A Novella Renaissance?


Since I received a Kindle for Christmas last year I think I may have read more novellas in that short time than in all the years previously. And that’s not to say I was a slouch with reading them before. Orwell and Steinbeck are two of my favorite authors and they both wrote novellas that were huge in scope, even as they may have been short in pages. I’ve made the effort to track down and read Hugo Award winning novellas, and I never liked Stephen King better than in his leaner, shorter form.


But since I got my Kindle I haven’t had to go out and track them down. The e-publishing explosion has brought them to me. Just a few short years ago my writer friends were lamenting the difficulty of selling a novella. Oh, how times have changed.


I didn’t start out writing novellas. I started writing novels. One extremely demanding job put an end to that. I was too exhausted at the end of the day to even pick up the threads of my own plots. A writer friend suggested I try short stories. I took his advice and had some luck selling them. As I built up my writing muscles again I started tackling novella length, with no idea where or how I was going to sell them. Agents wouldn’t look at them and even Stephen King had lamented the difficulties of trying to place them.


Even with the difficulties, though, I loved the form. Concise, but able to tackle larger ideas. Every word needs to count. Every single word has to earn its place. I find there is a certain intensity to the reading and writing of novellas that is unmatched by short stories or novels. But maybe that’s just me.


Is the novella experiencing a renaissance?   I certainly hope so, but I’m not sure. I’ve read many reviews of novellas published over the last couple of years and have noted that reviewers often lament their brevity, usually when they’re expecting the work to be longer. But bigger isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s something short, concise and intense that will fulfill the hungry reader, rather than a larger meal.  Here are my tips for reading novellas. 1) Know what you are reading is a novella and adjust your expectations for length accordingly before you even begin. 2) Slow down and savor every carefully selected word.  3) Try to read it in one sitting, just like you would a short story. 4) Re-read your favorites.


Carina Press is having a sale on select novellas this November. My own Blue Galaxy is among them, as is my fellow blogger Ella Drake’s Jaq’s Harp. If you’ve never tried a novella before, this could be an inexpensive opportunity to give one a try. Click on over and see if there is one that tickles your fancy.


Am I alone in my novella love? Please share with me your thoughts on the reading and writing of novellas. What are your favorites? And here is a lovely Goodreads list of the best novellas ever written. How many have you read?


Catch up with Diane Dooley at her blog or on Twitter.




  1. […] thoughts to add on the subject? Please click over to A Novella Renaissance? to read more and share your […]

  2. Nice post, Diane! I have always loved novellas, and you put two of my favorites in your pictorial list…Animal Farm and A Clockwork Orange. I agree that the e-pub explosion has made novellas so much more accessible, and I love that. I have noticed that words tend to be more carefully chosen in the shorter forms, and that always makes for an instructive and delicious reading experience.

    1. I wanted to put Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men up there too, but wanted to leave space for a couple of Hugo winners.

      Funny thing: when I was googling novellas Google kept automatically asking me if I meant novels. No, Google. I freakin’ meant novellas! Jeez.

  3. Hi Dianne! Yeah I love novellas too. I think writing them is extremely fun and also takes less time — usually. But an author has to learn to write tight in order to pull it off and make it really good. I think the e-reader has changed the world for those of us who enjoy the quick well written novella. Don’t ask what my favorite titles are. It’s just to hard to pick!

    1. They do take less time to write. When I started writing them I had an insane work and family schedule. I don’t know that I could have tackled a novel at that point in my life.

  4. I’ve read more this year, since getting an e-reader, than in the past 10 years combined. And much of that is novellas. Before, it seemed like to buy a novella, you had to find an anthology or subscribe to a magazine, if you could find them at all. I love being able to buy them “a la carte” so easily now. And with my busy schedule, I appreciate the tight writing and enjoyment of being able to read a good story without investing hours/days/weeks to do so.

    1. Yes, I have to plan my reading time, too. If I have about two hours to read, I know it’s novella time.

  5. I’m also in the “reading more novellas since they have become more available in electrons” camp. I do enjoy the concise writing and appreciate the authors who can do it well (present company included 🙂 ) I haven’t tried writing one, though I’ve been considering it. Any helpful hints to offer?

    1. Helpful hints? I’ll give it a try. I spent some time writing short stories. That definitely helped me become a more concise writer and pay extra attention to word choice. I’d like to say try not to have too many characters or take on too big a theme, but with Animal Farm up there, I don’t think it’s a hard and fast rule. Of course, we can’t all be Orwells. Getting the right pace is important. In sci fi novellas you’ve got to be extra careful to not overwhelm the story with world building. Ella did a fab job with Jaq’s Harp; the world was unique, but she didn’t spend oodles of words on it.

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