Friday, 23 September 2016

Novellas: the perfect length

by Nicki Edwards, author of heartwarming Australian romance.

Love to read but don't have time? Want to try a new author? Or a new genre? Don't have lots of money? Why not consider reading a novella?

Compared to novels, which are usually more than 40,000 words, a novella is between 17,000 and 40,000 words, with an average length of 25,000 words, making them the perfect length for busy people who like to read a book in one or two sittings. Or perfect if you're wondering if you'd like a particular author's 'voice' or style. And of course, the fact most novellas are usually 99 cents or less makes them a super affordable way of reading.

When I started writing, I'd never heard of a novella but once I discovered them, I found how much I love reading them because I'm so time-poor. I then decided to try my hand at writing one.

Operation White Christmas came out last year to great reviews (and was the winner of the Romance Writers of Australia Contemporary Romance Cover of the Year).

I loved the experience so much that a few months ago I wrote a second novella, Operation Mistletoe Magic, which comes out at the end of October. 

In case you're not sure what a novella is, it is basically a short book. It involves multiple characters and multiple twists and turns but due to the constraints in length, there are often fewer conflicts than in a full length novel with the focus being on the main character's personal and emotional journey rather than an in-depth story line with lots of sub-plots.

For example, when writing a romance novella, the author has to get to point quickly, which means the hero and heroine have to interact quickly, usually from the opening chapter. That can have issues when it comes to sweet romance which generally develops over a longer period of time. 

I got around this problem in different ways in my novellas. In my first story, Hollie and Jim meet literally by accident on the side of the road and due to circumstances, end up getting to know each other. In my second novella, Melissa and Chris are childhood best friends who meet up again unexpectedly and rekindle their friendship which slowly develops into a romance.

There are positives and negatives about novellas for both readers and writers.

As an author, I love the way I can contain the entire story in my head and get it written in a short time frame. (Operation Mistletoe Magic only took me six days to get the first draft down.) And of course a shorter story meant my awesome critique partner Andrea Grigg could get it back to me quickly and edits didn't take as long. But I missed being able to really explore the characterization and have more in depth sub-plots to the story. 

From a reader's perspective, one of the negatives of novellas is the stories are too short but I take that as a good thing when readers complain the story ended too soon and they want to know what happens next. I have received so many emails from readers asking me to write a full length story for Hollie and Jim. 

Because of that, I'm contemplating writing some short stories or novelettes next year that tie in with the characters from my Christmas novellas so that readers can catch up on the happy ever after endings of my characters and find out what happens after the stories ended.
Another big negative of the novella is that they're only available in e-book format. One day I hope to bundle my novellas together and have them available in a paperback version.

By far it seems Christmas novellas are the most popular. These stories are usually set in North America (such as mine, which are both set in Canada), but recently four Aussie Christian authors (Narelle Atkins, Rose Dee, Andrea Grigg and Meredith Resce) collaborated with two international authors to write Christmas novellas for a box set that is set in Australia with a very Aussie Christmas flavor. 

I urge you to check them out as I've had the privilege of reading some of them and they are very, very good. Of course my favourite is Andrea's, but perhaps I'm biased!

Their Christmas box set, An Aussie Summer Christmas is available to pre order now and will be released on September 27th. My novella, Operation Mistletoe Magic is also available to pre-order and will be released on October 25th.

A word of caution, many authors are now publishing their novellas in multiple box sets so be careful you don't end up buying the same books twice!

What do you like to read the most?

  •  Short-Stories
  •  Novelettes
  •  Novellas
  •  Novels

Nicki Edwards writes contemporary medical/rural romance and women's fiction for Pan Macmillan. When she isn’t reading, writing or dreaming about rural life and medical emergencies, she can be found working as a Critical Care Nurse where many of her stories and characters are imagined.
Nicki and her husband Tim reside in Geelong with their four teenage/young adult children where Tim is in full time ministry. 


  1. Hi Nicki, I love reading novellas for discovering new authors. And the whole short story prequel is another thing I enjoy, whets the appetite for the "big' novel.

    I'll pop over an pre-order your Chrissy one. I'm still in awe how you've managed to renovate your house, start a new job (?) and write so much. You're a machine.

  2. I mostly prefer novels, but occasionally enjoy novellas - especially when I'm tired, because I know it's only going to take me a couple of hours to enjoy the whole thing and I know the plot will be pretty straightforward. Like you say, there's not a lot of room for subplots in 25,000 words!

    I agree novellas are quick to write. My first foray into fiction was a novella, and I chose the short form because I needed something for my Margie Lawson immersion course last year. It won the ACFW Genesis award this year, so I must have got something right.

  3. I most read novel, but that's mostly because novella's only seem to be available as ebooks, and I prefer not to curl up with my iPad :)

  4. I actually like novella's have always loved the Barbour Christmas Novella's. For me at present novella's are easier to read when its hard to concentrate for long times due to head pain. I do also like shorter novels which are around the 200 page length I cant handle the longer other ones right now.

    1. Jenny, I've read the Barbour Christmas Novella Collections in print books, too. :)

  5. I love novellas as I like to read in one sitting but really struggle to keep track of 'stand alone' and 'included in a box set' books. As I read in ebook format now and covers change and often a box set doesn't have covers, it's tricky.

    1. Kathy, I found I was getting confused about which book is in which box set. Until I discovered authors were putting books in multiple box sets. If the box set description doesn't say that the stories are brand new, I'm now checking the box sets in my Kindle account to see if I've either bought the standalone book or bought the book in a previous collection. That said, 99 cents is still a bargain price for 1 book, and I'll buy a box set even if I only want to read 1 book in the whole collection. I also don't read box sets in order, and I find I've read one book here, two books there, depending on which book descriptions appealed to me at the time.

  6. Nicki, Congrats on your upcoming Christmas novella (and your full length book, Critical Condition, releasing next week!).

    I'm still in awe that you wrote the whole first draft in 6 days! That's the equivalent of doing half of the 50k NaNoWriMo word count in 6 days - well done :)

    I find the set-up time for a novella can be almost as time consuming as a short novel. The shorter novella word length also means your writing has to be very tight - this can be a struggle for authors who are used to writing longer novels of 90,000 words or more. This year I've read more novellas than novels.

  7. Hi Nicki - congrats on new release & the award on your previous novella. The Aussie Summer Christmas boxed set also sounds like a great collection to have :)
    As a reader, I mainly enjoy novels - but since I began writing short stories, I now appreciate the form. I had fun writing a short fantasy novella Heart of the Mountain. Heart of the Mountain is set in my fantasy world and tangentially related to the novels I'm working. As you say, there is less room for subplots - and I had less space for world building but, as you say, short stories and novellas can be reading in one or maybe two 'sittings' and it is a great way to discover new authors, new genres - or for an author to experiment a bit.

    Thanks for your post :)