Friday, February 17, 2012

Shorter Fiction: Novellas and Pamphleteering

By Pat Gulley

With the success of all things ‘e’ in publishing doing so well, much has been written about the shorter novel. So, I thought I’d write a bit about old and older norms that are new again.

            Seems the 100,000 word, over 300 page book is falling by the wayside, debunking the general assumption of big publishers that one size fits all. Younger readers, and a lot of older ones with eReader are much happier with less. Short stories are a bit longer, but books are getting shorter, leading to popularity of the novella.

            Does this mean that the American reader’s attention span is shrinking? Some may say so as they deplore anything changing, but I’m not inclined to believe it. Mostly, I believe that we are all looking for a well told story and an interesting to-the-point article and we do not want a bunch of extraneous words because the publisher demands a certain word count.

            Shorter should not mean less information, but making words count and have a broader meaning. It provides writers with a flexibility not seen in some time. Like around the time of the Gutenberg Printing Press, well no, just teasing about that. Another format that hasn’t been seen for a long time is Pamphleteering (almost a century) and quite a few writers are returning to it for ePub.

            Granted some publishers have always preferred the 200 to 250 page novel, while others favored just over 300 pages. They all tend to be in a specific genre, while literary writers and publishers are appalled that you can’t write 50 pages on the beauty of your feet touching the gorgeous patina of wood while descending a 5-step staircase.

            I’m not going to ask you to make a choice, just comment on what is being expected from you as a writer by your agents, editors or fans.

I’m away today, will be home Monday and will look in then, but Cindy is minding the posts today.


Mary Sutton said...

Length is less important than a well-told story. If the story is long and windy (see just about anything by Dickens, or my personal least favorite - MOBY DICK), five pages is too long. But I had no problem with the last Harry Potter, which was *well* over 300 pages.

I appreciate a good short story. There were several in the "Guppy" anthology (my person favorite being from Working Stiffs' own Annette Dashofy). I think some of the stories of O. Henry are beautiful ("Gift of the Magi" anyone?).

So yeah, as a reader I can appreciate long and short. As an author, I appreciate the flexibility and hope "e" publishing brings back the short-story form.

NL Gassert said...

As a reader, I’m not sure what to think of this. I’ve bought a ton of e-books over the last few months and the vast majority of them were novellas. They were all very good, but I often felt like I wanted to read a bit more. So now I’m paying more attention to length and am actively searching for novel-length e-reads in my favorite genre.

As a writer struggling with her current work, I’m glad that I may be able to get away with a shorter length :-)


C.L. Phillips said...

My apologies on minding the posts today. A little unscheduled emergency altered my priorities for the day.

Hope you enjoyed the post today, and may you all have a wonderful President's Day weekend.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

The story is the most important, but when it comes to the fantasy novels I love, long is best.

Patg said...

I'm back, though does anyone read past posts??????
Glad you liked WS Mary, Mine was the last one, The Critique Group.

Don said...

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