Bored with your fiction? Why not plot a novella, and write it? Not only do novellas improve your sales, they’ll improve your craft skills as well.
I love novellas, because I can write and publish them in a few days; this makes them a wonderful promotional tool. Tip: try writing a novella as a prequel to an upcoming novel.
My primary use for novellas however is to test ideas. For example, I adore ancient Rome. Not only do I read nonfiction about republican and imperial Rome, I enjoy fiction set in those eras as well.
Recently I had an idea for a female Roman sleuth, in the style of Lindsey Davis’s Falco novels. But could I write a series of novels set in that era? Although I was excited, I was nervous too. Novels take time and energy. Why not test my idea with a novella?
So that’s what I’ve done. I’ve scheduled a few days for the novella into my self-publishing calendar. To develop your novella quickly, the key is always to keep it simple—that means a simple plot.
Plot a novella: keep it simple, write and publish
Your simple plot starts with the story question:
Think of a novella as a stripped-down version of a novel. If you were writing a novel you’d have time to write leisurely scenes, expand on minor characters, create a subplot or two… in a novella, you need to stick to the point.
The point is: the story question.
To decide on your story question, you need to make some decisions.
Decisions to make before you begin to plot a novella
My fiction writing students tend to plot a novella before they’re ready—before they’ve made decisions.
To avoid confusion later:
- Decide on a goal. My goal is to discover whether I’m comfortable imagining myself into character of a Roman woman, who lives in 100 AD. Will I enjoy it?
- Your genre. My genre will be historical mystery.
- Think emotion. A novella is short, so where will my focus be? On intrigue? The sleuth’s challenges? On the mystery—creating a puzzle for readers to solve?
- Suspense. Although suspense is an emotion, it’s also an essential requirement for all novels. (You need to strategize to grab readers and hold onto them.)
Schedule your novella in advance: plotting and writing will be easier and faster
Although you can get an idea, plot a novella, then start writing immediately, it’s a chancy process. You can plot yourself into a corner, or wander off wherever a character leads you.
Before you know it, you’ve lost focus. You can either press on, knowing the novella has problems, or take time away from it. If you choose the latter, there’s a chance you’ll create another unfinished project.
Avoid disaster, try making your decisions, then plotting your novella.
And as always, have fun. 🙂
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.