Recently I’ve been asked more than once the length of the various forms of fiction. Yawwwn. Stretch. Sigh. Okay, this is one of those “wrapped around the wheel” things that’s great for personal use if you don’t obsess over it. The answer is, it depends on whom you ask.
For example, although some major magazines (Asimov’s springs to mind) publish both novelettes and novellas, most definitions online consider those two terms interchangeable. But you asked me, so here’s my take in a handy-dandy put-it-on-your-metal-filing-cabinet-under-a-magnet list.
Pssst! Seriously, if you still have a filing cabinet, especially one of the old metal ones, there’s a new thing out: computers. Check into it. ‘Course, you can’t stick stuff to it with a magnet (don’t try; you’ll screw up your screen) but still. I’m just sayin’.
Note that every form on this list denotes a complete story, meaning by definition it has a setting, character(s), conflict(s) and resolution:
- 6 to 99 words — Flash Fiction (“For sale, baby shoes. Never worn.”)
- 100 to 1,999 — Short Short Story (Short Short)
- 2,000 to 6,999 — Short Story
- 7,000 to 9,999 — Long Short Story (or Novelette)
- 10,000 to 19,999 — Novella
- 20,000 to 39,999 — Short Novel
- 40,000 to 69,999 — Novel
- 70,000 + — Long Novel
Just in case you have it in mind to ask something like,
“Wull, what about the vignette there, moron? You left out the vignette. Whaddayou, stoopid or somethin’?”
“No, I ain’t stoopid. Maybe you’re stoopid an’ yer projectin’ all your stoopid on me. J’ever thinka that?”
Sorry, got carried away there. Actually, my omission of the vignette from the list was intentional. Also called a “slice of life,” the vignette typically is fiction told from a single POV, but it has no predetermined word range. It is defined by its lack of a resolution (and in some cases, its lack of a conflict that needs to be resolved). So there.
Again, these are just my definitions for my own use, submitted for your amusement. If I were publishing a magazine, probably these are the lengths I would use to determine which label to slap on which accepted submission. But I’m not.
Trust me, I’ll never go back into THAT particular brand of insanity. I have plenty to do just publishing my own stuff plus the works of Eric Stringer, Nick Porter, and Gervasio Arrancado.
Anyway, if your definitions are different, that’s fine. No need to correspond for the sake of argument. I really don’t care. 🙂 These are not things any writer should worry about before writing or during the process or even after the writing process for that matter. Just Write.
3 thoughts on “Length of Various Fiction Forms”
Just to cut argument off at the pass, SOME places call fiction up to 99 words “micro fiction” and consider flash fiction anything up to 999 words. Again, the definitions above are what I use.
Surprised by the 70,000 cut off for “long novels” but as you would say (I think) it really doesn’t matter, does it?
BTW- Writing into the dark (or a reasonable facsimile) is working again as I write my next novel. Thought you like know that I haven’t forgotten aboutit!
In the old days of traditional publishing when they had to worry about folios, the ideal novel was 80,000 words and that was the beginning of the “long novel.” My numbers above reflect our wonderful new world of publishing. Also consider that in many places around the globe (and back in the pulp magazine days in this country), anything over 20,000 words was considered a novel (not a “short” novel, but a novel). Very glad to hear you’re still WITD. Maybe someday some of the groups around will realize doing it the same way they learned from their English teacher Doesn’t Work (write + rewrite x 10 + polish x 2 or 3 = FAILURE). But who knows? 🙂
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