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Thursday, November 29, 2012
Make Your Words Count: Novels vs. Novellas
First, let's start with some famous novellas (generally considered a novella with less than 40,000 words):
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Novellas can pack a punch.
A story should only be as long as it needs to be. Don't spread a novella thin by writing towards the 50,000 word goal that qualifies it as a novel, etc. Just let the story tell itself, irrespective of word count.
And then some say, "Self-publishing has brought back the novella!" and I hope they're right.
But for all the "Yay!"s and "Huzzuh!"s, there's the real issue of classification and finding a readership.
Smashwords has this nifty sorter feature that allows people to click on an ebook length to help narrow down search options. But Smashwords also estimates your ebook's word count. So what if you've written a book that is 52,000 words long? This should qualify it for the "50,000 word +" category, right? Wrong. Smashwords, as was the case with my first book, can estimate a book's 52,000 word count at about 48,000 words, and in so doing, lump the book in with the 20,000 word novellas. This can be a problem because it can prevent a book from being discovered by its intended audience.
But you just said word count was a superficial assessment. Quality is better than word count. Right?
Yes, but some people think in terms of 1.) Novel and 2.) Short Story
Anyway, so I wanted my 52,000 word count to be just that and get me into the 50,000 + word category. How did I get around this conundrum? I tacked on the first few chapters of my second book to the end of my first book. This can work with any extra material you might have--author's bio, book teasers, etc.--so long as you aren't misleading your intended audience. If you've written a 35,000 word novella, don't include an additional 15,000 words at the end just to bump it into novel territory.
But maybe readers just need to catch on to the fact that that they can enjoy their favorite genres in less than 40,000 words.