I believe the novella is a lost art. I am one who appreciates brevity, which is why I appreciate the novella. A novella is a work that is shorter than a novel but longer than a short story, usually averaging around 30,000 words. A novella is usually less complex in structure and plot than a novel and is well-suited to a character study, which is what I did with my novella series. They are meant to be read in one sitting, usually within a couple of hours. They often are not divided into chapters, though I divided mine into several short chapters.
Writing a novella is fun, giving you a chance to really focus on one or two aspects of the work rather than on the subplots necessary to keep a novel moving. I found that a novella was a perfect introductory work for me, and though working on my novel has not been easy, having completed three novellas (equaling 77,000 words) has proven to me that I can create a longer work with dedication and hard work.
The Nebula Awards uses the following guidelines for determining length for novelette, novellas, and novels, and these guidelines are fairly standard, though publishers will, of course, have their own guidelines. I have seem some publishers consider novellas to be between 40,000-70,000 words and not consider a novel to be anything less than 70,000 words. Certainly, a 40,000 word novel is a short, short novel.
- Novelette: 7,500-17,500 words
- Novella: 17,500-40,000 words
- Novel: 40,000 words and up
There are many great well-known works that are novellas:
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Heart of Darkness
Of Mice and Men
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The Turn of the Screw
A Clockwork Orange
I am finding that novellas are making a bit of a comeback, and I believe this is a result of the popularity of e-readers. This gives me hope that we novella writer will have a chance in getting published and having readers who appreciate our work.
In the next month or so, I will be putting together a list of publishers who accept fantasy novellas to help those of you who have done what I have done and want to find someone who may be interested in your work.