Saturday, September 15, 2007

Novella vs. Full

Dang, am I the only one glad it’s the weekend? I need a beer. Heck, a six pack would go down pretty good right now! LOL Somehow, my weekends have gotten just as hectic as my weekdays though. How did that happen?

*sips coffee and wishes it was a cold Coors Light*

Yeah, whatever. On to today’s topic! This one’s for readers and writers alike.

Why do some reader’s refuse to read a novella length story? Why do some readers refuse to buy anthologies? Please, inquiring minds wanna know! Don’t hold back, tell us your reasoning.

For me, I’ll read anything. I don’t base quality on how big the book is. If I did that, I’d never read Stephen King. Lori Foster. Shannon McKenna. Lucy Monroe. Most of my ALL TIME FAVORITE authors have written novella length stories. Heck, that’s how I discovered some of my favorite authors to begin with! For me, anthologies are a great way to try out a new author.

Nevertheless, from what I’ve seen on various reader message boards and yahoo groups, there’s a whole horde of readers who feel novellas are second rate. As if a novella isn’t going to have the same intensity and depth as a full length story. I do understand how hard it is to write a short story and get all that drama, emotion, laughs, HEA, etc in there. You don’t have a lot of time to fit all that in. In some ways, a novella can be pretty tough to write. However, it’s my opinion, from the various books I’ve read, that some authors can pack quite a punch in their novellas. And as far as plot? I’ve read plenty of 500 page books that didn’t have squat for plot. There’s been many times where I’ve sat there holding a ‘New York Times Bestseller’ and thinking to myself, ‘how on earth did this horrid thing make it to print?’

So, to me, it’s not length that makes a great book, it’s how well an author executes the concept. One of my wonderful editors once said: ideas aren’t unique, it’s what the author does with that idea that makes it exceptional.

So, here’s my Saturday question. Does length really matter? LOL...come on, you knew it was coming (no pun intended).


Rachelle Chase said...

Interesting question, Anne ... and I have a confession to make: Though I've written novellas, and I enjoy writing them, they are not my favorite to read.

But, NOT because of the quality. I agree with you - I've read many a novella whose quality equalled or surpassed that of some full length novels.

No, the reason I prefer novels is because ... well, because they're longer. It takes longer to get to the end.

And when I'm reading a book I like, I HATE getting to the end. So, when I get to the end of a novella, it's quicker and I have to say goodby to my favorite characters even sooner.

So, that's why I prefer novels. Does any of that make sense? :-)

Have a great weekend!


Desirée Lee said...

I agree with Rachelle. I love novellas, I write novellas but when I read them (or shorts) and get to the end, I'm often wanting more. Not because the novella was bad, but because it was so good that I want more of it to savor!


Nicole North said...

I love both novels and novellas equally well. Some of my favorite authors do both. The important thing to me is that they're well-written, entertaining and provide the escape I need. One good thing about novellas, though is that they don't take as long to read. Which means maybe I would be more likely to take time away of my own writing to read one. :-)

Jamie Hill said...

I love the shorter reads, myself, as long as they're done well. Novellas are hugely popular, if you look at ebook sales.

I do have a friend that doesn't like anthologies, she likes the longer reads. I think there's a place for all of it. Sometimes, a short read is just what it takes!

Natasha said...

I love them both - to read and write. When I have the time, I love to curl up with a novel and spend hours with the characters. Then there are times when I want a quick read - I want to dive into a story and get that emotional payoff in the shorter amount of time I have available.

I love anthologies as a way to try out authors I haven't read before. I've also found some new favorites that way.

Jude Mason said...

Hi Anne,

I like a story to be as long as it needs to be, to tell it well. I've read 500 page epics that left me cold. I've read 500 word shorts that left me breathless.

There's times when I don't want to spend days/weeks, getting into a book. I'd rather read a shorter piece and be happy with that. Novella's, if well written, hold my attention and entertain me.

Writing novella's or even shorter stories is a challenge in itself. You have to make each word count. I love that challenge too.

