Novellas

Two years ago, I was horrified when the first draft of my third novel sat at a mere 24,000 words. That was back when my life’s dream was to get an agent. I thought at the time that all the energy I put into a story I really had written from the heart was all for nothing unless I added a whopping 50K or 60K more words. The thing is, the skeleton of the story was good the way it was. Sure, it needed some work. With some editing,ย I have added more depth to the story but it still only sits at just over the 30K mark.

Some stories are just meant to be novellas. With Amazon and smaller presses, it is far easier to publish a short story. I am comfortable that this third book will never be a full length novel.

Now the question is, how marketable/desirable are novellas these days? I have been thinking about this with every edit.

I came across an article about novellas whole doing a Google search. It’s two years old now, but it is an interesting take on the step child of books. Apparently, they are no longer considered the “ugly duckling of the literary world”. Woot!

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/08/04/the-novella-is-making-a-comeback.html

A lot of people might enjoy a quick yet intense read. Others may feel cheated and wish there was more. Or, maybe some people that wouldn’t normally read might pick up a book if they noticed it wasn’t super thick.

I am curious to hear your opinion about novellas. Would you purchase one? Have you? Do you like reading shorter stories?

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35 thoughts on “Novellas

  1. Interesting! I think I’d really enjoy reading more novellas – it works well because it has the potential to have more depth than a short story, but not as long as novel, which is easier for the average working person to read. Each type of story has it’s own characteristics and novellas usually focus around the life of one or two people at most, which is something I find interesting rather than having too many plots to focus on.

    Nice post ๐Ÿ˜‰

    ~ JLT

  2. I have heard through the grapevine that shorter books are getting attention from the traditional industry players–I suppose because there’s less demand and a higher cost to produce thick novels. (Alas, my first draft is somewhere in the 120,000 word range…) I’ll be curious to hear what others say and what you learn, Sara! I do tend to read longer books but I would read a novella if the content appealed to me.

    1. Well, there you go. It seems like things are shifting then as far as novellas go. Now, I am not sure what genre your WIP is, but I have read that in fantasy and sci fi agents like a story to be in higher word count range.

      1. Mine is historical, and I’ve heard there’s a little leeway there, too, although one of my big goals with the new draft is to shorten it. So far I’ve added words, but I’ll cut some big chunks of the plot out as I move forward. I hope…

  3. I liked your post ๐Ÿ™‚

    Wow, a novella. Good for you first off for recognizing that it will never be a full length novel. I couldn’t agree more, sometimes after you write and edit, it doesn’t get any better, then as the cliche goes, “it is what it is.”
    I think as a whole, in this day and age, shorter is probably better. People seem so busy with life that they end up choosing how to spend their time, so if given a choice between starting and finishing a story in smaller time frame, vs reading something over a longer period of time, may appeal to a great many people.
    Keep me posted on the success of your novella. I believe there is a niche for these pieces of work.

    1. Thanks Steve! I like your point that many people are so busy these days and a novella might just be more appealing to them than a huge book. I will be sure to keep you posted. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Great article! All I’ve been reading lately is short stories and novellas. I love them since I usually only get a few minutes here and there to read and it’s so convenient. I’ve noticed many indie authors have novellas. The more titles you have out the faster you can find your audience. I am a big believer in the story telling you how long it should be. This is one of the benefits of self-publishing ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Great post! I don’t read many novellas – not because I have anything against reading something shorter but I think, like you said, they’ve been the step child of the literary world. They just haven’t been out there much or haven’t been talked about. But it does seem like lately I’ve been hearing more about novellas. I’ve even seen a few authors writing novellas to give more background and support to their novel or series. And, I agree with you – sometimes the story just dictates how long it should be!

    1. I have heard of the rare Big 6 taking on a novella, but true, if you go the traditional route it will take a lot of research and amazing query letters. Some agents will state what they are looking for on their profiles which is a huge help.

  6. I never used to read short stories/novellas until I started writing them and saw their potential. They’re a great way to test run the self-publishing eBook market, and, as so many people are busy these days, shorter fiction has become more appealing. There seems to be some interest in spliting novels into a series or parts too: bite sized chunks of fiction that are the length of novellas. I think that we’re entering an interesting phase in publishing.

  7. I’m a traditionalist. I’m not a fan of novellas personally. I feel that if I’ve invested my time into a work, I’d like a lot of details and backstory to come out of it. That said, I’m not opposed to them; it would just take a lot for me to choose to read one.

  8. I can’t seem to find a place to contact you so I’ll do it here. Thanks for following my blog and for taking your time to read and reply; I appreciate it.

    1. Hi Steve. Do you have Twitter? I am on there with the name @Sara_Flower. My email is sara_flower@live.ca if you have any questions. I have been trying to find a way to post my email on the blog without much luck. It has been a pleasure following your blog.

  9. Sara

    I totally relate, a lot of my wasted “non-writing” years, most often spent moving from one unfinished project to another doomed to the same fate (and then back to screenplays only to come back to novels) was due to this same tendancey. Loving an idea so much I can’t see it for what it is, letting short story and novella ideas blow into giant epic’s, with plot’s and themese that don’t support the scope, of course. And then wondering why when I got to revise that I have tens of thousands of words that go nowhere. Dangerous stuff.

    Regarding the marketing for shorter works, my advice as a just a reader: POST YOUR WORD LENGTH IN YOUR BLURB, so you set the expectation. I’ve lost count of the number of bad reviews I’ve read that consisted wholly of compliants over story length, and frankly, when I don’t see a story length advertised I get a red flag too. Am I about to pay $2.99-3.99 for 1200 words? I ask that because I have before and not been happy.

  10. Yes, I have read a few and liked them and then others I thought were wrapped up and had no real conclusion. There is no where to hide in a novella. The writing has to be crisp and tight.

  11. I like short works. Collections of short stories involving a central theme make up a sizable portion of my bookcase. I also think they are a great way to find new authors to follow.

  12. I have written many ‘novellas’ but didn’t know what to call them except ‘too short for publication.’ But now, with e-books and e-readers, I think I’ve found a market for them! I love this post – it’s thoughtful and thought provoking and inspirational. Glad to meet you.

  13. A lot of authors have had success bundling their novellas – or short stories – into one volume. Stephen King has been doing this for years, and Jhumpa Lahiri has done two, one of which won the Pulitzer Prize.

    1. I had no idea Stephen King had done that! Thanks for sharing. And the fact that a novella won the Pulitzer Prize demonstrates the quality of short stories. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Honestly, I only read a novella when it comes highly recommended or is part of a gigantic series (Like Wool). However, if I do read one, I usually enjoy it, I’m just annoyed that the enjoyment was so short-lived. That being said, I really like the idea of writing a novella prequel to a full-length novel. I’ve seen this done (well) twice and plan on doing it myself now.

  15. When I wrote my first book, it was originally a novellaโ€”this was like 5 years ago or so. I queried a few agents and got a reply from an agent in LA. She asked for my full manuscript. After reading it, she wrote me back and said she loved the story and the characters, unfortunatelyโ€”there is no market for novellas. My heart sunk. Luckily for me, I realized later that my first book was good as a novella, but better as a novel. It was always meant to be a novel, so that’s where it is now.

    In my case, it worked out to change my novella into a novel. But for other stories, they are meant to be shorter. There is no point trying to drag them out and make them longer, forcing it to be something they’re not.

    1. So true, Corey. I am glad that you were able to make it into a novel. Plus, it would have been wonderful to hear some kind words from an agent in LA! ๐Ÿ™‚

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