The “novella” is an interesting literary type, isn’t it? I became fascinated with novellas last year, when I was preparing to try my hand at writing one. In time, that effort became Love in the Details (which just released). Yippee!
Even though novellas have a long history — they were first written in Europe around 1350 during the Renaissance — I’m guessing that most of us are much more familiar with the novel or with the short story than we are with the long-suffering, anonymous middle child that slots into place between the two. Poor middle children! Remember Jan from the Brady Bunch?
Romance Writers of America defines novellas as stories that range in length from 20,000 – 40,000 words. To put that in perspective, full length novels typically range in length from 80,000-110,000 words. ….Unless the author is Tammy, me, or Julie Lessman. The three of us love to shoot past 110,000.
Short stories are the right length for magazines. And novels are the right length to package and place on bookstore shelves. But novellas are too long for magazines and too short to stand alone on shelves. Before ebooks became a thing, publishers addressed this issue by occasionally releasing print novella “collections” that contained three or four stories. I have fuzzy memories of general market romance publishers doing this back in the day. Typically, one bestselling author would ‘headline’ the collection and the publisher would use the joint project to introduce the newer authors to their bestseller’s readers.
Nowadays, writers can place their novellas on virtual bookshelves at online bookstores side by side with novels, which has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for the novella. Have you noticed how novellas have taken off in recent years?
Publishers are giving away e-novellas for free to launch a new series. Like these offerings from Bethany House….
Other publishers have created a series of e-novellas, which will later enjoy second life as print collections. Zondervan’s back-to-back Year of Weddings novellas ring in at a very wallet friendly $3.99 each. Here are the last three releases in the current series….
For some reason I can’t explain print collections also seem to have risen in popularity. Am I right in thinking this? Does anyone know why? Maybe because we’re all more time-pressed and thus more appreciative of a shorter format these days? Maybe because readers who discovered novellas in e-book format are now also willing to consume them in print?
Here are two recent print collections from Barbour….
I thoroughly enjoyed writing Love in the Details. 1) It gave me a chance to stretch myself as a writer by trying something I’d never tried before. 2) It was lovely to write a full story in weeks instead of months. 3) Rewriting my novels sometimes feels like wrestling an enormous octopus. That is to say, nearly impossible and dreadfully complex. But rewriting my novella was like wrestling a shrimp. Easy!
I didn’t grow up reading novellas because I fell into the “if-a-book-is-wonderful-I-also-want-it-to-be-LONG mindset. When I began reading novellas recently I was completely surprised by how much I appreciated them. For this working mom of three, it was nice to complete a full story in one evening. Yay! Closure! I actually completed something!
Also, novellas pack a lot of dramatic punch. They’re concentrated. With a novella, you get a straight forward, fast paced, focused story… which might explain why Hollywood has made so many novellas into movies.
Did you know that the following were all novellas?
Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Stephen King’s Shawshank Redemption, Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Charles Webb’s The Graduate.
I’m interested to hear about your experiences with novellas. Did you read them growing up? Do you enjoy them? Read them often? On your e-reader? In print?
To celebrate the release of Love in the Details, I’m running a giveaway! Below, I’ve included a glimpse at the grand prize package, but I’m also giving away ‘mini prizes’ every day or two. Head here for more details about how to enter.
One of the options for entering the giveaway for the grand prize is to create your own Dream Fall Wedding Pinterest board. A Pinterest board isn’t mandatory for the grand prize, only optional. But if you do create a Pinterest board, you’ll also be eligible for all the ‘mini prizes’ I’ll be giving out! Here’s a peek at my Dream Fall Wedding board!