Ever since I published my first novella, my love of the form has only grown. I’ve also learned a thing or two about how to write a novella, how they compare to novels, and why they’re such a manageable, versatile choice for self-publishing writers. If you’ve always dreamt of writing a novel but have never succeeded in finishing one, perhaps you have yet to consider its slimmer, far more attractive older sibling: the novella.
A Suitably Brief History of the Novella
Novellas (despite what their name might suggest) are nothing new. In fact, it might surprise you to find out that novellas predate novels by at least a century. The OED cites the first use of “novelle” in reference to the short tales that make up Boccaccio’s Decameron. While The Decameron isn’t a novella in the modern sense, it’s interesting to note that the practice of bringing together shorter pieces to form a larger, unified work is still common practice.
Although novels have become something of a publishing standard – it seems everyone has one in them – novellas, which are easier to construct, more versatile, and suited to many different styles of storytelling, haven’t received as much recognition. Let’s change that!
Types of Novellas
For our purposes, we can group novellas into 3 broad categories:
1. The Literary Novella
The novella is the goldilocks form for literary experimentation because it allows for more scope than the short story while still retaining its intensity. The length is perfect for dense language that would be harder to sustain in a novel, for emphasising character psychology over narrative concerns, and for exploring difficult questions without overworking.
Some famous literary novellas include: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, Chess by Stefan Zweig, and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Read More