As you may know, I mentor writers and authors. Although many of my students begin their careers by writing short fiction, few have goals for this short material.
They look at short stories and novellas as practice material for their real goal: writing a novel. Of course, this is laudable. I’m a big fan of exercises and writing journals.
The students tend to be surprised when I suggest that they write and publish their shorties with as much care and attention as a novel.
Novels take time to write, especially for new authors. We discussed converting duds to bestsellers, because new authors frequently confuse story and plot. This leads to overwriting and procrastination.
Writing short stories and novellas has many advantages, for both new and experienced authors. You can succeed faster.
New author? Write short fiction: succeed faster
Last year, when I suggested a novella to a new author he said: “I don’t have time. After I finish this novel, I’ve already got three others to write.”
A few weeks ago, I sent him a quick message asking about his progress. His posts on social media featured wonderful news: a new baby in the family. But when I scrolled back through his posts—nothing about his writing.
If you’re unsure about short fiction too, let’s look at some of the advantages of publishing novellas.
1. Write and publish faster
In the time it takes to write a novel, you could write three novellas.
Not only would you learn a lot about writing fiction, but you could also build your platform and generate sales. There’s less chance you’d waste time with procrastination too.
2. End procrastination when you write a novella
Every author I know procrastinates—I do too. Although I started a new novel for a ghostwriting client a couple of weeks ago, I’m procrastinating. Somehow, I’ve managed to outline five scenes, without getting to the story question.
The reason? I’m struggling to combine a ghost story with a romance, and it’s not working.
Finally, I decided to write a novella (in the style of The Turn of the Screw) to deal with the ghostly elements as they deserve, then write a romance. The ghost story informs the romance, it won’t dominate it. The client’s happy—he’s getting a two-for-one deal.
Whenever you feel as if you might have “too much plot”, think about hiving off some of the elements into a novella.
This brings us to plot.
3. Plot with confidence
Struggling with plotting?
Short fiction helps you to plot, your way. You’ll pants with confidence if you’re a pantser, or you can outline to your heart’s content.
Characters are easier to manage too.
4. Develop characters: saints, and sinners too
New authors and many established ones struggle to develop their characters. Characterization is an art. Remember to balance good and evil characters:
One of the challenges of creating an evil character is your own lack of belief in the character. If you struggle with that, try pushing a good character trait to its limit in one of your characters.
In short fiction, it’s easier to practice your skills at characterization.
5. Kickstart a new series (or promote books you’ve published)
Writing a novella is not only a wonderful way to start a new fiction series, it can help if you have a non-existent or tiny budget for promotion.
You can promote your other books in the backmatter of your novella.
Short fiction: the easy way write and publish faster
Great news from the new author with the new baby.
Not only has he published his first fantasy novella, he’s already made sales to readers on his mailing list.
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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.