How Writing Novelettes/Novellas Can Perfect Your Novel Writing Skills + Be Beneficial to Your Career

At the top of 2018, I introduced the world to a new style of writing and a new pen name. While I am an Urban Romance writer, I wanted to shave the thickness from my Urban Fiction roots and try my hand at pure Romance. Well, that shit was scary and that is putting it lightly.

Being the person that I am and having made all the mistakes I have made, I promised myself that I would only stick my feet in the water and not dive in with no guarantee of being rescued. So, to ease my way into the Romance genre without taking too much of my soul and leaving me with nothing left to write with, I decided on writing novelettes and novellas. You know. Just feeling it out and seeing where things would lead to.

Here’s a few of the reasons I chose to write shorter stories first:

  • This was a completely new genre to me. While I am a great Urban Fiction writer, I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with the task of penning a novel. Yes, I consider myself well-vetted on writing Urban, but that didn’t mean that I could toss out a Romance piece and it be just as good as my other titles. I was practically a newbie, writing my first literary piece. Or, so it felt that way although it wasn’t the case. It wasn’t my normal and I had never written it before, so that made it new for me. ** Sometimes, it’s where many authors go wrong. Assuming their “veteran” skills carry over to any genre. No. I’ve literally read books from amazing authors who swerved into a new genre and crashed. I didn’t want to be one of them. So, I eased my way in. **

  • I had a new pen name. Again, I didn’t want to put my all into writing this amazing novel that no one ever read because they’d never heard of the author who’d written it. Say what you want, but it is very progressive to have eyes on your title and that is something that I crave. I used to think that I was my own worst critic, but readers have me beat. I needed feedback and wanted straight drop honesty. I couldn’t give that to myself. I had to solicit it from someone else. To make that happen, readers needed to buy, read and review. Had it been an entire novel, I’d be sick if it wasn’t as good as I’d thought it was because I’m aware that sometimes things aren’t as good as you think they are. This has nothing to do with me being confident about my work, but being realistic. I write what I love and that will never change. But, the things that I love can use a little pick me up, and nothing is wrong with that. So, again, I was testing the waters… Making sure my knowledge of writing and storytelling skills carried over to the new genre.

  • I was scared, but I think I’ve already mentioned that.

Thankfully, things turned out well! By the second novelette, I knew that I was prepared to write a full Romance novel. I’d received the reviews and accepted the small changes that needed to be made. And when I sat down to pen my first Romance novel, I realized something. Not only had my career taken off in the span of two novelettes published within weeks of one another, but my writing skills in general had been altered for the good. My outline was different. My way of thought was different. The way I introduced my characters were different. Everything was just different. I’d been writing for 3 years by the time I penned the novel and I can honestly say that those novelettes had increased my skills tremendously.

Because I know what novelettes and novellas did for my career as a Romance “newbie” I figured I’d give you all some tips on how they can help yours as well. Lately, I’ve been seeing so many being released and I wondered if authors had seen a difference as I did.

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  • Cut Away the Fat

Straight to the point. Novellas + novelettes have no time for excess meat. You’re able to hone in on what is most important and remove the remainder from the project. This is actually why many people have difficulties writing them. They aren’t that good at shaving the fat and telling the story straight or have no desire to. Lengthy, long-winded writers may NEVER pen a short, because they simply have too much to say (my opinion).

This actually makes writing novellas + novelettes more challenging than writing novels. You have to immediately introduce nearly everything. From the characters to the plot and partials of the overall storyline within the first few scenes. The rising actions are swift as well as the falling.

  • Increase Focus

You have one job and one job only. That is to tell a compelling story in a certain amount of words.

Novella (17,500-39,999 words)

Novelette (7,500-17,499 words)

There’s no time for prancing around and creating unnecessary filler scenes. It’s like, boom and then boom. Points aren’t exaggerated and neither are chapters. You tell it just as it happens and leave out the extras.

Your focus is narrowed and you can better prepare followup scenes. What I mean by this is, instead of using an entire chapter to surround one event, you may use the last thousand words of that chapter to lead into the next one knowing that you’re limited on word count and a rising action/scene must take place before you spring the next on them.

