Friday, March 29, 2013

A Novel Approach to Novellas by Guest Gina Welborn

I am a novellaist.

You can be a novellaist too.

It’s really not that difficult; not to say it’s easy either. If you understand the basic formula of a novel, then know that a novella is merely a novel with a compact plot, written in generally 20-25k words. Key word: PLOT.

And, I always say, how do you spell plot? That’s right—

G. M. C.

Literarily speaking.

I love reading novellas. I usually buy one when we’re on a family vacation. Over the years I’ve read some good ones . . . and some bad ones that don’t amount to much than A Week/Month in the Life of the Heroine. You know the story. Girl is happily (or not) going along with her life when boy arrives. He’s different. Interesting. A bit sexy. Maybe they argue. Or they get along. If there’s conflict, it’s based on a misunderstanding or on lack of communication skills. Finally they decide they’re in love and thus get married. All in all, nothing really happens. The only “steaks” in the novel are what they had for dinner.

Bacon-wrapped filet mignon is what I want to eat.

A figurative time bomb is what I want in my fiction. Even if it’s only an emotional one.

If I had to choose one common denominator in “bad” novellas, it’s the leads have no goals, no motivation for a goal, and no conflict for achieving that goal. (I’ve actually read a few novels like that too. *sigh*)

I never thought I could write a novella. “My brain only thinks in 90k-word plots,” I once said to a critique partner. Then my agent suggested I submit a proposal for a 9-in-1 anthology that Barbour was doing. The coward that I am decided to throw sanity to the wind and do it.

The problem I had was I had no idea how to write a novella. It’s only 20k words!!!!

What seemed the logical step was to google “secrets to writing a novella.” I google a lot. Secrets to cleaning house. Secrets to brainwashing children. Secrets to looking fabulous after 40 when you can’t afford liposuction and are too lazy to exercise. Problem was I couldn’t find any novella-writing secrets. Erg. That’s when I did something totally brave and not-Gina-ish. I e-mailed Linda Goodnight, sincerely raved to her about a recent novella of hers that I’d read, then asked her for novella writing tips.

I’ve met some published authors who the most they’d give you is their autograph. Linda didn’t send me back a short-paragraph-at-most answer. She sent me “the secret.” And she said I could share. So I do. If you ever pass these along, please give Linda credit.

 Linda Goodnight’s Novella Writing Formula
(with Gina Welborn commentary)

1. Think of a storyline just like a longer book, only plan for very short chapters--say, 10 or 12 eight page chapters.

What works for me is having 7-10 chapters. I also vary pages per chapter. Be flexible on # of chapters. Adjust for each story and for how you write. I’ve written three novellas for Barbour. “Sugarplum Hearts” has 8 chapters. “All Ye Faithful” has 10 chapters. “Mercy Mild” has 9 chapters. My yet-unsold-but-written novella “If I Loved You Less” is 7 chapters. Consistency is not my spiritual gift, and I’m good with that.


2. Think linear--in other words, focus on one plotline only. There is no room for anything else. Here’s where GMC matters. Hero and heroine both have goals. How are those goals in conflict, or how can they work together to push leads together? Secondary characters need to have dimension, but they exist to aid or distract lead(s) and to help the main plot along. Keep the plot SIMPLE.  Keep the motivation simple. Keep the spiritual and emotional issues simple. And keep in mind, simple doesn’t mean shallow.

3. Lay out your story as a miniature three act play with:...A. Inciting incident which sets up the conflict and gets the H/H together on page one.
Whether the leads are both on page one or not, you MUST establish the conflict on page one that’s going to push H/H together. Although, leads meeting on page one is ideal. My motto—be flexible. In “Sugarplum,” my unknown-to-each-other leads don’t meet until the end of chapter 1. In “Faithful,” my-know-each-other leads don’t interact until two pages into chapter 2. But in both, the story conflict (what pushes them together) is established on the first page.

...B. A turning point or 'uh-oh' at the end of the first quarter of the book (about chapter 3 or 4.) This is usually something that propels the H/H to be together whether they like it or not.

...C. A love scene at mid-point -- the characters are at the emotional point of no return. They recognize they are falling in love but don't know what to do about it yet. Usually, there's a kiss or a hand touch (or in spicy books, a more graphic love scene.) and lots of longing and yearning.

If you’re writing a romance, don’t forget the romance! In this year’s Christmas novella, “Mercy Mild,” my leads have an almost-kiss in chapter 5, first kiss in chapter 6, and HEA kiss in chapter 9.  Lots of longing and yearning in that novella because they begin the story already in love. Want to know something crazy? Marianne and Zeke don’t even talk to one another until chapter 5. Total violation of Linda’s Point 3A. I took a risk with that novella because it is two love stories—H/H and heroine/child. Here’s where I say, just because a published author did it that way doesn’t mean you should. If you are going to break a “rule” or “formula,” make sure you have a reason that makes sense to your crit partners and editor.

...D. At the 3/4 point comes the black moment- The big trouble scene or the break-up of the H/H.

...E. Then work through the issues and resolve the romance--and of course, leave them with the 'ahhh' at the end.

Those are the elements that HAVE to be in there. Once you've laid those out, you will either be writing out of one point or into another all the time, so you can flesh in the other chapters with those kinds of scenes.

As I was writing my first novella, I asked multi-novella-published author Pamela Griffin for advice. She suggested writing the summary in paragraph blocks—each block a chapter. Doing so can help you figure out if you can get all the pertinent info in a single chapter, and if not, how to whittle and what to keep or toss. 

4. And of course, write tight.  Keep descriptions succinct without leaving out those all important senses--like spice in food--just enough for flavor. Only include absolutely essential back story and do it in very short little bites. Those can be woven into the action or dialogue that's propelling the main, linear plot.  Assuming it's a romance, focus on the love story most of all and have the rest of the plot directly relate to that relationship.

