While most writers know a novel has at least 40,000 words, there can be some confusion when it comes to works with fewer words. In this post, I will try to shed some light on the differences between short stories, novelettes, and novellas.
THE SHORT STORY
First, let’s talk about short stories. A short story has 3,500 – 7,500 words. They are usually published in magazines or as anthologies. Check out Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning: Short Fiction and Disturbances or Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man.
Next, we have the novelette. These works contain 7,500 – 17,500 words. An example would be Martian Child by David Gerrold. This 1994 novelette was later turned into a full-length film starring John Cusack.
Third, is the novella. It has 17,500 – 39,999 words. Here’s a list of novellas I’m sure you’ve heard of: Animal Farm (George Orwell), Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck), True Grit (Charles Portis), and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Truman Capote). The novella category is on the rise again thanks to authors like Stephen King (The Bazaar of Bad Dreams) and James Patterson (with his 150-page BookShots series).
I hope this clears up some of the confusion and helps you decide which one of these categories you want to tackle. If this is your first attempt at writing, the thought of conjuring a 40,000-word story can be daunting. Maybe start by turning your idea into a short story and then expand on it until you have a novelette or novella. From there, you can either publish it as is or expand even further into a full-length novel.
Which type of story is your current work in progress? A novelette? Novella? Novel? Let us know in the comments section below.
-Red aka The Word Rebel
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