From Writing Short Stories to Writing Novels: 3 Simple Tips

You’re writing short stories, and you have a handle on how short stories work. Now you want to write a novel.

You’re a little nervous. A novel’s a much bigger project than a short story.

Relax. If you like, you can think of a novel as just a bunch of stories. If you’re writing long short stories (novellas) of 20,000 words, a novel’s just two or three of those — you can do it. 🙂 My students are always surprised at how easy a novel becomes, when you use the basic story template. In essence, someone (several someones, in novels) wants something.

Writing short stories: from a short story, to a novel, using the basic template

If you’re using our basic story template, writing novels becomes easy. Here’s the template.

1. A novel has more characters, and more depth to those characters

We discussed how to create richer stories in Plotting Fiction: How To Create Richer Stories, and discussed layering:

Your plot’s what happens in your story. A subplot is what happens to one character, who’s not your lead character. A subplot is a little story within a story. A layer’s a plot strand for your lead character.

In a novel, you create more layers — plot strands — for your main characters.

2. A novel has one basic idea, or concept

Your concept ties your novel together. K.M Weiland suggest using “what if” to define your concept.

  • What if a woman who’s unhappy with her life woke up one day to discover that she was 21 again? She has memories of her “real” life, but she’s been given a do-over… however, that would mean that…
  • What if a politician in an unhappy marriage has an affair, and is blackmailed into divulging secrets to a foreign government? A secret government department forces him to play a dangerous game. If he loses the game, not only will he die, but everything that’s important to him will be destroyed too.

Once you have your concept, go back to the story template. Your main character wants something.

3. You’ll discover the your novel as you write it: be prepared for detours, and changes

You have your concept, and your main characters. You’ve added plot layers for your characters. You start writing. Your story changes. This will happen many times as you write.

That’s fine. If you’re lucky, you’ll have one of this experiences where you can say that “the book wrote itself.” Realistically, this won’t happened. You’ll lose your way. Outlining can help you to get back on track. Write in scenes. If outlining’s not for you: you only need to know the next scene.

Refer to How to Write Scenes in Novels and Short Stories:

A scene is a unit of ACTION. Make something HAPPEN — something important, which changes things for your main character.

All you need to do, when you get stuck, is write the next scene. You can do it. 🙂

Updated: January 8, 2017

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Angela Booth is a top copywriter, multi-published author, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills on her websites. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her business books have been widely published.