What is a Novel? (More Wet Water, Please)

"What is a novel?" This question is often asked of those in the creative writing professions. And it's easy to understand how readers  get confused by all the terminology surrounding their books--fiction, novels, non-fiction, memoir, genre-fiction, etc.  

A close cousin to the question "What is a novel?" is the statement, "I'm writing a fiction novel."

Read on to learn why this is redundant, the equivalent of drinking a glass of wet water.

A novel is a book-length work of fiction depicting one or more characters involved in the active pursuit of some external objective.

Novels help to shape our ability to empathize and analyze, and they provide access to thoughts and experiences we might never encounter otherwise. They broaden our sense of the world and of humanity.

So What is a Novel?

A novel provides the illusion of reality, with both the characters and the fictional world portrayed so that readers may temporarily suspend their disbelief.

Even with the knowledge that there are no known Martians, or that the story is in reality only letters on a page, readers may identify with the characters and situation.

While they are reading, the world of the novel becomes real.

  • A novel is a book, but a book is not always a novel. 
  • A novel is more than 50,000 words in length. 
  • novel is fiction. Use the two words separately, never together. You may write fiction, and you may write a novel, but unless you're also in the habit of asking for a glass of wet water, do not say that you're writing a "fiction novel." It will mark you as inexperienced. 
  • Novels are subdivided into types : literary or genre: historical, detective, romance, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, crime, western, and horror, amongst others.
  • The novel form came into use in the early 1700s
  • Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe is often cited as the "first novel." 

To understand more about the various types of novels, you may want to read this article by the Encyclopedia Britannica

  1. Home
  2. >
  3. Creative Writing Help
  4. >
  5. What is a Novel?

Search this site: