Probably 99% of the population knows what a novel* is. It's a work of fiction. Usually 300-400 pages (80,000 to 100,000 words) long. It's got chapters. It's got characters and plots and sub-plots. And it can take hours and hours to read, even if you're a fast reader like me.
But you ask readers if they know what a novella or a novelette are, and they start scratching their heads (at least the readers I asked sure did!).
So what exactly is a novella and a novelette?
According to the New World Encyclopedia, the novella has been around since the 14th century, where it was devoloped in Italy, but didn't become popular until the mid 19th century. A novella is "a narrative work of prose fiction shorter in both length and breadth than a novel, but longer than a short story." Novellas can be any genre: literary, mystery, science fiction, romance, you name it. They're usually between 17,500 to 40,000 words (approximately 60 to 130 pages), as defined by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, or 20,000 to 30,000 words (approximately or 65 to 100 pages), as defined by the Romance Writers of America.
Some popular novellas (which you probably didn't even know were novellas!):
"The Body" (Stand By Me, 1986) by Stephen King
"Rita Hayworth & "The Shawshank Redemption" (The Shawshank Redemption, 1994) by Stephen King
"Apt Pupil" by Stephen King
"A River Runs Through It" by Thomas Maclean
"The Bicentennial Man" by Isaac Asimov
"Breakfast at Tiffany's" by Truman Capote
"Heart of Darkness" (Apocalypse Now, 1976) by Joseph Conrad
"Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck
"The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1941) by Robert Louis Stevenson,
"The War of the Worlds" by H.G. Wells
Today, outside the romance and science fiction/fantasy genres, few novellas are published. They're just too short to publish as a single book. Those that are published are usually grouped with one, two, or three other novellas, either by the same author or a group of authors in an anthology.
Okay, so that's easy, right? A novella is basically a short novel. So then what's a novelette?
While some people use novella and novelette interchangeably, historically, a novella and a novelette were two very different things. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America define the a novelette as a work of fiction "at least 7,500 words but less than 17,500 words" (approximately 25 to 60 pages in length). So longer than a short story, but not as long as a novella.
During the mid-20th century, novelettes were often published alongside short stories and serialized novels (novels published one chapter at a time) in general interest magazines. However, as short fiction fell out of favour, so did the novelette. Today, few general interest magazines carry fiction of any length.
So no surprise so few readers know what a novelette or a novella even are!
But in this modern age of ebooks, ereaders, smart phones, and personal electronic devices, both forms, the novella and the novelette, are seeing a rise in popularity once more. While novels still reign supreme, readers looking for something quick (but no less satisfying!) to read during their commute, over lunch break, during their kids' soccer practice or ballet class, or even before bed, are finding novellas and novelettes just the right length.
Rachel Elizabeth Cole is a novelist and short story writer whose work has appeared, among other places, in Cahoots, Literary Mama, Gator Springs Gazette, and Flashquake. More recently, her short stories are availble on www.amazon.com.
Even though she hates the rain, she lives just outside Vancouver, British Columbia, with her husband, their two sons, and one very spoiled house rabbit.
Watch for her chick-lit novelette, How to Cook a Turkey, available in early September.
The Perfect Ring: http://www.amazon.com/dp/
B0085322EGFallen Leaves:http://www.amazon.com/dp/ B008B0UZ1U/