One final piece of advice that Linda didn’t include but I will. Because novellas are short (ACFW Carol puts them at 15k-40k), you generally want to limit the point of views to hero and heroine. I’ve yet to include a third point of view, but I totally see how including the villain’s is do-able. Someday I want to write a novella in the heroine’s point of view only.

Writing a novella isn’t easy to do. But neither is writing one as hard as that pancake I found under middle child’s bed (don’t ask).

Not only are novellas an opportunity to break into the market, they are also a smart means of promoting larger works of fiction. Roseanna White recently wrote one to cover the time period between books 1 and 2 in her first Harvest House series. In today’s publishing market, novellas can be a useful marketing tool.

Have you written a novella before? Would you consider writing one? Anything else you’d like to know about writing novellas?


In addition to being a mom and a writer, Gina Welborn is the president of Faith Hope & Love, the inspirational chapter of Romance Writers of America. Because she loved how the ladies at Seekerville cultivated their friendship by starting a team blog, she figured why not do it too. Thus after recruiting author friends who shared her vision, Gina started Inkwell Inspirations. It’s targeted to the everyday person we in the writing world refer to as “Normals.” Her next novella, Mercy Mild in Mistletoe Memories releases this September.  In addition, she has two novels coming out in 2014: The Heiress’s Courtship (HQN Heartsong, January) and A Bride by Design (Abingdon, fall). Gina can be found on Facebook at, on Pinterest at and Twitter @gina_welborn.

“All Ye Faithful”

Every week for two years, E.V. Renier has petitioned the local brewery magnate for permission to marry his daughter. Despite receiving a sound rejection each time, E.V. continues in hope of proving the faithfulness of his character. Heiress Larkin Whitworth has no idea of the quiet yet charming sawmiller’s devotion. Not until awful rumors about her rip through the town. As the annual Christmas soiree approaches, Larkin fears E.V.’s love might not be as strong as the shameful truth she’s trying to hide.

Read an excerpt from “All Ye Faithful” here.
Read an excerpt from “Sugarplum Hearts” here.

Today Gina is giving one commenter their choice of a print or e-copy of her Christmas novella "All Ye Faithful" in A Cascades Christmas.  Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.



Tina Radcliffe said...


1. Gina Welborn has entered the Village!!!

2. Tina Radcliffe is serving you Sausage with Penne Pasta in Yankee Belle

Helen Gray said...

Gina is certainly welcome.

And Tina needs coffee to go with her Sausage with Penne Pasta. So here it is.

Thanks for your tips, Gina. I have these in my "tips" file from some time ago.


Tina Radcliffe said...

I want to write novella's. I write short so I ought to be able to do this.

Helen Gray said...

I also write short and have thought about trying a novella. I even brainstormed one with someone. But some things changed and we didn't follow through with it.

Melissa Jagears said...

I was one of those "I only think of 100k story length stories" and then a publisher said, can you include a novella in this series....sure, of course!

I decided to help myself since it was my first one, and make them already both in love. Because I wanted romance from the git-go if it was going to be so short.

I did enjoy it actually, sometimes books are soooooooo long. And the novella (mine 20k) was kind of a nice breather. It was written and revised in less than 2 months and then was out of my hands. It didn't feel so much like trying to wrestle an octopus into a jar as a full length book does.

Marianne Barkman said...

I used to not like novellas, but I am happy to say that has changed together with novellas. Yep, novellas are definitely getting more steak into them, and I love me a great steak


Tina Pinson said...

Sausage and Penne Pasta. Sounds good.

Thanks for the post, Gina, I actually have a novella I've been working on Her Secret Garden. As I write long novels paring one down has been interesting to say the least. It will probably take me some time that's for sure.

Edwina said...

Thanks for this article. I've often thought I'd like to write novellas so this is valuable information for me.

Sally said...

Thanks for a wonderful post! This tips, especially from this week and today, work very well for the papers I am having to write for class! Thanks for the tips. I can compare writing long books to novellas with writing 20 page papers for class and then having to do a 10 page paper. lol. I'd much rather write a 20 page paper! I'd love to be in the drawing for a copy of "All Ye Faithful."
tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net

pol said...

Enjoyed reading about Novella's Gina, thanks for sharing today..
It is "Good Friday" I always think bittersweet thoughts of this day when Jesus walked this earth and gave up his life knowing this was what his Father sent him to earth to do...Do we do what we were sent here to do?
I read "The Purpose" and felt I needed to do more, I am wondering if our purpose might be as simple as to be a good friend when needed. I believe that each is different.
Seekers your purpose this month was to fulfill your goals in writing. I hope each has or will finish in the little time left for them. I have enjoyed seeing victory when someone posted they had finished a goal and felt proud of themselves and deservedly so...
I hope each makes their goal and winners are elated..
Paula O

DebH said...

Cool! Gina is here! I love what she and her fellow Inkies have been doing over at the Inkwell. In fact, my first two stops on the 'Net each day are here (Seekerville) and then Inkwell Inspirations.

I won the book with Gina's Sugarplum Hearts - boy was THAT a great read!

I think I'm better cut out for novella writing over novels. I've always enjoyed reading novellas as well - sometimes moreso than novels. I think my brain is wired for shorter stuff - or I'm ADD and haven't realized it yet. *heh*

These are great tips, Gina, and I appreciate your paying it forward by sharing Linda's tips with your extra commentary. Rich info here that I will be saving for reference.

Henry Jordan said...

Have you read this book - "The Equation". If you haven't yet then just go out the store and get one for yourself. It's an amazing book.

Must read for all ages!
Henry Jordan
The Equation game

Rose said...

Thanks for sharing your tips today, Gina.

I like to read novella's but I've yet to write one.

Cindy Regnier said...

