Thursday, July 23, 2009

Novel, Novella, Novelette

I panicked when Karyn's post about size jumped out at me yesterday. Until I realized it wasn't the size I was working on. Just recently on this blog, someone made a comment that they couldn’t write a complete novel. I’m not sure who said it or in what context, but it got me thinking…

Then on this week’s The Wild Rose Press chat, one person mentioned she couldn’t seem to finish a full length novel, but she had no problem completing a 10,000-15,000 word short story every week. Wow! That’s a lot of words. And if she put them all together, she could write a full length category novel each month. But she couldn’t go the distance in one shot.

She was like a sprinter as opposed to a long distance runner. The sprinter goes all out as fast as she can but soon loses steam and has to stop. The long distance runner starts out slower and doesn’t increase her speed, but keeps going on and on and still manages to run across the finish line. Both are effective in their own race.

Writers are similar. You have your sprinters, like O. Henry and John Steinbeck who are pros at the short story or novella. And then you have your long distance runners like James Michener and J.K. Rowling.

Since I’ve also heard someone ask what a novella and flash fiction was recently, I decided to give a little story length guide. This is what I know of book length. I’m hoping readers to this blog will leave a comment with anything I’ve missed.

According to the typical lengths are:

Novel - 50,000+ words
Novella - 20,000 to 50,000 words
Novelette - 7,500 to 20,000 words
Short story - 1,000 to 7,500 words
Flash fiction - under 1,000 words

Then there’s:
Micro-Fiction - usually a few hundred words with a maximum of 500.

And tweet fiction:
Ernest Hemingway wrote his infamous story in 6 words: For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Mr. Hemingway's story would’ve been perfect for twitter since they have a 140 character maximum. In fact, there are writing contests out there for twitter.

One of the most famous examples of novella use is the book, Tales of the Arabian Nights or One Thousand and One Nights. I wonder if the 8 tales in Le Morte d’Arthur would classify as the same?

It seems that eBook publishers are more eager to accept novellas than print publishers. I did some checking and this is what I found:

The Wild Rose Press:
Rosette 7,500 to 20.000 words (ebook only)
Miniature Rose 20,001 to 40,000 words (ebook only)
Rosebud 40,001 to 65,000 words (ebook only)
Bouquet (anthology) 65,001 to 100,000 words (ebook only)
Rose 65,001 to 100,000 words (ebook & print)

Uncial Press: Book-length works (at least 50,000 words)
superlative shorter fiction (at least 5,000 words.)

AweStruck eBooks and Mundania Press:
Novels, novellas and short stories but only if submitted in March, April, Sept and Oct of each year.

Ellora’s Cave and Cerridwen Press 10,000-125,000 words

Nocturne Bites – 10,000-15,000 words (Paranormal)
Harlequin Historical Undone – 10,000-15,000 words (Sexy Historical)
Spice Briefs – 5,000-15,000 words (Erotica)

12,000-120,000 words (but preferred length = 60,000)

Those are just some of the eBook publishers who are looking for novellas. I haven’t even checked the print side of the house.

One thing I did want to mention – a Harlequin published author friend once told me a publisher will take a chance on an unknown writer faster if she is part of an anthology with successful authors. I asked her how an anthology came into being and she said it’s usually up to the authors. Someone will come up with a good idea for an anthology and contact a couple writer friends. They’ll each write a proposal and the one who thought of it will submit to her agent/editor. If it looks good and there’s space for it, there’s a real chance her editor will give it the green light.

For others, such as The Wild Rose Press, you submit your partial as per normal and let them put it wherever they wish whether it’s an anthology or not.

Actually, this would be a good place to announce that The Wild Rose Press is looking for novellas and novels for an American Hero series for the Spring of 2010. Here’s the criteria:
- 30,000-100,000 word Historical (No cowboys)
- Vintage line – 1900-1992 - can be on Canadian or foreign soil but the H/hero must be American.
- American line – 1492-1992 - it must be set on American soil and have an American flavor
- Hero can be either male or female and must make a difference in the life of someone or some people. He/she must go beyond normal heroism.

That’s one example of where you could submit a novella where you won’t have to wait years to see it in print.

So, how long a story do you usually write? Have you tried other lengths? Have you considered other lengths? What is your favorite length to read?

* Thank you to Karyn for mentioning the Nocturne Bites and to Jana for reminding me of Samhain. I've added them in the above list.


Karyn Good said...

Interesting you should ask Anita. I'm working on something new with Silhouette's Nocture Bites ebook program in mind. They're looking for novellas with a length of between 10,000 to 15,000 words. We'll see what happens as I'm not quite sure what I'm doing.

As for reading, I'll try any length.

I can see why my title gave you a bit of a jolt. :) Great post today!

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
Mostly I write full length novels over 50,000 words. But recently I wrote a novella called "Burning Love" which has been accepted for publication with Wild Rose Press. It's about 25,000 words and I really found that length much more manageable then a full length novel. Writing a novel means juggling a lot of balls in the air, trying to keep your plot and subplot going, and tieing up loose ends at the finale. Those things seem easier in a novella. However,because of a novella's shorter length, you have to make every word count. It really calls for tight writing.

BTW, Samhain publishing occassionally calls for submissions for novellas of certain themes.


Silver James said...

I tend toward longer novels (75K+). I haven't decided if it's because I'm so wordy or if my plots are that complex. ;) That said, the first fiction I published was a novella in an anthology. COP TALES 2000.

