I haven’t been writing for long, I think it amounts to no longer than ten years, but one of the very first things I did was to look up what was considered to justify the label of being a novel, a novella, or a short story.
One of the finest definitions I came across was this one, which I found on an internet site called blurb:
A novella is defined as a work of narrative fiction that runs between 20,000 and 50,000 words (the average is around 30,000). Once a story exceeds 50,000 words, it is entering the novel territory. On the flip side, anything between 10,000 and 20,000 words would be considered a novelette (it sounds too cute to be real, but it is an actual category of fiction writing).
If the short story had a big sister, it would be the novella. Short stories are usually only a few thousand words long and are designed to be read in one sitting, whereas novellas require more time and attention. Fiction genres are typically distinguished by word count, but you can also think of the average short story as 10 to 25 pages, and the average novella as 100 to 150 pages. That makes a novella short enough to get through in an afternoon, with a break or two. A standard novel is 250 to 300 pages, so you may need a few days to get cover to cover.
In terms of structure, a novella features more conflicts and plot development than a short story, but fewer subplots than a novel. Even though novellas may follow a traditional story arc and create the same kind of unifying effect that short stories are known for, they often lack the complexity and multiple perspectives found in novels.
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This morning I read an article from a regular blogger about two novels that had been read and reviewed. The first novel was read in a day and the second just over a day, but could have been finished had there been more time available in the day set aside for the review.
I couldn’t go further into the books than the two reviews, both of which were full of praise and it piqued my interest. Not enough, if you’re wondering, for me to buy both on the back of those reviews.
That said, it left no possibility to investigate the structure of either novel, other than reading the few pages available on the Amazon site, both of which I found to be well-written as well as engaging.
However, my real concern lay with the description this—regular blogger—used at the beginning of these reviews; one of two—Novels.
On that same Amazon page was the sum of my concerns and what brings me to write this post. I can assure you I do have other things to occupy my time.
The first of those novels, the one that was finished in a day, had 42 pages and the second one had 55. I didn’t count how many words were on a page accessible on Amazon, but generally, using this size font and these spacings, it’s around about 400 hundred odd words per page which makes both novels not Novels in the principal of the descriptions I found.
Here’s my dilemma; as I stated at the beginning, I have not been writing for long. Ten years doesn’t count for much time in the craft of writing and this blogger has, I suspect, a great deal more experience than I do.
Am I wrong in assuming both these novels to be short stories, with the 55-page one just edging into the novella bracket, and the other a tiny bit short, but as it’s a nice bright day, given the benefit of the doubt?
How do you classify a short story? Is it as I do, anything up to 20,000 words? Are you then like Blurb and put a Novella from 20-50,000 words? Or, are you like me in pushing the level higher, saying a novel is only a Novel after it exceeds 80,000 words?
How do you decide and where do you place your distinction?
© 2023 Daniel Kemp All rights reserved
Hi Danny, my understanding of the categorisation of short stories, novella and novels is the same as yours. 45 and even 55 pages is a short story or maybe a novella but not a novel.
I’d tend to agree with you, Danny. Neither were novels, certainly.
Maybe just the letters ‘la’ were omitted from the end of the word novel by mistake.