As fantasy author DK Drake, my mission is to bring you entertaining, engaging, wholesome adventures too packed with action to leave room for eye-rolling sappiness or mind-numbing fluff.
As a creative writing coach, my mission is to help authors find their voice, craft captivating stories, and finish book after book.

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Book Writing Tips, Published Before College Podcast

February 7, 2023

Wanna Write a Novella? Your 7 Step Writing Plan

Short on time but want to write a novella?

If you start today, you can have a book writing win by this summer following this 18-week novella writing plan.


Besides, writing a novella is great training for novel writing.

When I first decided to be a writer, I started by tackling a novel. But it took me nine years of writing and revising and revising and writing to finish that sucker. I did the same thing with running. I started with the mighty marathon, but it wasn’t until I ran shorter races like 5k’s, 10k’s, and half-marathons that I became a stronger runner and more prepared to run marathons.

The same strategy holds true with writing. When you start with the short stories and novellas (and the way I define it, a novella is 25k-35k words and is the equivalent of a half-marathon), you gain experience, confidence and the thrill of being able to finish a quality story in less than a calendar year. Novels simply take longer when you don’t have a huge chunk of time every day to write.

I don’t know about you, but writing time is not something I have much of at this point in my life.

And that’s why I’ll be setting aside a three hour-block of writing practice on Tuesday nights and another 90 minute block on Thursday nights. That’s it. That’s going to be my writing time.

I may be able to squeeze in another 30-60 minutes of extra practice here and there, but for the most part, I’ll be writing for roughly four and a half hours a week.

That is step zero: block off time to write your novella.

Protect those blocks. Show up just like you would show up for school or a job or for a sport-related practice.

Once you have your writing practices blocked off and protected, then you can start with the 7-step novella writing plan.

Step 1 of writing your novella is to do the pre-writing work.

  • Do your market research.
  • Do your genre research.
  • Sketch your cover.

Step 2 involves building your story’s foundation:

  • Premise (your story’s purpose)
  • People (characters in your story)
  • Plot (one-two sentence summary of what happens)
  • Place (setting, world, time period).

Novella writing step 3 is all about building your story’s frame.

In other words, this is when you outline. I outline in three phases, and each phase is a more detailed version of the phase before it.

  • The first phase is the act outline—write a one paragraph summary each the beginning, the middle and the end. 
  • The second phase is the step outline—brainstorm the story steps of the journey your main character takes from the beginning through to the end
  • The third phage is the scene outline—summarize each individual scene.

Now hear me on this. This is the process I have found works for me. You don’t have to do this. You can simplify this framework step by writing a basic outline and then moving on to step 4. Or skip the outline altogether.  I outline because it works for my process.  I need it to write a good story.  You do you!

Step 4 is where you write a really bad rough draft of your novella.

Yup. I said really bad. Let yourself be lousy here.

  • Write bad dialogue.
  • Write descriptions of the setting that don’t make a lot of sense.
  • Write scenes that you see in your head whether or not they move the story forward.

The point is to get the story written. You’ll clean it up in step 5.

Step 5 of the novella writing process is where you revise.

  • Improve that dialogue.
  • Cut scenes that don’t move the story forward.
  • Write descriptions that activate all five senses and bring your world to life for the reader.
  • Clean up your grammar and fix your spelling.

And when you have that readable draft, you hand it off to an editor.

Step 6 is revising your novella based on editorial feedback.

Here’s where you’ll need to have a thick skin and a humble heart. Be coachable. Learn from your editor and make changes that will improve your story. Do you have to incorporate every editorial suggestion? No! But if you choose your editor wisely, your editor will give you wise advice that will make your story better.

Then in step 7, you share your story with a core group of readers who love your genre.

Ask them for help spotting typos or grammar issues or elements of the story that confused them. Once you revise as necessary, you have a FINISHED NOVELLA. Woohoo!

As far as how long each step takes, I recommend completing steps 1-3 in the first six weeks, step 3 in the second six weeks, and steps 5-7 in the final six weeks.

I’m in week one of the novella writing process right now and will be blogging my way through the story and filling in the details of each step in the journey along the way.

For instance, here are more specific instructions for week 1:

  1. Scour Amazon for the top ten books in your story’s category. Write down the titles. Study the covers. Read the reviews. What do readers like about the stories? What do readers NOT like about the stories?
  2. Study your genre. Are you writing a romance? A fantasy? A historical novel? An action adventure? A mystery? A thriller? Google the definition. Google reader expectations of that genre so you can make sure you include those standard elements in your story.
  3. Sketch out what you want the cover of your book to look like. You can use a graphic design program or get some markers and a piece of paper. Whatever it takes, just get a general idea of what you want your cover to look like. Then post it below because I want to see your cover!

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