I wrote a novella once - kind of by accident. Might try it on purpose someday. Gina makes it sound so easy.
I need some of that Sausage with Penne - way to go Tina

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi GINA and welcome to Seekerville. Tina is right. Its a great Friday when you're here. Great tips. Love your photo too. Have fun today and thanks for joining us.

And TINA, Penne pasta and sausage. Yum I'm going to help myself to a bowl and save it for tomorrow.

Jackie said...


Thanks for sharing. I guess write tight has new meaning when writing a novella.

I'm definitely saving your tips.

Happy Easter!

Jackie L.

Audra Harders said...

Gina, always good to see you in Seekerville. Hmmm, petrified pancakes? Really I gotta ask about that one : )

Great ideas on how to write a novella. The very first point made about thinking 8-10 chapters with 8-10 pages each made all the sense in the world. If I think that way, of course I can squeeze GMC in a shorter book...I just have put it (snd me, as always, LOL) on a diet.

Thanks for your words of wisdom!!

Carol Moncado said...

I'm with Audra. I wanna know about the pancake.

When I was writing just for fun a few years ago, I wrote what I called short stories sometimes. I'm not sure what their word length is though - they may have been novella length - or some of them anyway.

Now, I cringe at it ;).

I have lots of novellas on my shelves - mostly collections by or with friends, but I don't often read them :/. Mostly because when I do feel short-changed. Not always but a lot, because I want MORE.

The last one I read was Erica's Sagebrush Knights. They were good, don't get me wrong, but I emailed her and told her I wished it was a four book series instead :/. I would have loved 100K for each one instead of 20K [or whatever].

Ah well. I should try it again sometime soon... Would be a good exercise if nothing else. :)

Cindy W. said...

What a wonderful post Gina. Thank you. It's one to be printed out and added to my "Keeper Notebook".

I would love to be included in your giveaway. Thank you.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville post side, Gina!! Congratulations on all your releases! Thanks to you--and Linda Goodnight--for the excellent tips on writing novellas!

I have one novella under my belt. The hero and heroine of Last Minute Bride were secondary characters from Wanted: A Family, which meant I had their descriptions and the setting already laid out, a big time saver.


Connie Queen said...


I tend to write short too. But when I've tried to actually think of a good novella plot, I freeze up. Maybe one of these days.

If I had my choice, I like books about the length of L'ouis Lamour's. What are they 50-60K? My favorites are western historical romance which are almost always long. (Except for Heartsong Presents.

I'll definitely put this in my keeper file in case I ever attempt one.


Lyndee H said...

HI Gina,
Very solid information and I can't wait to hit The End so I can check for the things you've mentioned. BTW, any chance you are a doll artisan? Your name is very familiar and every time I see it, I wonder.

Playground Monitor said...

Ohmygosh! You will never know how timely this post is!

My SpeedBo project is a category-length novel turned novella. The first half was written a couple years ago; the second half is my SpeedBo writing. So the pacing is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay off. Your tips are just what I need to help me revise it all. I write short anyway (I have 43 short story sales under my belt) so when I saw a novella contest I jumped at the opportunity.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am forever grateful. Would you like me to dispose of that hardened pancake for you? Sweep your kitchen floor? Fold laundry? LOL!


Glynna Kaye said...

GOOD MORNING, GINA! I've never been much of a novella reader EXCEPT for the Christmas ones! I absolutely love them and have long dreamed of writing some of my own. Thank you for the tips!

My love of Christmas novellas started MANY years ago. The holiday season is so busy and the novellas are just the perfect length for a jam-packed schedule.

Can you give us a few tips on what sort of time frame to build the story around? A few days? Weeks? Months? If only a few days or a week, what tips can you share on making the romance credible?

And how do you determine how "big" you make your GMC and your character's "inner wounds"? Some GMCs and wound healing need a lot more room to play out credibly. How to you determine before you get started if your GMC and story line are suited to the shorter format?

Thanks, Gina!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I personally love novellas that have to do with several family members.

Three sisters for example.

Love em.

Kav said...

I love reading novellas -- especially at holiday times. Like Christmas. It's a great way to get to know new-to-me authors.

I tend to overwrite -- so I'm wondering if I apply these tips will it help me write more concisely so I fit into a regular length novel word count? Think I'll give it a try.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Gina! Great post even for someone who doesn't write novellas!

I read your excerpts and they are terrific! I agree with Carol though. When the writing and the story are so good, we want a LONG version! That's the catch-22 of reading novellas.

Congrats on all your success! Looking forward to reading your work.


PS. Tina that recipe looks good! I have a similar one. Once my son is allowed 'normal' food again, I'll try it!

Julie Lessman said...


I have to admit, I see the word "novella," and I head the other direction because I am a "door-stopper-size books" type of gal who likes a thick, juicy read.

But ... both Janet Dean and Mary Connealy went a long way in converting me with their novellas, so I tried to keep an open mind when reading this blog today.

And you know what?? There's excellent advice in here -- not just for novella writers, but for those door-stopper type gals like me whose editor recently asked me to cut 50,000 words in an economy where big books cost WAY too much to print.

So, this blog is a take-away for me today, and I thank you for passing Linda's excellent tips on to us ramblers!!


Piper Huguley said...

Good Morning Seekerville!


Thanks for your great post! The clear steps make the idea of writing a novella less intimidating...I just may give it a try! Thanks!


Katy Lee said...

Oh, I love the idea of writing a novella in between books. Thanks for the "know-how!"

Sherida Stewart said...

Thank you for this timely information, Madam President! I just finished my Speedbo project this morning. With some rewriting, it may be just right for a novella. My only publication is a short story. I'm considering doing a novella for earlier and later generations of that main character. I will use your novella creating information! What would be your suggestions as to the best places to market novellas?

Gina, I've been a member of FHL for about a year--perfect place for me. I just checked your blog. I like that there is an email address for prayer requests.

