I will also prepare for the next opportunity and start a file of characters from previous books begging to have their story told.
For a chance to win my novel Wanted: A Family, Love Inspired Historical, March 2011, leave a comment. Tell us if you like novellas. Or have written one. Or hope to.
Or anything you'd like to share. We love hearing what's on your mind.
While we're chatting, I've brought mini breakfast croissants and bagels in honor of the novella, the mini novel. Mini is still mighty as these tasty morsels prove. Dig in!