Sunday, 19 July 2015

Novella or Novel- What's the Length?

I doubt there can ever be a truly definitive answer to what it the actual length of a novella or a novel because there are so many variables: market, genre and publisher's requirements (such as Mills and Boon who have set lengths for certain categories).

So I was interested to read an article in this weekend's Arts/Books section of the Independent online, about The Novella Award. Their shortlist was announced on the 17th July, and the entries to this year's competition had to be between 20,000 and 40,000 words.

Perhaps the question is when does a novella become a novel?

The My Weekly Pocket Novels are now 50,000 words, though the version from The People's Friend is only 42,000 words. So both these are higher than the 40,000 mentioned above. But neither would be considered novel length by a mainstream publisher.

Perhaps we need to start using 'mini novel' for those word counts that fit between 40-80,000 words.

The writers of the past didn't have these issues; they went to both extremes.

'Animal Farm' by George Orwell has 29,966 words, so although it is actually novella length everyone thinks of it as a novel- probably because at the time it was written it was a novel!

While Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone With The Wind' was a large novel of 418,053 that could rival some of the Game of Thrones novels now available.

You can find some interesting facts on the wide range of word lengths on the Electric Lit website, in the post titled Infographic: Word Counts of Famous Books. (The figures from the above titles came from here.)

No doubt in a few years these figures will change and we'll still be uncertain about what length is a novella, and the minimum for a novel.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Which is a novel and which a novella?


Ana Salote said...

One thing I can't get my head round is % read on Kindle. It doesn't give a feel of the length of the book.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

i think it all depends on who is making the call, Carol. Some publishers regard anything between 15,000 and 25,000 words a short novella (or novelette in some cases). A novella is usually from about 25 to 40,000 and anything above 50,000 is a novel - obviously of varying lengths! Pocket novels are probably unique. I love the fact that we can try all the different lengths on e-book these days.

Carolb said...

No, I agree, Ana. I often find myself thinking I can't have much left to read, but then look at the % and find I'm only halfway through!

Carolb said...

E-books have certainly given readers and writers the opportunity to write/read different length stories, Rosemary.

The lengths vary by magazine and country, as in some parts a novelette starts at 7,500 and goes up to 17,500. Such are the joys of wordcounts... :-)