Friday, April 22, 2011

N is for Novel

Ah...the great American novel.  It's what every writer aspires to produce...unless they're not American, then I suppose they hope to write the great "insert country here" novel.  Like many other budding writers, I spent the past November frantically writing for NaNoWriMo, with the dream of a 50k word novel that would be (quite obviously of course) the next number one best seller.

Needless to say that dream was dashed when my 50K+ word novel was accidentally lost (curse you computer virus!) and my back up misplaced (why are memory sticks so small?!?!?!)  So as I've been mourning my shot at fame, fortune, and movie deals, I've also been contemplating what exactly makes a novel.

Staring at my shelves full of books, I realized that if someone asked to borrow a novel, there are truly a select few that I would consider suggesting.  I decided perhaps my definition of a novel was skewed, until I realized that I don't really have a definition for a novel...I just kinda eyeball it.  So I went to the internet to search for the true meaning of what a novel is, because the internet never lies. Ever.

nov·el [nov-uhl] –noun  

1. a fictitious prose narrative of considerable length and complexity, portraying characters and usually presenting asequential organization of action and scenes. 

Upon  reading this I became aware of two things. 
  1. Thanks to all those years of schooling, I was correct; novel is indeed a noun. 
  2. I must have skipped that day in class when they discussed "prose".  The word conjured up images of Edgar Allen Poe, and I'm fairly certain he did not write a novel...unless he did indeed write a novel, in which case I am totally awesome for remembering that. 

prose [prohz]  –noun 

1. the ordinary form of spoken or written language, without metrical structure, as distinguished from poetry or verse. suppose anything is a novel then.  But I know this can't be true, so I dig around some more and discover that I am not the only one that does not know what a novel is.  A lot of people online seem to think a novel is any book that is over 200 pages and is fun to read.  Wow... if that's all it takes to make a novel, I have a few history books that fit the bill.  So I kept wading through opinions on what makes a novel until I found one that kinda made sense:

"All novels are books, but not all books are novels. Equally, all novels are fiction, but not all fiction is novels. Novels are the longest of the classes of fiction. The other two are 'short story' and novella. A short story is what is says - a short story. Usually published in a magazine, but may be part of a collection of short stories. A novella is harder to define. It's longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel. A long novella may be published as a slim book on its own, or it may get padded with one or more short stories."
Ah.  I think I'm beginning to understand it now.  Then I stumbled upon a nifty little piece that broke up books by word count.

So now that I have all this knowledge, the number of "novels" on my shelves should have increased in my mind...right?  And yet, there are some books that I just can't give that title to.  Look at romance novels. Sure, I own more of those than any other type of book, I even call them novels, but in my head they aren't.  In my head they're labeled as "trashy guilty pleasure books".  If I asked you for a novel and you handed me one of those I'd think you didn't quite understand my request.

So I've decided on my definition of a novel.  In my mind, most novels are hardback (they seem classier that way lol), they're long, have an elegant writing style, and have such a great plot that even the clues dropped that you think you would pick up on, you don't. Not until the authors big reveal.  A novel is fresh and intriguing and keeps you guessing until the final page.  That, to me, is what makes a novel a novel. 

So here's my favorite novel so far.  The Thirteenth Tale.  It's the one I would suggest if asked.  It meets all my criteria and fits all the other definitions too.  If that's not enough to tempt you, the cover art is pretty freakin awesome...and come on.  Who doesn't judge a book by its cover?  Even a novel?
The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel

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