Novel vs. Novella

I have been getting a lot of backtalk for over a month now that a novel of 50,000 words is not a novel, but a novella. First, I would like to remind my audience that 50,000 words is the bare minimum number required. It is not a goal I am aiming to meet, to the word. In fact, I hope to be able to surpass it easily. Second, I want to let you in on some research I’ve done on the subject:

Major publishers in America will (generally) not even consider an unpublished author’s first novel unless it is between 60,000 and 70,000 words. I guess many first-time writers write much, much more than that. Still, the industry standard for first-published novels is not far from the bare minimum asked of MENoWriMo.

The Encyclopedia Britannica says of the novel that it is “an invented prose narrative of considerable length and a certain complexity that deals imaginatively with human experience, usually through a connected sequence of events involving a group of persons in a specific setting,” and that novellas are “short and well-structured narrative, often realistic and satiric in tone … Originating in Italy during the Middle Ages, the novella was based on local events that were humorous, political, or amorous in nature.” According to this, it is very possible that one or more of the books written for MENoWriMo will in fact be a novella, depending upon whether it is “based on local events that were humorous, political, or amorous in nature.”

More than one major publisher has pegged their average novel around 80,000 words. Clearly this is half again as long as the minimum length for a MENoWriMo, but this is still only about 320 pages, and not what I would consider a “long” novel. A MENoWriMo novel can’t be much shorter than 200 pages, if printed to industry specifications. Sure, I won’t be writing the next Cryptonomicon (918 pages) or Snow Crash (471 pages), but that doesn’t mean I won’t be writing a novel.

Depending upon the content, of course.

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