Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Whither the novella?

I have been talking to a few writers who are working on novellas. As a result, I have been researching the world of short novels and it seems to me that their time could be upon us because of the e-book revolution.
Folks are happy to read 30,000 words of story on their hand-helds - particularly on holiday when a book that can be finished in a day or two is welcome.
So what exactly is a novella? Well, it’s an extended short story in many ways, constructed in episodes but written in a tight and clipped way to guarantee pace. Definitions range from 10,000 words to 40,000. 
There are plenty of writers who can see the sense in the idea so why are novellas so effective as a genre? Well, usually novels run to 60,000-70,000 words but in a novella, an eight page scenes becomes two pages, a, 800 word passage of dialogue becomes 200, if that. It’s the mantra I teach to the many writers with whom I work across the world - does your story need those words, can they come out, will the story really suffer if they do?

John Dean


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