The Different Types of Stories, by Length

Let’s say you finally finished your story. Everything has been written and rewritten and your beta-readers say it’s ready to be published. There’s just one question left: what kind of story is it?

In general, there are four different kinds of stories based on length: short story, novelette, novella, and novel. The first kind of story, the short story, is typically no more than 7500 words, although this is far from a universally agreed upon number; in this blog post, I’m using the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America definitions. A novelette is a story between 7,500 words to 17,500 words. If you have never heard of a novelette, you’re not alone. Novelettes are a very rare breed, with most people either classifying them as short stories or as novellas. Novellas, while rather rare compared to short stories and novels, are still a somewhat common form of literature. Some of the most influential works of the modern era, like Animal Farm and A Clockwork Orange, are novellas. Novellas are harder to sell than short stories or novels since novellas are too big for magazines or literary journals and too small to be sold by themselves. A novella clocks in at between 17,500 and 40,000 words, at least by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. In reality, however, the distinction can be more blurry, with books far shorter than 40,000 words being classified as novels instead of novellas (The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is a notable example). One key difference between novellas and novels is pacing and conflict. Generally, novellas lack subplots like novels do and have fewer conflicts. Finally, there are novels, which are anything over 40,000 words.

Knowing the kind of story may seem unimportant, but what kind of story you wrote can be very important when it comes to publishing and pricing. Before you publish, be sure to take a look at what kind of story you wrote, where you should publish the story, and how much you want to price it.

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