Monday, December 10, 2012

Tips for writing a novella (and a giveaway!)


by Golden Keyes Parsons



Golden Keyes Parsons is a popular retreat and conference speaker and author of historical novels. Her book, “In The Shadow Of The Sun King,” (Thomas Nelson Publishing), first in a three-book series based on her family genealogy, released Fall 2008, and was named a finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Book of the Year Debut Author category. Her second book, “Prisoner Of Versailles,” was released September 2009 and was named a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Daphne contest and was also a finalist for the Advanced Writers & Speakers Association Golden Scroll Novel of the Year. The concluding book in the series, “Where Hearts Are Free” released September 2010 and is a Women of Faith Book Club selection. Her fourth novel, “His Steadfast Love,” a Civil War novel set in Texas, released November 2011 and was a finalist in the RWA’s National Readers Choice Awards for 2012.

Her next book, “Trapped! The Adulterous Woman,” Book #1 in her series, “Hidden Faces, Portraits of Nameless Women In The Gospels,” (WhiteFire Publishing) was released in October 2012.


To make a long story short...

I love historical fiction. I fell in love with the genre when I was a teenager and read Thomas B. Costain’s The Black Rose and The Silver Chalice. Now I am an historical fiction author. The very mention of the genre conjures up thick volumes of long complicated stories, multiple characters living their lives over several years through convoluted sub-plots.

However, I also have always enjoyed short stories and novellas, and at the moment, I am writing an historical fiction series of novellas. This is a new venture for me. I am learning as I go, and I would love for you to join me on my journey.

So what exactly is a novella? The obvious answer is that it is a short novel. Clever, eh? It is longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel. And there is more involved than simply shortening a novel. A typical historical novel in the Christian Market is around 100,000 words or about 350 pages, trade paperback. A novella will run about 20,000 – 25,000 words or about a fourth the size of a novel. Some say a novella can go up to 40,000 words, but to me that enters the realm of a novel.

A novella will usually center around one event. There’s not time to really develop sub-plots. However, in the two novellas I have written so far—Trapped! The Adulterous Woman and Alone, The Woman At The Well—although they did revolve primarily around one event, I did include a lot of back story. I’m going to try not to do that in Book #3, Broken The Woman Who Anointed Jesus’ Feet.

Fewer characters appear in a novella. There is simply not sufficient word count to introduce and fully develop a full cast of supporting characters. But there is time to nicely develop one’s central characters—easier than in a short story—and that must be done to have a satisfying story for the reader.

There will primarily be only one or two POVs. And many novellas are written in first person.
As a novella usually revolves around one event, it will be addressing one question, “Will boy get girl?” or “Will the guilty party be found?” or “Will the storm destroy the town?” etc. In Trapped! the question was: “Will Anna fall for the trap?” In Alone, the question is “Will Marah always be an outcast?” The story winds around that question tighter and tighter until the end.

The rules for good writing still apply to writing a novella. The characters must be relatable. The story arc has to be good. The author must maintain the tension and conflict. In fact, the tension needs to be at a faster pace, because of the short word count. Donald Maass says that every page needs to have tension and conflict on it, and when the story begins to lag, kill someone off. I’m not so sure that’s always possible, but you see how important tension and conflict are to the story.

I am enjoying writing these novellas and developing my skills in this area. After Book #4, Hopeless, The Woman With The Issue of Blood, the four novellas will be combined and printed as a compilation under the series title, Hidden Faces, Portraits of Nameless Women In The Gospels.


So then will it be a novel of women whose encounters with Jesus changed their lives or … oh, I don’t know what it will be called. But I do know it will be a good read!

Golden and WhiteFire Publishing are generously giving away an ebook of Trapped: The Adulterous Woman to one lucky person. We're using Rafflecopter for this giveaway. You can get entered by leaving a comment below, liking Golden and Whitefire on Facebook, or liking Go Teen Writers. This giveaway closes on Friday, December 14th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

41 comments:

  1. Wow! That was a very helpful post! I don't think I've read anything about novellas before, so this was great.

    Generally, I prefer novels, but that may be simply because that's what I'm comfortable with (Although...ahem! I haven't actually written anything long enough to be a novel yet. Just "books" that would've been novels, had I finished them).

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    1. Amanda,

      I agree with you. Even though Novellas sound great, I think that I prefer novels.

      (I haven't written anything long enough to be a novel yet either.) :D

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  2. That was very helpful! I wrote a novella that I have been trying to get published and it is encouraging to see someone else publish novellas : )

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  3. I wrote my first novella over the summer, and I have to agree with all Golden said. It's a challenge to change your pacing so much, but it's also a lot of fun to move straight from action to action, from high-tension to high-tension because of that fast pace. I didn't think I'd enjoy the short format (I have a hard time keeping my books down to 100,000 words, LOL), but I really enjoyed it!

    And I obviously don't need to be entered to win this, given that I'm her editor on it, so I'll avoid the Rafflecopter. ;-)

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  4. I have never really considered writing a Novella before. I've been trying to stay focused on my novel for a while. :) It might be fun to write a novella later, though... :)

    Great post!

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  5. I think writing a novella is a good exercise for anywriter. It helps you to really understand what are the bare bones of a story and what is optional. I think it strengthens your novel writing.

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  6. I haven't tried writing a novella yet, but I've read some really good ones!

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  7. I've only written novels, but I think I might try my hand at a novella now! I also think it would be fun to write a play, but for some reason, that one seems impossibly difficult to me.

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  8. Fascinating post! I just wrote my first novella, but it's a shorter story using the characters from my novel. It takes place between book one and two in the series.

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  9. I've always been interested in writing a novella some day, so this post was really helpful to me. Thanks!

