Not too many people know what a novelette is. They get the gist of it pretty easy, but it’s not a word that’s thrown around a lot. Unless you’ve spent some serious time going through the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s guidelines for the Nebula Awards though, chances are you don’t know a novel from a novella from a novelette.
The only difference is length, and there is some debate and artistic wiggle room, I tend to think a novelette is longer than a short story (10,000+) a novella is anything longer than a novella (17,000+) and a novel is, as NaNoWriMo declares it, essentially any work of fiction cobbled together at or over 50,000.
There are some very prestigious organizations that will quotes you slightly different numbers, but if you wanted official word counts you would have gone to Wikipedia.
People don’t talk much about novelettes and novellas though. A novella is a charming length for a book, but novelettes are kind of the Frankenstein of book lengths. Is it a short story or is it a book? If you bind it, it’s so tiny it hardly seems right to call it a book, and yet it’s too massive to call it a short story. I think most authors almost subconsciously avoid this book length. It’s awkward. Either condense your idea or expand it into a more commonplace length.
So, what made me decide to write The Young House as a novelette?
Nothing. I tried to write a short story and screwed up.
(Let me see if I can put that more poetically for you.)
Initially, I wanted it to be a short story, but as soon as I began writing, details flooded in, characters bubbled over with dialogue, and the entire plot blossomed right under my fingers. The whole thing takes place over the course of three hours, so I didn’t have a lot of in-story time, but I filled it up with as much story as I could. Short story or not, I’m very happy with how it turned out.