Will it be published? Probably not, novellas are often considered too short. Will it make you the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King? Hard to say, if you’re extremely lucky, then perhaps. Though you might as well start playing the lottery if that’s your goal. What a novella will do is probably give you a sense of accomplishment. And hey, you can still refer to it as a “book”, so what if it’s a small one?
A lot of writers bite off more than they can chew when we try to write our first novels. Those things, even at 80 thousand words are monsters. Think about that 5-thousand-word essay. Now multiply that by ten and that’s barely over half a book. Novellas on the other hand, fall into the 20 to 40 thousand range.
It is also much less of commitment – an average novel can take anywhere from a month to several for a first draft. You can be done with a first draft of a novella in three months tops. It’s easier to finish off 7 thousand words than it is 30.
The advantage of a novella over a short story or novelette (these rare specimens do exist) is that you get a lot space to play with, while not drowning. You can have a full, well-developed character arc and even some side plot. You get to write in more characters and relationships, as well as practice your exposition and world-building, if that’s your thing. A novella lets you explore the world you’ve established, planned out or want to visit, while reigning you in with its borders.
A novella also gives you some opportunities to experiment. Have a great idea for a character in an amusing setting but can’t quite make it a whole “book”? Write one of their adventures as a novella, it might fit!
A novella is also easier to be beta-read or critiqued. Your friends, although they love you, will probably hesitate to give you pages of feedback on your 120 thousand story. One that is a fourth of its size is much more manageable.
Oddly enough, in recent times they can be found in the fantasy genre which is most known for its door-stopper novels. Several classic novels would also fall into this category, or be very close, such as the Sherlock Holmes books or Hercule Poirot series. The Great Gatsby is barely over 50 thousand. Some genres have an increasing demand for novellas and many established authors are already writing them.
Maybe they will become more mainstream and it will make getting published ever so slightly more accessible? That’s just a thought, however, a nice one to have when you’re on the bus lookinga the rain on the windows. Put your hands on that keyboard and give a novella a try, you might be surprised at what you’ll learn from it.