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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Short Story, Novelette, Novella, Novel by Paty Jager #writing

As Jacquie said in her post this month the length of a book is changing. When I started writing you could only sell a historical romance if it was 90,000 words or more. Now, I can sell any length I want as a self-published author.

But what do the readers prefer? That's what I'd like to know. I've heard many readers are moving toward the smaller word count because they have less time to read and like to come to a satisfying ending quicker.

Then you'll always have the reader who reads a story that is marked as a short story and complain it was too short... I think writers can never hit the happy space that will make all readers happy when it comes to length.

What boggles me is how to label my stories. Even when it says in the description it is a short story, there are comments about how short it was. Do the readers know the difference between a short story, novelette, novella, and a novel?  I'm pretty sure they all know what a novel is, but even the length of novels has changed.

Wikipedia says this:
For a short story-
  • A short story is a brief work of literature, usually written in narrative prose
  • Short stories have no set length. In terms of word count there is no official demarcation between an anecdote, a short story, and a novel. Rather, the form's parameters are given by the rhetorical and practical context in which a given story is produced and considered, so that what constitutes a short story may differ between genres, countries, eras, and commentators
 For a Novelette-
  • A novella, especially with trivial or sentimental themes
  • A narrative work of prose fiction shorter than a novella and longer than a short story
For a Novella-
  • A novella is a written, fictional, prose narrative normally longer than a short story but shorter than a novel.
For a Novel-
  • A novel is a long narrative, normally in prose, which describes fictional characters and events, usually in the form of a sequential story.

 Miriam Webster says this:
For a short story-
  • an invented prose narrative shorter than a novel usually dealing with a few characters and aiming at unity of effect and often concentrating on the creation of mood rather than plot
For a Novelette and Novella-
  • a story with a compact and pointed plot
  •  a work of fiction intermediate in length and complexity between a short story and a novel
For a novel-
  • an invented prose narrative that is usually long and complex and deals especially with human experience through a usually connected sequence of events
  • the literary genre consisting of novels
These don't really tell a writer or a reader anything about length. This is some information I found after googling the lengths: Short stories range anywhere from 1,500 to 30,000 words; Novellas run from 30,000 to 50,000; Novels range from 55,000 to 300,000 words, though there are few novels that are 300,000 words long any more. 

Another source I found had this information:
The shortest type of fiction is the short story, which ranges in length from a handful of pages to over thirty pages. The novella lies between the short story and the novel in terms of length and scope. And the longest work of fiction is a novel between 70,000 and 100,000 words. 

And according to "Writer's Digest," a novel can range from 55,000 to 300,000 words, a novella is 30,000 to 50,000 words and a short story is 1,500 to 30,000 words.

All the information I found is contradictory. I would have to say how a story is labeled is up to the publisher. If the publisher is a self-publisher then make certain in the works description it is clear if the story is a short story, novelette, novella, or a novel. That's the best you can do and hope the reader finds the ending satisfying.

I'm currently getting a Christmas short story ready to release and have been back and forth on whether it should be longer even though I feel the story is satisfying.

Readers, do you have a preference for length of a story?  Why do you like that length?
Writers, do you have a preference of the length of story you like to write?  Why?



  1. I like to read stories that are between 300 and 350 pages long. When I see a book that has 500 or more pages, I am reluctant to buy it, mainly because I could read two books in the same amount of time as that one.
    So far I've written (or co-written) two books. Bluebonnets for Elly is 199 pages; I.O.U. Sex is 390. I'm hoping my next one will be closer to 350 pages.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts and information, Sandra.

  2. Interesting information. I wrestle with these same questions myself. I would have no trouble writing a 300,000-word novel. But I have quite a lot of trouble writing a novella, which I'm doing now. So far, I'm at around 37,0000 words, but there is so much more I could say. I'm also working on another Dixie Cash book. In the past, those books have typically been around 70,000-80,000 words. I wonder if I'd be better off if I chose one length and stuck to it.

    1. HI Anna, I've always been on the short side, so being able to write whatever length fits a story is liberating to me. But then making sure the story has all the breaths and action it needs is a challenge. Good luck with your books.

  3. Good post. Took me forever to learn to write "short."

  4. Joan, I still don't feel like I do it successfully. But I keep trying. ;)


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