7 Jan 2011


Hey, have you ever started something, got it going well and BANG! You have another idea?

That happened to me just before Christmas and I thought that there are two ways of dealing with this. I could either make a note of it for a rainy day, along with a thousand others, or I could put my current writing project (of 60,000 words) on hold and pursue the idea.

I chose the latter, hey it was Christmas. I planned for the idea to be a short story all the way, whatever a short story is? I read a few versions of a definition on the internet the other day and there are many claiming to define what constitutes a short story. By the way fell free to comment and correct me if you know the real definitive posture on this; I’d be really interested. Anyway here goes: From what I gather in the USA it can up to 10,000 words, in the UK 5, 000 words or in Australia 3,500 words. Confusing isn’t it. Well what the hell I don’t know what territory I’m in now because I’m approaching 11,000 so where does that leave me?

Well a search on answers.yahoo.com from someone called ‘Tyler’s mate’ suggested the following:

50-1,000 words - cameo

1,000-10,000 words - short story

10,000-40,000 words – novella (SO THAT PUTS ME HERE, RIGHT)

40,000-200,000 - novel

200,000-700,000 – epic

And then I came across this on AskVille By Amazon.com:

Here are the answers to your question according to author Lee Masterson:

Lee Masterson is a freelance writer from South Australia, and offers on-line tips for the business of writing, how to get published, and other questions to do with writing. She also writes science fiction novels.

Short Story ~ 1,000 - 7,500 words
The ’regular’ short story, usually found in periodicals or anthology collections. Most ’genre’ zines will feature works at this length.

Novellette ~ 7,500 - 20,000 words (Ah, SO I HAVE ONE OF THESE!) 
Often a novellette-length work is difficult to sell to a publisher. It is considered too long for most publishers to insert comfortably into a magazine, yet too short for a novel. Generally, authors will piece together three or four novellette-length works into a compilation novel.

Novella ~ 20,000 - 50,000 words
Although most print publishers will balk at printing a novel this short, this is almost perfect for the electronic publishing market length. The online audience doesn’t always have the time or the patience to sit through a 100,000 word novel. Alternatively, this is an acceptable length for a short work of non-fiction.

Novel ~ 50,000 -110,000
Most print publishers prefer a minimum word count of around 70,000 words for a first novel, and some even hesitate for any work shorter than 80,000. Yet any piece of fiction climbing over the 110,000 word mark also tends to give editors some pause. They need to be sure they can produce a product that won’t over-extend their budget, but still be enticing enough to readers to be saleable. Imagine paying good money for a book less than a quarter-inch thick?

Epics and Sequels ~ Over 110,000 words
If your story extends too far over the 110,000 mark, perhaps consider where you could either condense the story to only include relevant details, or lengthen it to span out into a sequel, or perhaps even a trilogy. (Unless, of course, you’re Stephen King - then it doesn’t matter what length your manuscript is – a publisher is a little more lenient with an established author who has a well-established readership)

Remember, these word 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.

Copyright 2002 Lee Masterson

Lee Masterson is a full-time freelance writer from South Australia. She is the editor-in-chief of Fiction Factor (http://www.fictionfactor.com) - an online magazine for writers, offering articles on the craft and business of writing, tips on getting published, free ebook downloads, author interviews, paying market listings, and much more! She is also the managing editor of the AuthorsDen newsletter. In what little spare time she has, Lee also writes science fiction novels.

Sources: http://www.writetoinspire.com/article1120.html

So I have either a Novelette or a Novella? Anyhow I won’t worry too much about the word count for now. I just really enjoyed taking the detour. Now don’t get me wrong here the main project was going fine but the detour was a relaxing activity, a holiday and now it’s almost done save for the revisions. I am supremely satisfied with it. I’m so satisfied with it that I’m going to create my first script from it. I know screenwriting is a different animal and I’m up for that challenge so if anyone has any words of wisdom out there to help along the way I’d appreciate them.

Well that just leaves me to wish you all a very productive and successful 2011.




  1. Thanks for quoting my original article! Keep in mind those word counts were written back in 2002 and pertain to print publishing. These days, the 'rules' have changed slightly, thanks to the advent of digital publishing.

    You might just find that some e-publishers will consider 20,000-25,000 to be a short ebook length and acceptable as a fiction ebook in its own right.

    You might also notice that individual publishers will have varying requirements for story length. So some magazines could still consider 11,000 to be a bit long, but still okay to publish.

    The key is to check out individual guidelines before you submit. Good luck :)

  2. Lee, Thank you for your response. It is much appreciated. I take on board your comments regarding the current market and will continue researching.

    Thank you for stopping by.