Novellas and novels. Deceptively similar, almost like cousins. But Novellas are different!
Shorter in length and laser focused in style, novellas are a wonderful way to tell a story in less words, with less characters and, sometimes, less detail.
A novella can be distinguished from a novel in three basic ways:
- Firstly, novellas are notoriously fast-paced. Unlike the slow-burn of longer manuscripts, novellas aim to tell their story in a succinct manner. They usually don’t incorporate multiple story-lines, endless reels of characters or complicated plot points - instead, they are usually one-track, straight to the point and reminiscent of an ongoing message or point. Novels, in comparison, often diverge from the main story line to encompass more characters, more detail and differing layers of perspective.
- Novellas also differ in their central point. Due to their shorter word length, writing a novella only really gives space for one important premise to be explored. This can be as interesting, unique or compelling as you like; but the key is to focus on it and incorporate it into the question your novella is attempting to answer. Unlike novels, which often confront many points and ideas, a novella should signal to one primary and recognisable concept.
- Finally, novellas are unique in their use of space and time. When writing a novel, you have the space, word-length and time to do whatever you like; you could have the first half of the book set twenty years prior, then introduce three new characters, a new setting and a new language! With a novella, however, the story, setting and time-periods are usually very simple. Novellas often only encompass a small number of characters across a consistent time frame, changing setting or place very infrequently.
In this sense, novellas are a great first leap into writing. If writing a full-length book seems daunting, shorter stories are a fantastic alternative. Don’t ignore that idea or concept that’s burning in your head - perhaps it isn’t enough for a full-length novel, but it certainly is for a novella!