A Novella is not just a Latin American name for a serialized TV show

The more I write the less I know *grin* That`s how it feels like lately, especially now that I`m trying my hand at novellas.

Now there are some who`s asking, what in the world is a novella? And I`m one of those people. But I will get to that question in a minute because before it can be answered I will differentiate between a short story, novella and novel. Not in that order *smile*

The prevalent thought is length. Everyone on the internet seems to be of the opinion that length makes up the most significant difference between the three. And yes length does play an important part, but alas it is only the tip of the iceberg. And if you`re a writer like me, you know in your bones that, that can`t possibly be it! *gasp*

I`ve read some novellas recently and the level of skill required for this type of writing, is astounding. You can either wow the reader with the amount of information and character building you can pack in 10K or have an epic fail. But what also surprised me was this; novellas that were over a hundred pages with a 40K word count. The general consensus is that anything between 10K and 40K seems to be a ‘safe’ count for a novella.

Now novels start at 50K and can go up to 100K.  What does it consist of? It consists of fictional prose; usually having a plot that unfolds by actions, dialogue and thoughts of varies characters. It represents characters and events in real life with less or greater complexity. A novel is easy to indentify since the majority of us have been stuck with one at one point in our lives, whether at school, varsity or a well meaning friend who wanted you to read the next ‘it’ book out there aka Twilight (Sorry Querida, my bad).

A short story in my opinion is the complete opposite of a novel. It is a piece of writing that can be read in one sitting.  My favourite way of identifying it is this: writing depicting a decisive moment in life. It often has little action, hardly any character development, it`s just a snap-shot of life. There`s no complex plot (like the novel). There`s an open/abrupt beginning and often an open or surprise ending. Whenever I think of a short story I always think of The Suit written by South African writer Daniel Canodoce “Can” Themba who was one of the Drum writers (a magazine/paper in the Apartheid era in SA).

So now we get to the novella. First of all I have to say that a novella is not just a Latin American name for a serialized TV show, though I have read it described as an Italian style short tale or narrative prose usually with a moral or educational or satirical nature. Now if you`re like me and you love reading romance novels, you would have noticed this type of story, writing, length have found its way to romance novels. There are e-publishers that actually ask for submissions like this as well as print publishers.

I`ve recently read two great authors who write novels and novellas, Zee Monodee and Elsa Winckler. Elsa`s Tussen Jazz en Rock. Zee actually trusted me with a novella of hers that`s coming out later in the year. It was absolutely amazing and changed my view on how and what can go into a novella. I mention these two authors because if you want to get some tips from good writing and structure of a novella then please do pick up these ladies stories.

Simply put a novella is this: Fictional prose often set in a brief period of time, such as a day, week or month. It often concentrates on character study. Therefore it`s longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. I like to think of it as a ‘short book’. *laugh* Actually that`s what I called it up until I learned about ‘novellas’.

But this is the thing that irks me…yeah it irks me. The exact word count isn`t set in stone. Like I`ve mentioned before it can be anything from 10K to 40K. But there are e-publishers that want between 30K and 60K. The advice I would give with a novella is this, before you write it check the submission guidelines for the e-publisher you want to submit to. There are those who want between 10K- 25K others who would take a 40K etc. And I guess it`s because of this that people place such importance on length.

To me length does make a difference, but execution is much more important. There`s character development that happens over a short amount of ‘time’ and it`s this that carries the story. As well as the author`s interpretation of their ‘world’. With Tussen Jazz en Rock, it was like taking a step back into my student life in Stellenbosch right down to the Eskom power shortages that left us in the pitch dark once in the biggest classroom (R 230) in the BJ. Zee`s short descriptions in her novella had me thinking she had visited the town she was describing with such detail and feeling. But what stood out most was how her description of a stripped down, empty room reflected the main character`s crisis.

Now I`ve given you the impression that a novella is like taking a scenic route down the country *laugh*. No it`s not! It packs so much punch from the get-go that it leaves you reeling! You start on an emotional high (laughing, crying, whatever) and end on a emotional high, maybe even slightly disturb *wide eyed*

Now can we say the novella is the evolution of the short story? Nope. Is it a shorter version of the novel? (Like I so candidly referred to it). Yeah there`s some truth in that. The novella (aptly named) is closer to a novel than it is to a short story. But it would never just be a Latin American name for a serialized TV show *smile*.

So now my search is over. I`ve found out what a novella is. Now comes the difficult part of putting pen to paper and writing that novella!

*wink*IMG00908-20130710-1607

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4 thoughts on “A Novella is not just a Latin American name for a serialized TV show

  1. High schools would have us thinking that the “novel” is the staple crop of story-telling, when, in fact, and throughout history, shorter works and less words were used (partly out of the shortness of supply, partly also to the rarity of people who could actually read) to convey ideas.

    Thinking about that, it’s strange to me that novellas have recently been “rediscovered:” a condition often blamed on the transition from paper to digital as a means of conveying the written word.

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    1. Lucky then for me that my matric English teacher chose short stories and poetry instead of novels *laugh* But I was a bit put out that we didn`t do Shakespeare, was looking forward to that 🙂 Nut that I was, I read his works anyway & of course fell in love with the language and not understanding half of what I read!

      Rediscovered…now you see my ignorance. I didn`t even know such a thing existed, I just thought it was ‘short book’…*shaking head* yet another learning curve:-)

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