What a Novella Idea!

Is the novella seeing a resurgence in popularity thanks to E-books?  I’m going to ease myself off the fence and yes!  While novella’s are nothing new in the literary world, it is a form that has eluded a lot of contemporary first-time authors because lets face it, what publishing house is going to accept a novella?  Classics such as Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Kafa’s Metamorphosis and Joyce’s The Dead have been revered and enjoyed by critics and readers alike and I can’t imagine anyone having said, “Do you not think it’s a bit, ooh I dunno, short?”  

These days however, in commercial fiction, authors are always aiming for that sweet spot between 80 – 100,000 words, regardless of whether or not the story warrants that sort of length.  I have read many books that have been teased out beyond their measure and as a result, the impact of the story is watered down and as a reader, you feel like you’ve been led up the garden path.  But you can probably bet your book that the publishers have insisted on making the book that length for commercial purposes, leaving the author with little choice in the matter.

Cue self-publishing!  The real advantage of self-publishing for authors is that they can decide the length of their work and a myriad of other things to boot, so the story is told to the reader in the format that was intended.  Some stories just belong in that 20,000 – 50,000 word category.  One example is Kate Mosse’s Winter Ghosts.  I really enjoyed that novella, but it definitely wouldn’t have had the legs to become a full length novel.

It is also interesting to see a lot of established authors writing Kindle Singles (5,000 – 30,000 words).  It’s an interesting way to keep your fan base interested and try out different writing ideas and storylines in a shorter format.  You can read Irish writer Julian Gough’s article “The Big Short” here: http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/sep/05/amazon-kindle-singles-short


3 thoughts on “What a Novella Idea!

  1. I think the (hopeful) resurgence of the novella is great! My manuscript is on the short side (61,000 words), so it’s nice to have the option to keep it short. Hopefully one day I can be happy with a shorter manuscript and break my word count addiction!

    1. Ditto! The Cross Of Santiago is a hefty 103,00 words (give or take) because it needed to be that length. However, the manuscript I wrote for Nano just scraped by at 50,073! And I don’t think it’s going to end up much longer than that – maybe 60k. And as a reader, sometimes you don’t feel like starting into a big door-stopper of a book and it’s nice to have the choice. But when I was researching for this post, I found a lot of bad reviews for authors who write short stories for Kindle Singles. Readers were a bit P.O’d after they’d bought the latest Jodi Picoult book, only to find out too late that it was a short story. So I guess the moral is, if you are going short, best to point that out in your description!

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