Monday, 3 March 2014

The age of the novella?

I was recently talking to a writer about his latest crime novella. 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. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Awards defined the novella as having a word count of between 17,500 and 40,000. Other definitions start as low as 10,000 words.
There are plenty of writers who can see the sense in the idea. I know some who would love us to run a short story competition with a word limit around that figure because they feel that 2,000 words simply does not give enough space for the story to breathe.
Why are novellas so effective as a genre? Well, usually I write novels that run to 60,000-70,000 words but this one has seen me cutting back big-time. 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? They’re good questions all writers should ask.

John Dean

No comments:

Post a Comment