It's the first month of a spanking new year and what better way to welcome it than have the very lovely author Reet Singh talk about her reading and writing preferences. Better still, she decodes the difference between short stories, novellas and novels. Over to Reet...
I love reading fiction, all genres (except horror) and all lengths, but of them I’m happiest reading shorter stories or novellas rather than novels. The real reason for my choice is not complicated to understand - it's because I am keen to move on to the next author and the next book so that I can sample a wider variety of fiction than if I were to read one long novel. As they say, there're so many authors and so little time.
When it comes to writing fiction, however, I find that even if I plan out a short story, it tends to grow and grow, threatening to expand until it becomes at least a novella, if not a novel. Is the difference only in the word count?
Actually, no. Sure, a short story is usually less than 7-8 thousand words, while a novella runs between 20 to 50 thousand, and a novel is a whopping 50 to 80 thousand words, if not longer, but the word count is not etched in stone. In any case, it is a bit more than just about the count. It depends on what your goal is.
For example, if you have an idea that needs to be developed well enough to sound plausible, or a plot that is complex and needs space and time to achieve resolution, or if your characters need to change and grow, or relationships need to be established and remodeled, then you’ll need a larger word count to accommodate all or some of that. If, on the other hand, you’re planning on writing about an event that impacts a single character over a shortish time-frame, you could easily consider covering it all from start to finish in a shorter piece.
Further, if you have multiple characters, and you think each merits more than just a passing reference, or you’re writing a story within a story, or have multiple scenes, or have a whole world to display, or a broad time span to cover with respect to the events that take place in your story, then a longer work of fiction is required. A short story on the other hand is meant to be intense, to deliver a punch - this takes great literary skill but it can be done using fewer words.
In conclusion, the final length of your work of fiction depends on how many words it takes to tell an honest, strong, compelling, unique and complete story.
Although I personally prefer to read shorter works, I haven’t written that many short stories myself. My psychological suspense, Make the World Go Away, is under 5000 words long. It is ideal for a short story since it revolves around a single character, Kavya, and the reader sees everything that’s going on through how Kavya interprets and reports events. There is one main conflict that Kavya blames on the supporting characters – her husband at first, but later, even her daughter - who have not much of a role beyond the conflict they generate in Kavya’s mind. I found that 5000 words gave me sufficient space (even though the story spans 12 years) to showcase the struggle and draw the conflict to the final resolution/denouement. This story is permafree – do look it up.
My sweet Romance, A Christmas Conspiracy, on the other hand, is longer - at 8000 words – because it has three characters with important contributions to make. There’s Goldie, who is the chief protagonist – a resolutely focused young man; Nargis, the strangely compelling young woman he meets in a coffee shop; and Goldie’s mother, the very crafty Barfi Kaur, who has a cutely warped ethical compass. If you’d rather read romance, pick this one up on Amazon.
These short stories were great fun to write, but a problem I’ve noticed since publishing them is that shorts don’t seem to sell as well as novels and novellas. I googled it and found that it is a universal malaise - strange, but, apparently, I am the only person in the whole world who would rather buy a short story than a novella or a novel.
Tell me this isn’t true?
I hope it is not true - because this preference of mine sees me on the brink of releasing another couple of shorts in a few weeks. Look out for them, dear readers.
Adite, thanks so much for hosting me on your blog. It’s always a pleasure to be here.