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Writing

Learn the Differences Between Novelettes, Novellas, and Novels

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Feb 3, 2020 • 3 min read

Writing the first draft of a novel can be a daunting, arduous task. That’s why the novelette format can be so appealing. In many ways, a novelette is like a short novel. It allows writers to hone their craft by learning how to tell stories under a strict word count restriction.

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What Is a Novelette?

The definition of “novelette” is any short, fictional work of prose narrative. Novelettes have a lower number of words than a novel or novella, but a higher word count than other forms of prose fiction like short stories or microfiction. Despite lacking the page count of a full-length novel, novelettes generally tell a complete story. Some people refer to novelettes as “long short stories” or “short novellas.”

How Long Is a Novelette?

Any work of fiction with a word count between 7,500 and 19,000 is generally considered a novelette. A novelette is longer than a short story, which usually has a word range of between 1,000 and 7,500 words, and flash fiction, which is usually under 1,000 words. Any piece of creative writing that is longer than a novelette but shorter than a novel is considered a novella.

3 Differences Between Novelettes and Novellas

A novella is a standalone piece of fiction that is shorter than a full-length novel but longer than a short story or novelette. Novellas incorporate many narrative and structural elements of novel-length stories—but like novelettes, they often focus on single points of view, focusing on a single central conflict, and rely on fast pacing. Here are the differences between novelettes and novellas:

  1. Word count: The primary difference between a novelette and a novella, then, is word count (novelettes are shorter than novellas).
  2. Subject matter: Traditionally, novelettes tended to focus on whimsical, sentimental themes. The modern-day novelette, though, is more like the novella in that it can encompass different genres like sci-fi, drama, or historical short fiction.
  3. Complexity: In terms of storytelling ambition, novelettes tend to split the difference between novellas and shorter forms like short stories. Novelettes tend to have a greater focus on character development, worldbuilding, and plotting than short stories. However, the stories are generally more concise and focused than a novella-length work, as the word count is often too restrictive to tell a long story.
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3 Differences Between Novellas and Novels

The most obvious difference between novels and novellas is page length and number of words. However, beyond this superficial difference there are many structural and thematic hallmarks of novellas that make them their own standalone genre of writing. Some of these include:

  1. A single central conflict: Most novellas explore a single, compelling central conflict. Because of their shorter length, novellas have less time to explore subplots and tend to focus on the main plot. Novellas generally have one main character and a handful of secondary characters. Because of length constraints, most of the character development will be focused on the protagonist.
  2. Fast pacing: Novellas usually move at a quick pace. Whereas novels can spend time diverging from the central conflict to delve into backstory and explore multiple points of view, novellas generally offer a quick compelling story with a singular point of view.
  3. Unity of time and place: When writing novellas, writers should root the action in continuous time within a limited space, ideally one location.

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Benefits of Writing a Novelette

For short story writers or people who generally write shorter works, novelettes can be an opportunity to tell a longer-form, standalone story. For writers who are used to writing, say, full-length science fiction or fantasy novels, the word count restriction of a novelette offers a chance to tell a good story with a simple cast of characters and few subplots.

7 Examples of Novelettes

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Novelette writers know how to tell a complete story in a relatively short amount of time. Here are some famous examples of novelettes, many of which were originally published in literary magazines:

  1. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe (1839)
  2. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)
  3. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (1915)
  4. The Call Of Cthulhu by H. P. Lovecraft (1928)
  5. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943)
  6. Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler (1995)
  7. Hell Is the Absence of God by Ted Chiang (2001)

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