Suspend Your Disbelief

Shop Talk |

What's in between a novel and a short story? A lot.

033: I bite my nails.

Novels are like sensible, high-achieving older children. Short stories are the quirky, free-spirited, lovable babies of the family. And the oft-overlooked middle kid? In the writing world, that would be the novella.

The novella has been getting a little more attention lately. The Booker Prize went to Julian Barnes’s 150-page A Sense of an Ending, prompting The Guardian to wonder if “is it not time for the novella once again to be out and proud?”

But then again, it seems it’s always been almost the novella’s time to shine. Last summer, Taylor Antrim predicted on The Daily Beast that the novella was making a comeback. And for the past 6 years, Miami University Press has run a novella contest, noting:

As commercial publishers are driven more and more by marketplace concerns, novellas, by nature of their length, often fall between the cracks of short story collections and novels and wind up being published—if at all—not as individual volumes but as part of a collection of stories. Because the form is such a pleasure for readers and writers alike—short enough to be read at a single sustained sitting, but long enough to allow the writer greater freedom in character and plot development than does the short story—we are happy to present a rare venue for publishing individual novellas as stand-alone volumes.

What’s a novella-writer to do? What does the novella have to do to get Mom’s—or a reader’s—attention?

Further Reading:

  • Proof that novellas pack all the intensity of short stories and all the punch of a novel: Matt Bell’s The Collectors and Josh Weil’s The New Valley.
  • If you’re looking for contemporary novellas, you could do no better than dipping into Big Fiction.
  • Okay, this isn’t a novella–but where do you place a 1300-word single-sentence short story? Call it a cousin, and read it here. (Via.)

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