What Is a Novel?

REBLOGGING Alexander’s interesting post about just what IS a novel. What do you think a novel is? A collection of words and chapters that tell a tale? Or a look into someone else’s very life?

Notes from An Alien

The question that forms the title of this post may seem simple to answer; yet, is it?

Image Courtesy of Julia Freeman-Woolpert ~ http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/juliaf-55850

I can imagine a few answers from certain folks:


“A thick book with a story in it.”

“A continuous narrative of at least 50,000 words.”

“What a dumb question—everybody knows what a novel is.”


The only problem is that many novelists would disagree with those answers; and, many other answers to the question.

Ursula K. Le Guin, in her book, Words Are My Matter, said this:

“Readers, I think, are often led astray by the widespread belief that a novel springs from a single originating ‘idea’, and then are kept astray by the critical practice of discussing fiction as completely accessible to intellect, a rational presentation of ideas by means of an essentially ornamental narrative.”

The “ornamental narrative” of that quote…

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8 thoughts on “What Is a Novel?

  1. We’re taught word count for short stories/novellas/novels, and we’re taught construction techniques and definitions for things like premise and theme. No one ever really says what exactly a novel is, though. Just how to make one.

    I guess to me, a novel is at least 50,000 words, is a made-up story, has a character arc (positive or negative) and a point to the plot. (No reason to show a journey if there’s nothing gained at the end.) I suppose everything else is just cheese. (People say gravy, icing, or cherries on top, but seriously, isn’t everything better with cheese?)

    What about you, Jess? You didn’t leave your opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it very much is a journey and sadly some I’ve read don’t have a point to the plot! It definitely helps though. I’m a bit more fluid in my definition of a novel re structure and word count; I consider The Gunslinger to be an entire novel and it’s soooo tiny (probably should be called a novella). But the journey of that particular book is travelled and the point met so it feels like a whole novel. Ugh, sorry Staci. I’m rambling tonight! Brain is fried from a day at work.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t think it should matter. Story is story. Either it’s good or it’s not. Even though I feel I get more value for the dollar (and more emotional investment for my time) when I read a novel or series (rather than a novella or short story), I’d rather read a phenomenal novella than a so-so epic saga. Given your passion for The Gunslinger, I have no doubt you’ve got one heck of a story there, regardless of length.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Don’t worry about the word count. Just write your amazing story. The rest will sort itself out. (Unless you go with a publisher who requires a specific word count. But that’s a different post…)

        Liked by 1 person

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