    Tessa
    www.christiswrite.blogspot.com

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  10. where is the reference to the woman in trapped found in the
    Bible?

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    1. John 8 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+8&version=KJV

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  11. Interesting post (and oooo, a giveaway!) I think I prefer to write novels (I like to spend lots of time with my characters...I like to have enough space to really watch them grow and expand. Which seems odd, because I've written more novellas then I have novels...but I do like my novel better. :P)

    I can never seem to cram myself into a short story format, but I'd like to try again sometime.

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  12. This was helpful! :)

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    1. I have mostly been writing short stories since my novels always end up to short.

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  13. I should NOT schedule blog posts when I'm running low on sleep! Sorry the Rafflecopter thing has duplicates in it, guys. Sheesh.

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    1. Haha, I was just reading all the comments to see if anyone else noticed before I pointed it out ;)

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    2. I swear it did NOT look that way when I created it, though I'm sure it's user error. Oy.

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  14. A great post! I have a draw full of novellas from when I first started writing. Now I hit the big guns with 100k novels. But these novellas sound really awesome! It's helpful to know now exactly what a novella IS.

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  15. I like writing a little bit of everything... I've written a handful of short stories, a good deal of poetry, one novella, half-and-counting of one novel, a kids' chapter book, and a kids' play.

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  16. I just recently discovered novellas, and I think I've fallen jn love with them. Not as much as I love novels, but I love the pace and tension you can add. I think mine s a little on the long side for a novella, but it's definitely not a novel.

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  17. I loved this! I'd love to write a novella someday. I'm currently working on getting my "novel" out of the "novella" word count ;) I need it longer! But novellas are lovely and I plan on writing one soon. I have a question: if you are writing a series, would novellas be ideal for them or would it be better to go full novel amount?

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. I'll let an important person give the final word, but just as a guess, perhaps it depends on how many books are in the series - more books, they might be shorter; fewer books, longer. Or just fit it to your series type.

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    3. Sarah, novellas are typically sold in compilations in one book. (I'm no expert, but that's been my observation.) Series of novels will always be popular, so you would probably be safer (sales wise) to package it that way. But ebooks are changing the market a lot, and some people think that readers will be looking for stories in a short format again. *Shrugs"

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  18. I was writing a novella, and then I kept writing it and it turned into a novel, lol. Maybe I'll try the novella thing again someday :)

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  19. Thanks, everybody, for taking time to comment. I just got home from being gone all day, so I appreciate your patience.

    I too think I prefer writing novels, but this little series had been on my heart for years and it just lent itself to a shorter venue. I agree with Dina, in that I think it sharpens one's writing skills. I would recommend that you might want to at least try your hand at it. A series can be long historicals (look at Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series) or shorter novellas. Either one works!

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  20. I was never one for novella but I recently found that I grew really close to a short story I wrote and by the time I feel like the story is finished it will probably be a novella. But where do you go to get a novella published? Or can you only do it through self publishing. I haven't really looked, but I don't know of anyone who accepts novellas.

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    1. The most popular way to sell novellas is as a set, Mandi--either like we're doing with Golden's, where the series is all by the same author and can be put into an anthology, or a collection of novellas by different authors but with a common theme. Many publishers are doing those, and it's a great way to introduce new authors under the banner of respected ones. =)

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  21. I like novels more then novellas. It gives more time to get to know the characters and develop the plot. The pacing in novellas are often so rushed that it is hard to keep track of the plot, which makes parts have to be reread.

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  22. Ohhh a give a way! so excited! :)

    - B

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  23. This was a very informative post. Thanks so much for sharing. I have often wondered what a novella was all about and you did such a great job explaining to all to me!
    Thanks so very much.

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  24. I think there are publishers who would be open to novellas, particularly in a series. Publishers are open to good writing. You just have to present your idea in a professional manner. Make your proposal interesting and succinct and pray for the doors to open.

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  25. I've written two Novellas and they turned out Ok. I always have trouble developing my main character all the way when I write them, though. Could you give me few pointers on how to get published if I ever finish the novel I'm working on? Is there an age limit?

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  26. I always go out intending to write a novel, but then I realize my story moves to fast and the climax is on page 50 or so. It has happened many times and I have tried countless ways to slow down my writing, but hey! Maybe I was born to be a novella writer instead!

    Thanks for this post! It was very inspiring!

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  27. Thanks for the post ( I <3 Go Teen Writers) :)

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  28. The question on how to get published always comes up wherever I speak or appear on a blog ... and is an understandable query. The publishing world seems huge and almost insurmountable, especially with the dramatic changes which have taken place in the past few years with the large buyouts of major houses, plus e-publishing and self-publishing.

    However the advice on how to get published is really basically the same. If you are a true beginner (which we have all been there at one time or another :) I would suggest a couple of things: Join a really good critique group that has a mix of beginners and professionals.

    Then start going to writers conferences, learn from the workshops, and meet different personnel from the various publishing houses. Find out what they are looking for. Pitch your ideas.

    This is assuming that you already have the basics down of knowing good grammar -- how to punctuate, spell, construct sentences, etc. If you struggle in that area, take a refresher course. One will get nowhere sending in a manuscript full of grammatical errors. It will not be read no matter how good the story.

    Then read, read, read good books. It's amazing how much this enhances one's writing. I try to alternate reading Christian novels and secular novels. The styles are different, and I learn from both.

    I don't know of an age limit. This is for teen writers ... so go for it!

    Hope this is helpful.

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  29. I always thought of a novella as short and sweet but with me it always stretches to become a novel... I fall in love with my book and refuse to keep it short :(
    Thank you for the useful information.
    http://whatiluvv.blogspot.in/

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  30. That was really helpful! I feel like this blog always posts about exactly what I've just decided to write. Thanks. =)

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