Does Size Matter? Short Stories, Novellas and Novels. ~ Sunday Spotlight by Guest Jay Northcote

Please join Prism Book Alliance® in welcoming guest Sunday Spotlight columnist, author Jay Northcote to the blog.


Does Size Matter? Short Stories, Novellas and Novels.:

When I first started writing original fiction I had no clue what made a novel a novel, or how short a story had to be in order to be considered a ‘short story.’ I’d barely even heard of a novella. I had this vague idea that it might be something Victorian, perhaps with a gothic theme? I was very confused by the whole thing.

So in case you’re as bewildered as I was, here is a handy list of length guidelines from the Dreamspinner Press website (different sources give different guidelines but these ones work for me).

Short story: less than 15,000 words

Novella: 15-29,999 words

Long Novella: 30-59,999 words

Novel: 60,000 words and up

By these definitions I’ve published three short stories (Coming Home, First Class Package, and Top Me Maybe?), two novels (The Little Things and Not Just Friends), and the rest of my books fall into the the long novella category. So, it seems that I’m a novella writer – mainly. Does this make me a novellaist? This isn’t something I planned, but when I write I find that I usually end up with something between 30,000 and 45,000 words. I suppose this length of story suits my mainly relationship-focused storylines.

I know that some readers prefer novels so will generally avoid novellas. That’s fair enough, each to their own and all that. Personally I’m not a size queen when it comes to books—quite the opposite in fact. I enjoy short novels as well as novellas, but usually avoid buying anything over 80,000 words unless I have a couple of weeks holiday coming up. I rarely buy short stories, because I like at least 20k to get to know the characters, but I will make exceptions for something with a great blurb, or if it’s written by an auto-buy author.

So, does size matter for you? Or is it what the author does with it that counts?

Jay Northcote


Helping Hand

Jez Fielding and James MacKenzie—Big Mac to his mates—are in their second year at uni. After partying too hard last year, they make a pact to rein themselves in. While their housemates are out drinking every weekend, Jez and Mac stay in to save cash and focus on their studies.

When Jez suggests watching some porn together, he isn’t expecting Mac to agree to it. One thing leads to another, and soon their arrangement becomes hands-on rather than hands-off. But falling for your straight friend can only end badly, unless there’s a chance he might feel the same.

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Author Bio:

JN-001-JN-avi-500x500Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England, with her husband, two children, and two cats.

She comes from a family of writers, but she always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed her by. She spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content. One day, she decided to try and write a short story–just to see if she could–and found it rather addictive. She hasn’t stopped writing since.
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Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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8 thoughts on “Does Size Matter? Short Stories, Novellas and Novels. ~ Sunday Spotlight by Guest Jay Northcote

  1. Very interesting post. I tend to write long – 70k – 90k drafts. My first novel was 200k (it was published as a trilogy). I like to read long too & don’t tend to read novellas. I like to get to know the characters for longer. However I do enjoy a 60k novel. I suppose it varies depending on how the author’s written it & if I want to spend more time w the characters.

  2. My first book was a novel at 80K and the spin off will be the same. I’ve settled at writing around 50K for a series but also have a short story now at 15K. I read all sorts of lengths. In the past I would judge a book by its width but you don’t get that with ebooks. Now I tend to buy what appeals to me regardless of the length. I enjoy a quick read before bedtime short.

  3. I think it depends on the intention and delivery. If the intention is to create titillating scenes (speaking in the ‘romance/erotic romance genre with this comment) but the result is a full length novel without giving substantial depth to the characters or plot–it’s filled with fluff–then I’m left wanting. Stories like that would be, IMO, better off as a series of vignettes, or short stories. On the flip side, if the intention is to create within a short story, or even novella, a fully fleshed out HEA/HFN/satisfying end with well developed characters and plot, but you can tell the story would have been better suited as a longer piece… I’m again left wanting, feeling that the story was cut short before its time.

    So I guess my response is not the length of the story, but what the author intends and indeed does with the story that matters most to me as a reader.

  4. As a reader, I like all the various lengths of books. I love a good short story. I think it would be harder to write a short story or novella as the author is working to get the story to feel complete in fewer words. I have read some short stories that left me feeling like it was just part of a longer story and others that were very satisfying and as complete as if it had been a longer length novel. I agree with you about tackling a longer book when I have the time to really sit down and read. So does size matter? Maybe, sometimes. The way the story makes me feel when I read it matters more. Great post. Thanks for posting the guidelines. 🙂

  5. As a reader I am not picky about size. Sometimes I am in the mood for a nice little quick read and really enjoy it kind of like having a fulfilling snack in between meals. Other times I am in the mood for a nice long 5 course meal so I can really get to know my dinner companions and that is when I turn to the longer books where I know the author has the time to go into further character development and therefore I will end up further connecting to my friends. I do love at those time to totally lose myself in a good book. I can simply allow the author to carry me away into this special place she/he has created. To me that is why I love to read (& eat too!) 🙂

  6. I love longer books. I have found the trend in recent years to publish shorter books to be a negative one. Publishers seem to have a weird idea in their heads that books over 300 pages are too long whereas I will pounce on them happily.

    I will only read novellas by an autobuy author, and will almost never buy short stories.

  7. My first series was 90k+ (now unpublished), but lately I’ve been writing 50-60k (except for one book, which ended up in the 70k range). I think this started because my former publisher paid a higher royalty for 50k and above, so that was always my goal. Now that I’m self-published, I write exactly how long I think the book needs to be, and price accordingly.

  8. As a reader I like to vary my book reading lengths. I know I won’t be able to just read novels continuously, one after another. It’ll burn me out and I’ll probably get so frustrated from not moving through a particular fast enough. So by varying the lengths, it’s kind of a intermission comparable to a that of an play, opera or even comical relief in a movie.

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