How Do You Solve a Project Like Novella?

I’ve only mentioned it once here on that blog, and that was back in October. But I have what I’ve been calling a novella ready for its next draft. I did some red-inking on it earlier this summer, and I need to type out those changes, so I’m not sure what the word count of the current version is, exactly. But I estimate it at above 50,000, which any Nanowrimo participant will tell you is the roughly accepted lower end of novel length manuscripts. My current murder mystery. Murder. Theatre. Solitaire clocks in at only 52K, and I have called that a novel all along.

All by way of saying, maybe the project I’ve been calling a novella is closer to being a novel than I thought, judging by both my own, and some popular length standards in “the business.”

I’ll continue calling it a novella if it ends up at less than 50K, even though I know it’s not an exact science. But in its current form, it is close in length to my mystery novel. I wonder why I’ve called this project a novella by default all this time?

Part of the reason, I speculate, is that Project Beta (a working/computer file name for it, not the actual title) was never planned. If you read that one other entry about it, linked above, you’ll see the story of its creation. Novels just seem like something I need to have planned to start, work through finish, take a break from, edit, revise, self publish and talk about over and over, all from starting from a certain date in many cases. Because from the beginning of Project Beta I had no exact plan as to where it would fall in my novelist timeline, I referred to it as more of a novella. Maybe. I suppose part of me was/is more willing to believe that a novella came out of the proverbial “nowhere” last fall, than a novel doing so.

Who cares, you ask? Writers. Writers care about this sort of thing. More so when they’re looking for agents or pitching to small presses, (novellas are far, far less likely to be accepted by either) but such designations matter even to those of us not pursuing the traditional path. And I don’t see myself pursuing the traditional path to publishing with Project Beta, whether it is truly a novel or a novella. For better or worse, I often prefer to be more precise with myself.

Have you ever gone to your fridge for the last Coke, (or whatever) only to find there was none? All this time you assumed you’d be undertaking the experience of that final item, and then suddenly, you won’t be. You could run down to the store and buy another Coke is you really crave one, but admit it; it’s not the same. Dumb as it is, a Coke you have to drive five minutes to the store and pay for will not be as satisfying as the Coke you thought was in your fridge already. Exact same product, but your mindset heading into it makes all the difference in terms of satisfaction.

That’s in the same sphere as what I’m talking about. Novel, novella. Word-Assembly-Story-Thing. I know I can call it whatever I want to, and it will still be the same manuscript. But I’ve thought of it as a novella for so long, I wonder if calling it a novel now, when I didn’t prophecy (plan) a novel at this point in the process would be like going to the store to make up for the missing Coke.

There were certain things I thought of doing with it to make it public, if it were a novella, that don’t feel wise for a novel. I don’t know.

Eventually, like everything I write that is to be read, I’ll revise, edit, check and double check it, format it, and in some form make it available for the world. I want to share Project Beta with people. Its origin story in my mind is somewhat different from that of other projects I’ve been inspired to undertake. I’m glad it’s there. I just…wonder if there’s Coke in the fridge right now or not.


  1. Laura W.

    I went out to buy a Diet Coke at 3am last night. But that’s a little unrelated.

    I hear that novellas are hard to get accepted unless they’re part of an established world by an established author. Or unless you can pitch them as being for a younger audience, since the word count for MG and YA is often accepted as lower and some agents/publishers cap YA at 80,000 words (Harry Potter be damned!).

    Anyway, I hope your novella comes along well and if you want me to read it or do line edits, I’m happy to oblige.

  2. That’s why I’ll probably “declare” it a novel in the end, so long as the final draft is 50,000 or more, my little not-fully-explained mental bump notwithstanding. Even if it IS less than 50K, it could still be a novel. I’ve seen a few that are shorter than that but still considered novels. I’d have to look into that further when the time comes.

    And with a Sheetz about five minutes away, I’m not stranger to the middle-of-the-night beverage run myself. =)

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