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Learning how to sprint–writing a novella

Since writing a novella, I

Since writing a novella, I’ve learned that some people don’t like the form, but I did my best!


By Piper Huguley

When I started writing at the age of 12, I was always in the writing game for the long haul.  I loved writing the novel. Back in those days, I wrote them in longhand. Friends of mine would read my awful handwriting in stapled-together notebooks that would be numbered one after the other since no one notebook would be able to hold the whole thing together.

My parents bought me a typewriter, and then a word processor, but even then, daisy wheels and ribbons (remember those days) made printing out my long novels very expensive.

I had a more difficult time in graduate school. Graduate school creative writing is more conducive to writing short stories because of the format of the workshop, and I certainly couldn’t write that short.  Every time I would be workshopped people would say—“This feels like a novel.” And I would feel defeated.  Writing short seemed impossible.  It’s a wonder they let me graduate.

Fast forward to the January 2014 GRW meeting. Beverley Kendall spoke about the self-publishing data she had gathered. She noted a commonality in the success of novels in a series.  She said, the first book should be a bargain book, free for a time or permafree. That first book, priced low or free, acts as a funnel to the rest of the series.  She said writers don’t like putting a novel out for free at any point–too long.  So, she said, write a novella.

Hmmm.  So I started my first novella that weekend. I decided to tell the love story of my heroine’s parents and what that love story had to do with her heritage.  To learn how to write something new, I usually turn to craft books.  However there aren’t a lot of craft books on writing novellas.  Instead, I read a number of the bargain or free novellas. I learned about the form and approach of a novella in that way.  Other writing blogs, like Seekerville in novella posts, helped me as well.

It took some time to study the form, but strangely, given my beginnings in doing the marathon of the novel, I was not daunted about writing short at all.  Maybe because the story wasn’t for a class. It was a fun little project about how these two got together and fell in love.  That novella is The Lawyer’s Luck—which came out at the beginning of July.  For a first effort by a newbie writer in a small niche, it’s doing very well.  The Lawyer’s Luck is serving the purpose of opening minds to the world I’m looking to explore in the “Home to Milford College” series. One of the early reviews said that it felt like a complete story, so I’m pleased.  It’s is always a good thing to  stretch as a writer and I’m glad this story reminded me of that.


The Lawyer’s Luck is now available in  Kindle e-book, Nook, Kobo and iTunes. Print copies are available on Amazon.


headshot bwPiper G Huguley is the author of “Migrations of the Heart,” a five-book series of inspirational historical romances set in the early 20th century featuring African American characters. Book one in the series, A Virtuous Ruby won the Golden Rose contest in Historical Romance in 2013 and is a Golden Heart finalist in 2014. Book four in the series, A Champion’s Heart, was a Golden Heart finalist in 2013. Book one in her new 19th century historical series, The Preacher’s Promise, in the “Home to Milford College” series was a semi-finalist in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest and will be self-published in July 2014.

She blogs about the history behind her novels at She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.


Twitter: @writerpiper

Facebook: Piper Huguley


Amy Patrick/Amy DeLuca - July 10, 2014 - 9:29 am

Hi Piper! Boy was this great post right on time. I want to write a novella as part of my 20 SOMETHING series, and the idea is daunting because I’ve only written novels. Thank you for getting me started. I’m so thrilled for you about YOUR series, and I’m anticipating very good things for you. :)

Susan Carlisle - July 10, 2014 - 9:45 am

I love the cover. I would pick up your book for no reason but that. I’m impressed you can write short. That is so hard for me to do. Short stories scare me to death.

Piper - July 10, 2014 - 10:47 am

Thanks for coming by Amy! I think in these changing times, writing shorter is a skill we have to pick up…I know you can do it if I can! :)

Piper - July 10, 2014 - 10:48 am

Thank you for your kind words Susan! (Please notice I said nothing in the post about short stories–lol!) Thank you for stopping by!

Jacqui Nelson - July 10, 2014 - 11:39 am

Great blog post, Piper! Loved hearing how you came to write THE LAWYER’S LUCK. Looking forward to seeing what comes next in your wonderful series. I’m hooked :)

Connie Gillam - July 10, 2014 - 12:27 pm

Thanks for the idea, Piper. One of my reviewers said my current book should have a prequel. Now with this post, I’m going to try my hand at a novella. Thanks for the inspiration.

Piper - July 10, 2014 - 12:34 pm


With John in it?? Oh yes…let’s have more of him!!! Glad to help and thank you for stopping by! :)

Piper - July 10, 2014 - 12:35 pm

Thank you so much for your kind words, Jacqui! I so appreciate that you stopped by!

Debbie Kaufman - July 10, 2014 - 1:17 pm

Go, Piper! Good idea to learn by reading. It usually answers most of your questions. :) Just grabbed a copy for my NOOK!

