Open Novella Contest and more!


If I remember correctly, you won last year. Did you keep to the minimum judged word count or did you go over?
I’m wondering if having a much higher word count will hurt my chances during the final round.


Yeah. A top 3 highlight on this site.

My advice is always to keep as close to 20k as possible. The ending is one of the best parts of a book, and at 35k, the judges will never get to it. That’s a potential game changer you can’t use. You can still do just fine. My favourite story in last year’s competition (my favourite story of last year period) came in around 35k. It placed in the top 3 for round 1 because the opening was great. The ending was bonkers good and it’s a shame the judges didn’t get a chance to read it. I say this because you’ve got to write your story at the length it requires, contest or no. (ONC allows it, anyway.) So long as it stays between 20k-40k (novella length), you’re in with a fighting chance.


Great to know! Thanks so much for the info. I’m sure I could tighten the story, maybe not 15k worth, but maybe get it under 30k.

On the other hand I would like to publish which means I need to make it at least 50k+ at the same time…


Good advice @authorhlumelo Last year, I was only about 2/3rds through mine when the contest ended.

Now :thinking::thinking: how to bring this years one in around 20 or so!


Ooh, that’s a bit of a sticky wicket. Are you thinking traditional or indie pub? Either way, why not just try get it published as a 35k novella? Novellas admittedly have a smaller and harder to break into market than novels, but to hear industry professionals tell it, there’s nothing harder to sell than a 50k novel. Too long for novella markets, too short to price competitively with 80-100k novels. Besides, shrinking it down to 30k only to expand it again to 50k might warp parts of your pacing and structure.

What helped with Siggi was having a clear idea of where some of my major set pieces were so I could pace myself. I knew roughly where the inciting incident and midpoint were, so I got to act three in relatively good shape word count wise. This year, I know my inciting incident, where act two ends, and the climax. Midpoint’s muddy but I feel even more in control.


@authorhlumelo I’m writing off the top of my head so haven’t a clue what is going on. I read over it yesterday to remind myself what they were up to.

I know the ending - but how long it takes them to get there is the problem.

All my stories are around 45-50k words. I thought that was the right length for mainly a romance.


Hahaha! That’s amazing. There’s off the cuff and then there’s throwing cuff-links into the river only to dive after them every day.

My one gripe with the ONC is that it ruined my ability to write over 100k for months. I fell in love with the novella form and breaking 80k became a fight. I’ve rehabilitated just in time to do it all over again! But I think everyone has a natural word count for the types of stories they enjoy writing.

But if that pesky word limit’s bugging you, these are a list of questions that help keep mine down:

  1. How many POVs am I writing from and are they all essential?
  2. How many of those POV characters have internal arcs?
  3. How many locations am I using?
  4. How long does it take me to get to the main story question?
  5. Long, layered chapters that build story tension or short and snappy ones that keep the ball rolling? Where’s the balance?
  6. Why do I sign up for this darned thing every year?


@authorhlumelo That’s very helpful (retrieving the cufflinks from the river - where coincidentally my story is set).

I had answers to them all apart from the story question - and it’s sort of found itself - so It should be okay.

I like doing shorter works. Anything can be made longer if needs be.


I hadn’t considered a “novella market” that’s interesting. Most agents who I’ve asked have said that novellas aren’t “marketable” to publishers. I personally feel they’re still in that “must have certain # of pages to optimize price” state of mind. I like shorter books. Especially in the humor category. It’s nice to be able to read something in a day.

I guess we’ll see where I end up. My pacing could definitely have problems. I figured if I elongated it then I would have to add more characters for sure.


An Ambassador told me about 2/3 will go through.


Thanks for asking!


@HM_Braverman I’m with you on the shorter books/stories. I’m not a fan of very long ones or series that don’t operate as stand alone.


What qualifies as a short story, word count wise, to you?


I’d say under 20k for a short story.

20-40 = novella.

40+ = novel

But I think the main thing is it’s as long as it takes to tell the story.


Ah, I see. I feel like I’m just beginning to realize that writing a short story versus a long story are really different. Like the differences are bigger than just word count.


I agree. In a longer story, you need a more complex conflict and story question. Also a few subplots - but that are related to the main.


There are many differences. In a short story you normally only have 1 theme to deal with and a fairly simple plot structure. In a novel you normally have multiple themes that are explored and multiple plot lines that are developed.


I’m currently at 4,326 words. The last chapter went on a bit longer than planned, but I’m satisfied with what I’ve gotten down. Since we’re expected to have about 17 inches of snow, I’m thinking I’ll be able to get a lot of writing done this week.

To those of you that are 21+, how do you balance a full-time job and writing?
I’m currently working full-time, studying for grad school part-time, and doing some things in an online writing community. Lately, I’ve been having little to no time for writing or reading during the week. So I end up cramming it all in during the weekend.


Oh my god, I completely forgot about my story :joy::joy::joy: I won’t make the deadline, it’s fine



Hopefully you’re able to finish it at some point even if not within the contest’s deadline ^^