I missed ya'll so much! I'm glad to be back home in the prairie.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Och, Karyn! I forgot all about the eHarlequin bites! Not only is there one for Nocturne, but there is one for Blaze Historicals and Spice Briefs. Thanks for the reminder. I'll update the post.

Thanks Karyn.

Anita Mae Draper said...

It's about 25,000 words and I really found that length much more manageable then a full length novel.
I agree. I used to think it was all or nothing, but the more I chat with the Wild Rose team and research the ebook arena, the more I realize I can set my own length depending on the story. By that I mean that some stories just don't have the plot to go 50,000+ words so why stretch them for the sake of word length. Especially if it would have so much more impact at 20-30,000.

I couldn't remember 'Sanheim' and the eBook publisher site I was using didn't list it either so I'm glad you mentioned it. I'll go find their URL and add it to the post.

Thanks, Jana.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Silver, I/we missed you, too!

I envy the writers who can work with multiple subplots and dish out a 100,000 word story.

I liken it to a game of chess - I love playing chess but I can't think 3 moves ahead on a consistent basis. Actually, it really frustrates me when I have my move all planned out and then my opponent takes his turn and I have to start over. Some people can see the whole board and all the moves and be prepared for anything. Not me.
Same as a story - take Julie Lessman's A Passion Most Pure. It's over 500 pages and there's not a single wasted word. And so many subplots that seem so necessary to the overall romance.

So, anybody know the name of a runner who's not a sprinter but doesn't like to go the long distance? Yup - that's me.

So nice to see you again, Silver.

Ban said...

I'll be honest - I've never counted my words ... I'm gonna say, without doubt, my WiP is going to be a novel though, there's too much in it for anything less. (I'm talking info and world-building of course - not complexity of plot *wink at Silver*) Plus it's part of a multi-arc story.
I like to read novels as well. Not that I won't read anything shorter, I just like to spend my time with the characters in their worlds. I get attached that way :)

Hayley E. Lavik said...

I think I work best either very long or very short. Any concepts I get for a respectable sized short story end up fleshing out and better suiting a novel. If I do come up with a solid short idea (a moment, as we talked about at an old meeting), I'm usually content to do flash fiction, less than 1000 words, such as the last little fire tale I posted over on Eventide. I'd like to try others out, but I'd need to read more of those lengths first.

As for reading, gotta say I prefer either something short I can get through quickly (especially for online fiction magazines, print would be different), or a nice long novel I can sink my teeth into and chew for a while. I don't technically dislike longer short stories, novelette's, etc, but often I find the writing isn't quite what I want (flash fiction requires brevity, and even if it's bad, you can still finish it quickly). I've been very impressed with some shorter fiction I read for lit classes over the years, but I always seem to approach it with mild dislike, as though it's going to be a hassle to read something that long that isn't a novel. It's a weird bias, I know, but there it is :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Ban, I'm so with you there. I love reading novels but gave up on short stories, etc years ago.

It happened about the same time I stopped watching half hour TV shows and opted to watch a long 2 hr movie instead.

Isn't that funny that I would want to read/watch something long but want to write shorter? Hmmm...

Thanks for stopping Ban. I appreciate your insight.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Actually, Hayley, you bring up a point - although I like reading long, I like the short pieces for my iTouch. I think it's because I only read with it at certain times and may go days without and by the time I do go back, it takes a while to get back into it. I've been in the process of reading Kel's book on my iTouch for months now for that very reason.

By the same token, I can't read anything longer than Julie Lessman's books anymore because of the arthritis in my hands.

And your 'weird bias' isn't weird at all from where I'm standing.

Thanks for contributing, Hayley.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Well, since it's so quiet here today... and since I'm the only Chick on the ACFW loop... and this is off today's topic but involves our Honorary Prairie Chicks (HPC) both current and future...

The American Christian Fiction Writers have just announced the nominees for the 2009 Book of the Year. (Winners to be announced in Sep at the Denver conf.)

And here are some names you know:

HPC Julie Lessman for A Passion Most Pure

HPC Missy Tippens for Her Unlikely Family

HPC Margaret Daley for Forsaken Canyon

HPC Allie Pleiter for Masked by Moonlight

Future HPC Camy Tang for Single Sashami

Future HPC Mary Connealy for Calico Canyon, Of Mice...and Murder, Buffalo Gal, and Clueless Cowboy. Wow!

And I guess this isn't off topic after all because HPC Rhonda Gibson is nominated for Stuck on You - a novella in the A Connecticut Christmas anthology.

I say again, Wow!!!

It's really nice to know that all the attention we've been giving Julie's book is warranted, eh.

The timing is nice, too with Camy guest blogging with us on Sat.

Janet C. said...

Very informative, Anita. I love short fiction (and almost posted a flash fiction piece for tomorrow's post, but then changed my mind). But Lady Bells came in at a whopping 125,000 words (lots of plot). I've trimmed it back to 100,000 words. As you can see from most of my comments, I am long winded :)

But not today. Must go. Just wanted to comment on the great post.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thank you, Janet. I appreciate that.

I have some critting to do so I'll stay up to ensure your post goes online when it should.

So you're off, eh. On one hand I want to say have a nice rest (your mind not your body with the move) but then there's no reason you can't be plotting enroute, is there?

I'll keep you in my prayers for a safe trip and move. Bon voyage.