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I am a writer, editor, reviewer and dance teacher based in Perth, Western Australia.

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The first novel of my trilogy, The Talismans, is available as e-books from Smashwords, Amazon and other online sellers. I do have paperbacks of The Dagger of Dresnia at the low price of $AU25 including postage within Australia. I also have a short story, 'La Belle Dame', in print - see Mythic Resonance below. Book two of the trilogy, The Cloak of Challiver, will be available again shortly. The best way to contact me is via Facebook!

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The first two books of The Talismans trilogy were published by Satalyte Publications, which, sadly, has gone out of business. I hope to see my books back on Amazon under a new publisher in the near future.

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The Dagger of Dresnia
Want a copy? Contact me at satimafn(at)gmail.com

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The Cloak of Challiver
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Mythic Resonance is an excellent anthology that includes my short story 'La Belle Dame', together with great stories from Alan Baxter, Donna Maree Hanson, Sue Burstynski, Nike Sulway and nine more fantastic authors! Just $US3.99 from Amazon. Got a Kindle? Check out Mythic Resonance.

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Sunday, 9 November 2008

Does length matter?

While I'm taking a break from the WIP I though I'd revamp a longish short story I wrote a couple of years ago. It doesn't quite work as a short story, and I’m planning on lengthening it into a novella or a novelette.

The trouble is that it is very difficult to sell works that are longer than 5,000ww but shorter than 90,000, unless they are intended for the Children's or Young Adults' markets. Some short story markets accept works up to 7,500ww, although many of them express a preference for shorter pieces. Stories between 7,500 and 15,000 words are especially hard to find homes for.

Occasionally, however, one does see markets advertising that they are seeking novellas or novelettes. But what is a novella? What is a novelette? How long is too long? How short is too short?

Seven and a half thousand words is the cut off point for most short story anthologies, although occasionally one sees this extended to 15,000ww. Most people today would, I think, call anything in between those two lengths a "novelette", but really, the definitions depend on who's writing them. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America web site defines a novel as a work of 40,000 words or more; a novella as a work of at least 17,500 words but under 40,000 words; a novelette as a work of at least 7,500 words but under 17,500 words and short story as a work of under 7,500 words. These are the definitions they use for their annual Nebula awards, undoubtedly one of the most prestigious awards in the industry, so perhaps these lengths can be considered "correct" for the speculative genres. However, a speculative fiction writer would be hard put to find a publisher willing to buy an adult work of 40,000ww. Most novels today, not counting the ubiquitous "fat fantasies" that sometimes run well over the 200,000ww mark, are between 95,000-150,000ww.

But outside the speculative genres there is great variance in opinion. Over at Google books , The Book of Literary Terms by Lewis Turco suggests that while the term novelette (or novelet) is a synonym for novella in most dictionaries, experts make a distinction between them: the novelette is a sort of romantic formula story while the novella is a serious work of fiction. This distinction is maintained elsewhere, one site declaring that novelettes are more likely to be termed "frothy", "trite" or "sentimental". The Concise Oxford English Dictionary online defines a novelette as "a short novel, typically a light romantic one", while a novella is "a short novel or a long short story", without any reference to length as a determining factor.

Writer Sandra M. Ulbrich uses the following definitions:
Vignette Less than 500 words
Short-Short 500-2000
Short Story 2,500-5,000
Novelette 5,000-14,000
Novella 15,000-40,000
Novel 40,000+
while over at Blurtit.com, Louise Gorman offers the following:
Flash fiction: 2,000 words or less, or sometimes 1,000 words or less
Short story: no less than 2,000 words, but no more than 7,500 words
Novelette: a work that is much shorter than a novel, usually around 7,500 to 17,500
Novella: a piece of work that is shorter than a novel, but longer than a novelette, usually 20,000 to 40,000 words long
Novel: a work that consists of 60,000 words or more
Epic: a work that consists of 200,000 words or more

In other words, there is no agreement on just how fiction works should be defined in terms of length, and the writer must consider the guidelines of each publisher before submitting work. But do we try to tailor works to a specific market, or simply write the story and then look for someone who wants works of that length? I think most writers would say the latter: a story can only be as long as it needs to be: extraneous "padding" will quickly bore the reader, and exposition that tells without showing in the interests of saving wordage is just as bad. Even so, some compromise is possible: I have seen 8,000ww stories cut by a thousand words or more with skilful editing.

Which leaves me where, exactly? Plugging along, trying to write an interesting tale with a very slight plot and trying to put tension into a froth and bubble story.

I'll let you know how it goes.

5 comments:

Jo said...

Good luck

Satima Flavell said...

Thanks, Jo. I'm feeling a bit gloomy about the thing right now:-(

Amanda Greenslade said...

This was an interesting blog Satima. The topic of length would probably make a good article on www.specusphere.com. :)

gynie said...

i'm quite frightening about what you explain : i thought formating was only for video and music albums, break the walls !

i hope you will be edited, whatever length ^^

Marilyn Z. Tomlins said...

Hi Satima --

I always say that a novel ought to be as long as the author feels it should be. So just follow your heart and your head.

Marilyn

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