Aspiring writers should understand the difference between a novella, novelette, and short story. Each form has a specific structure and varies by word count. Some stories are best when they are brief; others require a bigger storyline that can still be finished in one sitting. The idea behind a novella may require more layers and plotting to do it justice.
No Standard for Differentiating Each Classification by Word Count
There is no universal standard for the different classifications. However, standards established by organizations such as the Science Fiction Writers of America provide some guidance. For the SFWA, a short story is up to 7,500 words, a novelette is more than 7,500 and up to 17,500 words, a novella is more than 17,500 and up to 40,000 words, and a novel is 40,000 words or more. Page counts vary, as formatting influences page counts.
Brevity Does Not Diminish Quality
Making a living out of selling shorter works is possible: with the advent of e-books, writers are frequently able to sell works of shorter lengths. Busy readers find it easier to read shorter works of prose. Some writers have found that selling stories individually is better than selling collections because it is easier for readers to choose what interests them.
About Short Stories
Well-written short stories are not inferior to longer works of prose. Every word counts in a short story, and for some writers that is one of the challenges of writing in this shorter form.
In the era of e-readers, short stories are becoming more popular, and their writers are being recognized with major literature awards, including the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Man Booker International Prize.
Novelettes Allow More Details than Short Stories
Novelettes help authors improve their craft. The writing style, plotting, and character development are displayed in this short form of fiction that is more structured than a short story. A novelette helps authors boost their readership by piquing the readers’ interest in a more compact form than lengthier works.
Novellas or Short Novels
Many beloved and influential books have been novellas. Famous novellas include Animal Farm, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Of Mice and Men, and the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. For publishers, shorter debut novels provide a lesser time commitment that encourages readers to get to know a new author. Longer works are subsequently less of a financial risk for publishers after an author has developed some recognition in the market.
Every story finds its ideal length when it is neither underdeveloped nor diluted. A piece of fiction should be as long as it takes to tell the whole story. Writers should not try to limit their story’s content and should allow the story to determine the word count.
However, size matters in publication. Writers should research the market and find out the specific parameters of publications, publishing houses, editors, and agents regarding word counts. Then they should submit the manuscript that shares the same structural parameters.
Children’s literature is not a poorer form of fiction. Writing for children connects authors to the most enthusiastic readers and impacts their lives. A 20-year study has revealed that books at home increase the potential level of education of children later in life. If you are considering writing for children, you will be rewarded by your choice.
Children Read More Books
As revealed at the Nielsen Summit in 2015, 11 of the 20 top-selling books in the country between January 2014 and September 2015 were children’s books. Children’s literature is booming internationally as well. Kids are voracious readers. They read more books than adults. The publishing industry’s dominant growth sector in 2014 was the children and young adult category, according to the Association of American Publishers.
Reading Improves Children’s Brains
It is rewarding to know that your work has a positive effect on your readers. A study of 17,000 people in England, Scotland, and Wales revealed that reading for pleasure boosts intellectual progress. Those who read books frequently at age 10 and more than once a week by age 16 earned better test results. The impact of reading was found to be almost four times greater than having a parent with a post-secondary education.
Moving Fan Mail
Young fans’ sincerity and their sharing of how meaningful books have been for them makes this genre a special one for writers of children’s literature. Children’s book authors love and treasure their fan mail! To give you an idea, the chroniclebooks.com blog on February 18, 2015 presented a sweet collection of fan letters received by authors for Letter Writing Month.
Making a Living from Children’s Books
Advances vary for children’s book writers. According to the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, the advance for a standard project ranges between $8,000 and $12,000. However, as this amount is shared with the illustrator, the writer may end up receiving between $4,000 and $6,000.
Royalties are paid after the book sales earn back the advance amount. Royalties vary but typically range between three and a half and six percent for a picture book, and otherwise between seven and 10 percent.
The payment rates are different if a writer is employed to write a book. In this case, payment is made either per word or per hour. Per-word rates range between $1 and $5, with $3 per word being the average, according to Writer’s Market. Hourly rates range between $50 and $70 per hour, with the average around $63 per hour. In addition to writing, speaking fees for children’s book writers range between $1,000 and $2,500 per day.
Books that sell well also sell in bulk because schools and libraries are ready customers. It is hard work to write something that engages children and holds their attention, but the hard work of writing pays dividends.
It is not easy to become a published author of children’s books. Children’s book authors must work on their craft and be savvy about getting their work published—otherwise, the rejection pile awaits their hard work.