And--THANK YOU, Seekerville and all who cheered us on to writing more! I did finish my Speedbo goal of 1K/weekday...not as monumental as other people's goals, but a challenge for me.

I'm heading over to the Yankee Belle Café for some pasta. Thanks for the coffee, treats, cheers and encouragement that kept us going this month! Cheering for all!

Debby Giusti said...

Gina, fantastic blog on writing novellas. You've whet my interest. I've only written one--YULE DIE, a Christmas suspense that published in a two-for-one with Margaret Daley titled CHRISTMAS PERIL. That story wrote itself. So easy. The words flowed. Perhaps I need to repeat the process.

Thanks for providing inspiration today.

Joining Paula in the somberness of Good Friday. Rejoicing that Easter is almost here!

Jamie Adams said...

Thanks,Gina. Perfect timing. I'm working on a novella now. I appreciate your tips :)

Angela Breidenbach said...

Oh how timely art thou? I actually have a novella in for submission (thanks to Linda G too), one I'm working on with a friend for a 2-1, and considering others for marketing. I needed this refresher.

Christina Rich said...

Gina, thank you for breaking novellas down. I've plotted a few novellas but never wrote beyond the first chapter. Oh, wait. I did write one. I even submitted it several years back and received what I now know to be a revision letter.

It was called Auld Lang Syne. It's a contemporary of a woman who just lost the grandmother who raised her and a Scottish hunk who plays the bagpipes just after midnight in honor of the grandmother. He happens to be the woman's first-footer. Ahhh, Scottish New Year's traditions. Love them.

I'd forgotten about that story until now. Maybe I'll go back to it with your hints in mind and rework it.

Susanne Dietze said...

Great post, Gina! And hello Seekerville!

Linda's secrets helped me write a novella. I wrote 8 chapters, which made things very easy to chart out. I have to say, I enjoyed the tight boundaries--and the rapid action. It forced me to cut off my character's moping and musing, and get right to the point--very helpful for all of my writing!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Who is publishing novellas? Pretty much all the CBA and ABA publishing houses right?

There is a novella category of the RITA but is there one for the Carol?

Tina Radcliffe said...

Wow! Sherida. You are amazing. Well done!!

Gina Welborn said...

Sorry I'm late to the party. I've had a slight cold last two days. Well, the medicine I took this morning nyquilled me. I *may* have had a converstion with my middle child's school counselor.

Penne pasta! I want some. Yet my taste buds are in Splitsville, so I'm saving my serving for later.

Thanks, Tina, for inviting me.

On to comments . . .

Gina Welborn said...

Oh, Helen, my sweet! It is so good to see you again. Yes, do file these tips because with the changes in publishing, I think authors should take advantage of writing novellas, even if they're used for promo purposes only.

Brainstorming is quite helpful, even with a novella. Especially with a novella, because a CP will tell you when you're getting too complicated.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Gina, I had no idea you were going to be here today!!! Hi. :-)

Okay, so no, I've never written a novella and kind of hope I don't ever have to. But if I ever DO have to, I'll totally look this post back up and write down all those pointers. They sound really helpful.

But you can only focus on plot? Really? Really? REEEEEALLLLY? That part of my soul that liked dark, tortured characters just might not be able to write a novella. Sigh . . .

But you've certainly done a wonderful job from the couple of yours that I've read. :-)

PatriciaW said...

Hi Gina! Congratulations on breaking in via novellas. Love them, particularly when they're three to a book. I used to find new authors this way, trying them on for size with a shorter story. I'd love to write novellas, too.

I think the writing tips you offer, by way of Linda Goodnight, one of my fave authors, are good whether writing short or long (although the number and length of chapters might change). Thanks for sharing.

Gina Welborn said...

Melissa, way to go for taking your 100k mind and forcing it to think 20k-ly!!!!

One criticism on my first novella, Sugarplum Hearts, was that the reviewer didn't find it plausible that in two weeks my leads could have fallen in love and decide they wanted to get married.

I think it's possible.

But when I wrote my second novella, I couldn't stop thinking of that reviewer criticising that my leads fell in love sooooo fast. I created leads already in love, but the hero hasn't said anything to the heroine. After two years of him acting like he loves her but not saying he does and not asking to court her, my heroine has doubts.

In novella 3, my leads are also in love but have no idea the other person feels the same.

I'm totally NOT saying listen to book reviews and write to please them.

Be flexible.

(Just between us, one criticism I've had of numerous novellas I've read was that I didn't find the falling-in-love plausible. Just because it's a 20k novel doesn't mean you don't need to include sexual tension.)

Gina Welborn said...

Marianne, I totally agree with everything you said. :-)

Tina, don't think of novellas as "paring down." Instead, start with the mindset, "How can I what would take me 100k words to write but do it in 20-25k words?"

Of course, ACFW Carol contest considers novellas to be UP TO 40k words. IMHO, that's ridiculous. Although then where does someone who has an under 40k but over 30k story enter it in the Carol? Eh. Thus the wordlength limit.

Myra Johnson said...

Welcome, Gina--great to see you here today! Thanks for these excellent tips on writing a novella.

I've attempted one novella in my life. It was supposed to be part of an anthology that ended up being shelved, and then later I tried to expand the story into a full-length novel. End result? The worse imaginable hodgepodge of characters and plot ever (at least according to my very wise agent).

Lesson learned: It's probably easier (for me, anyway) to pare down a longer manuscript to novella length than to stretch and pad a novella-length manuscript to make a bigger story!

Gina Welborn said...

Edwina, you can do it!!!!

Writing a novella is FABULOUS practice for reminding an author to write tight. Last year in the Carol and Rita, I judged some long historicals that were waaaaay wordy.

