How Do You Write a Short Book? Novella Know-How!

Short books, or Novellas, are short novels, generally having between 17,500 and 40,000 words. Novellas can be challenging to write because there is so little room to develop characters or plots. So how do you write a short book?

You can write a short book by taking the time before you write to create a tight plotline, limit your characters and settings, and plan carefully to create a complete outline before you begin your writing. This will set you up for success.

Many of the steps are similar to a regular novel, but there are a few key differences. As you go through each step, you need to be more focused to make sure you can tell your story, typically less than 100 pages.

Let’s take a look at each step.

The word Plan next to a notebook and pen

Create a Focused Idea

First is the idea. You only have maybe a quarter of the space of a full book, so create a plot that covers limited events and time. Like short stories, the plot is typically focused on a single event, usually told best through just one character’s perspective.

There is no rule that they have to be limited to a single event; some can include several events, but each of these events should flow into one another closely for a novella to work best.

It can be easy to include too much, so think carefully if you can cover all your ideas.

Action Step 1:

Create your plot brief before moving to the next step

Choose a Length and Style

The length has a significant impact on the writing style so make sure you know the length before you start writing.

The length will help you determine the writing style, so you want to select a suitable style for the length.

For example, it can be hard to fit many descriptions in 100 pages; this can reduce the quality of your story if you try to fit it. A dialog-heavy story could allow more personal characters but risk being confusing if it is all too much dialog.

Considering these issues before writing can prevent you from having to rewrite your story again later on.

Pick a planned style that fits with your planned length. The style will also impact the next steps.

Action Step 2:

Pick a length and writing style

Character Development

Although a novella does allow for more character development than short stories, you are still limited on how much you can do.

As you don’t have time to develop deep character relationships or give background information as thoroughly as a novel can, you need to be diligent in what you include.

One way to solve this challenge is by limiting the number of characters in your story to give a little more space to develop the characters you do have.

You will not be able to go deep, so first, list aspects that are critical to the story and then add just a few more that you can try to weave in to give your characters at least a little depth.

Action Step 3:

Develop your characters

Story Line Development

Next, you need to take your plot and expand it into a complete storyline.

Come up with the key events and locations in your plot and lay them out in order.

Add connecting events and scenes to create a more detailed flow. You should now have the whole story basically told in about 1000 words or so.

You can now step back and make sure you have a gripping story.

Action Step 4:

Map out your storyline

Setting Development

Your story takes place somewhere that the reader will need to imagine.

To make the most of your limited words, carefully decide how you can give the reader enough information for them to create a mental picture in a few careful descriptions.

You could include a few details of the surroundings picking out a few key features that give the reader a general image of the setting.

Action Step 5:

Decide how you will describe the setting

Create a Detailed Outline

Outlining a Novella is Critical to staying on track. A lack of planning can easily lead to a story being much longer than planned.

Your novella must grab your reader, engage them immediately and give them a reason to read the next page.

You need to make an impression in a very short amount of time, so you cannot spend too much time on setup.

Create a complete outline with as much detail as you can. This will help you be able to create a tight, fast-moving story with nothing wasted.

Once you finish this, you should now have your whole story in a few thousand words, ready to expand into the full text.

Action Step 6:

Create a detailed outline


So there is your short plan for a short book.

The steps to writing a novella are conceptually not too much different from a full-size book. The big difference is that the planning and development need to be done more carefully to fit an engaging story in a limited word count.

Be critical at each stage. Your story will be better for it.

Do you write novellas? What technique works best for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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