Should a Novelette/Novella Be a Full Story in and of Itself?

I already know the answer to this, but a few days ago when I reviewed a book and then saw some reviews on another book that I hadn’t read, it surprised me that some people think it’s okay to have a novelette or novella that is not a full and complete story. 

The one book I did read was complete, as far as I was concerned.  There was an initial conflict, tension build up, and resolution, and I could read all of this without having read any of the other books in the series by that particular author.  Other reviewers didn’t agree with me and thought the characters fell flat, to which supporters of the book jumped the comment bandwagon and told the reviewers that they had to read the whole series to fully appreciate the novella.  Now, I gave that book a two star review, but it wasn’t because it was incomplete.  It was for other reasons, so I’m not necessarily sticking up for the book.  I’m just saying the argument that the book was incomplete wasn’t true.

Then I read reviews on another book that’s supposed to take place after a novel.  Based on the detailed reviews of that book, it sounds like this author attached a chapter to the end of her previous novel, and the chapter didn’t have a sufficient beginning, middle, or ending that was independent of the novel.

I think the purpose of a short story, novelette, and a novella are to give readers a complete story.  A story doesn’t have to be long to be complete.  What I’ve noticed is that people (myself included) will buy the shorter stories from other authors first when they’re trying to decide if they like that particular author’s style or not. 

When all of my stuff was free, the highest downloads were the novellas.  I think the beauty of shorter works is that they don’t take much time to read.  So when someone is looking for a new author and have many to choose from, they check out one of the shorter works first. 

I am now putting a price tag on my books, and I’m asking $0.99 for the shorter works I’m charging for if it’s in the 10,000 to 25,000 word range, which is where my shorter works tend to be.  They still sell better, but I think that’s because you can price shorter works lower without feeling like you’re being ripped off.  (At least, right now I don’t feel I’m being ripped off at $0.99.  I know other authors who’ll disagree with me, but I price my books at what I would like to pay as a reader, and that is what I want to pay for that length of book, unless it’s an author I already like a like; then I’ll happily pay more.)

Anyway, that all being said, I think even though it’s not a full-length novel, it should still have the components of a full-length novel: beginning, middle, and end.  I shouldn’t have to read another book in order to understand what is happening in the shorter story.  The story should be able to stand alone as its own entity.  Otherwise, how are you going to convince someone new to your work that you got what it takes to pull off a full-length novel if you can’t even get the shorter one right?  I think an author not making the shorter work complete is lazy. 

Whatever the conflict, it should be fully resolved so the reader is satisfied.  I’m not saying the other novellas or novels in the series can’t enhance the overall world that this shorter work takes place in, but the reader should read something that comes off as a solitary scene from a full-length book.  You know what I’m saying? 

No one wants to go to the movies and come in at the middle of it and then leave before it’s finished.  They want the whole thing.  And if you have children you’re taking with you, watching a full-length movie might be darn near impossible.  😛  I know because I have four children ages 4-8 and the younger ones won’t let me sit through an entire movie at home.  I refuse to take them to the movies because of this.  I’d just end up frustrated, just as I would if I read a book that felt incomplete.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.
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4 Responses to Should a Novelette/Novella Be a Full Story in and of Itself?

  1. Sara says:

    What about abridged books? I read a free abridged book online. As it turned out, to this author, abridged meant that she cut off the ending. To find out how the book ended, you had to buy the full version. In the comments was the line, “it said up front it was abridged!”
    To me abridged means that it has been shortened, removing extensive description and action that may not forward the story. It’s like “The Good parts” of “The Princess Bride” that doesn’t have all the intense political stuff. Or the 50 page version of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe that I read to my six year old.
    In my opinion that author used a cheap trick to sell books and I refused to buy anything from her because of it.

    • That’s the first time I ever heard of an author doing that one. Wow. That’s tacky, in my opinion. If she wanted to leave out the ending, she should have put “sample” or “preview” instead of making it sound like it was the whole book. I agree with you. Abridged does mean taking out the extra scenes that don’t enhance the story, but you still leave in the necessary parts of the story, including the ending.

      Wow. I thought I’d heard of everything, but this is a new one. I wouldn’t read anything else by this author either.

  2. Yeah, it should be able to be a story in and of itself, the same as a book in a series can stand alone (you may not get everything, but it has a beginning, middle and end). and as for the one Sara mentioned all I can say is :-O

    • Yeah, I never heard of an abridged version without an ending. That still makes me laugh.

      I would think common sense would say it should be a complete story, but some authors don’t want to do the work it takes. I understand an author wanting to be paid for their work. That’s their right. But if they offer something free that is more of a preview, then they should be honest about it.

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