Tag Archives: short stories

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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Short Fiction Secrets: Sell More Novels With Short Stories

Short Fiction Secrets: Sell More Novels With Short Stories

I’ve written about using short stories for marketing before, but since “can I really sell short stories?” is a question which keeps coming up, here are three more tips which will help. They may inspire you to make the most of short fiction; few authors do, so there’s a real opportunity here.

Something to keep in mind too — short stories help you to take advantage of the holidays to sell fiction. Christmas stories always sell. Consider that you can write a short story in a few hours, so short fiction is an excellent way to boost your sales.

In addition to Christmas, other holidays, like Halloween (spooky stories) and St. Valentine’s Day (romances) offer wonderful opportunities for you to sell more books.

Short stores are short: focus on the emotion

The big reason I love short stories is that you’ll learn things which you can apply to all your fiction. Such as:

  • Emotion is everything: deliver an experience;
  • Stop explaining, it weakens the story;
  • Tighten up: choose one word rather than ten.

“One word rather than ten” is a challenge for me. I tend to wordiness.

Here are the tips.

1. Use short stories to preview your current novel in progress

“I want to write faster…” There’s a trend at the moment with authors complaining about how slowly they write. The other side of the coin is authors bragging that they finished their novel in a week.

If you’re a slow writer, that’s perfectly fine. You write the way you write a particular novel. You may write your next novel in ten days, it doesn’t matter.

Short stories give you a simple and easy way to boost the sales of all your fiction. If you’re in the slow writer camp, consider writing a couple of stories to prequel your novel. Not only will that prime readers to expect your novel, they can pre-order it if you’re offering pre-orders.

2. Use short stories to test a new genre

I’m a ghostwriter. Occasionally someone will offer me money to write something in a genre that’s completely new to me. Unless I have an instinctive reaction like — no way, not with a gun to my head — I ask the client to give me a chance to test whether I can write in that genre.

If I find that I don’t like reading in the genre, and can’t come up with a mile of ideas after reading a couple of books, my investigation stops.

On the other hand, if I enjoy the genre, I try writing a short story of around 10,000 words. I can do that in a couple of days, and I’ll know whether I want to accept the ghostwriting commission.

3. Write short stories for collaboration marketing with other authors

Bundles of short stories sell well in various fiction genres, as well as in sub-genres of major  categories like romance.

Recently on Facebook, groups for author marketing collaborations with bundles have seen an uptick in members. I haven’t researched, but I imagine that if these groups are popular, there are assuredly others on Facebook, as well as on venues like forums and LinkedIn.

When you join a group, you’ll hear about bundles which are calling for submissions, and you can send off a story for inclusion.

Although I haven’t joined any of these groups yet, I’ve got it on my task list. Come October, I start writing Christmas short stories, for my pen names, as well as for clients.

Several authors I respect have told me that joining other authors in a bundle of short stories has worked well for them. They’ve gained subscribers, traffic, and sales.

How many ways could you use short stories in your self-publishing venture?

I hope I’ve inspired you to think of short stories as useful, and if you haven’t tried writing a story or two — write one today. 🙂

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

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Want to write short stories? If you answered yes, that's excellent… Here's why. Today, you can make money writing short fiction. More info →
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Self-Publishing: Write Today, Sell Tomorrow, With Short Stories

Self-Publishing: Write Today, Sell Tomorrow, With Short Stories

I love writing short stories because I’m a huge blogging fan. Blogging is instant publishing, and short stories are similar. You can write a short story today, and sell it tomorrow.

By the way, our Kindle Short Fiction Domination program is closing for good in a week. We’ve got upcoming releases, so you receive a special offering on our short story program until April 29.

“Yes, but readers don’t buy short stories in my genre…”

I often receive this response from authors when I suggest that they add short story writing to their self-publishing program. My response to that is always: “you will be surprised.”

Writing and publishing short stories is an efficient way to get more from your self-publishing efforts.

In this article, I suggested some of the ways in which you can use short fiction ebooks:

• They’re an easy way to make the switch to writing fiction;

• Short stories will boost your book sales on Amazon and elsewhere;

• You can build an email list, by offering a short story or two;

• Short fiction increases your visibility so you can build your author platform;

• It’s an easy way to develop a profitable career ghostwriting fiction for clients…

Write short stories fast: focus on scenes

The easiest way to write short stories (and novels, for that matter) is to focus on scenes.

My scenes average at around 1500 words. So for a short story, I aim at three scenes. I may write longer, but three scenes gives me a basic outline for a short story.

For more on writing in scenes, read Write Hot Scenes For Bestselling Fiction: 5 Magical Tips.

The first scene of a short story is the setup: introduce the story question

Your first scene is the setup for your short story: you introduce your characters, the situation, and the story question.

Your story question is the POINT of your novel. We discussed the story question in New Novelist: Write A Selling Novel With One Simple Strategy:

The point of a novel is often referred to as the “story question”, or “dramatic question.” Although the story question might not be stated overtly, it must exist for your novel to be satisfying to readers. In many genres, the genre itself offers insight to the story question:

  •  In mysteries — will the sleuth find the killer?
  • In romances — will the boy get the girl?
  • In thrillers — will the hero save the world?

Your short story’s second scene: a big obstacle or three

You’ve set up your short story. Now it’s time to add an obstacle.

In your mystery, for example, your sleuth is questioning suspects when the killer strikes again…

The climax — all is lost, BUT… your hero comes through in scene three

Your third scene is the climax. In a mystery, your sleuth has made a huge mistake. The killer has turned the tables on the sleuth, who’s facing death.

Here’s a tip for writing short stories: your climax is everything. Set up the climax from the first line of your story.

After the climax, wind up your short story in a few sentences…

And you’re done.

Kindle Short Fiction Domination closes on April 29

We’ve got a lot of upcoming releases, so we’re clearing the decks. You receive a special offering on Kindle Short Fiction Domination until April 29, when the program will close for good. Enjoy.

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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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