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December 25th, 2006, 02:06 AM
Recently when my in-laws visited I recieved a box full of paperback books. My mother in law is a librarian, they had just updated the science fiction fantasy section, and she brought a box of books for me. (Before you think I'm rubbing it in, you might want to know that in that group I have at least three part 2s of a story, neither part 1 nor part 3 is anywhere in sight.)

The first book I read stated on the cover that it was the author's first novel. (Don't know if I should mention names--let me know what you think.) It was actually a string of short stories with the same main character, tied together with the obvious mechanism of a "job interview".

I enjoyed the stories, even the cute method of tying the stories together. But ... I don't think it was a novel. What's your opinion? If you spend your hard earned money on something called a novel and it's a set of short stories, are you disappointed? Would you rather the cover tell you what it is? Is there a shorter term for "a bunch of short stories about the same characters"? Do I think too much?


December 25th, 2006, 10:55 AM
There's the term "patchwork novel" (I think Jeff Vandermeer applied it to City of Saints and Madmen, and I've heard it applied to Ballard's Atrocity Exhibition).

Here's (http://www.powells.com/authors/crace.html) a comment of Jim Crace about his own... text The Devil's Larder:

Sometimes I call it a patchwork novel and sometimes I call it a sequence of stories. It's lighter and more playful than anything I've written before.

There is no unity of character and no unity of plot within it, but there is a unity of subject matter. It never takes its eye off the point where food and human beings meet.

It's all a matter of semantics, in my opinion. Personally, I don't buy books because they're novels. I buy them because they interest me (no matter the label).

What, do you think, makes a novel? Unity of character and plot, as the post above suggests? (I refuse to think of James Joyce's Dubliners as a patchwork novel, btw, although there's thematic unity and progression in the stories.)

Hereford Eye
December 25th, 2006, 12:47 PM
I believe that Asimov's Foundation series begn life as short stories in an sf magazine. Then, it was sliced and diced into a trilogy and that trilogy makes the all-time lists all the time.
I guess that it depends on if it wolks or not, doesn't it?

December 26th, 2006, 12:21 AM
What makes a novel? That's a good question.

(Have you ever noticed when someone says "that's a good question," it's because he doesn't have a good answer?)

My first reaction would be to say a novel encompasses a single story or event, no matter how convoluted that story gets. Whether that's a good definition, I'm not so sure.


"Patchwork" does describe what I'm thinking about, but fails to label the unity involved, whatever it may be.--Maybe the best thing to put on the cover of a book is "You must read this!"

December 29th, 2006, 10:36 PM
It's sometimes called an episodic novel, and yes, much of early sf came about that way. A novel is only a novel by dint of its length; how you structure it, is not part of the criteria. Interlinked short stories form a tale, the frame of which is decided by the author.

December 30th, 2006, 11:35 AM
I see Kat's beaten me to this one, but writers may disagree. I've always seen the term novel (as novella or short story) as a term of approximate length.

According to many writing Forums, the length of a novel should be between 6000 - 10000 words.

According to Orson Scott Card (http://www.hatrack.com/writingclass/lessons/2000-08-02-1.shtml), 7 500 is more typical (and in Fantasy often longer).

According to the Hugo Awards, a Novel is defined by the rules as any work over 40,000 words;

So it does seem to be a rather broad/nebulous concept.


December 30th, 2006, 12:31 PM
Hobbit, you dropped a zero. --really had me wondering for a moment.:rolleyes: (75 000 words) Thanks for the link, good info.

Later in the aritcle, OSC mentions that readers, and writers are not often satisfied with a story, even part of a series, if none of the plot lines are solved. I don't think this is required for a strict definition of a novel, but satisfied readers is a good goal, being a satisified writer might be more so.

I have a collection of short stories set in the same world, and I'm playing with the idea of stringing them together. It seems I would want to exploit some common themes found in them.


December 30th, 2006, 03:20 PM
For awhile now, the novel has been considered 40,000 words plus. But I've seen things shorter called novels, so it's flexible. Novellas are sometimes turned into short novels. And as we've seen, really long novels with multiple parts can be turned into multiple novels pretty easily. So is the Lord of the Rings episodic because it can be three books, or not because it can be one? Which is probably why they just stick to length for these things.

January 2nd, 2007, 09:48 AM
This is how it supposedly goes nowadays:

Flash fiction: Less than 2,000 words (1,000 by some definitions).
Short story: At least 2,000 words - less than 7,500 words.
Novelette: At least 7,500 words - less than 17,500 words.
Novella: At least 17,500 words - less than 60,000 words.
Novel: At least 60,000 words.
Epic: At least 200,000 words.