What makes a novel, anyway?


Well, yesterday, when I told my husband about my participation in the NaNoWriMo 2003, he said a few things that sounded a little negative. When he heard that the goal was 50,000 words, he said, “That’s not a novel, that’s a novella!

He also asked how the word count would be done. Today, I went to the General FAQ’s, and read this:

Why 50,000 words? Isn’t that more of a novella?

Our experiences over the past three years show that 50,000 is a difficult but doable goal, even for people with full-time jobs. The length makes it a short novel. We don’t use the word “novella” because it doesn’t seem to impress people the way “novel” does.

I like that!

When I told him my topic, which is largely autobiographical, he said, “Well, that’s not fiction – that’s an autobiography!” So, I will quote again from the website:

How do you define “novel”? Does fan fiction count? What if I want to write interconnected short stories rather than a novel? What if my story is largely autobiographical, or is based on a real person? Can I still write it in November?

We define a novel as “a lengthy work of fiction.” Beyond that, we let you decide whether what you’re writing falls under the heading of “novel.” In short: If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel, too.

I may work on changing the names of my characters, but I am basically going to set it up on the academic year. Actually, a little bit before. I already have a tentative title for my first chapter. It will be called “Escape Velocity.” Escape velocity, according to Julia Cameron, is basically The Test. For instance, you are about to marry Mr. Right, and Mr. Poison hears about it and calls you up. “The whole trick is to evade the Test. We all draw to us the one test that’s our total nemesis.”

When I made the decision to study abroad, all sorts of things happened. I broke up with my long-time boyfriend, but was still sort of seeing him, but I was also dating a guy from work. Just before I left, the guy I really liked from work finally showed interest. The truth is that I spent a lot of my first glorious year in France wishing I was at home.

The same is true with this project here. I don’t really know if I’m going to do it. Two weeks is a long time away, and I often move on to other ideas after two weeks! Also, I am not sure of whom to tell: I told my Mom, and she has been very supportive and enthusiastic about the idea. As Julia Cameron also says, when talking about escape velocity, “In order to achieve escape velocity, we must learn to keep our own counsel, to move silently among doubters, to voice our plans only among our allies, and to name our allies accurately.”

Good advice! If you don’t know about The Artist’s Way and Julia Cameron, read up! Also influential in my recent interest is Stephen King. His book, On Writing, was very helpful!


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