I mentioned it in a prior post an article that stated there was a growing popularity with novellas. I like that this is the case. Novellas are a favorite format of mine to write. In fact, my scifi series Gravity is comprised of novellas. And I am debating on converting my two former web serials into serial novellas as well. I am also working on another stand-alone novella called Antlers.
So what is a novella anyway?
It all has to do with wordcount. Although there is a lot of grey area when you talk about what is what regarding word count, one can come up with a reasonable definition for each. Now much of it is debated, but here’s where my research has led me to:
Short story: up to 7,500 words. Up to 500 words, or somewhere in there are called vignettes or flash fiction, a subset of the short story.
Novellette: 7,500 to 17,500 words. Basically this is a long short story.
Short Novel: 40,000 to 50,000 words. I placed this in here because though I found evidence of those who support that novels start at 40,000 words, while A LOT of others say that novels start at 50,000 words.
Novel: 50,000 words or more.
Epic: 100,000 words or more. Still a novel, but a big novel.
Novella: 17,500 to 40,000 words. Debates also will suggest that a novella starts from 7,500 words (they say around 8,000 words, so it still fits). Anything longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel can be called a novella. Truth is that ‘novellette’ is a term that is rare in comparison to novella. Many choose to call their longer-than-a-short-story-but-not-quite-a-novel stories novellas even at just over the word count line.
During my research I found a lot of conflicting information, but suffice to say that most of the numbers were close enough. Debating 40,000 to 50,000 words for the starting point of a novel is a big gap, but realistically it is up to the person writing it at this point. I wouldn’t fight a writer who wants to call their 39,999 word book a novel. My opinion is that if you are pretty damn close, you can call what you write whatever you want. Unless you are entering a competition that has strict word count delineations, it really shouldn’t make a nibble of difference..
Novellas are shorter, so in essence they tend to be quicker to write. Now in my case, it took me 2 years to put the 3rd novella in my series Gravity out, but of course in the meantime I was also writing a novel with a 80,000 word count, another novel I am up to 23,000 words, and various other projects.
I know that when I was just starting out I felt a lot of pressure to write either a short story or a novel. And like I also mentioned in prior articles, a novel in the eyes of many to meet “traditional” standards at the time was around 80,000 words. At the time what I was writing just didn’t fit in either of them. Writing and publishing novellas was almost unheard of. But like with everything else, novellas just weren’t out there enough to see if they were viable options.
Reading novellas are certainly not as intimidating as some of these novels that are. My Gravity novellas can be read in under two hours each (some variation depending on a reader’s speed).
Another reason I like writing them is that I can condense a story down. I am sure that if I needed to, I could push each chapter in my Gravity series to 50,000 or more words apiece and retain the main plot points. Pushing for longer stories sometimes causes wordiness. Not that I can’t boil down these books further, but I don’t believe in going too far in depth about every little item in the story unless those items are pertinent to the plot. (This is not a dig against writers of long books. This is however noting that some longer books don’t need to be as long.) Obviously since I have books that I am writing or have written that I have stories that can go longer than a novella, but in many cases I just can’t fit what I want into a short story… and there’s still room to grow into the novel stature.
The whole thing is showing that novels and short stories are not the only two viable storytelling options with the written word. Not that they ever were, but this gives it a much swifter kick in the ass. Novellas in my opinion will help to solve a lot of the problems that books are having in our modern society. Their shorter length will make them a favorite among readers and writers alike. I know this writer enjoys them. And with their lower word count, many writers may find themselves able to produce double or triple the volume of books than focusing solely on novels.
I think novellas are here to stay. And I couldn’t be happier.