So we’re getting close to another November, and that means it’s time to get to some serious writing business. Tomorrow, I’ll start, and I hope to reach the magic 50,000 mark once again. This time around, I’ll give a lot more story detail in my daily updates, along with the running word counts.
The novel I’m writing this year has the working title Nocturne, and it’s my first real attempt at book-length fantasy of the “traditional” style. It’ll have magic and mystery and all that stuff. And unlike my Linear Anthology series, it’ll be a “full-length” novel.
But what does that even mean? What’s the difference between a novel and a novella? And where do short stories fit in? Sure, there is significant overlap, and you can say it’s really a continuum; you can have short novels and long novellas. But for an objective metric, a first approximation, we can use the same measurement that every NaNoWriMo participant will be looking at come tomorrow: word count.
Taking the length of one of my works, I divide it into one of three categories: novel, novella, or short story. The numbers I use are pretty simple, and they’re loosely based on the NaNoWriMo “50,000 words” milestone.
A novel, for me, is a work that is at least 50,000 words. Preferably, I want it to be 60,000+, but that’s for a very specific reason: I consider my Otherworld series (I’ll start posting those to supporters in the coming months) to be made up of novellas, but some of them run as high as 59,000 words. This is where the stylistic argument comes in. Oh, and there’s no real upper limit, either. The longest work I’ve written weighs in at about 250K, and it’s still a novel. A ponderous tome indeed, but a novel all the same.
A novella is shorter, no more than 50-60K. It has to be a minimum of 15,000, though 20,000 is better. (The mathematically inclined reader will notice a pattern here.) By the 20K standard, I don’t actually have any novellas written yet, but I’ll remedy that soon enough.
Finally, I consider a short story to be anything under the minimum for a novella. Thus, it can range up to 20,000 words, though anything over 15K is pushing it. (If you prefer a category of “novelette”, then you can slot it in here as 5-15K or 6-20K, with short stories being even shorter than that.) My short stories, however, often have a lot more plot and worldbuilding than you’d expect from something with that name.
So, to sum up, it looks like this:
|Type||Length (5)||Length (6)|
|Short story||< 15,000||< 20,000|
|Novel||> 50,000||> 60,000|
Pick which progression you want to follow, and there you go. If you like the novelette category, use its minimum as the maximum for short stories. And don’t neglect the style differences between the different types of work. They’re what led me to make two different classifications in the first place. Novels have more subplots, for example, and I want a novella to be long enough that it has the depth to hook me, but not so long that I can’t read it in one sitting.
Now, it’s onward to November. Can I do this for the fifth straight year? Stay tuned!