Great question Anne


hiddenfires said...

I would rather have a novel than a novella. Especially in the case of erotic romance, I think the author must develop a chemistry between the two characters to make the story believable. I never really "buy" the steam in a novella- the only ones that do it for me are the long lost love or forever sweetheart stories.
As I get older, I find that I want a longer story so I agree with most of the posters before me.

Sophia Danu said...

Hi Anne! Nice blog!! I find it very hard to write a shorter story than a longer one. I like to read either one, but personally find the shorter harder to write.

I've started shorter ones (novellas) that end up being longer...haha

Anonymous said...

Hi, Anne!

I love to read and write the shorter stuff, although I like novels, too.

I'm still a newbie writer and the shorter length lets me try things out, and really focus on scene-building, character and the show-don't-tell thing. 10-20K is a less daunting task for a newbie to tackle than 100K. And if it stinks when you get to the end, you don't feel so bad about throwing out 100 pages, versus 400 :O
I enjoy the challenge of writing tight.

I've sold 4 novellas/shorts (including the one for Secrets 23, and a 12K Christmas story to eRed Sage) so far and plan to continue to write those, even as I work on a full-length novel in 2008.

As a reader, I like the shorts because every part is the 'good' part (especially in erotic romance!) For me, it's all about the love story and in a novella, that's bascially all there is. Plus, as someone else mentioned, yo get to 'try' new authors before you spend $7.99 on a single title from someone you really don't care for.

Thanks for posting such an interesting question!

Bethany Michaels

Dara Edmondson said...

I love novellas. I'm with you - it's a great way to try out a new author and is perfect for me since I read slow and want the "payoff" quickly.

Kris Eton said...

I have heard that for new authors (this is epublishing), the best place to start is with something short. Like a short story or novella. Because it is less expensive, people will be more willing to buy a shorter piece of fiction from a new author to find out if they like this author. Then, they will be interested in buying longer stuff.

So, if that is a good place to start, I would also think there are a lot of readers out there who enjoy shorter books.

Kaye said...

Well, personally, I prefer fulls - mostly because I like the more involved plots and the deeper character development they allow. In novellas, just about the time you fall in love with the characters, the story is over - and that's frustrating.

From a writing standpoint, I have trouble introducing the basic elements of my plot and characters in less than 25,000 words.

I guess I'm just wordy. *grins*

Ann Jacobs said...

Personally, I think erotic romance dishes up best in novella or short novel length. Too many times, erotic novels either lose a lot of the sexual/sensual feeling amid long segments of external plot, or become repetitious iterations of various sexual encounters.

Not to say that I dislike supersexy novels. Joey W. Hill is among the best at merging emotional revelations, setting, plot and sizzling sex and sensuality to create a book I'll stay up all night to finish. Kate Douglas, Angela Knight, Diane Whiteside and many other authors can and do write long yet stay erotic in tone.

As for anthologies, I hate spending supernovel length money to buy them, knowing I may have no interest in reading one or more of the novellas. I love being able to buy single title novellas in ebook and knowing that soon they'll be paired in print with related books by the same author! (I love writing them, too--check out ROPED, the first of my HEART OF THE WEST series, coming Sept. 19 from Ellora's Cave, and see the series video at

IM Cupnjava said...

I enjoy both novels and novellas. There are time where I'll gobble up a bunch of flash fics. Length doesn't matter to me. I'm concerned about quality and I've had plenty of times where I've been moved by a short.

julia said...

I'm reading a short story anthology right now starring Dracula as the main character (a 2001 releaase called 'Dracula in London' - and not a romance.) I haven't enjoyed a book so much in quite a while! Often shorter fiction packs a well-aimed punch.

I know for my husband, he enjoys anthologies and novellas because he has attention span problems at times. At other times he'll tackle a 900-pg book. Reader feelings on length are probably just as whimsical as their taste in fiction in general. Whatever mood strikes, and suddenly a certain book is just the thing.