Writing A Novella
Novellas have grown to be popular. People with limited time to read like them because they can be read in a short time. And most novellas tend to be historical and contemporary novellas. A novella is a short novel, running from 20,000 to 40,000 words, yet is a complete story of two people struggling through conflicts to reach a romantic happy ending. These shorter reads are usually placed into anthologies that are thematically based on holidays, location, pleasurable interests—camping, chocolate, sewing, quilting, etc— and are enjoyed by people who dislike putting down a novel, but who have time restraints. A novella meets their need for a good book that can be read in a shorter time period.
How do novellas differ from novels?
Some of the major differences in novellas:
- The hero and heroine often have some connection from the past—old friends, childhood playmates or have heard about the other through a friend or family.
- The plot line limits subplots to either none or a minor subplot that enhances the relationship between the hero and heroine.
- The setting descriptions are mainly used to create a sense of place or to reflect the mood or emotion of the hero or heroine.
- The novella covers a shorter period of time than a novel, often no more than a month or two.
The story does not necessarily lead to a proposal or wedding, but allows the reader to assume that as time passes the couple will make a lifetime commitment.Connection between the hero and heroine
Because a romance moves through three stages of romantic feelings—awareness, interest, and attraction—a novella does not allow the time to explore these three stages fully. Having a past connection between the hero and heroine allows the relationship to develop in a speedy yet believable manner.
An Open Door takes Steffi Rosetti to Milan for a fashion magazine feature where she meets, Paul DiAngelo, a newly employed photographer who works for the same magazine.
In Better to See You, based on the Little Red Ridinghood fairytale, Lucy Blake enters a wood-crafting shop in Oberammergau, Germany and finds an old friend. Example:
Ahead of her, she saw a young man bent over a piece of wood. Excited, she hurried toward him never having seen a real woodcarver. But as she drew nearer, she a shiver of familiarity rose up her arms and down her spine. Ron? The similarity between this man and her college steady took her breath away. Ron Woodson. How long had it been? Six, maybe seven years. Standing a few feet away, her eyes didn’t leave him as a tender sadness washed over her remembering their parting.
In Apple Blossom Daze while visiting her grandmother, Julie is reunited with an old childhood friend. Example:
A tinny clank roused her thoughts, and she turned toward the fence of her grandmother’s neighbor. A man dropped a large bag into the trash can and replace the lid with another clang. When he turned, he stopped a moment as if surveying the scene.
Embarrassed, she lowered her eyes to a bounty of weeds squeezing between the flowers bursting with buds.
“Julie?” The rich voice rolled across the distance.
She straightened and squinted at the man standing at the fence. “Can I help you?”
“No, but I could help you.” He motioned toward the rake she was clutching.
His familiar grin tugged at her memory but ended there with only a vague impression. She studied his wavy golden hair glinting with bronze highlights, his broad shoulders matching his expansive chest molded to his knit shirt. “I should know you, right?”
He chuckled. “You should.”
She stepped closer, searching his features, while blurred images taunting her. “The only name that comes to me is Adam and that can’t be you. He was gangly and a playful tease.”
“He still is, only taller and older.” A playful look brightened his face.
Her eyes widen as she studied the handsome hunk of man with a five-o’clock shadow and a broad smile. “Adam Wright. I can’t believe it’s you.”
Occasionally, a novella introduces two strangers, but something happens to connect them in the first pages in the novella. This is the situation in a novella to be released soon, A Trip To Remember, when Sky steps from a restaurant without looking both ways. Example:
Sky glanced at the bill. Not as much as she expected. One thing she’d learn, this town seemed full of history and generous.
“Here you go.” The woman slipped a bag onto the table while Sky dug out her wallet. “Where do you recommend I stay? I noticed lots of hotels along I-40, but I’d prefer something in town. You know, with a little—”
She nodded. “I suppose that’s another comment you’ve heard before.”
“Yes, but I’m glad you asked.” She pointed toward the wide front window. “You’ll find a couple right along the street here. When you step outside, just look in both directions and take your pick.”
“Thanks.” She pulled out her credit card and handed it to the woman, then rose and gazed around the room again. A gift shop tempted her, but first she needed to get settled for the night.
After signing the receipt, she put away her credit card, grabbed her sack and headed for the door, motels on her mind. As she pushed open the door, she looked to the right and stepped out.
A booming voice struck her ear too late. Her legs tangled in a lasso connected to a huge black and white dog who pulled her sideways. She spun around, her ankle trap like a noose and unable to hold the ground. In an eye blink, her ankle twisted as she spiraled off the sidewalk and landed between two parked cars. Pain shot up her leg, and she closed her eyes to force back a shriek.
When she opened them, a black nose sniffed her face and a long red tongue swept across her cheek.
“Duffy, don’t kiss a pretty lady without asking.”
The dog’s ears perked when he heard the voice, and so did hers. Her eyes latched onto a mass of reddish-brown wavy hair and a smile that dazed her.
“You and your dog need to be more—”
“Careful.” He rolled his eyes. “I’m sorry we’ll be more cautious next time. It’s difficult to anticipate someone stepping through a doorway without looking in both directions, but I’ll try.”
She muzzled her comment as a sharp pain knifed through her leg
Whether old friends, former relationships or familiarity through relatives, friends or coworkers, or even two strangers with a unique connection, the hero and heroine’s relationship is more appealing and realistic when using these techniques.
Subplots in novellas
The storyline in a novella must remain focused on the relationship of the hero and heroine unless the subplot is a minor element and serves a direct purpose to the outcome of the hero and heroine’s relationship. In Yuletide Treasure, the subplot involves a wooden heart-shaped box that becomes the catalyst to help Livy understand God’s meaning of love and His timing. These subplots are short and significant because they affect the characters relationship or help to emphasis the story’s theme.
Setting’s Purpose in a Novella
In A Trip To Remember, the small town of Tucumcari, New Mexico puts Sky in the midst of generous, friendly people that tangles her in their lives even though she’s there due to a fracture caused by a dog. Her goal to visit her sister in California, a sister who holds grudges, is affected and that adds a subplot as well as shows the importance of setting. This is true, especially when her car needs repair and parts aren’t available. Being far from a big city and unable to drive puts her in the state of depending on strangers whom she grows to care about, especially her landlady who becomes “Grandma” to Sky.
Time Span and Romantic Expectation
Because the novella is often three to four times shorter than a full-length novel, the novella time span is also shorter. Usually a month or two is long enough to develop the relationship of a man and woman heading for a deeper commitment. In An Open Door, Steffi and Paul leave the reader with the expectation of a happy ever after ending. Example:
“Maybe you’re right, but you’ve become so important to me. Sometimes I wonder if God had this all set up.”
Paul chuckled. “I’ve said that to myself so many times. I realize we’ve only known each other a couple of weeks but look how it worked out.”
“We both work at Mode and spend our time in Manhattan,” she said.
“And we have time to get to know each other better, but. . .to be honest, I know I’ve fallen in love with you.”
“And I love you, Paul. You’re the key to my heart.”
A tenor’s voice drifted across the water, his love song intermingled with the music of a concertina while Paul drew Steffi into his arms and kissed her. His heart surged with the feeling of her lips on his and the beating her heart against his chest. God had guided them to find each other and opened the doors of their hearts. Although some novellas do end with the promise of marriage, many do not.
Whether you write a novel or a novella, the important element is to leave your readers with tears in their eyes and a smile on their lips. Give them a story that grows from awareness to interest to attraction in a realistic manner, and then in romance, always give them a happy ending.