Monday, October 22, 2018

Write a Novella? Easy Peasy …

by Ane Mulligan @AneMulligan

Or so I thought. 

Why didn't someone tell me? Sure, a novella contains fewer words—about one quarter of a full novel to be exact. And I thought that meant less work. Ha! I mistakenly figured I wouldn't need all that goal and motivation stuff. After all, this was short and a romance.  

Sugar, I had a lot to learn. I mean, you can put your boots into the oven, but that doesn’t make them biscuits. And throwing words willy-nilly onto a page does not a novella make.

It took a weeklong binge of Hallmark Christmas movies to open my narrow mind to an ugly fact: It takes the same amount of time to work up the character interviews, learn their goals, motivations, lies, wounds, etc. 

And that list doesn't even include the plot. Help! I didn't think of that part when I signed up. No, when some friends called for submissions for a collection, I just opened my big mouth. 

The deed done, I needed to figure out how writing a novella was different . . .  and the same.

I'm used to 80 to 90k word novels. My books have sub plots. The supporting characters have a story. There is usually more than one POV. I show and don't tell, and I write in deep POV. 

When trying to write a novella, I learned you don't do it quite the same way. You have to tell a little more in 20K words or you'll never get the story inside your word count. But you have to do that so it doesn't feel like telling. Insert Ane doing a face palm here.

I guess we’re always learning, and that’s a good thing really. 

While you don’t have the word count to do a lot of layering in a novella, you still need to layer in a novella. Every word has to serve double duty. Make that triple duty. 

So, what's a writer to do? 

I don't know about anyone else, but I called my critique partners. A lot. Then I hunkered down to to reconfigure the story I had in mind. I cut the sub plots, sticking to the central one only. Then I wrote a few chapters . . . and rewrote them . . . and rewrote—well, you get the idea. I've redone all the GMC several times to get it right. 

I've think written a novel's worth of words trying to get the 20K right. I have a whole new respect for novella authors. 

All in all, I enjoyed writing a novella. And I did another, but I went into the second one with my eyes open to the fact that a novella takes the same amount of:
  • Up-front work in character interviewing.
  • Time figuring out the backstory.
  • Hard work discovering the character’s wound, the lie they believe, and their motivation.
In fact, the only thing a novella doesn’t take the same amount of time doing is the actual writing. I knocked it out in a month instead of four months. Which, mathematically, is about right.


How is writing a novella different . . . and the same? @AneMulligan on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Four seasons. Four stories. Each one set in the enchanting world of the South. These are the kinds of stories your grandmother told you from a front porch swing.

Ice Melts in Spring by Linda W. Yezak When Kerry Graham's boss forces her to return to the Gulf of Mexico where her husband drowned years ago, she feels only spring's chill and not the warmth of the Texas sun. Can the joy of a reclusive author and the compassion of a shrimp-boat preacher thaw Kerry's frigid heart?  

Lillie Beth in Summer by Eva Marie Everson 
With the untimely death of his wife, Dr. James Gillespie believes God has abandoned him. He also believes he's never met anyone like the young widow Lillie Beth, whose beloved Granny lies dying at home, and who sees a God who sweeps hope through a farmhouse window. Can a young woman whose husband died in Vietnam restore a faith that is all but dead.  

Through an Autumn Window by Claire Fullerton 
Because her larger than life mother Daphne Goodwyn is dead, forty-year-old Cate returns to Memphis with one thought in mind: something always goes wrong at a Southern funeral. But surrounded by the well-mannered society that raised her, the nostalgic rites of a three-day, autumn mourning bring the unexpected gift of the end of sibling rivalry. 

A Magnolia Blooms in Winter by Ane Mulligan 
With Broadway stardom within her reach, Morgan James returns home in winter to help an old friend. Maybe it s just nostalgia, but when she sees him again, an old flame rekindles. When she s called back to NYC to take the lead in a new musical, will fame be worth losing the man she loves?

Award-winning author Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She's anovelist, playwright and managing director of a community theatre. She resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband. You can find Ane at her websiteAmazon Author pageNovel RocketFacebookTwitter, and Instagram.


  1. I haven't been referred to as "Sugar" in many years. What a wonderful reminder of why I love living in the South (back home as I like to call it). Wonderful post Ms. Ane! Thank you for helping me to always be learning. God's blessings ma'am.

    1. Thank you! I'm tickled pink I could give you a reminder of home. Once a Southerner, always a Southerner!

  2. Wow, Ane, I had no idea novellas were so complex. Like you, I had the idea they were a walk in the park.
    And...I love your southern approach! We lived in the south for several years, and I miss the laid-back culture. Thanks for your post.
    --Roberta Sarver

    1. Thank you, Roberta! It was a real eye-opener all right! lol But I actually like writing them ... now! :)

  3. This came at just the right time! I've been asked to do a novella in a 4-story collection, and you've just helped me go into it armed with information! Thanks!

  4. Love it Ane. I can say the same thing for my novel. I thought I'd put the words on the paper and voila! Done. LOL that was over ten years ago and I'm still rewriting. Take care, Sugar. ;)

  5. I agree with Regina Merrick. This is the perfect time. I'm writing a novella collection with her and two others. It should be fun. Thanks so much.