Friday, August 09, 2019

Writing: Novel vs. Novella

One of the questions I'm sometimes asked is, "How do you decide whether you're going to write a novel or a novella?" Everyone has their own definition of the two writing forms, but for me I picture a novella as having 20-40 K words, while a novel goes from 60-90K. True, some novels have well over 100K words, but I run out of steam long before I reach that. (I use K to indicate 1000 words--hope that's not confusing for anyone).

When I was writing under contract, I wrote novels. Period. No question. I started with a premise, populated it, determined how to keep the reader engaged through the "sagging middle," and tried to make everyone guess the outcome with what Jim Bell calls a "knockout ending." My first and second novels came in at about 70K words, and I found it comfortable writing that length. Every novel I wrote subsequently was about that long. So, that's what my contracts called for and that's what I wrote.

After so long a time, I decided to dip my toe (or perhaps my pen) into the self-publishing waters. I wasn't ready to go it alone, though, so I chose "agent-assisted" publishing. To get into this, I chose to write a shorter form--a novella. I've now had six off these published, the last being my latest, Bitter Pill. I've found, by the way, that it's harder to write these shorter works than a full-length one. I've also heard (yes, I read the reviews) that my readers really would like these to be longer. (My response is, "Hey, I was lucky to get that many words together").

When, through no fault of either the publisher or me, my contract for my book, Cardiac Event, fell through, I had enough experience with indie (or actually, agent-assisted) publishing to allow me to see if I could survive without a publishing house behind me. My intention was to do a novel, then a novella, then a novel, etc. I've already deviated from this once in order to get my current novella out there, but I'm back on track now. I'm half-way through my full-length novel (working title, Critical Decision), and hope to have it ready by late this year.

So, that's how come I have written some novels and some novellas. I had a plan, but all plans--including this one--are changed as time goes on. Do you have questions about publishing? I'd be happy to try to answer them.



I really enjoyed this blog. I look forward to every Friday and seeing if anything new is coming around. I am looking forward to your novel or novella. Your work helps me with what I went to school become a Medical Office Assistant. But being a Medical Error, no physician would give me an opportunity. Your blogs are uplifting to me. Thank you.

Patricia Bradley said...

Greg, you are not a medical error. You are unique and sound like a very interesting person. Have you considered writing? I think you would be good at it.

Patricia Bradley said...

Richard, I really enjoy your posts! I find also find it more difficult to write the novellas, mainly because I put as much work and research into a novella as I do my 90-100K novels. :-)

I've also discovered there is such a thing as a small story and a big story and while you can make a big story small, it is almost impossible to make a small story big. Does that make sense?


Ms. Patricia Bradley, First, thank you for your kind words. I spoken to Dr. Mabry about the subject of writing, and Dr. Mabry response attend a writers' conference. I enjoy reading Dr. Robin Cook. My favorite characters are Jack and Laurie Stapleton. And almost promising, Laurie Stapleton, gets herself in a fix and her husband Jack has to rescue her. Dr. Cook has asked for suggestion for his novels...he likes my creativeness, but sorry to ideas get shot down because there is no cure for a disease (autism). Only because we don't know what triggers. I wanted say team the autistic child up with JJ Jr.from MUTATION. But that idea was never sent by me to Dr. Cook. Again, thank you for your kind words.

Richard Mabry said...

Patricia, I appreciate the problem--it seems that some stories lend themselves to novellas, some to full-length novels, and I can't tell which it is until I get well into them.

And Greg, I think I made several suggestions to you, among which was to make plans to attend a writing conference. It was one of the earliest ones given to me, and that--plus reading innumerable books on writing and practicing the craft--is still the suggestion I make to people who ask for advice. Glad you're enjoying these blog posts, as well as your correspondence with Dr. Robin Cook.