How to write a novella in a series
Updated: Oct 30, 2021
Had the opportunity this week to garner some fantastic feedback on the novella I’m writing. It’s not often an author gets critical feedback at the start of a story, and since this was feedback on both the story and the proposed series of novellas it was just what I needed to take my story and the other stories in this new series to a new level.
Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash
So what was the feedback?
Well, there was a lot of it, on multiple fronts:
Writing a novella
Some highlights include:
It’s short, but still has to have the story arc of a longer work. So consider the three act story as a good model. The characters still need to grow and change in the course of the story, but also in the course of the series (more on that later).
Since it’s 1st person POV, it’s critical that I make the secondary character have a unique tone in her dialogue as that, body language, and actions are the only way the reader gets to understand this and other characters.
I don’t have a lot of time/space to do my worldbuilding for a paranormal storyline. I need to make every tidbit count without bogging down the story itself.
Writing as part of a series
This is where I have the most work to do. Because this is the first novella in a series, I need to ensure:
The MC has a story arc and goal that covers the entire series. I consider this like that same 3 act story, but over multiple novellas.
Each novella should simultaneously progress along that series story arc as well as be able to ‘stand alone’ as an entertaining, isolated storytelling.
Unlike a novel, each novella should wrap up its individual story whilst also leaving a tidbit or hook, a lingering something that encourages the reader to pick up the next novella in the series.
Market timing – to keep readers engaged, I should strive for 3-4 novellas a year. That keeps readers looking for the next read when each one is shorter than novel length.
What did I do with that feedback?
I wrote it down, fast and furious is what I did, so I wouldn’t lose it!
So after I scribbled it all down, I took out a big ol spreadsheet and started identifying the different bits and bobs I needed to keep track off within each novella, and across the novellas to track the overall story arc and character journey. I put in things like:
Internal and external goals – for each novella, and an overarching one for the series.
how each novella moves that overarching story along.
What’s the lingering question or event for each novella that drives into the next one.
How is my supernatural person (in this case, a vampire) the same or different from general vampire tropes.
What comes next?
Now that I have myself well and truly plotted out, I can go back and edit what I’ve written so far to match the new ideas, and I can flesh out my characters to ensure they are unique and carrying their own journeys throughout the series. Oh and then… fingers to keyboard and time to write!