The Novella Club discussion

why do you like novellas

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toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) What do like about novellas? How are they different to short stories or novels? Do you think that the Novella market as strong as it once was?

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Well, I've never really considered whether if what I was reading was a novella or not. I do recognize a few from the list in the Group's description. So, I guess I'm a bit of a newbie here.

How does a reader determine if what they are reading is a novella? I'm looking forward to learning more about novellas.

message 3: by Ivan (last edited Feb 12, 2011 07:52AM) (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
"A novella is a written, fictional, prose narrative longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. While there is some disagreement as to what length defines a novella, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Awards for science fiction define the novella as having a word count between 17,500 and 40,000." - from intro.

When I was quite young and still in my formative years I was exposed (luckily I should say) to the work of Truman Capote and Carson McCullers. I recall Capote once saying he liked to write the minimum amount of words producing the maximum amount of effect. As I understand him, he thought that most writers tended toward verbosity in their work. Short fiction was his metier; he was a master. I belong to the school of thought that if you say a thing succinctly there is simply no reason to write redundant sentences and copious paragraphs. So many (too many) writers lack either trust in themselves to declare their ideas succintly, or their readers to fully grasp their intent; thus they tend to monotonous reiteration. This is what I especially dislike as a reader.

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

I also dislike a story that seems to wind out into unnecessary length, losing the kernel of the story. (That's an awkwardly-worded sentence!). I guess I just never thought about defining a short piece as a novella. Or, at what point a short story becomes a novella. I'm willing to learn.

message 5: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod I found this interesting.

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

And here is the Wiki entry pulled from the discussion thread:

I have actually read a few of these.

message 7: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Me too. I was actually shocked by what was not on the list.

message 8: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
I find that more often than not, the story being told is every bit as rich and plotted and interesting as those told in much longer books.

message 9: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
But only limited if the author's intent is to tell an epic story. Now, if I were a novelist with an epic like "War & Peace" - very long an episodic - I think I'd be inclined to release each episode in a stand alone volume (make a little more money that way, at least).

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

A lot of the older, long novels were serialized. I imagine if I was reading a chapter a week, even I could get through Tolstoy! *maybe*

message 11: by Jaime (new)

Jaime (janastasiow) If you ever want to try go to this site, it free and you read them at the same pace as they were originally released:

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Thank you, Jaime. There are a few books there that I would like to read.

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks, again. I had forgotten about dailylit.

Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) I think I first had novella defined to me when I did National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time. Since people doing NaNoWriMo aspire to write 50,000 words in 30 days, they are really trying more for a novella than a novel. The example they always used was The Great Gatsby.

message 15: by Ivan (last edited Mar 06, 2011 07:33AM) (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
I agree 100% Jeff. Over the past few months I've been reading H. G. Wells. His early novels are concise and breathtaking in their pacing. I've attempted several of his longer novels and find myself bored by his politics (which is not to imply I don't agree with them - I too am a Socialist). Frankly, he needed an editor. I've since discovered his short stories. I've only made the slightest dent (he wrote quite a number of them), but every one I've read has been of gem quality - smart, scarry, funny, he ran the gamut.

Funny you mention "Heart is a Lonely Hunter" - her longest book. "In Cold Blood" by Capote is not overly long, but by far his longest (and not one wasted word). I have yet to read Lovecraft (though I did just buy "At the Mountains of Madness" for a friend this past Christmas).

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

I just attempted The Forgotten Garden. It was nearly 600 pages, and had 3 main story lines. Half way through, I abandoned 2 of them, and just read the really interesting one. (It was written in alternating chapters, jumping around in time.) That was the story the author should have written. I had the same experience years ago reading Cujo. Tell me about the woman and the dog! Forget about jumping to the husband.

message 17: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Me, I like novellas and longer novels! I just dislike short stories because once you get into the story it is over. Reading a bunch is like jumping around. It gives me a headache.

message 18: by CasualDebris (new)

CasualDebris | 16 comments Because the novella is such an uncommon, unmarketable form, you would think those that make it into print are deserving. A novella is more about technique than length. I believe that the novella and the short novel are two distinctly different forms: the short novel is simply a short novel, while the novella (at forty to eighty pages, approximate) is a short story that utilizes some novel techniques. For instance, Guy de Maupassant's wonderful "Boul de suif" is a short story that cannot survive on basic short story techniques. To develop its plot & convey the protagonist's change, a number of events must pass, & in order to create its great character contrasts it must rely on additional characters (far too many in number than a short story would cast). Moreover, there is a stylist's hand here too, as Maupassant works his naturalism into the piece with much detail.

