Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Novellas- Real or Myth?

The current issue of Poets and Writers has an article on novellas. I found it to be an interesting read. I've labeled my story that I wrote recently as a novella simply because it is not quite novel length at a whopping 60, 822 words; however, at that word count it is clearly not a short story.

But this article got me wondering if it really is a novella or if I should be working on this story to turn it into a full-fledged novel. I don't think it would sell in the real world so I'd have to find a Christian niche market. My characters never have sex, never really do anything but go to fancy dinners or have dinner with friends at home. It's very non-edgy and clean, but I enjoyed writing it immensely.

The author of the article, Josh Weil, talks about what makes a novella a novella, but struggles with the traditional length-based definition of "novella." My favorite quote from his article is from George Featherling that says to compare novellas to shortened versions of novels is the same as "insisting that a pony is a baby horse." Weil adds, "Describing it [novella] as a short story, just longer, is like insisting that a Clydesdale is a thoroughbred with bloat." Ha! Have to love the humor of these two, eh? (OK, I may be a bit skewed there having been raised around horses.)

I'd quote more of the article, but it's just more argument for recognizing the novella as its own independent form. One that is overlooked by publishers and by readers in favor of the clearly-defined short stories and novels.

Though this gloomy-gus post from Pimp My Novel will discourage anyone from writing anything but a novel-length work of any genre...sigh.

So, do novellas really exist if we can't define them? (I'd answer yes [edited from a no answer], but I may be biased.)


  1. Is your 60k story romantic? 55-60k is category romance novel length and harlequin has a line (Steeple Hill I think) that is for Inspirational/Christian romances (i.e. no hanky panky, cursing, etc.)

  2. I read somewhere that The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks was only 55,000 words or so. I can't remember where, but I considered it a full length novel. I hate the whole business of word count. It drives me crazy!

  3. I have nothing that will help with your writing, Paints...just pure admiration that you do it!
    I myself find inspiration reading your blog!

  4. As far as I understand, novellas are their own category that doesn't just depend on word count. One of my favorite novellas is Kate Chopin's "The Awakening".

    It sounds to me like your novel is just that, a novel. FictionGroupie has a good point that many category romance novels are in the range you've posted.

    My advice to you is to look up as much novella information online as you can. It'll be hard to separate opinion from fact, though. I might end up doing a post on this. It's a great topic.

  5. Thanks you guys! Wow, I never thought of it as a novel in its own right. And I had no idea that Harlequin actually published non-erotic type romance that was as clean as my story is.

    Yes, it's a romance. Girl meets boy, girl meets other boy, girl dates first boy, etc...

    I won't spoil it for you all.

    But it does need a lot of revision to become publishable.

  6. Harlequin has like a bazillion different lines from the chaste (Steeple Hill) to the ultra naughty (Blaze or Spice), so most anyone can find something that fits.

    Here's the link for the writing guideline for Steeple Hill. It looks like word count required is 55-60k. Good luck with revisions.

    Steeple Hill Writing Guidelines

  7. I guess I learn something new every day. that's one of the best things about blogging.

  8. OK, I'm so stupid. I answered my own question wrong. I must have edited it and thought I'd worded the question differently. I do believe in novellas. But I clearly said in the post I don't. Editing it now.


  9. When word counts meet editors, they often change. I would call it a novel and let the agent/editor decide if it's a novella. As long as it's entertaining and well-written, they can call it whatever they want when they send you a check, right?!! :-)

  10. Stress less. Nevil Shute's character never jumped into the bedroom either - and he was amazingly successful.

  11. PS - if it helps you and other writers you know, I wrote a 19-part series called `Telling Write From Wrong' on my blog, addressing specific issues for writers who seek to get published.

    If for some reason you can't find it, just let me know and I'll give you the url. It'd be nice to think my experiences in book publishing helped other writers get some perspective.

    Good luck. Never, ever stop believing in yourself.

  12. LOL, Anna.

    Thanks, David. I'll have to check it out.

  13. Wow, you're a writing machine! I say revise, polish, and send it out as a novel. Good luck!

  14. Thanks!

    Wow, I never expected how much discussion this post would spark. You guys are great!


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