(Using the image from the Ender's Game audio book since this cover is the one I originally read the novel with.)
I just today saw the movie Ender’s Game. Few know that Ender’s Game started out as a novelette (very fun fact: which my agent, Ben Bova of the Barbara Bova Literary Agency, originally purchased from Orson Scott Card in the 1970s. Ben edited Analogmagazine from 1972 – 1978.) The novelette Ender’sGame first appeared in the August 1977 edition of Analog Science Fiction and Fact.
The novel (longer length) was first published in 1985, with an updated version released in 1991.
I’ll have to talk about the movie in another post (short point: see it.) But one really strong sense I had from the movie, having read both the novelette and the novel of Ender’s Game, is that it adhered closely to the action present in the novelette. Much of what was added to make the novel was not part of the movie (e.g., the subplots related to Peter and Valentine back on earth.)
Could it be that short novels (however you call them – novelettes, novellas, blue blobs of ink on paper) offer some advantages to full length novels? And some advantages over short stories? Particularly when adapting to movies comes in? Evidence: I am Legend, the Will Smith vehicle from the 1954 novella of about 25,000 words.
Most books are 250 or more pages. Most screenplays are in the 120 page range. Roughly half a book (yes, yes, formatting peculiarities make for some differences in actual length, but this rough guess of a screenplay being about half as much content as a book holds in general.)
Length estimates for short story/non-novel distinctions usually vary quite a lot, but I tend to use the designations Wikipedia lists. Good enough for me. Most recognize a break in the 17,000/18,000 word range, and a smaller one around 7 or 8 thousand.
|Novel||over 40,000 words|
|Novella||17,500 to 40,000 words|
|Novelette||7,500 to 17,500 words|
|Short story||under 7,500 words|
An additional point of evidence around novellas and other short novels/long short stories is the fact that independent publishing has removed conventional rules around story length. We writers are able to write to the length that stories take us to tell them. We don’t have to write longer because that’s more “marketable.” Who cares how long (or short) a story is?
So all this to say – what are you waiting for? Go forth and write shorter-than-novel length…somethings! There’s clearly a market for them both within the current professional fiction marketplace, as well as inside Hollywood.