Whereas something like "The Island of Dr. Moreau" is a novel that happens to be short.

message 19: by Naomi (new)

Naomi Marx (NaomiMarx) | 1 comments My all-time favorite books are Novella's. It's a lost form that should make a come back, especially for any one that's ADD, it's difficult to get distracted in a story that lures you in, pulls you into the depths of (most likely) a philosophical ideal, spins you around a few times, then spits you out. Once the story is done, you look up from the last page and say "Wait?" then re-read the whole thing again and learn something new. Most Novella's I've ever delved into are those with wonderful layers (as the writer can spend the time making a layered book with words unsaid) It's like an iceberg, the strength is in what is unseen/unread.

toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) Naomi wrote: "My all-time favorite books are Novella's. It's a lost form that should make a come back, especially for any one that's ADD, it's difficult to get distracted in a story that lures you in, pulls you ..."

Very well put.

message 21: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
I wouldn't say all my favorites are novellas - but quite a few. I read longer books and think (generally): "this could have used a good editor." Thanks for sharing Naomi.

message 22: by John (new)

John Karr (karr) | 4 comments Robert E. Howard has a few novellas, or novelettes (I'm still not clear on the distinction), that I've enjoyed repeatedly over the years. More flesh-out than short stories, and a lot less extraneous matter one can find in a novel.

message 23: by Tania (new)

Tania Vetter | 3 comments I love Novellas because I am a slow reader but I can get thru a really good one in one sitting. I just read The Crecian Experience in about two hours! but thats because it was awesome. Shop girl took me about two days, it was good but not great.

message 24: by C. (new)

C. C. (cjoybellc) | 3 comments The novella is definitely not as popular as it once was. These days, people read as a means of escape from the reality of life, and a loooooonnnnggggggg novel gives them more time to escape!

Well, that's what I think.

As for me, I have a life I wish to attend to, so I read novellas. Novellas are a read. Not too long, not too short. A good read and then I can go on with my life.

I also write novellas for the same reason.

Also there is the fact that I have ADHD. The minute a novel takes a dragging turn, I put it down. novellas don't take dragging turns, novellas are straightforward, intellectually and emotionally stimulating, and are usually character-driven. And the reason for me to both read and to write, is to enter into the depths of characters in a story. Not that a story has to be dark and gripping- not at all- but there is just a way that an author can present his/her characters with a keen understanding into who they are. And when there is a lack of this understanding, that is only because the characters are different people entirely, in themselves, and the author is himself/herself getting to know his/her characters as he/she writes the story!

message 25: by Alex (new)

Alex Sinclair I am a big fan of novellas. Mostly because I have such little time to read. A novel can take weeks to be finished and because I am constantly picking it up and putting it down I don't really get into them. Novella's are like bite size novels, lol. I can read one in one sitting or over the course of two or three days if I am super busy. I currently have one or two novellas on the go, whilst reading a novel at the same time. (Same novel for nearly a month!) I wish I had more time to read.

message 26: by Philip (new)

Philip Hemplow | 6 comments Far too many novels these days are way, way longer than they ought to be, for commercial reasons. Each story has its own natural length, but it's almost impossible to get a novella published (unless you're Alex Garland or Martin Amis or someone). The nice thing about e-readers is that they've suddenly made it viable to sit down and write something that is novella length without having to worry about whether anyone will ever get the chance to read it.

