Saturday, 6 October 2007

short novels

what is a 'novella'? somebody tell me. honestly, i have no idea. is it the same or different to a 'novelette'? is a 'novelette' like a 'novella' except with a little frilly skirt around the edges of it? is a 'novelette' a 'novella' but with lattice-style icing on the cover?

wikipedia says that a 'novella' is "a narrative work of prose fiction
longer than a short story but shorter than a novel" and that "the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Awards for science fiction define the novella as having a word count between 17,500 and 40,000 or 60 to 130 pages."

are science fiction 'novellas' to be categorised separately to regular ones?

later wikipedia says "
Occasionally, longer works are referred to as novellas, with some academics positing 100,000 words as the novella‒novel threshold." 100,000 words, i think, is about 400 pages. which would mean about 70% of fiction is novellas, maybe even higher if you look at modern Japanese fiction or French fiction or something. maybe like 1% of modern French writers have produced a novel in the last 20 years.

i wrote a novel a while ago, which i posted on here, which was eight words long. my novel doesn't count i guess.

i propose the term 'short novel'. it is not a new term. i did not invent it. but maybe when someone is unsure they should just say that instead.

i also propose a situation where the academic who said the thing about 100,000 words being the cut off point sits in a chair, and is beaten around the face with a series of double-spaced, single-sided, printed-out A4 word documents. the document is agreed to be a 'novel' if it makes the academic say 'Ow'. the academic might be stoic at first, but i think they would start saying 'Ow' at around the 75-80 page mark.

i just bought les savy fav's new album. i am listening to it for the second time. i am even more excited than i was writing yesterday's post.

i sold somebody a copy of Pan today.

Dan Rhodes expresses a slightly different thing -- saying 'why don't more people write short novels?' -- here, and also gives a list of 10 short novels he likes. i liked his novel, Gold, which was 198 pages (about 45,000 words) long.

16 comments:

Brian said...

I was once told in High School that a novel is anything over 90 pages long. For intance, Steinbeck's 'The Pearl' is a novella because it is not quite 100 pages. Now, we must remember that these terms and ideas began long ago when the printing craz first exploded onto the scene in all its smudged text glory. Therefor, I think we should look forward and offer up terms that are up to date and instanding with current publication trends.

The use of the term 'Short Novel' for instance makes the world of sense. Because after all, if it is not a short story, then it is a novel, long or short. Of course we run into the problem of such things as long short stories. Some of these are matched in length with what we would now call a short novel. What does this say? It says that the short story author was a wee bit lazy and just couldn't flush things out a bit more to have an actual novel therefor causing me great pain having to read it in my short story class. I won't mention names, but 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich' comes to bitter memory. No offense to good ol' Leo of course who wrote many a fine thing.

I would also like to point out that Mr Rhodes lists 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' as a short novel. This story is never sold on it's own, but with a collection of other short works by Capote. Tiffs only comes in at about 90 pages and has no chapters to speak of. It is really just one long brilliant tale that everyone should read. I'm not sure if I would call it a short novel nor am I sure if I would call it a long short story. I would maybe agree upon stating that Tiffs just is. It is what it is. Why can't we look at writing as a whole like this? A story is finished when it is finished - 6 words or 600,000 words. And that, my friend, is the long and short of it.

Jenn said...

I think if you can read it in one go without needing to go for a wee then it is a short story. If you need to stop to have a wee or go to work or eat something then it is probably a novel. I like novelette though - I want to write one of those. They sound very drawing room dignified - all the lines would touch the right hand side of the page and it would have a sewn in ribbon to keep your place.

Duncan Cheshire said...

Have fun at the Blog awards tomorrow, hope the reading goes well and you take home the best fiction writing prize.

Is Mark going to join you for the reading?

chris killen said...

thanks duncan, no i think mark is too scared. shame.

oscar macsweeny said...

novella novella i don't care what you're called novella... chesil beach certianly comes to mind, but it doesn feel like a novel... am i the only person who has an ingrained dislike for long novels... like how dare they... who does that dostoevsky think he is. and as for martin amis... well fuck him... keep it short in my opinion... a day in the life of ivan denisovitch, seize the day, shipwrecks, mice and men, golden gate... the list goes on and on and

http://thedictionaryofoscarmacsweeny.wordpress.com/

mantex said...

If you really want to know more about the novella as a literary form, I invite you to have a look at

http://www.mantex.co.uk/ou/resource/novella.htm

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