Sandy Elzie - July 10, 2014 - 2:18 pm

Hi Piper,
Love the cover…can’t wait to read it. I’ve never tried to write a novella…guess it’s an area I should try. thanks for the inspiration and congrats on succeeding.

Marilyn Baron - July 10, 2014 - 2:19 pm


I’m so glad you brought up the subject of writing short. Before I got published in novel length, I published four short stories with a small press and I loved writing them. They were humorous supernatural stories. My books range in length from 65,000 to 90,000+. I also wrote a prequel to one of my books, which my publisher picked up. Although the readers loved the prequel and cried, they wished there could have been more and since it came out after the actual book a lot of people didn’t know about the original book when they read the prequel. It used to be that all I could write was long novels, but lately, I find that I prefer writing short. In fact I have another book coming out at the end of the year that’s 45,000 words. I always like to point out that the great writers of the past used to write short stories. And now novelists are picking up that trend and writing prequels or short stories. I’m glad that genre is back in vogue because truly, I prefer that length. Good luck with your current book.

Piper - July 10, 2014 - 3:13 pm

Thank you Debbie! And that’s a different kind of reading, but there are many more novellas out there, so it’s not hard to get something in the genre that you like too! Thank you for buying it in Nook!

Piper - July 10, 2014 - 3:16 pm

Thank you Sandy. I love my cover artist too. And give it a try…you never know. That talk really lit a fire under me, you know? Thank you so much for your kind words.

Piper - July 10, 2014 - 3:17 pm


I’m so glad that you found a length that you are comfortable with. More publishers are publishing at 45k as well, so it’s a good time for all! Thank you for stopping by!

Mary Curry - July 10, 2014 - 7:22 pm

Hi Piper,

My did you bring back some memories. When I was in 5th grade, we had a talent show in summer camp. I wrote a skit for my sister and her friends to perform. I’m thinking those must have been my Little House on the Prairie days because it was a family saga – emphasis on SAGA. They didn’t use a cane to drag us off, but they did lower the curtain and tell us we were done. OUCH.

Needless to say, trying my hand at a novella would be a rather scary proposition. ;)

Congrats to you on doing it so well!

Piper - July 10, 2014 - 8:07 pm

Lol!!! What a cute story Mary! I’m saving my juvenalia to share for some other column and it was great stuff–believe me!! :)

And if you told me a year ago I would be doing this now–I would have thought you were crazy. So never say never…:) Thanks for stopping by Mary!

Walt Mussell - July 10, 2014 - 10:34 pm


Congrats on your novella. I remember that lecture and it made me wonder who I would need to do a novella of. So far, I only have one option in my Japan series manuscripts. However, I’ve yet to jot the idea down.

Tanya A. - July 10, 2014 - 10:55 pm

Piper, I always learn so much from you. Congratulations on finishing your novella and on your upcoming release. It’s always fun to read about what characters other writers choose to spin off a novel and why. So far I’ve only read the first few pages of The Preacher’s Promise, but both your novella and novel I feel are must reads for sometime in the near future.

Sandra Owens - July 10, 2014 - 11:13 pm

Love the cover, Piper. The Lawyer’s Luck is on my Kindle and I look forward to reading it.

Carol Burnside - July 11, 2014 - 12:15 am

Piper, I applaud you for writing a novella. They’re not easy, but I enjoy the challenge of them. I actually prefer writing shorter works. Short stories, novellas and 45-65K novels. Best of luck with your series!

Maxine Davis - July 11, 2014 - 8:30 am

Piperk, Please forgive a day late. Ienjoyed your post. Congratulations on your novella. I’m off to get it after this. Can’t wait to read it. I tried writing a novella and enjoyed it. I need to revisit and get it out there. You are an inspiration. Best of luck.

Piper - July 11, 2014 - 9:04 am

Thanks Walt for your kind words. It’s great to hear that you have an option! Write it down! I’m always afraid these things will get away from me! Thank you for stopping by!

Piper - July 11, 2014 - 9:14 am

Thanks Tanya! You are right, it is interesting to see what people think of as potential for other stories. My editor brought up a different character I hadn’t even thought of giving a story in The Lawyer’s Luck and so, as I went over The Preacher’s Promise, I gave her a little more prominence with that in mind–in case I give her a story. Thanks for stopping by!

Piper - July 11, 2014 - 9:14 am

Thanks for the buy Sandra and for commenting! I appreciate your support!

Piper - July 11, 2014 - 9:19 am


So glad you found a length you like. And they do require a bit more, don’t they? I’m just glad I tried it! Thank you for commenting!

Piper - July 11, 2014 - 9:21 am

No worries Maxine! Thank you for your kind words. I do my best! Thank you in advance for the potential buy of The Lawyer’s Luck!

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