Friday, February 18, 2011

The Rise of the Novella--cream to the top?

The novella has been around for centuries, yet until recent years has been shunned by many print publishers as not quite good enough,mostly because of length. After all, the novella is really too short to publish in print by itself, and publishers didn't believe anyone would buy a collection from an unknown author. So, rarely would you see a bundled set of novellas which wasn't tied to already established and/or rising star authors the publisher was pushing, those who had a series that most likely would be associated with the shorter stories.

Then there was the whole discussion regarding length. What length was a novella? Did it have to be, as purists defined it, between 17,500 and 40,000 words? Or could it be, say 12,000 to 45,000 words? Where were the minimums and maximums?

Thankfully, as the digital age has expanded in its glory, these obstacles have been removed. Though print publishers still hold steadfast to their old model, digital and indie publishers are embracing the new shorter form of fiction. It doesn't matter the length of the story, really, for on an ereader one won't know where one page starts and another begins. Word count is only a nebulous indication of length.

Much more important, I believe, are the content and quality of the writing. One author, Cheryl Anne Gardner, on her shared blog, POD People ( ) wrote about theme and thesis being critical to the novella, saying, Theme is the subject, and the thesis is the particular philosophy being argued with regard to the subject. Novellas tend to focus on a single suspenseful event, situation, or conflict. She goes on to mention that these should be expressed early in the novella, preferably in the first chapter.

In writing my recent work, Millicent, 13,000-words (short story or novella? You be the judge), the main character of this work and villainess in the first book of my science fiction series, The Cash Chronicles , is introduced as a seven-year old abused child who seeks security. Throughout the work you see the theme of security. However, the thesis unfolds as this: when does the need for secutiy cross over to the desire for power?

I feel fortunate to be able to publish such a work at this time and would love to hear about other folks' short works and their plans for digital publication.

Millicent will be released in mid-March as a digital work on Kindle and in other formats on Smashwords. The Cash Chronicles will debut with Frozen Assets, Book 1, in April.


  1. Daryn, you know I usually write longer works, but I'm plotting a novella. Busy readers want something they can finish quickly. For some weird reason, the plot that popped into my head is a Regency. ??? I don't writer Regencies, but there you have it. Guess I'll give it a try and put it on Kindle and Smashwords. Then I'll try to come up with a contemporary.

  2. Hey, your muse might know something, Caroline. :)

  3. There are no limitations or impediments to independent publishing and approach anymore.

    So great!