Friday, November 21, 2014

Novel VS Novella

One of the trendy, ‘buzzworthy’ words going around writing circles is the word NOVELLA.  I’m not saying that it’s a new word; in fact, it may be more hipster-ish than new.  In fact, Salma Hayek would champion the word in association with her ‘Ugly Betty’ series; and, Latin American soap opera stars on Univision would embrace the word as originally belonging to their profesión.  What I am saying is that I’ve noticed a trend away from the full novel-length stories towards the shorter more niche novellas.  So, what’s the difference?

Actually, the Italians get the nod for the creation of these fictional prose narrative writings.  It usually takes up the cause of a single character, replete with multiple sub-plots, twists and ancillary characters.  A novella will usually have a word count of between 17,000 and 40,000 words.

For those of us trudging towards our world-changing novel, or maybe we’re riding the NaNoWriMo pony this month, this option is really appealing.  The story I’m currently authoring is probably going to come in at around 30,000 words or so.  Even if I flesh out the imagery a little more or do some deeper character development, it’s still not going to reach 40K.
So, if you’re not quite ready to make a run at a Sanderson-length story, you might consider a nice, petite novella.  Here’s a little research on the market for novellas:
·       Some regular literary journals accept them.  John Fox (BookFox) has assembled a pretty good list of literary journals that accept novellas.
·       Try a boutique press.
·       Send your work to a novella contest like the Faulkner Wisdom Competition.

John Brandon had an essay on novellas picked up by the New York Times a couple of years back in which he suggested that novellas are in their Golden Age form right now, that novellas are more handily adaptable to film manuscripts, and that three short novellas are much more interesting (and probably more marketable) than a big, clunky novel. 

Perhaps I’ll finish this post and start working on my ‘next great American novella.’

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