Novel Versus Novella

Originally posted April 2012

What Is the Difference Between a Novel and a Novella?

Once again the question came up regarding the difference between a novel and a novella. Unfortunately, the query may never truly die away because the answer is not clear cut. Although complexity of subject matter can make a difference, it most often boils down to how many words the book has. No official word count exists that describes when a novella becomes a novel. Few Internet searches I have undertaken have produced so many varied answers.


When Does a Novella Become a Novel?

An article in the Huffington Post gave lengths of some famous books. A few started down near 30,000 words and, at the top, War and Peace rang in at over 500,000. A website that celebrates short books set the limit at 80,000 words. A Wikipedia entry pegged the word length minimum for a novel near 50,000 words while a related article on the Nebula Award drew the line at 40,000. Most online sources reviewed suggest that books become novels somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 words.


Is Word Count Important?

Whether word count is important depends upon the author and the publishing circumstances. Some publishers set guidelines for word counts. With digital media on the rise, cost for paper is less of an issue and newer writers might face fewer roadblocks when it comes to the number of words in their novels. It might be a good idea to check into books within your genre for general guidelines as well as the lengths of successfully published books.

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