I recently critted a story that had a fabulous chapter 2 . . . and a sucky chapter 1. The author added it because she'd been advised to include more "backstory" by a multi-published author. Generally I'm going to take the side of a multi-published author. In this case, she was WRONG.

I say all novelists should try writing a novella. It may suck. It may be awesome. The experience should teach the author something about him/herself.

This is the year of adventure!

Step out of your comfort zone.

The penne pasta smells so good that I'm just gonna have to take another serving home to save for when my tastebuds are working.

Gina Welborn said...

Yay, Sally! Writing a 3-pages essay is also vastly different from a 10-page paper. Happy writing!!!

Paula, I totally forgot today was Good Friday. Thank you for that reminder. :-)

DebH, darling, it is so good to see you. I say there is nothing wrong with being a writer who does better with shorter works, or with longer ones. Usain Bolt would probably suck at a marathon.

But probably sucking is no excuse for not trying.

I say it's better to know that you're a failure than wonder about it.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Wow! What an awesome post!!

And so funny, too. You made me cackle a few times. I scared the kids. They're backing away. Yay, me.

Gina Welborn said...

Thanks for stopping by, Rose! Do try writing a novella someday. No rush. No pressure. Opening your mind to the possibility is the first step.

Cindy, I hope I made writing a novella sound easy. Writing one was easier than I thought it was. But writing one also showed me that doing so isn't easy.

My 2013 Christmas novella, Mercy Mild, ended first draft at almost 24k words. Several Barbour authors told me going a few thousand over was okay, but I want to be an author who has a reputation for meeting (not exceeding) word count.

I figured crits would help me tighten. Yes. They also pointed out issues. So I ended up cutting about 5k words and adding back in another 4k. Ended up being 21.5k when I turned it in.

Which is why I say . . .

Be flexible.

Gina Welborn said...

Thanks, Sandra!

Jackie, yes, write tight really does mean write tight when writing a novella.

However . . .

Write tight doesn't mean bare bones, and I've read some novellas that were so bare that Oliver Twist's orphanage would reject the bones for being too boney.

I'm sure other authors could read my novellas and find things to write tighter. Especially in Sugarplum Hearts where I flesh out several secondaries. In fact, I had critters ask, "why do you spend so much time on X and Y?"

Well, I had a purpose. Someday I want to write X's and Y's romances, so I wanted to layer in enough information to make them be interesting enough to be future leads.

Just because secondaries should stay secondary in a novella, doesn't mean they have to be 2-D characters.

Write tight means . . . well, write in a way that whatever you write has a purpose that you could not achieve any other way.

Sometimes you need to write:
She shook her head.
He didn't answer.

Othertimes you need to write:
She gave her head a little shake.
His mouth clenched tight as if he were holding back a word flood.

Even in a novella, you could write either way.

As the crusader said to Indiana Jones . . .

Choose wisely.

Gina Welborn said...

Audra, he's a 13-yr-old boy. Truly enough of an explanation. *sigh*

8-10 chapters with 8-10 pages.

Rather simplistic, but I totally can see how for people who are more plotterly and structured, that could be light bulb.

I know when I reach 15k, I should be around chapter 6 or 7. Black moment either happened or will happen next.

GMC on a diet.


Tina Radcliffe said...

BTW, have I mentioned how much I love your hair????? You look wonderful.

Tina Radcliffe said...


Gina Welborn said...

Carol, you've made a great point about feeling short-changed by novellas. Not a lot can happen in 20k words. And if the author has developed her leads, then that 20k feels even shorter.

But what if we parallel that to category novels.

How can 50-70k story have the same depth as an 80-100k?

Well, they can. They do!

What it comes down to is readers accepting a story for what it is, and not focusing on what it *could* be if it had more word count. IMHO, that is harder for authors to do than for readers.

I've been totally guilty of not accepting a book for what it is, and not for what I wanted it to be.

Gina Welborn said...

CindyW, thanks for stopping by!

Janet, YES!!!! I love that you took characters from an existing world and wrote a novella of their romance. Totally a time-saver. But think about all the research, especially historical, authors do when writing a story. Once it's done, we're off onto another project.

But that little tidbit on X might not have been enough to build a novel around, but it'd be interesting yet simple enough for a novella.

With my Heartsong that comes out in January, I have a secondary "couple" who I want to write what happens to them. And it doesn't have to be 20k. Maybe I'll write it in 10k and offer it as a giveaway when promoting the book. Hmm...

Gina Welborn said...

Connie, let's work at unfreezing your brain.

Pick a heroine.

Annabel Jacobs, 24, oldest daughter of five girls. Never been married or engaged or even found a boy who interested her.

She thinks if she has _______ she will be happy. (goal)

Sisters 2 and 3 have suitors who want to propose but Dad refuses to let other daughters marry until oldest does first. (conflict)

For any novella (or novel, that matter), if your brain is frozen at coming up with a story, then start SIMPLE.

Who is your main character?
What does she want?
What stands in her way of achieving it?

Obviously with a novel, you're going to add more layers, more branches on your snowflake.

When Becca helped me plot Mercy Mild (pre-order now!), we had soooo many layers that I though I could work into the story. Once I got to writing it, 60% of stuff on the hero ended up not going into the story. Totally had to remove those issues from his life, or my novella would have turned into at least a 50k Heartsong.

Which is why I say . . .

Be flexible.

So, Connie, now it's time for you to unfreeze your brain.

Pick a heroine. Name, age, something about her family life.

What is something she yearns to have?

What stands in her way?

Gina Welborn said...

Hi, Lyndee! No, I'm not a doll artisan. Around my house is a Raggity Ann who's been decapitated and delimbed (I need to frankenstein her back together) and several Barbies either naked or with duct tape outfits fitting for a video game (Fire Emblem, to be precise).

Gina Welborn said...


