I had a fab reader write me and ask if I could talk about the differences in writing novels and novellas - yay for great questions!
If you want the basic answer, a novella is just a short novel. :)
BUT. I have been working on my first novella and let me tell you - I think it's a lot harder writing novellas than full-length books! I'm used to having around 80,000 words to develop my plot, figure out who my characters really are and let them play around. It's like being used to the ocean and then being told to stay in the shallow end of a pool.
The biggest difference in writing a novel versus a novella, in my opinion anyway, is learning how to pace the story. When you get down to it, the plot, the characters - those don't change radically from novel to novella. But the ebb and flow of the story changes drastically. In a novel, you usually have a plot that goes something like this:
Beginning - tiny conflict - resolution - minor conflict - resolution - MAJOR conflict - NO resolution - catastrophic conflict - final resolution
In a novella, you're limited to about 15,000 to 20,000 words on average. It would be very quick conflicts if you included each of those plot steps.
Instead, you might have something that looks like this:
Beginning - minor conflict - resolution - MAJOR conflict - final resolution.
Short, simple, but still with some conflict because like I had drummed into my brain at writer's conferences, conflict is what creates a story. (Side note: Conflict does NOT have to mean a car gets blown up, a person gets dismembered or a monster a la Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker has to appear. Conflict can be as simple as your main character's toaster breaking that morning. Granted, if you were Frank or Ted, you'd probably have the toaster explode killing all residents inside. ;) )
Have you ever written a novella? What did you think was the best/worst part about it?