Is Your Novel Really Meant to be a Novella?


Today’s Writing Challenge of the Week, as posted on Innovative Editing’s Facebook page, is once again about your word count, this time concerning novellas.

I don’t mean to harp on the subject, but you want your story to be the best it can be, right? If that’s the case, then understanding how many words it requires can be very important.

If you don’t care about making your story the best it can be – if all you care about is making money off of it: a legitimate motivation, I’ll concede – then perhaps you can ignore this blog post. After all, there are plenty of famous published authors whose novels are an obvious product of deadline pressure or comfortable routine.

In other words, they’re trite, overly wordy and plodding at points. Or, put yet another way, they’re in very bad need of a very good edit. Yet they still make money.

Though those lackluster, nonetheless popular authors are usually so well-established in the business that they could put out picture books for adults and still make buku bucks. Or they have the connections necessary to get the marketing necessary to make it seem as if their books are worthwhile when they’re really not.

An author and book I read last year immediately springs to mind for that latter category. But that’s a rant for another time. Right now, simply ask yourself a very important question:

Is your novel really meant to be a novella?

Scary thought, I know, especially if you have aspirations to become the next Steven King, Kate Quinn, Jim Butcher or Jodi Picoult – all of whom are novelists, not novella-ists.

But some stories are simply best told in 30,000 to 50,000 words instead of 70,000 to 120,000. And there’s nothing wrong with that, no matter if it means they’re probably not destined to hit The New York Times Best Sellers list.

Then again, most novels don’t accomplish that either. You pretty much have to buy your way onto that list anyway.

Besides, who knows? Perhaps your novella is a stepping stone: a practice run on your way to bigger things. In which case, it’s a completely worthwhile effort.

It could be the basis of a fantastic screenplay. In which case, it’s a completely worthwhile effort.

Or maybe it’s simply a story meant for a smaller audience. In which case – guess what? – it’s still a completely worthwhile effort.

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll give another excellent reason why you shouldn’t be too worried if you realize that your novel-in-the-making is actually a novella-in-the-making. In today’s digital age of self-publishing, you can still do yourself some big favors with a smaller work.

So here’s my suggestion. Unless all you care about is fame and fortune (and who knows; you might), write your work for what it’s meant to be, not what anyone else – including yourself – expects it to be.

Once you accept your word count potential one way or the other, you can have some serious fun with it. Get caught up in the storyline and your characters’ journeys, the witty dialogue that makes you giggle and the villainous twists that make you shiver.

In the end, you might find that it’s more than just a potential money-maker after all.

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