November spells one thing – NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. Started in the US in 1999, this movement sets out with the purpose of completing a 50,000 word novel in one month. 2012 marks Year 14 of this movement, and over in Singapore, we have seen a growing number of participants. NLB supports the Singapore participants by hosting the kick-off party, which was held at Bishan Public Library on 27 October. At the end of November, all successful participants would have finished a novel which is approximately 175 pages long, or longer. If a novel is defined by the NaNoWriMo committee as having more than 50,000 words, what about those that fall short? I reckon they are novellas.
And since we’re talking about novels and novellas, you might be wondering what the difference is. Throw in short stories, everyone is confused. Fundamentally, a novel is longer than a novella which may be longer than a short story. There is, however, no consensus on the number of words required for each category; it mostly depends on publishers’ and award organisers’ definitions. For example, the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) defines, for the purpose of the Nebula Awards, a novella to have 17,500 to 40,000 words, while the Southern Humanities Review only accept novella with less than 15,000 words for publishing. Short stories similarly have varied length, and novels can be anything upward of 50,000 words. Short stories are more likely to be published in anthologies and collections, while some novellas get published as a standalone volume. Sometimes, it is a mixture of the two within one volume. That said, novellas are shorter novels; some examples include classics like Animal Farm by George Orwell and The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway.
There is a series called “The Art of the Novella” published by Melville House Publishing that reprints classic novella such as The Hound of Baskerville by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. They also publish a series called “The Contemporary Art of the Novella“ for recent titles, mostly translated work from languages such as French and Spanish.
So if you prefer shorter fiction books over 900-page tomes, perhaps you could pick up a novella as your next read. Check out some books in this link.
Contributed by Lo Wan Ni, Associate Librarian, Public Libraries Singapore.