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I've just finished the first draft of my first novella, and as I'm going through for my second revision, I'm wondering whether or not I should lengthen it to a novel. If my work is good enough to publish, I feel like constricting it to a novella will really limit my options for publishing.

Right now the whole work is 41,000 words, which is long for a novella, but maybe about 20,000 words from being a short novel. What do you think is the best option? Should I try and make it longer to increase my chances of publishing?

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Instead of focusing on whether you should lengthen the story, try to work out whether that will happen naturally as a result of whatever improvements your redraft mandates. For example:

  • Are there characters or plot points that, if you're being honest, aren't nearly developed enough in the first draft?
  • Is there a structural or format change that, although it would make the story longer, is worth doing for some much more important reason?
  • Would a reader come away thinking the first draft is rushed?

If so, make sure you fix these problems during your revision and then see what word count you have when you're done. You might get a novel "accidentally". If on the other hand the story's needs don't mandate such an expansion, it's usually a bad idea to deliberately expand it with needless words.

If when you're done the story is novella length but you've decided it really should be a novel (e.g. for publishability), you could embed the existing story within another called a framing device. However, even if this creates enough new words to turn the work into a sufficiently long novel, it needs to be done well. For example, the relation between the two "layers" of the story might help you make some new points... or it might not. Only you can make that assessment.

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I upvote JG; but provide my own take.

No, you shouldn't lengthen the story you have. IMO puffing up a story makes it less likely to sell. If you don't have enough, consider incorporating a prequel or sequel to the story you have. How did the characters become who they are? What happens to them after your story? (If they aren't dead.)

Can you intertwine their story with a contrasting story? I think you do have a problem with length, but the answer should not be stretching what you have but building more. It is the same amount of work either way to add "enough", but (IMO) more enjoyable to create something new, and you won't be impacting the pacing or other artistic elements of your current story. Adding stuff can make it drag, make it boring, or make readers question why it is in there: If it wasn't necessary to the plot or character in your original, what makes it necessary now?

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