I have written a few novels, a couple Novella’s and a handful of short stories. It occurred to me that not everyone might know what that means.
There are five classification of Stories. (Technically four, but I think Flash fiction deserves its own classification.)
The Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story and Flash fiction.
So what is the difference?
Flash fiction is 1000 words or under. Flash fiction technically fall under the category of short story as they are often called short-short stories. They usually focus on one singular incident or event and have three characters or less. Too many are hard to keep track of in such a short time. These stories tend to skip or give a brief synopsis of the ‘beginning’ of the story and jump right to the middle. Because of the compact ‘one bite’ nature of Flash fiction, they are somewhat difficult to write well. Flash fiction do not commonly have chapters as they are written to be read in a single sitting.
A Short Story is Under 7,500 words. There is some debate on the actual number some say 1000-4000. The guidelines have varied over time. Short stories generally follow the classic story arc but tend to be less complicated than a novel and more complicated than Flash fiction. They focus on one main event, one plot and generally one setting. Short stories are difficult to market for profit on their own and are often found published or presented as collections to increase their marketability. Short stories most often do not have chapters. Instead they may have white space breaks as they are meant to be read in one sitting.
A novelette is 7,500 to 17,499 words. Novelette’s are similar to a Short story in nearly every way, but with more room to improve on characters, prose and exposition. The word count of a novelette is more popular for writers and often focused in competitions and awards. These are often marketed on their own or can be found in small collections. Like Short stories Novelettes do not typically have chapters and generally use white space breaks. (Not a rule)
A Novella is 17,500 to 39,999 words. Like the smaller versions of a short story and a Novelette, Novella’s don’t always have chapters. There is no rule to have chapters or not, but a book less than 40,000 words is considered a ‘single sitting’ book. Novellas are more complicated in prose, characters and exposition. They remain simple and generally focus on one plot, few characters and limited settings. A sub-plot or side story may occur however, it isn’t as common due to the restricted amount of words they would require. Novellas are found published on their own and in compilations.
A Novel is 40,000 words or more. Novel’s focus more on a larger story arc involving multiple complicated characters, a grand lesson or journey, sub plots and arc’s. Novels often focus on a more intimate experience with the characters and story. They are broken down to chapters and meant to be read in multiple sittings. (Though I’ll admit to reading more than a few in one sitting.)
Basically, all categories of Stories are a challenge to write and wonderful to read. Believing any category is better than the other is a farce. They each have their own challenges and depending on the writer, one may be easier to conquer than the other. I’ve been dabbling in the various categories, I can manage (Barely) flash fiction, short story (Sort of), novella (Not bad) and Novels I have no problem with. For some reason I can’t seem to hit a story in the Novelette word count. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I’m wordy and I do struggle to write short stories and flash fiction.
My advice about the story classifications.
It’s good to expand and gain writing experience/practice. I recommend trying to write all classifications. Who knows maybe you’ll find a passion for something new. There are all kinds of WordPress challenges to participate in. There are contests etc. for each classification have fun and see what’s out there.
Other posts about word counts
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