At some point, many writers face the challenge of producing an in-between work— something that is neither short story nor novel.
When we create something different than what the market suggests is normal, we may be tempted to change in order to conform. After all, we want our voices to be heard, and we want to write books that can reach audiences.
In order to conform, maybe we pad our novella up with another 20,000 words to hit that novel length (60,000 is so close…), so we can query agents. I’ve been there. I’ve also been on the other end of that deal, picking up a book sparkling with promise and reading it to find 25-50% of it was bloat. A great idea and moving lines buried in too many words.
Maybe we are more ruthless with our odd-lengthed works and cut our precious 25,000-word masterpiece to 5,000 words, and what remains is a vestige of a literary work worth reading. I’ve also done this, leaving readers confused, unfulfilled, or longing for more. As readers, we’ve encountered those stories— those ones that feel like they could be great but need to be longer.
Why does this happen? Why can’t our writing always neatly fall into the category of either short story or novel? Why do we sometimes complete works at 20,000 or 40,000 words?
Some people may try to tell you that your story is not finished or is missing something. Sometimes this is true. Sometimes you have an undercooked novel that needs a little more development. But I think this is the exception, not the rule.
Oftentimes, when you reach this weird word count limbo, what you have is a novella. And that is a beautiful thing.
Other writers or publishers may tell you otherwise. That if you want to do anything worthwhile you have to publish a novel with a New York publisher or a short story with a reputable literary magazine. Those are all worthwhile endeavors, and if you can do them (which you can), go for it.
But don’t make your story suffer for it. Let your story breathe exactly the way it needs to, at exactly the length it needs to be. Stop googling acceptable word counts, and realize that when you have told the full story the best way you possibly can, you are finished. And if you finish with 30,000 words, you have a novella.
Can you complicate a novella with another side-plot or more description to make it a novel? Sure. Should you? Probably not.
As a serial novella writer, I understand the frustration that comes with creating these strange literary works. I want them so desperately to be longer or shorter, to be something acceptable. But they always tell their story in the way they need to, and that way is usually between 15,000 and 50,000 words.
Because I have been where you are now, wondering about my odd-length creations, I thought the world needs more novella publishers. After letting the idea simmer for years, I finally went all in and decided to launch Galaxy Galloper Press, which is dedicated to publishing novellas exclusively.
Other novella publishers exist, and I encourage you to explore them as well. Some specialize in particular genres. Galaxy Galloper Press does not give preference to any one genre. We know an outstanding work when we see it and will not discriminate against literary or genre fiction. We aim to be inclusive of many voices.
So, if you accidentally wrote a novella, do not despair. You are not wrong. Your piece is not unfinished. You have created something many of the other literary greats have crafted: a novella. We want to give your novella, your voice, and your story a home.