If you are gifted at storytelling but aren’t sure you have a tome in you, why not consider writing a novella? Short and sweet, the novella fits that nice little groove between a short story and a full-length novel. Read on to learn all about writing and publishing a novella.

What Is a Novella?

The novella genre encompasses a variety of creative fiction works that feature word counts of 20,000-40,000. For aspiring authors, the novella provides a natural evolution from short stories to tackling a more expansive project.

A novella features interesting characters and plot development while being less complex and having fewer subplots than a novel. These little gems can pack quite a punch in about 30,000 words and are devoured by avid readers who may lack the available time to devote to full-length novels.

Famous Novellas

Novellas may sound like a perfect antidote for our modern, overbooked lifestyles, but the genre is anything but new. Some famous novellas include these classics:

  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Clocking in at 32,000 words, this enduring favorite tells the compelling story of loss and, ultimately, triumph.
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell. Animal Farm is a 35,000-word novella that utilizes political satire and allegory to relay the dangers of totalitarianism.
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Coming in at the top end of the novella genre word count with 50,000 words, A Clockwork Orange is unusual and controversial but a perennial favorite.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote. Forever associated with Audrey Hepburn and the song “Moon River” in its film adaptation, this 40,000-word novella centers on the lovely and captivating character of Holly Golightly.
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Set in the dust bowl era during the Great Depression, Steinbeck tells a heartbreaking and unforgettable story in about 26,000 words.

How To Write a Novella

While it may be tempting to think that writing a shortened version of a novel would be easier than a full-length one, think again. To pull this off successfully requires keen writing skills and sensibilities. The author must take a story arc and synthesize it down to its essentials, telling the story in less than 50,000 words — not an easy feat. The pacing of the story, the richness of its characters, and the potency of the theme must be fine-tuned and sharp in this genre.

To learn how to write a novella and about publishing a novella, consider these steps:

Novel or Novella?

First, you must consider the scope of your story. From the outset, you must realize that what defines this genre is how many pages a novella is. On average, novellas will be about 120 pages long, versus novels being 250-350 pages. The decision between writing a novel or novella rests mainly on the complexity of your story idea, as that dictates the page count to a large extent.


If you have set your sights on writing a novella, your next step is to create an outline. Concise writing is what novellas are all about, so having a plan in place is like a blueprint that helps you stay on track. Create your novella’s outline using these main elements:

  • A problem or conflict. Define a central problem that both anchors and drives the plot.
  • A solution. Next, sketch out some possible solutions to the problem and remain flexible as the story unfolds.
  • Character development. Focus primarily on fleshing out a compelling central character.
  • World-building. Conjure up a setting and time period in which the story will unfold.
  • Key plot points. Create a story arc to provide a backbone to the novella and to introduce critical plot points.

Speed it Up

When writing a novella, it is important to write scenes that keep the plot moving along at a brisk pace. The tight limits on word count prevent the author from meandering or taking too deep a dive into philosophizing. Focusing on the protagonist and just a couple of side characters also helps to keep the story humming along.

Edit Constantly

Once an author fully grasps how long a novella is, they will likely find themselves paring down the manuscript during the editing process. This is when working with a professional editor really pays off. Preserving the meat of the story while cutting the fat helps to maintain its essence while keeping it tight enough to remain a novella.

Publishing a Novella

It is an unfortunate reality that today’s traditional publishers rarely take on novella projects. Thankfully, self-publishing provides an answer to this challenge with an alternative pathway to publication. A talented, versatile author with a penchant for storytelling can make a name for him or herself by becoming a go-to resource for captivating self-published novellas.

Self-Publish Your Novella With Gatekeeper Press

The point of a novella is to tell a story in a succinct yet compelling way. That feat requires stellar editing and planning, so why not access the professional editors at Gatekeeper Press? They stand at the ready to help you successfully navigate and publish your novella. Call us today or contact us online!

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