1. mad_hatter

    mad_hatter Active Member

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    The Rules of a Novella

    Discussion in 'By Writing Form' started by mad_hatter, Apr 12, 2018.

    ***Just reading this back, it’s all a bit of a rant, as I’m trying to get things straight in my own head. Apologies if it doesn’t make a lot of sense!***

    I don’t tend to think too much about the “rules” when writing. I try to just write and let the story tell itself. Of course, I plan my stories beforehand, so I do have a fairly reasonable idea of the structure of my story - I know whether I’m writing a short story or a longer piece. However, when I have set out to write longer stories, I don’t tend to consider whether they will actually be a novella or a novel (I mean, if my story ends up being 39,999 words it’s still a novella, right?). I have written two longer pieces that, when I first started, I had assumed would probably end up being around 50k words. Both fell short of this number, both being under 40k. Both of these stories are told from the close third POV of only one MC.

    However, looking at what I plan to write next, I intend to write from the POV of at least two characters (husband and wife). In my breakdown, I actually have the first chapter told from the POV of a third character (this would be the only chapter from their POV), but that could always be changed. Now, I am assuming this story will probably be around 40k also. It may be a novella, but it may also stray into being (technically) a novel. I have recently read some advice on novella writing that suggests you shouldn’t write a novella from more than one POV, the suggestion being that you don’t have the time to switch in a novella, as you do in a novel.

    Another thing is that the two novellas I have written are broken down into chapters. I did so because it felt right. Also, as above, I didn’t actually know that I was writing a novella. However, the most common advice seems to be to not have chapter breaks in your novella. Of course, I can always remove chapter headings and replace them with white space, but I don’t quite see what difference that would make... (apparently chapter breaks pull the reader out of the story, but using white space as a break doesn’t...)

    Anyway, the main question I have from all of the above is this: What are the rules when writing a novella?

    Sure, I know there are no rules. Rules are made to be broken, etc. But what are the expectations when a reader picks up a novella? I mean, do readers really think about this sort of thing? Surely, so long as the story is well told and the structure doesn’t get confusing, all the reader is concerned about is whether the story is good or not.

    If the first draft of my story, told from multiple POVs, which uses chapter headings, comes out at 40,001 words, all that’s okay. But if I edit it down and suddenly it’s 39,999 words, I have to go back and change it all to a single POV and remove the chapter headings? That seems a bit daft to me.

    A lot of the advice I’d read seems to come from writers who see novellas as being less than 40k and novels being more than 80k, with no distinction as to what falls between those numbers. But even if we say a novel is anything over 40k, is that the cut off point for where the “rules” for a novella end and the “rules” for a novel begin?

    Or is it perhaps at 27,462 words, as we go from a short novella to a long novella?

    Am I overthinking things here?

    I kind-of assume I am.
     
  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think the proof's in the pudding. I've written (and sold) novellas with two POVs and I don't think I've ever written one without chapter breaks, so...? If it works, it works.
     
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