That said, I really hate the word `novella'.

message 27: by Everly (new)

Everly Anders As a Novella writer myself, i like that you don't have to make a huge commitment but you get more of a sense of story out of it, then you would with a short story.

message 28: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 76 comments I think that novellas are great for 'message' stories. Maybe a political or moral message - they can be really punchy can't they? - does anyone have any recommendations for some good 'message' novellas?

message 29: by Candiss (new)

Candiss (tantara) When I was a teenager, I loved really long epics and classics, as well as multi-volume series. I never wanted a good story to end! During my 20s and 30s, while raising my son and working, etc., I found myself drawing farther and farther away from that inclination, wanting stories to wrap up in somewhat neater packages. Now in my 40s, partially owing to a culmination of that tendency from my earlier adult years and partially, regrettably, from a declining ability to maintain my enthusiasm or attention for long periods of time, I find myself most drawn to stories that get to the danged point. I do love characterization, exposition and descriptive language, but I have lost my patience and tolerance for meandering, drawn-out narratives. After about 200 pages, I find myself critiquing an author, wondering if they might benefit from a stricter editor. At 300 pages, I become antsy, and my wandering literary eye starts sneaking peeks at all the other books waiting on my shelf. At 400 pages, I am woefully unfaithful and have probably cracked at least one or two other books, while still plodding along grumpily with the first one. It is a mark of a really, really good book if I am still enthusiastic about it after 300 pages or so.

So novellas are simply more likely to fit with my current reading desires. Their authors are more likely to know how to be both engaging AND succinct. I find that I am much more impressed when an author writes a deeply affecting, brilliant story in 150 pages than when he or she takes 600 pages of door-stopper to achieve a similar result.

Now I feel snobby...ah, well. I'll just shift blame back to myself by saying I'm a reader with a roving book-eye and less patience than I once had. It's not you, authors of epics and series; it's me.

message 30: by Mmars (new)

Mmars | 588 comments I will admit to not having read a lot of novellas. Whenever people make lists or ask for suggestions I flounder. But I love this group because not only has my appreciation for them increased, but I like to read broadly - both long & short &fiction & nonfiction, this is one group I'm able to keep up with!

message 31: by Lora (new)

Lora (lorabanora) This has been very educational! I used to lean towards short stories more than anything, because each was a different flavor- like a box of donuts with every possible flavor in there. And yeah, did I sometimes feel queasy after gulping down an entire fat collection of something like Ray Bradbury's R is for Rocket, or some such thing.
I also love the meandering world building of a huge fat solid novel with life, love, death, generations, and details about their meals, clothing, gardens, and inner most thoughts. I really am one of those who wants to know where the dog is lying in the room in a scene in a book.
But I also love some novellas...sometimes that's just the size for me, too.
I guess for me it's kinda like the difference between breakfast, lunch, dinner, an afternoon snack, and let's not forget Thanksgiving Dinner. Each serves its purpose.
And as a final note, or rather a quiestion, I am often quite aware that I am looking for short stories or a fat novel, but when I read a novella, I am rarely aware that that is what it is. I was drawn by the author, or the genre, or some other thing. Is the novella just disrespected? or is it that it looks so much like a novel? Even its rather affected terminology gets to me. I mean, really, 'novella' is for the shorter writing and 'novel' is for the longer. That's just wrong. Somebody needs to fix that. Maybe the short ones can be 'noves'and the longer ones 'novelongers', eh?
(Yes, my tongue is in my cheek)

message 32: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
I don't find short novels short on story or ideas. Most I've read simply communicate their tales in more concise terms. This doesn't mean they lack in character or style, they are more economical in presentation. Having a short attention span, I like that.

message 33: by Mmars (new)

Mmars | 588 comments I think what I like most about novellas is that they can zero in on one incident or experience, one story, one day, one battle, one death (one of my pet peeves is mysteries with multiple deaths/murders) and just concentrate on that. Sometimes I think this even makes the book more powerful and memorable. Humor can carry through the whole story. Disturbing subjects (like The Death of Ivan Ilych) can be dealt with in one or two sittings. Also, unlike the short story, there is more room for detail, background, foreshadowing, allowing the book to give more without overwhelming the reader.

message 34: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Mmars wrote: "I think what I like most about novellas is that they can zero in on one incident or experience, one story, one day, one battle, one death (one of my pet peeves is mysteries with multiple deaths/mur..."

