What is a novella and how is it structured?

Novellas are fictional written texts in which the length is in between a short story and a novel. They typically consist between 17,000 and 40,000 words. As a result, they typically feature less conflicts than a novel but a few more than a short story. The word is derived from the Italian “novella”, which is their feminine conjugation of “new”.

Tips for writing a novella

With novellas, it’s best to start with a central theme. It can be love, loss, exploring an identity, etc. Once that’s set, that’s what will be applied to the main character. In novellas, main characters act more like intimate guides designed to feel like a friend to the reader. As a result, a good majority of novellas have first-person narrators. However, if it seems more appropriate to have a more omniscient point of view, third person may be better.

Next, proceed as with a regular novel. Starting by reading examples of novellas, such as “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach and “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka, will give you an idea of what a good novella is like and how it’s structured. At the same time or as the next step, you can proceed to outline your novella.

Strong openings and one central conflict are essential to a novella. The first few lines is what will hook readers. Multiple conflicts often make novellas seem very cluttered and confusing. As a result, it’s best to focus on one central one. Adding up to a couple of related minor ones is fine but make sure that they’re significant to the story.

You should also keep subplots and minor characters to a minimum. Again, too many can make your novella seem cluttered and verbose. Try to keep both to a minimum with one subplot and up to two minor characters. As a result, it is best to focus on a set amount of time within the main character’s life.