Michaeline: Could This Be the Age of the Novella?

Seven short years ago, I worried a lot because I write short – my NaNos are almost never more than 40,000 words, which makes a decent novella (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America defines a novella up for the Nebula Award as 17,500 to 39,999 words). But I hadn’t read many romance novellas, or even seen them promoted.

This year, they seem to be leaping up to be noticed. Romance author Stacey Shannon tweeted that she loves writing novellas in reply to former Carina Press executive editor Angela James’ tweet about loving to edit novellas.

Book Riot has a 2019 post recommending 28 romance novellas. If you look carefully at the covers, you’ll see a lot of them lack a publisher’s mark – I know at least some of these are self-published, while others have found homes with traditional publishers. Notice all the big names here, including some of my favorites like Courtney Milan and Jackie Lau.

Amazon Best Sellers especially promotes a “one-hour read” best-selling category in romance. I don’t know any of the names there today, but it looks like a very sexy sort of neighborhood. Looking at the same “one-hour read” label in science fiction and fantasy, I see a scattering of books that look like they have very strong romantic elements. I know more of these names, too, like N.K. Jemison (who has a book up under Amazon Original Stories) and Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor.com Original).

And, if you had any doubts about the emotional impact of short-form fiction, let me share with you a short film, Hair Love (6:48, from Sony Pictures Animation).

Have a box of tissues handy. I started tearing up at about the five-minute mark, and then just kept crying harder as developments ratcheted up over the last minute of the film. Don’t worry, it’s good crying, and a happy ending. I cried because of the power of love . . . and I have to tell you, I usually hate it when a filmmaker makes me cry. I often feel that they jerked at my heartstrings to provoke a reaction, but in this short film, I feel like the emotions were all totally earned and deserved.

It’s a busy season; give yourself a little break and tell me how you liked the film.

5 thoughts on “Michaeline: Could This Be the Age of the Novella?

  1. I think novellas are popular, even expected now from anyone who writes series–as a series starter, a between-books treat, or an exploration of side characters. I also think ebooks and the advent of indie publishing have allowed/encouraged writers to offer shorter, quicker reads. My guess is that many ‘standard’ novels run to 70-80k now where it would have been 100k before. Quicker to write, cheaper to print, and you can keep the price down.

    Gotta say, the exchange between Shannon Stacey and Angela James looks possibly a little choreographed (or is that just me?) 😉 Angela James is now freelance and building her indie editor schedule, Shannon Stacey has worked with her a lot in the past. Not a criticism–both Shannon Stacey and Angela James are well respected and I’m sure the recommendation is an honest one–more an observation on how supportive and tightly knit the romance writing community is.

    If you write short, Michaeline, I’d say your time is now!

    • I didn’t realize they were almost expected, but that would explain a lot. Boy, there’s no telling where trends will go in five years!

      BTW, just as a data point, it seemed to me that the Courtney Milan novellas on Book Riot are self-published ones. (A quick look on Amazon seems to say that all the Brothers Sinister books and novellas are self-published. And the one with “happy elderly Victorian lesbians” is also self-published. I only know her work through trad publishers (and I loved the series I read!), but I think I must remedy that. (Interesting: http://www.courtneymilan.com/ramblings/2014/02/23/traditional-versus-self-publishing-official-death-match-2014/)

      So, here’s the bottom line for me: I’ve written the first drafts of more than five novellas. I’ve written the first drafts of exactly zero novels. I gotta go with my strengths. Maybe I’ll learn to write a novel some day . . . maybe not.

      • As far as I know Courtney Milan has been indie for a long time. Her first series was with Harlequin (? I think?) but I’m pretty sure everything else has been under her control. I heard her say at a conference that she prefers it as she gets to choose the covers, select her editors, develop nurture long term partnerships and pay her collaborators a fair price.

        I *think* she was a physicist and then a lawyer before she became a novelist. Very smart woman, and I’d guess very much your cup of tea.

        With five novellas why worry about novels? When you feel ready, polish ’em up and share ’em!

  2. I agree with Jilly. I have a GH friend who only writes novellas (though they tend to the steamier side of things). She gets as much for a quick read as I do for my 100K+ tomes. I I think there’s a real market for short right now. I wish I was better in the short form. My one attempt at a short story this fall got completely away from me. Hoping to pick it back up once I finish Stilettos.

    That film short was adorable!

    • Glad you enjoyed it! I’ve read a couple of romance novellas in the past two days, and I loved the Courtney Milan one about the elderly Victorian ladies. The other one was not my cup of tea, but there are hundreds out there!

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