I’ve written 5 x long romance stories (over 95,000 words), 1 x category contemporary about 50,000 words and 3 x 39,000 word novellas. Many writers, and readers, have asked me whether I find writing different length books difficult. How do I develop deep, believable characters, in a shorter book? The answer is it’s not difficult!
It’s in the plotting.
When I write a romance, I love immersing myself in the characters' world. I try to make the characters real, likeable and human –that often means flawed. When you have a character who has deep, inner emotional problems, you need to be able to write a character arc that allows them to face their fears and grow. How can you do that in a novella?
I’m a plotter, so I usually know how their character arcs are going to develop before I start writing the story. I use Michael Hauge’s Six Act Story Structure (I think I’ve mentioned him before). His tried and true plotting method is structure into 6 acts that have approximate percentages for growth across the book, all centred around 5 turning points. For instance, the first 10% of the book is about the here and now. What does the character believe about himself at the beginning of the book (even though he may be kidding himself)?
Michael says: The opening 10% of your screenplay must draw the reader, and the audience, into the initial setting of the story, must reveal the everyday life your hero has been living, and must establish identification with your hero by making him/her sympathetic, threatened, likable, funny and/or powerful.
If you use a plotting tool like this, you can see how easy it is to write any length book. Simply take the percentages and apply them. If I want to write a novella of say 20,000 words, then Stage 1 will be 2,000 words. Stage 1 will be 9,500 for a 95,000 word novel.
Shorter stories mean tighter character development. I thoroughly recommend having a road map to follow, or a plot outline of the story first, because showing a believable character growth in shorter books is the key to an emotionally engaging novella.
My first novella, To Dare the Duke of Dangerfield, was a Top 5 Finalist in the Kindle Book Review Indie Romance book of the Year 2012 and was a finalist in RomCon Best Historical 2012.