Monday, 5 November 2018

Exploring Genre: Romance Novellas and Novelettes

By Narelle Atkins @NarelleAtkins

A romance novella can be defined as a short and complete romance story with a typical word length that ranges between 20,000 to 40,000 words.

A novelette has a word count starting at 7,500 words. A story with a word count between 17,500 to 20,000 words may be defined as either a novella or a novelette.

Stories longer than 40,000 words are considered short novels.

Traditionally Published Romance Anthologies

Novellas and novelettes have always been popular in the romance genre.

Pre-Kindle and the emergence of ebooks, romance publishers would often release trade length novella collections containing a number of stories.

In 1997 Aussie author Mary Hawkins had a Christmas novella, Searching for a Star, published in the Christmas Dreams 4 story novella anthology by Barbour.

In 2017 Aussie author Lucy Thompson had her historical romance, Waltzing Matilda, included in a 9 story anthology The Captive Brides Collection published by Barbour.

The stories are connected by a common theme: Can their captive hearts be freed to dream, to dare, to love?

Novellas that are connected to a series

A Tuscan Legacy is a multi-author contemporary Christian romance novella series that includes a family mystery plot. A Tuscan Legacy opens with a short novel length Book 1 - That's Amore.

My contribution to A Tuscan Legacy is Solo Tu (Book 7) set in Sydney, Australia. I've indie published four romance novellas and Solo Tu is my longest, coming in at just under 40,000 words.

Mary's Hawkins' Australia romance collection from Barbour included three short novels and a novella.

Nicki Edwards' Operation Mistletoe Magic and Operation White Christmas are part of her 'An Escape to the Country' rural romance series.

Novella Prequel to Book 1 in a Series

In recent years we’ve seen the rise in popularity of the romance novella being used as a marketing tool to launch a series.

The prequel ebook novella is effectively a loss leader. It's often priced at 99c or free with the goal of funnelling readers into the new series. Alternatively, the prequel novella may be a 'reader magnet' and given away for free to readers who have subscribed to the author's newsletter.

These marketing strategies are used in all fiction genres for both traditionally and independently published series.

Novellas in ebook multi-author boxed set series

Boxed sets started to gain popularity in the Kindle store in 2013 and they remain a favorite with readers. 'An Aussie Summer Christmas' was released two years ago. For a limited time we offered six ebook novellas for the bargain price of 99 cents. The novellas in the set included A Christmas Resolution, All is Bright, Falling for Maddie Grace, Melbourne Memories, Santa Next Door and my novella Seaside Christmas.

My Inspy Romance author friends have put together A Christmas to Remember - on sale for Christmas 2018.

Print book single author collections

Authors sometimes combine their books into one print book collection. Meredith Resce has included two novellas and two short stories in Four Short Stories: Falling for Maddie Grace; And Where There's Smoke.

Standalone Romance Novellas

Tips for writing a romance novella or novelette

Ensure the plot isn't too big and complex

There's only room to develop a single romance plot in the shorter length romance novellas and novelettes. The shorter the word length, the larger the focus of the story will be on the hero and heroine. The word length puts limitations on the amount of time the minor characters can be on-stage in the story.

Limit the point of view characters to the hero and heroine or a single viewpoint.

In a typical romance novella or novelette there isn't space to include a minor character point of view. An exception would be a romantic suspense that may include short scenes in the villian's point of view.

Shorter time frame stories often work well

A good example is Amy Matayo's romance novella Christmas at Gate 18.

Reunion romances are popular tropes

If the couple already know each other and have an established history, the romance plot can get moving at a faster pace from the start without losing plot plausibility with readers.

External conflict and forced proximity is important

The shorter the story, the more the balance between scene and sequel will skew toward shorter sequels. The external conflict is what pushes the hero and heroine to be on-stage together in the scenes.

Tight writing and fast scene transitions

Every word counts in a shorter length story. The tighter the writing, the more space the author will have to write the important sequels that allow the reader to take a breath and reflect between the fast paced action scenes in the story.

Any Questions?

Have you written a romance novella or novelette? Do you enjoy reading them? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

A fun loving Aussie girl at heart, NARELLE ATKINS was born and raised on the beautiful northern beaches in Sydney, Australia. She has settled in Canberra with her husband and children. A lifelong romance reader, she found the perfect genre to write when she discovered inspirational romance. Narelle's contemporary stories of faith and romance are set in Australia.

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  1. Thanks, Narelle for sharing the insights into this unique genre of novellas and novelettes. I have just today started a contemporary romance novella that will be a teaser prequel to a longer romance novel. It will be the first in the 'Luella Linley Romantic Interventions' series. Luella Linley is a Regency Romance author who can plot and organise her characters from the early 19th Century, but has no control at all over her adult children in the 21st Century, but that is not for want of trying.

    1. Hi Meredith, I'm glad to hear you're working on a new series! The premise sounds fascinating and I'm looking forward to reading it. :)

  2. great post and excellent covers. :)

  3. Reunion romance or friends to more are my favourite novella tropes, for the reason you've given - because to go from first meet to happy ever after in a novella almost always feels too quick.

    Thanks for a solid summary.

  4. Great feature!
    To me, one of the tricks to writing a successful novella is to keep a very tight rein on the plot. In some respects it's a highway, rather than a winding country road. Both of mine are first meeting romances, rather than reunions stories, so it can be done but you have to get to the set up pretty quickly.

    Now, looking at this page, I have some more great stories and authors to check out!

    1. Hi Elizabeth, I like your highway analogy for the novella plot. It can feel like we’re motoring along at 110km rather than taking the scenic and winding coastal road. :)


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