I totally must know what prompted you to take your category-length novel and whittle it down into a novella. Besides for a contest. Why this story? How did you go about whittling it down?

My Heartsong began as part of a novella proposal. I don't know that I could have written the story in 20k. I know for certain I couldn't take those 50k words and tighten down to 20-30k.

Carrie Fancett Pagels said...

Great article, GINA!!! This is a keeper! Great advice! Blessings and have a wonderful Easter!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

LOL. Marilyn is doing chores for you.

I am going to have to get on her good side.

Pam Hillman said...

Gina, welcome to Seekerville!! :)

I love your description of novellas. They're just mini-novels! lol

I've never published a novella, but I've submitted several over the years, especially when Tyndale and Barbour used to do themed anthologies several times a year.

Good exercises in preparing proposals to spec and getting them out the door on time.

Connie Queen said...

Well there you go, Gina.

That's a great premise. I think I need to simplify my plot to write a novella. Cut out the, "Oh and then this happened," moments.

Gina Welborn said...

Glynna, your questions remind me of a recap done on Entertainment Weekly of American Idol. Mariah and Keith can get all musical-technological-jargon-ish. Way over my head. Yet, in the words of the recapper, I like it!

TIME FRAME :: Depends on the story. Mine are . . .

Sugarplum: 2 weeks. Story begins with them as total strangers.

Faithful: 1 1/2 week. Story begins with them already in love and both know each others' feelings, yet obstacles exist keeping them apart.

Mercy: 4 days. Story begins with each in love yet don't realize other feels same.

Unsold novella: 2 weeks. Story begins with neither lead realizing s/he is in love with other, but they're BFFs.


1) Love-at-first-sight. First-love. Renewed love after one lead broke up with other. Which leads to . . .

2) One lead already in love with the other.

3) Both leads already in love and know it, or in love but unaware of it.

4) Extreme circumstances. Of course, there is a line in the movie SPEED 2 where the hero says to the heroine from SPEED 1, "Relationships based on extreme circumstances never work out."

5) Be sure to layer in physical attraction, sexual awareness, emotional connection, etc. If your heroine is already longing for marriage, her heart is going to be open to love, verses a heroine who doesn't want marriage.


With Sugarplum and Faithful, my leads do not have big inner wounds or GMC. Neither are the wounds big/deep in my yet-unsold-but-written novella.

In Mercy Mild, my heroine has deep issues. She's a widow and I had my hero responsible for her hubby's death. Too complex for novella length. I see how it's possible for ONE lead to have a deep emotional issue, but not both.

Regarding the spiritual thread, I find it easier if only one of them has the deeper issue.

Read about a dozen novellas. About three anthology collections. Now note which story you liked best. How deep were emotional issues and how complicated was the GMC?

Keep things SIMPLE.

But keeping things simple doesn't mean shallow or superficial or easy.

When I was writing Mercy Mild (pre-order now!), I had no idea how to end the story. My brainstorming partners (Becca Whitham and Laurie Alice Eakes) were both busy. After a little whining on Facebook, I was blessed with Valerie Comer offer to help. She'd offer an idea, and I'd say, "that's too easy of a solution."

If the solution doesn't cost either lead anything, then the solution is too easy, too contrived, too much of an author cop-out.

In the end, Valerie advised me to re-read manuscript and look for the bread crumbs that our subconsciences put in there. Things like she would never, he would always.

Simple, however, does not mean easy.


1) Ask someone you know who writes novellas and whose novellas you like

Asking Linda for her novella advice wasn't easy because she's Linda Goodnight! She star-struck me. That woman can write!!! But I took a risk, e-mailed her, and it paid off.

Last year a friend of mine wrote a novella. I'm surprised she is still talking to me because of all the red-inking I did on her story. She erred on the side of being too simple GMC and having leads w/out goals.

Her novella now? Love it!

I think it's easier to simplify too complex GMC than it is to deepen too shallow GMC.

E-mail me, Glynna. I'll be happy to give my opinion. I'm happy to give anyone my opinion. :D

However, I'm confident you will know the answer yourself once you start writing the story. Trust your author instinct.

Gina Welborn said...

Kav, I also read anthologies as a way to get to know new authors. Years ago, I read a novella by Cathy Marie Hake. Enjoyed it so much I went to bookstore and bought three of her novels.

Hi, Susan! Thanks for stopping in and taking a very large helping of penne pasta.

Gina Welborn said...

Julie, Julie, Julie. :D

I, too, am a word rambler.

An editor recently told me, "Why do you have to be soooooo wordy?!?!?!"

Okay, maybe she didn't elongate the so or add the !?!?!?! at the end of her ?, but still.

Her point was quite valid.

I'd say more, but I'd be rambling.

Gina Welborn said...

Piper, you go girl! Be less intimidated by the novella and write one. You can do it!!!!

Katy, thanks for stopping in. Now that you "know how," go do. :D

Sherinda, you asked about best marketplace for novellas. E-books. Digital publishers, especially in the ABA, are the easiest place to sell a novella.

In the CBA, Barbour was the #1 novella publisher for years. Recently other trade publishers have begun to dabble in the novella waters. Granted, they use their top-name authors, and that makes sense.

Bethany House first released a novella of debut author Jen Turano's historical romance. It's been a free read on Amazon. I'd love to see marketing evaluation on the experiment. Was the free novella read enough of a publicity generator that it significantly increased novel sales? I think the answer to that will be if we see more free novellas-related-to-novel reads.

That Roseanna did one as an in-between novels says to me more publishers are recognizing this as a valuable marketing too.

HOWEVER, I will add a caution. If an author gives away so much of her writing, then why will readers pay for her books? I want to make $. I want my agent to make $ off of me. I want publishers to make $ off of my books.

So, if an author is going to use free novella reads as part of her marketing plan, I caution against doing it for every book.

Best place to market novellas? Digital publishers for the unagented author. This is where I must also say . . .