I like memoirs vs biographies for the same reasons.

message 35: by Mmars (new)

Mmars | 588 comments Yes, Ivan there is a comparison there.

message 36: by Julia (last edited Jun 13, 2013 11:46AM) (new)

Julia (juliastrimer) Retired English teacher here, so I tend to think in metaphors. Using water, sometimes I want to visit oceans (novels) and sometimes trickling streams (short stories)--and sometimes a lake (novellas). It's all water and all wonderful--just depends on my frame of mind at the time :-) (And poetry is rainfall for me).

message 37: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Julia wrote: "Retired English teacher here, so I tend to think in metaphors. Using water, sometimes I want to visit oceans (novels) and sometimes trickling streams (short stories)--and sometimes a lake (novellas..."

I like the way your mind works. I'm glad you've joined our little group. We can all use a little more rainfall in our lives.

message 38: by Julia (new)

Julia (juliastrimer) So true, Ivan--thank you for the kind welcome.

message 39: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
You're very welcome.

message 40: by JM (new)

JM | 4 comments Novellas are casual flings; I don't always like getting committed.

message 41: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
And yet brief encounters can often be emotionally satisfying and provide treasured memories.

message 42: by Kay (new)

Kay Cashman | 5 comments I like novellas because when I find a good book (one I can't put down), I can finish it in an hour or two, vs. having it keep me up too late or burning up a weekend.

message 43: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 568 comments Quick - I need a recommendation for a good novella. I love novellas because I'm a slow reader and I can finish them before the library loan expires. I've got extra pressure this time, have to finish it before we leave on our road trip in four days.

message 44: by Phil (new)

Phil Jensen | 70 comments Buck, since you liked A Wizard of Earthsea, then The Lathe of Heaven is a good pick. It's UKL's attempt to write a Philip K. Dick novel, so it combines his themes of dreams and alternate realities with her usual balanced Taoism. Plus some really creative aliens.

Other classic novellas that didn't show up on your Read shelf:

Of Mice and Men
A Christmas Carol
The Little Prince (an all-time favorite of mine)
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

message 45: by Phil (new)

Phil Jensen | 70 comments Before I discovered this group, I was working my way through this list of novellas:

I don't get too worked up over which one gets #22 on the list and which one gets #23. I just figure that if it's in the top 50, then it might be important.

message 46: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 568 comments Phil wrote: "Buck, since you liked A Wizard of Earthsea, then The Lathe of Heaven is a good pick. It's UKL's attempt to write a Philip K. Dick novel, so it combines his themes of dream..."

Thanks Phil. Le Guin is a favorite author. I've read The lathe of Heaven twice I think. It's one of her best and as good as PKD's best. I've already read all the others as well. I'm a Steinbeck fan - Of Mice an Men is among his best.

Thanks for reminding me about that list. I've voted for ten of them in the past and I've read most of the top 50. It's a good source of suggestions. I'll see what my library has.

Thanks Phil. I appreciate it.

message 47: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
I've read a large number of those on the list. We should maybe refer to this list when choosing group reads. Shoot some ideas for February group read.

message 48: by John (new)

John Grabowski (johngrabowski) | 11 comments > why do you like novella's

Please please, I beseech you, since we're a literary group, let's punctuate correctly. The apostrophe is probably more abused than Kenny from South Park.

Also was wondering, for the novella read of January (The Dead), how long is the period for reading it? I coincidentally just bought the book, but I was going to read something else first; however, depending on how much time we have, I'd like to try to read both at the same time.



message 49: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
John wrote: "> why do you like novella's

Please please, I beseech you, since we're a literary group, let's punctuate correctly. The apostrophe is probably more abused than Kenny from South Park.

Also was wond..."

From the first day of January to the last. Looking forward to reading your comments. Thanks John.

message 50: by John (new)

John Grabowski (johngrabowski) | 11 comments Then we discuss starting in February? Is that it?

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