Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Novel and Novella

I tend to write short novels. Not novellas, for the most part, though I have seen some categorize work in the fifty thousand word range — or even sixty thousand — as such. Those can be called ‘short,’ to be sure, but I would not consider them novellas.

It could be argued that there are differences in form between novella and novel. However, I am not going to get into that discussion; ultimately, a novella is a short novel, defined by an arbitrary word count. What cut-off point do I prefer? Thirty-five or forty thousand seems a good upper limit. That is also around what many literary awards use.

My shortest novel is right at the fifty thousand word mark. That would be the fantasy adventure “The Eyes of the Wind.” A few more are between fifty and sixty thousand words. All these I consider short novels, not novellas. I recognize that many publishers do not like books of this length these days, but many great novels of the past were no longer (and James Patterson still churns out short-ish books).

I’ll just mention the novelette here, in passing. It is, of course, even shorter than a novella, and longer than what would normally be called a short story. Here, I feel, form does matter; to me, a novelette is a long short story whereas a novella is a short novel. The novelette focuses on one plot without turning aside to explore. Some of Robert E. Howard’s best stories are novelettes and I would recommend them to anyone who wishes to better understand the form.

So, do I write novellas at all? It could be argued that my “Donzalo’s Destiny” epic fantasy consists of eleven novellas and novelettes telling a continuous story, each with its own arc and conclusion, but not resolving the overall plot. Indeed, even in my shorter novels I sometimes employ similar sections. ‘Donzalo’ was actually published as a series of four somewhat short books, which might or might not be called novels. Or maybe the entire thing should be called a novel. I’m not sure! It was eventually published as an all-in-one edition that is definitely not short, weighing in a two-hundred and six thousand words.

The same sort of thing is not quite true of my other series. The books of the Malvern Trilogy do make a continuing story but there is a definite resolution for each one, so I consider them stand-alone novels. Be that as it may, they and most of my output are short novels, not novellas. It seems natural for me to turn out books that run between sixty and seventy thousand words; by far the greatest number of them fit in that range. Indeed, only two (not counting the aforementioned ‘Donzalo’) exceed seventy thousand. My longest novel is the second Cully Beach mystery, “Waves,” at just over eighty-thousand words.

Honestly, I don’t see why authors need to run as long as they sometimes do. I dislike wordiness for the sake of wordiness, and the tendency to tell too much. This is not to say long novels are in anyway ‘bad.’ Only some of them — and the same is true of short novels.

Anyway, back to the work-in-progress. I can already predict it will fall into about the same size range as the previous novels — and I am not about to add ‘filler’ to inflate its word count.

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