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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What Is the Basic Word Count for Flash Fiction, Short Story, Novelette, Novella, Novel, Saga?

I've been working on my Short Story Collection #2 and, by some definitions, these three "short stories" are each long enough to warrant the novelette designation.

But it depends on which source you check. I went to my two mainstays, 16CMS and Web11, and neither provided me with word counts per category. And you'll find variations when searching the Internet or while checking submission instructions online.

If you are going the traditional publishing route, by all means go by prescribed guidelines for the line best suited for your work within that house. For instance, a quick search finds at least twenty-one imprints under the Simon & Schuster publishing umbrella.

However, if you are going the Indie route, then research the offerings out there and pick your own standard to go by. After reading several sites, I compiled what I thought was the best of the best with my gut as the official tiebreaker, when needed. Here's my working theory to date:

3–1,000 WC = Flash Fiction

~4 pp.
"He died alone" tells a story, brings forth emotions, has the reader asking questions; so must have ≥3WC to start a tale.
1,001–7,500 WC = Short Story
~4–30 pp.
7,501–20,000 WC = Novelette
~30–80 pp.
20,001–40,000 WC = Novella
~80–160 pp.
MG readers
40,001–60,000 WC = Novels, category
~160–240 pp.
Genres like romance, western, etc.
60,001–90,000 WC = Novels, singles
~240–360 pp.
YA, paranormal, fantasy/sci-fi, etc.
90,001–150,000 WC = Novels, mainstream
~360–600 pp.
Thriller/horror, mystery, crime fiction
150,001+ WC = Sagas
~600+ pp.
Michener's Hawaii, Rand's Atlas Shrugged, Mitchell's Gone with the Wind

As I mentioned above, this is my current working theory, subject to revisions as I refine it. But it works for me. And there are always exceptions, so we can agree upon that.

Oh, and I estimated page counts based on 250 words/page.

One thing to always remember when e-publishing anything other than a novel/saga, be sure to clearly mark same on your cover, in your online description, in your title even. Not all people check the page-length info given on amazon.com and other venues. So readers get understandably upset when purchasing what they think is a full-length novel and getting shortchanged with only fifty pages' worth. Better for them to purchase what they think is a midsize novel of three hundred pages and get one of five hundred pages instead.

16CMS = The Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition
Web11 = Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition
WC = word count
MG = middle grade
YA = young adult

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
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