by Jodie Renner, editor and author
You start writing what you think is going to be a short story. Then it starts growing. Soon it’s in that fuzzy area between a short story and a novel. You don’t really want to spend the time and effort to turn it into a novel. What is it called now, and is there a market for these in-between fiction works? Thanks to e-publishing, the answer is yes! Although e-publishers typically don’t want to tackle the longest novel forms, they’re often open to anything from flash fiction or a “short short” through a “novelette” to a novel size of manuscript.
The following list of typical lengths of fictional works is adapted from “How Long Should Your Story Be?” an article by Lee Masterson about approximate guidelines for story lengths, which appears in much greater detail on the website Fiction Factor, The Online Magazine for Fiction Writers, at www.fictionfactor.com.
Micro-Fiction – up to 100 words
- “This very abbreviated story is often difficult to write, and even harder to write well, but the markets for micro fiction are becoming increasingly popular in recent times.”
Flash Fiction or Short Short – 100–1,000 words
- The length of story often found in glossy magazines. “Very popular, quick and easy to write, and easier to sell!”
Short Story – 1,000–7,500 words.
- The “regular” short story, usually found in periodicals or anthology collections. Contests usually cap it at about 2,500 words. Check their submission guidelines.
Novelette – 7,500–20,000 words
- Can be a difficult length to sell to a print publisher. It’s too long for most publishers to insert comfortably into a magazine, yet too short for a novel. Better for e-publishing.
Novella – 20,000–50,000 words
- A popular length for the e-publishing market.
Novel – 50,000 –110,000 words
- However, most print publishers seem to prefer a minimum word count for a novel of around 70,000 – 90,000 words, except for YA (young adult) fiction, which is typically (but not always) shorter. Due to budget constraints, publishers are increasingly hesitant to take on fiction over 110,000 words.
Epic or Super Novel – Over 110,000 words
- This category is mostly for established authors who already have a contract with a traditional publisher.
Here’s another general guideline I happened on online for fiction classifications by length. Notice the slight variation from the list above in the typical word length of the different categories.
Super Novel: 120,000+ words
Novel: 80,00-120,000 words
Young Adult Novel: 30,00-70,000 words
Novella: 15,000-30,000 words
Short Story: up to 15,000 words
Flash Fiction: up to 1,000 words
Micro Fiction: up to 300 words
As Lee Masterson cautions us, “Remember, these word- and page-counts are only estimated guides. Use your own common sense, and, where possible, check the guidelines of the publication you intend to submit your work to. Most publishers accepting shorter works will post their maximum preferred lengths, and novels are generally considered on the strength of the story itself, not on how many words you have squeezed into each chapter.”