Work at hooking an agent.

Selling novellas is fun. You can't make a living off of selling novellas.

Door bell rang. Dog is barking frantically.

Ooooh. I just received a very heavy box from Mindy Obenhaus.

Gina Welborn said...

Debby, I don't see how words don't always flow from you. Your stories are effortless reads--a very good thing. Yule Die. What a fabulous title for a Christmas suspense novella.

Yay, Jamie! Get that novella written!!! And feel free to e-mail me if you need any novella advice. Or cheerleading. :-D

Angie, my beauty! Excellent point about inviting others into an anthology to help with marketing. I did not sell my first novella. The names of the other ladies in Highland Crossings sold it. So I am utterly looking forward to the day where my name can help an unpublished author sell something.

Christina! Get thee that novella finished. Anything with a Scottish hunk . . . nothing more needs to be said.

Gina Welborn said...

Susie, mopings and musings do not have a place in novellas. Unless the said novellas feature Scottish hunks. Please let the heroine muse over his, umm, personality qualities all she wants.

Gina Welborn said...


Girlfriend, you certainly will write a novella someday.

It's going in a collection with my name on it too. Only my story is going to be the best because it's going to redefine Amish fiction.

Yes, in a novella, you just focus on the main plot. Maybe you could add a little subplot or have a dark, tortured hero if your word count can go up to 30k or 40k.

Be flexible.

Gina Welborn said...

Patricia, thanks for stopping in. I hope you paused long enough to enjoy Tina's penne pasta. I had chocolate cookies to bring, but someone (okay, hubby and kids) ate them last night. That's what I get for having a cold and going to bed early.

Myra, fascinating how your novella idea didn't flesh out into a novel. But I can see that happening if your beginning point (leads and GMCs) wasn't complicated enough from the beginning. An author shouldn't have to pad a story to make it meet word count.

However . . . maybe you weren't where you needed to be as an author to make that novella-turned-novel story work. When you have a free month, look at the story again. I bet you will see where you went off course.

Then again it could be like that pasta dinner I made last month. Trash can worthy. :-/

CatMom said...

Welcome Gina! Thank you so much for this post on Novellas. I love reading them and have the beginnings of one written--which I really need to finish. ~ chuckling about the pancake under the bed, LOL. Maybe you could incorporate that incident into a story. ~ Easter blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo
p.s. LOVE Linda Goodnight! I enjoy her stories and when I met her at ACFW in St. Louis she was a sweetie.

Gina Welborn said...


ACFW Genesis had a novella category, because the Carol has one too.

ACFW has restructured their contests so that category-wise, they're all in line. However, I heard that the Genesis novella didn't meet minimum entry numbers so entries had to be shuffled into second-choice category.

The novella market is opening wider in both ABA and CBA market.

Myra Johnson said...

You're right, Gina--that was a LONG time ago and before I ever got my first book contract.

But . . . next time I have a free month??? I don't think my calendar goes that far into the future!

Gina Welborn said...

Virginia, anytime a mom can scare her kids, I am in envy. You rock, woman!!!! (now to go back and read what I wrote that could remotely be found humorous)

I will say that my oldest daughter not only asked me to pick her and her friends up from the movie they're going to see to night, but she also invited me to watch it with them. I must be cool. Yes!!!!! Or it's a pity invite.

Oh, I need to go back and say to Sherinda: I love Faith Hope & Love and am very honored to have the opportunity to serve the chapter as president.

Thanks, Tina, for liking my hair color change. Red is rather fun. I did read that the new shade of red for 2013 is "carrot." That's nice.

Sucking IS no excuse for not trying. Lapel button, people!

Carrie, I love you. :)

If only I could literally get Marilyn to come to my house and do chores. *sigh* Tomorrow I'll clean house. Eh.

Gina Welborn said...

Connie, in a novella, you don't have word count to have an entire scene of the heroine (or hero) pondering her life and what to do about it.

Every action has to have a purpose. Every scene has to have a purpose.

OMG! Remember that post Cheryl Wyatt did here several years ago on Scene Purposes? A scene needs to have at least three purposes. This is especially important in a novella.

No time to mope or muse.

When your novella has characters who are goal-focused, then every scene has to be a success or a failure or a new obstacle.

Good news! I've been officially conscripted into going to the movie with my daughter. No choice not to go. Another parent is requiring an adult to go with them. I win. Not on any coolness factor, but because I'm the only mom who can go. At least they don't want me along for my money. Not that I have any.

Gina Welborn said...

Pam, when you think of a novella as a mini-novel, then you begin small and go from there. I wouldn't mind selling a novella to Tyndale. :-D

PattiJo, you should finish that novella. Incorporating my son's petrified pancake incident into a story . . . oh that child. In my next Barbour Christmas novella, Mercy Mild (pre-order now!), I incorporated five orphans. I have no shame in saying I used my five children as muses for them.

Myra, you can fix that novella-turned-novel!!! Free month. Wish those could be bought on Amazon.

Playground Monitor said...

"I totally must know what prompted you to take your category-length novel and whittle it down into a novella. Besides for a contest. Why this story? How did you go about whittling it down?"

Boroughs Publishing Group is holding a novella contest. The story must be inspired by a song and the song title and story title must be the same. Well... this novel already had a Kenny Chesney song as the title and I'd listened to the song a lot to get in my hero's head. It was the right thing to do -- turning it into a novella. And since I tend to write short -- very short -- taking it down to a novella was great for me. I still have to whittle down the first chapters using your tips -- concentrate on plot and keep descriptions succinct. I've spent the last 7 years writing for True Confessions, True Romance, etc. If I could make a career of short stories and 25K novellas, I could be a happy, happy woman.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

And I don't do housework for just anyone. The price is steep.


Gina Welborn said...

For anyone else interested in the novella contest Marilyn mentioned . . .

Cara Lynn James said...

Thanks for all the info on writing novellas, Gina. I've always wanted to try, but I didn't quite know how to do it. I'm used to writing longer books.

DeAnna Julie Dodson said...

Oh, great tips!

I've gone as far as writing a novella proposal (two, actually), but neither got picked up.

I still may do it someday.

These are great tips!

Glynna Kaye said...

Oooh, thank you for the yummy insights, Gina! Lots of good pointers there, so I'm adding those into my keeper copy of your post!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Wow. Interesting contest. Must swipe for Tuesday's Contest Update.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Good to know you are a discerning Kissup Marilyn.

Lisa Karon Richardson said...

These tips helped me when I was tackling my first novella too. I've now written 2 for Barbour. They definitely work!

Playground Monitor said...

HA Tina!


Walt Mussell said...

My only publihsing credit, outside of magazine articles, is a novella.

Can't believe SpeedBo is coming to an end. I want to keep it going.

Carrie Fancett Pagels said...

I love u too, GINA!!! U went and moved!!! ACK!!! Hugs!!!, said...

Hello girls. I'm just a visitor, not a writer, but find it interesting to hear ya'll talk about what all it takes to get published. That part in itself would keep me from writing. And, the traveling that comes with it. I'm always too broke. LOL Sounds like a Novella would be an easier way for a beginner to start out. One thing I've never understood is how you count your words? Looks impossible to do. I love the short stories okay at Christmas, but seems I'm never ready for one of my good books to end, no matter the length. I like the series, but like for them to be written with a good ending, for not everyone can go out and buy the next one every time. (me). But you are always wanting to know what happened with some of the people, as tho they are real. ( To us readers it feels like they are) Would love to win Gina's book, and will check in every once in awhile to see what you are doing? God bless.
Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com


Sherida Stewart said...

Gina and Tina: Thank you for the additional information about marketing novellas. I may consider being a novellaist. I didn't realize the Genesis had a novella category. And thank you and Marilyn for the link to the Boroughs contest.

Tina Radcliffe said...

LOL, I love when I leave Marilyn speechless.

Tina Radcliffe said...

MAXIE!!! Welcome to our world.

Gina Welborn said...

Cara and DeAnna, you should write a novella. Good way to push your skills. :-)

Lisa, it's so good to have you stop by. For those who don't know, Lisa is another of the authors in the anthology with my next novella.

Mistletoe Memories
Sept 15

Available for pre-order in case anyone missed the numerous other mentions I've made.

Yay, Walt, on that novella publishing credit!!

Maxie, thanks for stopping by. It's time we put the evening coffee on.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Way to go Gina! My experience is an echo of so many others as I started with the longer novels too.

Then during ACFW St Louis, I was presented with a chance to write a novella. That certainly was a learning experience and the result is still sitting on an editor's desk. But because of it, I found my agent!

That 1st novella turned into 3, and now I think it's contagious because this month during Speedbo, I had to stop my project and work on 2 stories that when done, will come in under 10K each.

Oh, what have I done?

Tina Radcliffe said...

Anita!!! WAY TO GO!!

Jenny Blake said...

dont enter me as I have this book and loved it.

I too love novellas. I find them great for a quick read or when Im tired (should be reading them now!) But I love then when away also and when I am brain dead.

feeling a little better today still not 100% but way better than even yesterday.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Glad you're better, Jenny.

When is your US trip?

Jenny Blake said...

I arrive May 5th which is about 5 weeks away. (Im still a little seedy but so much better than I was).

I cant wait. been working out what to take and doing research! will meet at least 5 -7 authors at this point. I am even getting a night in Canada now which is so exciting.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thanks, Tina. You know I really wanted to get my novel finished during Speedbo, eh, but this was something I couldn't pass up.

I felt like I was playing hooky from Seekerville, though.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Gina, you novellaist diva you, thank you for spending the day with us. Tell your kids thanks for sharing too.

Chill N said...

Gina, I am totally stunned at how timely this post is for me! I decided to do something totally different for Speedbo -- a novella. This is my first venture and I'm loving it. I find the required simplicity is both freeing and frightening :-) I'm also glad to read about novellas being a good way to break in, as that was my thought when I decided to write this. I am printing out your post for my notebook, and will be using it every step of the way.

Can't thank you enough!

Nancy C

Missy Tippens said...

Gina, these are such wonderful tips! Thank you (And Linda) so much for sharing!!

I came by early today and read but didn't have time to comment. I'm sorry I'm just now getting back over! Looks like you've all had a fun day! I know with Gina on hand that you certainly did. :)

Playground Monitor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Playground Monitor said...

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Playground Monitor said...

Once more with feeling. :-)

Speechless? Moi? Actually I do consider myself an introvert but when necessary I will speak in public.

Wanna see what I bought for myself this evening?


Tina Radcliffe said...

Love the flowers..but my cat would eat them. The Self Help those are cool.

Gina Welborn said...

Jenny, I'm glad to hear you're feeling better.

Yay, Nancy, on these tips being timely for you!

Missy, congratulations on your Rita final. :-)

Tina, thank you so much for the invite and the pasta, which I didn't get to each my "save for later" portions because once my kids got home from school, they were starting and grabbed all the yummies. The sad thing is when you give birth to them, you're kinda obligated to feed them.

The clock is about to strike midnight so this Cinderella is heading to off to slumberland. Hubby is snoring. Kindergartener is cuddled next to me and is snoring. And the dog is surprisingly not at the foot of the bed yet he's somewhere in the room snoring too.

Mary Preston said...

A well written novella can be the ideal read sometimes. I'm thinking a rainy afternoon like today.

Sarah said...

I would love to win and if I win I would choose the paperback!!!
Thanks for the giveaway and God Bless!!!
Sarah Richmond

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