Story Types: Novellas

Choices Amid the Trees, Novellas, Storytelling, Thoughts on Writing, Writing Spot

Last week, we began a discussion on story lengths. This came from a question I have been asked of late: what types of story are there?

This is a more complex answer than it may appear.On the surface, we have two types of stories: the novel and the short story. Last week, we began with short story lengths. Today, we will explore story lengths that land between novel and short story. Next week, we will talk about the novel. That will lead into a discussion about National Novel Writing Month.

If short stories are under 40 pages and novels are over 300, what type of stories fit in between?

In this discussion, it is important to point out that when we consider the types of stories that fit into this in-between spot, most of the time children’s books fill the space. A picture book should be on the shorter end. A chapter book will be longer. A middle grade novel may top out towards the high end of the spectrum.

But what if you want to read or write an adult or young adult story that isn’t novel length? This is the nether world between short stories and novels called novellas.

Novellas are too long to be short stories and too short to be novels, so they are called literally mini-novels. Mini, mini novels are often called novelettes. Novellas are difficult to find because there is no market for them. They are not long enough to warrant the cost of printing and too long for a magazine.The e-book phenomenon is changing that. So is James Patterson.

Writer James Scot Bell posted on his blog about a New York Times article that told about James Patterson’s new book idea: Book Shots (otherwise known as novellas). Patterson wants to sell shorter, main-stream fiction for cheap so they appeal to non-readers. He would offer them in print and as e-books, but the goal is to make them widely available to people who would not normally pick up a book or have time to read.

What is most intriguing to me about Patterson’s idea is that it is a throwback to the old dime-store novels. Like I mentioned last week about short fiction, stories that are a quick reads are less intimidating, especially for the reluctant reader or busy individual. Imagine grabbing a short story from the check out counter after picking up a gallon of milk. We do that with magazines, which are about the same length. Why not a story that grabs our attention right from the get-go?

Because authors will often begin a short story collection with a novella, searching short story anthologies may offer you examples of novellas in various genres. E-books are another way to discover novellas. For example, I turned my middle grade 4-part serialized short story Choices Amid the Trees into a novelette available as an e-book.

Novellas are short reads with a novel’s substance. If someone like Patterson can lead the way, perhaps they will make a grand return, reliving their heyday from a century or two ago.

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