When I first took to creative writing, all I ever heard about writing a novella was how I shouldn’t. Houses won’t publish them. Agents don’t represent them. All of this caused me to think it was because readers won’t read them. I know the first two are correct. The third point? Not so much.
Publishers have typically stayed away from novellas for economic reasons. Not that the novellas wouldn’t sell, but they tended to be less cost efficient. This is why agents avoid them. But there is a market out there for them, as well as an affordable means of putting them into print. Here are three reasons you should consider writing a novella right now.1. You Can Self-Publish Your Novella
Not too long ago, you couldn’t be published unless you had an agent who could get you a book deal with one of the Big Six. No more! We have ventured into the brave new world of self-publishing. It used to bear the stigma of people who weren’t good enough to get published by conventional means. That might have been true once, but now self-publishing is the serviceable first option for many writers.
Many different companies will print and distribute what you write. They each have their own ups and downs. Choosing the right option depends on what you are looking for, but what you need is probably out there. Research what’s available and make the right choice for you.
If you decide to try the self-publishing route, you won’t have to worry about a publisher or an agent scolding you for writing a novella. Write what you want and make it as long (or shot) as you want. (I’ve read more than a fewtraditionally published books that were too long
.) Some writers pad their word count
to vault their manuscripts out of the novella range, but in so doing weaken their story. Most novellas I’ve read are cleaner manuscripts because the writer left out all of that literary Hamburger Helper.2. E-Readers Like Shorter Reads
The e-book and corresponding e-reader boom has not only made it easier to be read once you’re published, but has actually given an edge to novella writers.
Readers of e-books tend to favor quick reads. Not to say you’ll never find someone pouring over Anna Karenina
or Finnegan’s Wake
on their e-device, but the trend leans toward shorter texts. If you self-publish a novella, you can make it available as an e-book. This means you set the price. Paperbacks have some overhead in printing, but with e-books you’re just selling electrons. The upside is there is nothing but profit in the sale.
So now if you wish, you can start writing that novella without fear. No agents or publishers to get in your way. Make it as long or as short as you wish. Just make sure it is well written.3. Novellas Have Always Been Popular
Novellas have always been around. That’s publishing’s little secret. They just haven’t always been called novellas. Sometimes they’re just called novels, despite their diminutive word counts. And I’ve read some short stories, such as Fitzgerald’s “A Diamond as Big as the Ritz
,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
” that were longer than typical short stories. And then there were those actually bold enough to claim the novella moniker, like Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea
A few Novembers ago I was getting ready for another NaNoWriMo attempt. I sat down on November 1st and wrote over 2,000 words. On November 2nd, I had to admit this story didn’t have 50,000 words in it. So I abandoned my project and started another for which I already had on outline completed
. I hit 50,000 words a few days before Thanksgiving.
But I never forgot that abandoned tale. I took it up again and worked on it without a worry for word count
. Thirty-six thousand words later it was finished. After a good scrub, that manuscript became the novella Firmament
. It made me think of other novel projects I had abandoned for reasons of length. With the world of self-publishing and e-books, I don’t have to fear my industry being doomed as scriptura non grata
just because of the size.
No matter what you write, put aside notions of word count, and just write. Writing a novella can be a wonderful experience for telling awesome stories that may otherwise have been abandoned.