I have to say that some of the best stories I’ve ever read were shorter books, starting with the incredibly moving The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico. I loved this book in my early teens and I still love it today. More recently, I was completely captivated by Hugh Howey’s Wool.
As noted in a Publishers’ Weekly piece by Cynan Jones, many great stories weren’t full-length novels, including Breakfast at Tiffanys, Jekyll and Hyde, and The Great Gatsby. It’s interesting to note how many in Jones’ list wound up being movies.
As he also notes, writing a novel requires that every word counts. When it comes to novellas, reading isn’t a journey but an event with no room for digression. He also discusses the problem of labelling in the industry. Some publishers don’t want to tag a book as a novella, presumably because it won’t sell as well. Even Jones isn’t overly fond of the term novella, preferring to use “short novel”.
But here’s the thing, a good story is memorable, regardless of how it’s tagged and regardless of the length. The story will dictate how long it should be, and let’s forget about labelling. Novellas don’t require a huge time commitment for readers, and for this writer they are a heck of a lot of fun to write. I wouldn’t say they’re necessarily easier, though, as I’m currently working on the fifth draft of my second Evan Dunstan novella.
For those of you with busy lives who just don’t have time to read a 350 page novel, try a novella. In the writing world, shorter can be better and less is often more. Enjoy!