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How Long Is a Novella?

Arp 188 and the Tadpole's Tidal Tail

At a mere distance of 45 million light years, the Tadpole's Tidal Tail can only be seen by large telescopes. Credit: ACS Science Team, ESA, NASA

Long and short are relative terms. In the overall scheme of things the Tadpole tail is located relatively close to our galaxy, the Milky Way. Fortunately, in literature, long and short, are a little easier to visualize.

After I finished the rough draft of my first novel (still unpublished) I proudly commented to a friend of mine that the manuscript was 40,000 words. He replied by saying I had just written a novella, though I must admit I considered the piece to be a very short novel. So how long is a novella.

In general terms is a novella is longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel. But if you are going by word counts lengths may vary.

Lee Masterson at Fiction Factor claims that a novella falls in the 20,000 to 50,000 word range, while a novellette is only 7,500 to 20,000 words.

Meanwhile, WiseGeek puts the length of a novella at 50 to 100 pages, which at 250 words is a bit shorter than the first definition.

And then there is the definition used by the Nebula and Hugo awards (sponsored by the SFWA), which state that a novella must be between 17,500 and 40,000 to be considered for the competition.

However, a more detailed discussion of novellas can be found at Emerging Writers, where both word count and content are discussed. Just last year, emerging writers sponsored a novella month (June) and so the art form was discussed in detail by the writer, Kyle Minor. As far as length goes a novella might be 10,000 to 30,000 at the least with the top limit being somewhere above 25,000 to 59,000. Now if that’s not vague I don’t know what is, but next comes the important part. And that is what does a novella need to contain to make it a novella.

Here is a quote from Minor’s article as to how a novella might be described; “I think the novella is the form where you get to stretch the short story past its place of elegant concision, so instead of breaking in the right place, it goes on and on past the right place, the way life does”.


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