  • Your creativity is enhanced

Lord knows I can be very creative when writing a shorter story than a novel. I have to find so many ways to make so many things happen by the time my word count is made. While many think these projects limit your freedom, they actually increase your creativity. Come on, you must be creative as hell to tell how two people met and fell in love in the span of 20,000 words without it sounding like an elementary fairytale that only children would believe, right?

Most times when I write these titles, they are the most spontaneous and fun titles that readers flock to even over my novels. Instant gratification is REAL folks! With a reader knowing that they’ll get the same amount of everything (except words) from a quick read, it makes them so excited. And with me knowing that I only have a few hours or minutes to wow them, I’m increasing the intensity and my creativity. I’m killing two birds with one stone. Combining settings and scenes. Breaking down characters and building them at the same time. Making my readers hate and crave them at the same time. I’m telling you, it is a challenge worth accepting.

These stories really require thinking. Keeping in mind that you can’t draw anything out and you have a point to make by the time you’ve typed the end, it will put you under the pressure needed to produce diamonds.

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  • Get Acquainted with Characters Sooner

Character development can be daunting for some. You’re mid-book and still trying to figure out who the hell your hero is because he is so quiet in your head. With shorter stories, your characters tend to jump out faster. They have no other choice or the book will close without them ever saying a word. They feel the need to convince the readers whether they should be given a chance or given the finger before their time is up. Either way, you win.

  • Learn to Capture Your Audience’s Attention Faster

Many readers say that if the first chapter/few pages don’t gauge their attention, then they put the book down. If you’re writing a shorter story than a novel, then you are less likely to have this issue. Action happens and it happens fast.

Piggybacking from the enhancement of your creativity.

Most times when I write these titles, they are the most spontaneous and fun titles that readers flock to even over my novels. Instant gratification is REAL folks! With a reader knowing that they’ll get the same amount of everything (except words) from a quick read, it makes them so excited. And with me knowing that I only have a few hours or minutes to wow them, I’m increasing the intensity and my creativity. I’m killing two birds with one stone. Combining settings and scenes. Breaking down characters and building them at the same time. Making my readers hate and crave them at the same time. I’m telling you, it is a challenge worth accepting.

  • Helps Increase Momentum

Okay. Maybe you couldn’t flush out a full novel which is why you chose a novella or novelette. Once your novella has been published, there are a few things that can happen. You can get crickets or you can draw a crowd. If you happen to draw a crowd who is continuing to ask for “more” of you, this increases your desire to aim for more words. Maybe it won’t be the next time you write a book or the time after, but your word count can increase with each book that you pen until you find yourself writing a full blown novel. GO YOU! Otherwise, your audience can have nothing to do with your desire to expand and elongate. You can simply want to work your way up to novels and this is a good way of doing so.

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  • Increase Your Visibility

Before I wrote my first Romance novel, I had gained an unbelievable foundation of readers who were chanting for me… a new author who they’d never heard of before a few weeks prior to starting on my full book. I didn’t need a novel to gain those readers. I received these forever supporters simply by flushing out novelettes (less than 17,500). In fact, my books charted! Can you believe that? Novelettes charted. My stories were around 10,000-15,000 per book and they were able to chart in the short stories bestseller category, peaking at #2 and #3. I could hardly believe it, but it happened.

These small stories were ways to connect with readers and give them a taste of what I would have to offer in my novels. It was my way of allowing them to sample my work. Get a feel of my writing voice. Determine if they wanted to go the extra miles with me. It was like handing out samples in Sam’s Club hoping that a customer would commit to buying my product.

And, they did! My first novel was a huge success thanks to the time and effort I had placed into my smaller books. I wasn’t so “fresh” on the eyes. Readers knew who I was and what I had to offer them. My visibility wasn’t an issue and hasn’t been to date.

  • Helps with Consistency

    Lastly, these shorter books help you maintain consistency in a few ways.

Here’s two:

Release & writing consistently & - They are short stories. No need to keep them locked in your vault. Write and release. Then, repeat. Get yourself a set schedule and let them flow. They don’t require as big of a commitment as novels and neither are they as time consuming.

Push those words out. Novels require a huge commitment. It’s like running a marathon. You can get pretty discouraged with the idea of writing and writing and writing until that story is complete. But, again, instant gratification can be a factor here. Releasing as much as you write can get you on track to writing consistently. So, when it is time to push out that novel, the idea of writing for a lengthy time won’t be so overwhelming.

Mercy B CarruthersComment