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Articles

  1. 7 Things That Will Doom Your Novel (& How to Avoid Them)
  2. Word counts for novellas
  3. 1. Startle readers with the first line.
  4. The novella: Stepping stone to success or waste of time? - The Writer

7 Things That Will Doom Your Novel (& How to Avoid Them)

The novella typically runs about a hundred pages, though it can run a bit longer. But usually the novella is designated by word count, not page count. A novella typically starts at about 20, words and tops out at 50,, which is the minimum length for a short novel. There are plenty of small presses that are highly respected for the good work they publish.

Your 30,word novella may even be published as a stand-alone, either in regular print or digital, at a small press. The reasons vary. Price point can be an issue because, like their commercial counterparts, small presses do have to stay afloat.


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Like other forms, novellas must earn their keep, and this may come down to having a viable marketing strategy. They submit short fiction, flash fiction collections, collections of prose poems, or novels. For me, a small press publisher, a novella would be a perfect sale, because fiction sells better than poetry, generally, and shorter novels cost less to produce. They also take remarkable concision and all-round artful storytelling.

Some magazines have created a platform to publish novellas outside their pages. Under its Working Titles outprint, The Massachusetts Review publishes novella e-books 7, to 25, words , and Ploughshares now offers its digital-only Solos 7, to 20, words. So there are homes, then, for your novella.

How does the novella happen? Do writers plan it in advance, aiming for a certain number of pages or words? What special features does the novella form have for writers, and what story elements determine its length? How do editors view this form, not only from a marketing angle but also for its special capacities? What tips do both writers and editors have when it comes to the novella as a form?

Four novella writers speak out, followed by four small press publishers who have found a place for novellas in their lists. For example, a recent flash piece I wrote uses a Delmore Schwartz quote as a starting point, about how the mind is a city like London, and the piece tries to embody that idea in a short space, in a flash of thought. And as a reader, I need the time that pages provide to think about those ideas.

I started writing The Western Lonesome Society in very much an exploratory sort of mood. In this case, there are several stories within the main story. It seemed to me that the concept would only be interesting for so long. Early on, I knew I was writing a book of about pages. Jane Smiley: I wrote all three of my novellas in the s.

All three of them were explorations of particular emotional experiences.

I have not written any novellas since. I think they were triggered by the emotional complexity of having children, and juggling them with marriage and a career involving students and writing books. The ideas seemed to need focus and concentration but also a degree of length. I think that a short story works sort of like a lightning strike, and I felt that I needed more time to develop the situations. But at the same time, I wanted to explore the feelings of the characters with greater focus than I thought I could in a novel. Deal: In a novella, nothing is a distraction.

There is no filler. Not that a novella has to be spare — it can be a burst of luxuriance — but nothing can be superfluous. And if you read it in one sitting, which you can, you can become immersed in the world of the book from beginning to end. And I think this allows the writer to build up some resonances and reflections that might get lost in a longer format. It also allows for some experimentation that might get tedious in a longer book. For example, in That Night Alive, the sentence that ends one chapter is the same sentence that begins the next chapter.

McBrearty: The novella opens up a lot of possibilities, including more scenes and a larger cast of characters. The short story may take some asides, flashbacks, flash forwards, but most of the time the use of these is much more limited than in the novella. The Western Lonesome Society also allowed me to take several different points of view. Though of course there are exceptions; the short story usually takes one point of view. In The Western Lonesome Society , I went into the heads of various characters, and I saw the novella form as providing an opportunity to experiment with narrative structure.


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So the novella was the right form. Smiley: A novella is more like a play or a movie — you can follow one character or small set of characters for a hundred or pages without shifting focus to the larger world around them. So you can focus on feelings and give the novella a lot of complex emotional impact. Novels always explore the world that the characters live in, and so the emotional impact can be large, but it also might be mitigated by context — there is a constant balance that a novel must strike between the personal and the impersonal.

I like that, and I love writing novels, but for intense feeling, I think novellas are the best. Weil: The novella can combine the intensity of a short story with the generosity of a novel. More recently, I wrote a novella that was particularly dark and painful and, while there are certainly novels that plunge their readers into that for many hundreds of pages, I felt the level of emotional difficulty and intensity would have to be leavened over a work longer than a novella — so the form felt necessary to stay honest to the tone.

Deal: My advice is to read some novellas and see if the form suits you. Melville House has a wonderful series of reissued novellas. If there are various places to expand, it sounds more like a novella. Consider your characters.

Word counts for novellas

In short stories, writers usually create characters in a sparse way. It is the purpose of this section to consider the novel not solely in terms of great art but also as an all-purpose medium catering for all the strata of literacy. In the fictional works, the medium is prose, the events described are unheroic , the settings are streets and taverns, not battlefields and palaces.

There is more low fornication than princely combat; the gods do not move the action; the dialogue is homely rather than aristocratic. It was, in fact, out of the need to find—in the period of Roman decline—a literary form that was anti-epic in both substance and language that the first prose fiction of Europe seems to have been conceived.

1. Startle readers with the first line.

The most memorable character in Petronius is a nouveau riche vulgarian; the hero of Lucius Apuleius is turned into a donkey; nothing less epic can well be imagined. The medieval chivalric romance from a popular Latin word, probably Romanice , meaning written in the vernacular , not in traditional Latin restored a kind of epic view of man—though now as heroic Christian, not heroic pagan. At the same time, it bequeathed its name to the later genre of continental literature , the novel, which is known in French as roman , in Italian as romanzo , etc.

The English term romance, however, carries a pejorative connotation. But that later genre achieved its first great flowering in Spain at the beginning of the 17th century in an antichivalric comic masterpiece—the Don Quixote of Cervantes, which, on a larger scale than the Satyricon or The Golden Ass , contains many of the elements that have been expected from prose fiction ever since.

Novels have heroes, but not in any classical or medieval sense. As for the novelist, he must, in the words of the contemporary British-American W. Auden ,. The novel attempts to assume those burdens of life that have no place in the epic poem and to see man as unheroic, unredeemed, imperfect, even absurd. This is why there is room among its practitioners for writers of hardboiled detective thrillers such as the contemporary American Mickey Spillane or of sentimental melodramas such as the prolific 19th-century English novelist Mrs.

Henry Wood , but not for one of the unremitting elevation of outlook of a John Milton. The novel is propelled through its hundred or thousand pages by a device known as the story or plot. The dramatist may take his plot ready-made from fiction or biography—a form of theft sanctioned by Shakespeare—but the novelist has to produce what look like novelties. At the lowest level of fiction, plot need be no more than a string of stock devices for arousing stock responses of concern and excitement in the reader.

In the least sophisticated fiction, the knots to be untied are stringently physical, and the denouement often comes in a sort of triumphant violence. Serious fiction prefers its plots to be based on psychological situations, and its climaxes come in new states of awareness—chiefly self-knowledge—on the parts of the major characters.

The novella: Stepping stone to success or waste of time? - The Writer

Melodramatic plots, plots dependent on coincidence or improbability, are sometimes found in even the most elevated fiction; E. But the novelist is always faced with the problem of whether it is more important to represent the formlessness of real life in which there are no beginnings and no ends and very few simple motives for action or to construct an artifact as well balanced and economical as a table or chair; since he is an artist, the claims of art, or artifice , frequently prevail.

H.E.R. - Hard Place (Official Video)

There are, however, ways of constructing novels in which plot may play a desultory part or no part at all. In the works of Virginia Woolf , the consciousness of the characters, bounded by some poetic or symbolic device, sometimes provides all the fictional material.