15 things I learned from… Nalini Singh

15 Things I Learned From…

Nalini Singh


Romance Writers of New Zealand

“A Capital Affair” Conference

23rd to 25th August 2013


NOTE: These are my own take on topics covered during Nalini’s “Writing the Novella” workshop on Saturday 24th August. Any incorrect assumptions, interpretations or slants are mine, and mine alone.

1. A novella is a full story in a shorter format.

The structure of a 20k + word novella will be very similar to the structure of a full-length book. And your aim should be to tell a great and satisfying story within the shorter format.

Aim for around ten chapters; short chapters can help pacing — as can ending chapters with a hook.

2. Aim for a length of at least 20,000 words; be wary of writing stories that are less than 15,ooo words as they can lead to disappointed readers with unfulfilled expectations.

3. Writing a novella that “works” and fully satisfies your readers isn’t easy; be realistic about whether you have the skills to pull it off.

4. If you can pull it off, then novellas are a perfect way to give your dedicated readers a “fix” between your bigger books, or to showcase your work to new readers.

5. Before you start, figure out your goals, i.e. your reasons for wanting to write a novella.

A pitch for a new series?

To showcase your writing and entice new readers to your existing series?

6. If your aim is to entice new readers to an existing series, it’s not recommended to include critical series plot developments in your novella.

Be aware that even devoted readers of the full-length books in your series won’t necessarily buy or read your novellas. And when they read subsequent books in the series they may be confused and feel cheated at missing critical plot developments featured in the novellas.


7. It’s prudent to showcase your “world” in a complete and satisfying story without affecting the overarching plot of the series.

One idea is to feature an established couple from your series and tell the story of their past.

For example, Beat of Temptation takes place a decade prior to events in the Psy/Changeling series. It features Tammy and Nate, and gives readers an intimate view of how they became a couple.

8. Novellas need a defined story arc; generally there’s no room for sub-plots. But….

9. If you do feel you need to include a very minor sub-plot (and it really should be one that showcases your world) be sure to fully resolve it; no cliffhangers!

10. The characters’ goals must be achieved within the constrictions of the novella. If you’re writing a romance, then resolve the romance — bring it to a satisfying conclusion.

For example, Beat of Temptation includes a present-day epilogue scene showing Nate and Tammy interacting with their kids.

11. Often it’s easier for your hero and heroine to already have a past history rather than being complete strangers.

This gives readers room to fully “buy into” and believe the eventual HEA or HFN within the shorter word count.

12. If your hero and heroine are strangers, you need to devote plenty of page-time to showing them building bonds and getting to know each other.

13. Minimize the number of secondary characters you feature. The same goes with their quirks.

14. Only characters critical to the story line get page-time.

Ask yourself:

Why are they here?

What purpose do they serve?

Can their role be taken on by someone else in the story?

15. You need to introduce your “world” without spending too much time on it. Be creative; e.g. make use of family trees, newspaper articles, letters etc.


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6 Responses to “15 things I learned from… Nalini Singh”

  1. Shirey Wine says:

    Another great article.

    These are so full of useful info I’ve copied them to my craft folio so I can refer back to them from time to time.

    • Great idea, Shirley. Nothing more frustrating than knowing you’ve seen some great info on a website and not being able to remember where. (Ask me how I know this….)

  2. Carly Carson says:

    Great article, Maree! Thanks for the recap. I love to write novellas.

  3. Anne Kane says:

    Great info, Maree! Alot of things to think about.