Fiction Secrets: 5 Tips To Write A Novella Fast

Fiction Secrets: 5 Tips To Write A Novella Fast

In our Advanced Fiction class we’re writing novellas. It’s fun to write a novella, because you can finish your story quickly and get it published

You may be wondering… what’s a novella?

Novellas are short fiction. Novellas are too long to be short stories, and too short to be novels. So they’re an ideal length for today’s readers who want stories they can read quickly.

I think of novellas as overgrown short stories, and write them at anywhere from 15,000 to 40,000 words.

Write a novella, and sell it — fast

Did you know that when you write a novella, you can make as much income as you can writing a novel?

I asked a couple of self-publishing authors who specialize in short fiction how they priced their novellas — did they price them lower than novels? Both said that they invariably priced their novellas at either $2.99 or $3.99. They added some of their novellas to KDP Select, some they didn’t.

What you do with your novellas will vary according to what you want them to achieve for you.

For example, if you’re writing a series, you could write a novella as a lead-in to the series, and price it at 99 cents. The hope is that you’ll get readers hooked on the series.

Now let’s look at some tips to help you to write novellas confidently.

1. Start with the story question: what’s at stake?

The story question is also known as the narrative drive; it’s what powers the novella.

I talked about narrative drive here:

What will the surgeon do? Will she choose her family, or the prime minister? Who will live, and who will die? That’s the story question. It powers the narrative — it’s the narrative drive.

The story question is the point of the story; in a mystery, will the sleuth unmask the killer, in a thriller, will the hero overcome the terrorists and save thousands of lives?

Bryn Donovan has some plotting ideas from classic novels here; it’s a great list, and will get you thinking in terms of the story question.

2. Create characters, but keep your cast small

When you’re writing a novella, keep the cast of characters small. You haven’t the space for a tribe.

On the other hand, if you’re writing a novella as a prequel to a series of novels, you may add in a couple of characters you don’t strictly need, because they’ll make an appearance in your series.

3. What’s the climax?

What does your point of view (POV) character fear most? Once you know that, you know that this greatest fear will play out in the climax of the novella. You’ll torture your character by making him face what he most fears.

A student asked whether you need a climax in a novella. Some authors feel that you don’t. Other authors end on a cliffhanger, so that the reader will buy another book which carries on the story.

I like to include a climax, and I never end on a cliffhanger. I like my novellas to be a complete emotional experience for readers. That said, it depends on your own needs, as well as the genre.

For example, let’s say that you’re writing a mystery series. The series has an overall mystery, which won’t be resolved until the final book, although each book contains a complete mystery, which is resolved in the climax. Each book in the series adds more clues to the “big” mystery of the series.

Let’ say that you want to write a novella to promote your series. Of course you won’t resolve the overall series’ mystery, but you will resolve a complete mystery for readers.

Please don’t get too hung up over what to do, climax or no-climax. Your story will usually tell you what’s needed once you’ve written a few thousand words.

4. Write your first draft quickly, in scenes and dialogue

I like to write the dialogue in scenes first. The dialogue is usually the action of the scene. Writing that first gets it out of the way. Then you can focus on underpainting your scene.

5. Add your “underpainting”: character motivations, thoughts etc.

When you’ve written a scene, mostly in dialogue, go back and add stuff. I call this process adding bits of business to the scene; bestselling Outlander author Diana Gabaldon calls the technique “underpainting”. Great word:

… the technique involves a good deal of body language and inconsequential small actions. The reader is conscious of the main thrust of a paragraph, page or scene; the spoken dialogue, the main actions. Subconsciously, underpainting brings the scene alive in the mind’s eye.

In underpainting, you’re putting in whatever the scene needs. You add the viewpoint character’s thoughts, actions of other characters in the scene, the time of day and weather if it’s relevant… Anything and everything which fleshes out the scene.

Of course, in a novella you add less of this than you’d add in a full-length novel.

So, there you have it: some tips to help you to write a novella. Let me know know if they work for you. 🙂

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

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Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters. More info →
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Self-Publishing Shock: “My Book Isn’t Selling…”

Self-Publishing Shock: “My Book Isn’t Selling…”

I hate receiving messages like: “My book isn’t selling, what do I do now?” Writing a book is hard, self-publishing is hard too. The fact that you’ve written a book wins you huge kudos — good for you. Now it’s time to buckle yourself in, and look on self-publishing as a business.

Here’s the good news. Just because your book isn’t selling right now, it doesn’t mean that it will never sell. In traditional publishing, if your book doesn’t sell, in three months it gets pulped. In self-publishing, your book is available forever.

The self-publishing competition is heating up: accept it (this is good news)

Well over 100,000 new ebooks hit the Kindle Store every month. I just checked, and in the past 30 days, 107,691 new titles have been added to the Kindle Store.

So, if you’re just hitting the Publish button, and are then sitting back waiting for sales, you need to be aware of the huge competition, and do a little more.

I talked about slumping book sales in this post, and advised:

You can start with doing more marketing, yes. However, that’s a slippery slope. You can spend too much on advertising, more than you’re likely to recoup in sales. My advice to “help! my sales are dropping” calls from self-publishers starts with advising them to go back to basics.

