Don’t know whether to write a novel or novella? Me neither. And I’m still not sure where this train is headed.
I’ve been diligently working on a novel for the last six months, and it’s been tough. No surprise there—that’s part of the writing journey. But while digging up writing tips, I stumbled upon various articles about writing novellas, like this really good one. Something about the concept speaks to me.
What is a novella?
A novella is typically a work of fiction between 10,000 – 50,000 words. It’s longer than a short story and shorter than a novel.
Here are some reasons why I’m interested in writing a novella instead of a novel—and reasons that the devil’s advocate whispers against it.
- My novel manuscript is too short. This isn’t the first time I’ve struggled to get a manuscript to an ideal 80,000 word count. I abandoned a previous project because of that issue. When I come against this problem, I create subplots just to beef up my story to a novel-length. Many times I think it’s to the detriment of the story.
Devil’s advocate: Perhaps I need to pick better subplots.
- I tend to write fast-paced scenes. I like to get in and out without a lot of languishing. This could be a fault to work on, or it could just be my style. I’m still trying to figure that out.
Devil’s advocate: If I work on my technique, the scene can be expanded without feeling like fluff. Should I consider writing a suspense or thriller where fast-paced scenes are expected?
- A novella still uses the three-act structure. I like the format of a novel. It provides good guidance for the writer and leaves a reader feeling fulfilled. A novella adheres to that same structure, which still gives me plenty of room to play around and have fun.
Devil’s advocate: If I like the novel structure, then I should just write a novel!
- I have a lot of story ideas. Like many aspiring authors, I have a lot of ideas swarming around in my head—nine at the current moment. I have a list of them so I don’t forget. But there is something to be said for striking while that iron is hot. When the iron cools, I lose the creative boost that got me excited to begin with. This leads me to my next point.
Devil’s advocate: There will always be ideas. Just stick with one idea at a time until it’s done. Improve my “writer-stick-to-it-ness.”
- I want to start working on the next idea. If I write shorter manuscripts, I wonder if I can crank through them faster, which will allow me to get to my next idea quicker. It’s all about feeding the creative beast.
Devil’s advocate: That’s an excuse. I’m a writer—which means, as long as I’m alive, that writing beast will be hungry.
- Novellas are series-friendly. My current WIP is about one character, but I envision writing separate books with points-of-view of two other characters. Series are hot and hook readers. They can follow the continued life of a character, provide a spinoff for other characters, develop more opportunities for world-building, or link a connected, interesting theme.
Devil’s advocate: I can use these ideas as subplots to increase the length of my manuscript to the size of novel.
- I want to finish. I’m impatient. I want the satisfaction of completing the novel, having it proofread and completed. I love writing, but there’s something to be said for finishing a project. The sense of accomplishment is satisfying, and it could happen more often with novellas.
Devil’s advocate: Patience is a virtue. With practice and perseverance, I’ll finish novel-length projects faster.
- I could self-publish. Novellas are getting more and more popular, especially within the digital space. The shorter length works well for readers who like snack-size books, as well as meal-size novels. This market is perfect for the self-publishing industry, giving authors the chance to have total control of their creativity and marketing.
Devil’s advocate: When writing novellas, there really isn’t much choice but to self-publish anyway, for the most part.
- Novellas can be bundled into a novel. If I decide to follow the same character through two or three novellas, for instance, they could be bundled together to create a novel. That book could then be sold separately to satisfy the needs of readers and agents interested in a conventional, novel-length work.
Devil’s advocate: If the end result is to get to a novel-length book, then why go through the trouble of working on shorter ones?
- I can test the waters. Releasing a novella allows for faster feedback from readers, especially with a series in mind. If the feedback is good, it will provide incentive to keep going, all while building a reader base.
Devil’s advocate: I can also receive feedback from beta-readers—on a book of any length—without having to release a novella.
As you can see, I’m still deciding what to do. And there are some good cases made here by my Devil’s advocate.
Are you writing novellas instead of novels, or have you written both? Please share why have you decided to write, or not write, novellas.