They say great things come in small packages, and when it comes to a well-crafted novella, that is absolutely true. The novella distinguishes itself by packing a big punch within a slender 20,000-40,000 words, taking its place between short stories and full-length novels.

It may be tempting to assume that penning a short mini-novel would be a breeze — ah…but not so fast. Writing a novella requires the author to be succinct and intentional with each word while fortifying each sentence with a constant feeling of forward momentum. To learn what makes a novella a fantastic read, let’s take a look at the best novellas ever written.

The 5 Best Novellas of All Time

When an author sets their sights on writing a novella, he or she may not even realize that this literary form has existed for a couple of centuries — at least. To this day, some of the most beloved literary works that have stood the test of time are novellas. With this in mind, why not learn from the masters of this intricate craft? Consider the best novellas of all time:

Animal Farm by George Orwell

The brilliant author of the prescient 1984, also demonstrated his writing chops in Animal Farm, a satirical allegory spanning just 140 pages. In this novella, George Orwell creates a cast of animal characters that depict the people and political figures of a combustible time in history, the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

In his masterpiece, The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway puts to good use the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” The novella centers on the old Cuban fisherman, Santiago, a rich character who personifies the essence of persistence and hope.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Published in 1843, A Christmas Carol is a classic tale of redemption told through a rich tapestry of unforgettable characters. Through his multi-layered characters, Charles Dickens reveals the age-old message, that real wealth has nothing to do with money.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is a beautiful story based on an unlikely friendship between two men who were committed to realizing their humble dreams while living through the Great Depression. Steinbeck weaves into the novella his own personal experiences while working as a ranch hand in rural California during the 1930s.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad utilizes the literary device of symbolism to relay the dark and perilous journey his main character, Charlie Marlow, takes along the Congo River in Africa. Symbolism adds a mysterious element to this novella while challenging the reader to interpret its deeper meaning.

Start your novella project by becoming acquainted with the best novellas ever written. Throughout the process of reading them, take note of the literary devices used, the pacing and cadence of the writing, and each author’s unique character development skills. These insights will inform and inspire you as you embark on your own novella adventure.

Tips for Writing a Novella

Consider these helpful tips for writing your own fascinating novella:

  1. Start with conflict. Because there is no wasted space in a novella, launch your story with the central conflict, drawing the reader in right away. This conflict will drive the plot from start to finish, so keep it distilled and tight for the greatest effect.
  2. Consider first-person narration. To maximize impact, have your main character narrate the story in first-person POV. Nothing is as powerful as a riveting story being told in first-person.
  3. Keep the number of characters to a minimum. Where a full-scale novel has the luxury of space to introduce a bevy of characters, the novella’s size necessitates a limited cast.
  4. Avoid too many subplots. Again, the novella doesn’t provide the breadth needed to accommodate multiple subplots. Too many subplots only dilute the story by disrupting the forward momentum, which should constantly move toward the climax.
  5. Revise multiple times. To adhere to the word count parameters of a novella, you’ll need to channel Edward Scissorhands and chop, chop, chop away. Improve your storytelling by writing as succinctly as possible, pare your scenes down, and ruthlessly excise any unnecessary subplots or characters.

Work With Gatekeeper Press To Publish Your Novella

Aspiring authors may discover that tackling a novella is actually more challenging than writing a full-length novel. Instead of going it alone, why not team up with the experts at Gatekeeper Press for expert publishing services? We provide editing, proofreading, cover design, and distribution services. Set up a free consultation today!

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