That post has never been more relevant. It’s no longer enough to publish, now you need to actively promote your books — and sometimes even that won’t help. Authors are reporting that their sales from Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) ads and Facebook ads are woeful.

What’s an author to do?

Two things:

  • Don’t panic — business operates in cycles;
  • Get busy: be ready for the cycle to move upward.

1. Understand business cycles: you’re self-publishing, so you’re a PUBLISHER

Here’s the thing. Amazon’s Kindle set off a gold rush. Check the freelance marketplaces. You’ll find many “writer wanted” projects there.

Buyers are willing to hire writers to write books. They’re investing a few hundred dollars in each book,and are then publishing the ebooks on Amazon. They wouldn’t be doing that if they weren’t making money.

Please stop thinking of yourself as an “author”. Ditch your ego. Stop panicking and start thinking like a publisher.

Here’s how publishers think: they expect to publish duds, because no one knows what will sell. No one. As a rule of thumb, out of every ten books published, most will sell few copies. One or two might make reasonable sales. Out of a few thousand books published, one will be bestseller.

Depressing, right?

Not so. Self-publishing is a HUGE opportunity.

2. Get busy: self-publishing CAN be a gold mine

Look at it this way. Many thousands of authors are making great money on Amazon, because they’re writing good books, and are doing their best to promote those books. A few authors are making thousands of dollars a day; most are making nowhere near that.

However, when I see buyers hunting for people to write their books on the outsourcing sites, I know that opportunities exist.

So get busy: produce more good books.

Recall that you’re a publisher, and publishers publish more than one book a year, or one book a quarter. They publish as many books as they can.

Please realize that I’m not suggesting that you dump a lot of junk on the online book retailers. That helps no one. You’re wasting your own time. Write the best books you can, and keep self-publishing.

One dud book is nothing, and as we’ve suggested, it may take off next month or next year.

In the meantime…

Onward… 🙂

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99
I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly. More info →
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Write Fast, Write Well: How To Be Prolific, and Sell – Powerful tips to increase your writing income

Write Fast, Write Well: How To Be Prolific, and Sell – Powerful tips to increase your writing income

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What If You Were Twice As Successful, Or Even THREE Times More Successful Than You Are Today? There's No Ceiling On A Writer's Income... You Just Need To Be Prolific. More info →
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Start Writing Your Novel Today With Super-Fast Prep

Start Writing Your Novel Today With Super-Fast Prep

In our fiction authors’ class, we discussed when you should start writing your novel. How much preparation do you need? Prepping a novel can take forever. You need character bios, an outline, and research too.

If you spend too much time on preparation however, there’s a good chance that you’ll give up on your novel. You lose your inspiration, and tell yourself that you’ll develop a “better” idea.

Several of the authors admitted that they’ve done this. One author said that she’d spent two years researching a novel, and had given up on it. She couldn’t face writing the book.

Short-cut your preparation for writing your novel

Let’s look at how you can eliminate procrastination, and build your motivation, by starting your novel quickly. More and better ideas will come to you while you’re writing.

Here are some strategies you can try.

1. Start writing immediately: no prep necessary

If you wish, you can start writing your novel immediately, without any preparation at all. Just start writing.

Bestselling authors Stephen King and Dean Koontz both use this “just start” strategy. Yes, your first few chapters will go slowly, because you’re developing your characters, and your story question, but you’ll be writing.

2. “This novel is about…”

With this strategy, you write yourself a letter about your novel. Start with the phrase: “this novel is about…”

The benefit of this strategy is that it gives you the impetus you need to write your blurb.

Essentially, your blurb becomes a mini outline. The benefit of this strategy is that you can look at the bones of your story. It’s easy to see if you’re missing an essential element, such as an antagonist, for example.

3. Start with a genre trope

Every fiction genre has its tropes. That is, devices, or themes.

To see how this works, visit the Mystery, Thriller & Suspense genre on Amazon, and select the Mystery sub-genre. You’ll see that Amazon obligingly lists sub-genres of Mystery. They include: Cozy, Historical, Women Sleuths…

Scroll down the sidebar, and you’ll see Moods: Action-Packed, Fun, Romantic, and more. Further down in the sidebar, you’ll see Characters and Settings for the Mystery genre too.

In the Mystery genre, forensic investigation has become a trope.

The romance genre has dozens of tropes. Amazon lists them for you: Amnesia, Beaches, International, and so on.

When you start writing your novel with a trope, you save time. Not only do you use a device which is popular in your genre, you’ll find yourself with more ideas than you can handle.

4. Start with an image: day dream about it — “what if?”

This is my favorite method of writing your novel, FAST.

I start with an image — any image which captures my imagination. I look at the image, musing about the person, or people in the image. If the image is a setting: a gorgeous beach on a tropical island, or a high mountain pass in the Swiss Alps, I imagine someone walking, or running in the image.

Try this strategy yourself.

You can find images anywhere: in art galleries, in magazines, or even on Pinterest.

Have fun with writing your novel.

Starting your novel super-fast ensures that you’ll maintain your inspiration.

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →
Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99
I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly. More info →
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out our ebooks for writers.