The novella. The classic story that’s not quite long enough to be a full novel, but not quite short enough to be a short story. The middle child of literary works.
Unlike middle children, they’re rarely created. Name a novella that isn’t The Old Man And The Sea or Heart of Darkness. Even harder: name a novella that came out in 2016. The point is, they’re not making their way to bookshelves like full novels are.
But why not? Why aren’t these underappreciated works not getting the attention they deserve? They’ve got loads of advantages.
You can read a novella in a week even if you aren’t that committed. I don’t know how Lyin’ Tai Lopez manages to read a book a day (hint: by not reading every word. There’s an video out there of him explaining it) but you should be able to make your way through 20,000–40,000 words in a week or two with minimal effort.
If you’re blazing trails through books, then you should be able to pick up at least more than one novella for the price of a standard book. Less material to produce, so the cost is down. Economics, right? Plus, publishers could lump novellas together to hit that sweet page count of a regular novel. Now you’re getting two or more novellas for the price of a novel? Score!
Hah. Not in the real world. I mean theoretical quantity right now. Novellas are 20,000–40,000 words long. Steven King writes 2,000 words a day. He publishes around a book a year, maybe two. But if he could grind out full novellas in 10–20 days, there would have to be entire shops dedicated to just him. If George RR Martin wrote novellas (or wrote 2,000 words per day), we might actually get The Winds of Winter.
Easier to Write
A lower word count means you can really focus on a well developed plot and major arc in the story. Larger novels require multiple levels of character arcs, a well built and developed setting, and often many moving parts in the story. Novellas are less of that. They can use less space to tell a good story without adding filler. Novellas can also be less intimidating for new writers to get into while still being a viable way to publish work.
Despite those reasons, novellas aren’t sticking with audiences. But in the modern age, where everyone’s time is important, novellas give you a great story in a smaller time frame. Publishers need to realize the potential they’re missing out.
Not everyone needs a bulky tome in their bag when a novella will do. Plus, with the smaller size, they’ll be more accessible to audiences who don’t read as often but could feel intimidated about starting (I’m sure these people exist). It could get more people interested in reading. How many times have you seen a large book in a store and felt a touch of intimidation? A sizeable amount of people feel that way just looking at a normal sized book. The smaller size and digestibility may sway them into buying your work over Writer McLongstory’s work.
Support your novella-writing friends, support novella-writing writers. This form of publication has huge untapped potential in the world today and should be explored more by writers.