Becka's Babble

Ramblings of a Romance Writer

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Novels vs. Novellas

Okay, for those who are in the same circles I...circulate, you'll know I've been asking a lot of questions about reviews lately. Whether the snarky reviewers are laying on the snark a bit too thick for the sole purpose of entertainment and ripping a book apart rather than actually reviewing said book, or whether reviewers toss around the word "cliche" when the book is merely predictable, etc.

Anyhow, I got another one to talk about. Novels vs. novellas.

Novellas, by their nature, are short stories. We all know this, we all get this. Novels are, by their nature, longer stories. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get to the meat and potatoes of the point.

I think most every review I read on novellas says something along the lines of, "This book would have been better had it been a longer story" or "This novella was a fast, quick read, but I wish it could have been longer" etc.

This baffles me, though, because is there any novella on Planet Earth that *wouldn't* be improved upon if it had been a full novel? The point of a novella is to jump into the story, not for drawn out character development. True, you should have some development so your readers can connect with the characters, and sometimes, that's why reviewers want the book to go on for another 100 pages, because they loved the characters so much. Other times, they want the book to go on for another 100 pages, because the plot wasn't fully fleshed out, or what have you.

But a novella, as we established above, is a short story. That is its essence, so changing it into a full novel would defeat the purpose of the light, quick read. But there are so many reviewers out there who wish these novellas were longer.

I gotta say, I've written a few novellas myself. They are fun to write and they are fun to read, especially for me because I rarely have time to read any more. Something that's quick, punchy, to the point is what I'm looking for in a book. But I'm tired of the reviewers who lament about the length of novellas. I'm beginning to believe reviewers don't *like* novellas much, since I've seen the "I wish it was longer" comment on a LOT of reviews.

So what's the deal here, folks? Are THAT many authors writing unbelievable novellas that cannot get off the ground in a short amount of time? Or are there THAT many authors writing compelling novellas that readers "want more of" because it was so darned good? **OR** are reviewers merely jaded, wanting an "all nighter" rather than a "quickie?" LOL

What do you think?



At 10:06 AM , Blogger Cindy K. Green said...

I too have written both lengths and I have to say that I have read these similar comments from reviewers. (Luckily not on "Spirit.":D) I enjoy reading and writing the novella. They are quick, fun reads which is what you should expect from them. If you want more - read a novel.

At 10:11 AM , Blogger Sandra said...

Whenever I read a novella, love it and wish it were longer, is for the fact that I don't want to leave the characters and hear more about their adventures and the like.

Then there are some novels were I feel that they should have been shorter, since they lost my interest early in the story.

For some novellas, when I reach the end, I'm like (in a good way) "Ugh, this can't be the end. I want more to this story. I want to know what happens after (blah blah)".

For reviewers, maybe they want the longer story to get a better grip on the author's writing style. Or something like that.

At 10:14 AM , Blogger Jerri said...

I've written both, my Aztec Security Series are three novella's and I think I delved into my characters as much as I did in my full length novels, at least I hope I did. I guess we'll see when I get reviews. Currently, I'm working on another, so I must love to write them.

At 12:07 PM , Blogger jim said...

The usual and simple definition of "novella" is a word count that ranges from perhaps 20K to 49K depending on the opinion. Very few sources agree on that definitive word count. But there's more to a novella than simply the number of words as oppposed to a full-length novel. A novella is marked by a more simple storyline with fewer characters and therefore fewer subplots that interact with and affect the major plot. Some stories deserve the novella appellation simply because the story is told more succinctly than required by the novel word length.

At 1:04 PM , Blogger D. Renee Bagby said...

I think the problem reviewers have (I'm totally guessing) is they're left with questions at the end of the novella. Not the normal fun questions about HEA and what'll they do next and how did the kid turn, but questions that the author left unanswered.

I've read some novellas where the author sets up something--usually a sidenote thing that doesn't much matter--but they don't explain it. I figure, if you're going to mention something, then it needs to be explained. You, as the author, know it but I, as the reader, don't.

