How To Turn Your Short Story Into A Novella

How To Turn Your Short Story Into A Novella


In this post, we look at how you can turn your short story into a novella.

Novellas are popular. If you want to know exactly how popular, you can read this post. Many writers have a short story they’ve always wanted to expand and lengthen into a novella. How should they go about it?

It is important to remember that it is more than just adding words to get the word count up. You need to add story. If you have not plotted the short story before it may be a good time to sit down and plot a bit, or if plotting freaks you out, brainstorm more ideas for the story.

How To Turn Your Short Story Into A Novella

Start here:

1. How Many Words Do You Have?

What is the current word count? A short story can be up to 7500 words long. A novelette (or short novella) can be anything up to 17 000 words. Anything from 17 000 to 40 000 will be considered a novella. You’ll agree that there is a lot of room. How many words do you have?

2. What Structure Have You Used For The Short Story?

Single scene: Have you written a single scene? If so, where does it fit in with your novella idea? Is it the inciting moment, the ending, or a scene from the middle?

Summary: Have you written the whole story? Your story could serve as the synopsis or summary of the novella.

3. Do You Have An End Goal?

It helps to know what you are aiming for: 17 000 or 40 000 words? This number does not have to be cast in stone, but it will help you to figure out how much story you will need to add.

Next Step:

Spend some time working on the plot.

  1. Work out how many scenes you will need to reach the desired word count. Read more about scene structure here.
  2. What happened ‘before’ and ‘after’ in the short story.
  3. The protagonist in your short story should have a concrete story goal. This goal can change or become more challenging in a longer story. Brainstorm.
  4. Short stories have a smaller cast. When you expand a story, you can consider adding characters, but only if they add to the plot.
  5. The other characters are usually involved in the sub-plot. Can you add a sub-plot that adds to the story?
  6. Setting and character description: adding characters and scenes will take your characters to new places. Describe the characters and the settings well.
  7. Make the characters talk. Dialogue is a wonderful tool for bringing characters to life.
  8. Find events that were only mentioned in a line or two and dramatize them as full scenes.
  9. Add to the layers of the story by using tools like repetition, foreshadowing, and symbolism.
  10. You can slow down certain scenes and write them as slow-motion moments to increase the word count.

The Last Word

Plotting and expanding a short story into a novella is one big brainstorming exercise. Consider the characters and the setting and decide how they will help or hinder the story goal.

Take a look this list for more examples of books that started as short stories.

Mia Botha by Mia Botha

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This article has 2 comments

  1. Anne

    Serendipity strikes again! As so often happens, an item turns up in my inbox which covers a writing issue that I am currently tackling.

    I had a short story published in an anthology, which has now been removed from circulation. As my I now have my copyright back, I decided to expand it into a novella. Luckily it is almost novelette length, so contains all the elements of a longer work, and I need only to add a little extra detail. The original story contains a single mention of a dog, so this is the extra character I’m going develop: give it a name, decide on the breed, and allow it to appear in a couple of other scenes to add verisimilitude.
    Thanks for a great article.

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