These recommendations will make it easier to become a published book writer
Become Familiar with Children’s Book Writing
Reading published children’s books is an education. Your work needs to appeal to children. Learn how to communicate with your audience by reading children’s literature.
A more formal education is also an option. Take a class, or get a degree in writing for children, if you have the time and money. Vermont College offers a graduate degree in writing for children that only requires 11 days on campus per semester. Check it out along with other nearby options.
Learn about Publishing
Finding out how and where to submit your manuscripts is an important part of the process. Check out the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market and Writer’s & Illustrator’s Guide to Children’s Book Publishers and Agents. These reference resources contain useful information about publishing.
Read other books about publishing such as the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books. Other publishing resources include the Literary Marketplace, Publishers Weekly, and Writer’s Market.
Consider Joining an Organization
Join the Children’s Book Council and/or the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. SCBWI’s website is: www.scbwi.org. You may also be able to find a SCBWI advisor in your state and/or a writers’ group. By joining the national organization, you automatically become a member of its state affiliate. SCBWI holds workshops and conferences.
Write What You Want
Do not try to follow a trend. Be authentic. Your authenticity will shine when you write what you want and know, not what you think will sell.
Get Feedback about Your Writing/Manuscript
Feedback can improve your writing. Get feedback through a writers’ group, workshop, or other resource such as the Highlights Foundation which helps authors and illustrators of children’s literature hone their craft.
Get Professional Assistance
Professional assistance is helpful when a writer deals with publishers. SCBWI has a list of agents. If you cannot afford a lawyer, join the Writers Union. It offers a contract review service.
Adhere to Publishers’ Guidelines
Learn how to write query letters. Query letters are your marketing pitch. After you have identified potential publishers, follow their submission guidelines. Only contact editors if the submission guidelines permit.
Use the Feedback from Editors
Personal rejection letters from editors are an educational resource. You will learn about their preferences and how to improve your work from this feedback. Keep a record, so you have this information for available reference.
Do not get discouraged by rejection letters. Getting published is not easy, and all published writers get rejection letters. You can realize your dream with persistent commitment.
Professional writers of all stripes will agree that writing is both easy and hard. For novelists, the challenge exceeds composing well-written content. Agents reject flawed work. It is better to create a less mistake-riddled work given the high rate of rejection by agents.
Novice novelists make a number of common mistakes. Weed out these weaknesses while drafting the novel. Keep in mind the following common mistakes made by inexperienced writers.
1. An Undistinguished Manuscript
To get out of the slush pile, the novel needs to have a concept, an angle, or a pitch that is outstanding. Think big. Develop an aspect of the novel that makes it fresh, even if you are writing for a genre in which readers expect to see certain elements in their books. If your manuscript is good, but not good enough, do not be surprised by a rejection letter.
2. Extreme or Inefficient Language or Cliché-Riddled Writing
Strong language is useful, when used with discretion. Overuse is off-putting. Make every sentence economical; make your words count. Excessive verbiage is dead weight that hampers the reader you want to impress. Descriptive language or content that is too familiar is a cliché. Keep that in mind, and you will see that agents and editors will appreciate your efforts.
3. Absent or Bland Descriptions
Readers enjoy being transported into a different world. Provide a context and setting that will engage readers.
4. Pretty Prose, Lack of Clarity, or a Literary Writing Fail
Showy language overwhelms content because the disruptive power of pretty prose impedes the flow of the narrative. Optimally, prose clearly and economically conveys meaning. Be aware that sloppy prose may signal sloppy thinking. If you aspire to write literary fiction, competence is insufficient. Literary fiction must be well written.
5. Pointless Detail and/or Distracting Research
Avoid unnecessary details to keep the reader interested. Even if you have done extensive research about the background setting of your fiction, do not smother the narrative with facts. This also applies to information about location and scenery. You are writing fiction, not a travelogue.
6. Plots, Character, and Conflict Weaknesses
Is the plot discernible? Your manuscript should not be a sequence of events affecting your characters or have bland, non-relatable characters. Add depth to your characters with insights into their inner lives or background stories. The backstory provides more information about the character. It can even just hint at the inner motivations of the character.
7. Dialogue and Pacing Weaknesses
Believable dialogue can be challenging for first-time novelists. Read each character’s dialogue to catch inconsistencies. Stick to the same points of view in a scene. Handle the transition from one character to the next carefully in a scene. Uneven pacing makes the narrative disjointed and could turn off readers.
Writing a novel is a major undertaking. The next challenge is to get past the slush pile. Avoid common mistakes to create an outstanding first novel that launches your writing career.