I've read some novellas that had the characters jumping into bed together literally two seconds after meeting and then starting a serious relationship after the sex had cooled down and there is no character depth except for a casual "she wouldn't normally do this but...".

I've only read a handful of novellas that had everything (character depth, plot, steamy sex scenes, and closure) and didn't leave me thinking the author could have expanded.

On the other hand, I've read some novels that left me with questions. So, as the old saying goes: It's not the size that counts, it's how you use it.

At 3:09 PM , Blogger Jen said...

Personally I always thought novellas were sent to magazines, but recently they seem to be coming out alongside novels in the e-world. Pity the poor reviewer who selects quickly, doesn't notice the page length and then feels cheated because s/he has to write a review that must seem almost as long as the novella! I have seen those as short as 12 pages.
Novellas are an art form in their own right, but I suspect that some (not all, I hasten to add!) authors see it as a quick route into publishing and royalties. A novella needs a good strong basic idea to hold it together. Characterisation needs to be achieved in a word or two, or through story choices; and every word must count. It isn't as easy as it might seem to a beginner.
Jen Black

At 9:01 PM , Blogger Kate Davies said...

As someone whose sole publishing career (so far) is in novella form, I'm probably biased here. :) But what I love about the novella is its brevity, its ability to focus so strongly on the main couple, its bite-size goodness!

I've gotten the "wish it was longer" comment once or twice (usually followed by a rave about the characters, so hopefully it's more a desire for more, not a feeling that something's missing). Honestly, though, I can't see any of my novellas working as a novel. The novels I've written (and yes, I've got one coming out in September, thankyouverymuch) are such different stories, they really aren't interchangeable.

Fun topic!

At 9:10 PM , Blogger Becka said...

I have written four novellas so far in my writing career, with one contracted to release in 2008 from Champagne Books. And you know, I've never felt rushed, hurried, or cramped while writing them. I've never "hurried things along" to get to the ending or breezed by the plot in favor of the love scenes.

Whenever I start a project, I set a goal for myself. If my story is only 20K words, then that's how long my plot will be as well. I try not to have a long, drawn out plot in such a small amount of time. So side plots, secondary characters, all those things are kept to a minimum. Novellas, for me, need to focus on the relationship rather than the outside forces of plot devices because you don't have any "room" to explore them. Which is probably why a lot of reviewers use the "should have been longer" line.

The secret to a novella is to write short, tight, and have a "small" plot.


At 9:13 PM , Blogger Becka said...

Sorry, I've written six, not four. I forgot HEARTS ETERNAL and HEARTS UNBOUND (to be released November 2007 from Samhain.) Each of them were 33K. :)

The others I've written are THE BEST MAN FOR KRISTIE, UNDERNEATH THE MISTLETOE, ON EAGLE'S WINGS, & HIGH NOON (to be released November 2007 from Samhain as well. :P)


At 9:16 PM , Blogger Becka said...

And another thing! LOL

I must say some of my best selling books to date - are my novellas. As a stand alone, they don't do quite as well, but part of an anthology, and they take off. Probably due to your fellow authors' cross-mojination of audience readership.

If you're looking to expand your writing horizons, write a novella and get it into a popular anthology with other cool authors. :P Anthology novellas are gold mines, I'm telling you. :)


At 10:27 AM , Blogger LK Hunsaker said...

I think there is some confusion here between a novella and a short story. A novella should have all of the features of a novel; the only differentiation is its length. The amount of characterization depends on the genre, not on the length. Even a 500 word story can have very deep characterization.

If a reviewer says it should be longer as in better developed, then it's a fault of the plot, not the length. If she says it should be longer because she didn't want it to end, then the author did a great job. Any review that doesn't specify which point the reviewer is making is a faulty review and pretty useless to the writer.

Short stories are different than novellas. They are a glimpse of a story; a certain moment of a life. They need to be tight and to the point, but many still have incredible characterization. If a short story is trying to guise as a novella, it won't work. They are two different forms.


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