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Short story, novella, or novel – which should you write?

Short story, novella, or novel – which should you write?

When it comes to literary fiction, there are several ways one can tell a story. The most popular forms of fiction are the short story, novella, and novel. What is the difference between them and what is best for your story?


Short story

A short story is between 1,500 words and 7,500 words long,  or about 3- 30 typed pages long.  There are no hard definitions, but an individual publication may have their own definition.


Given its short length, short stories are often simple plots who follow one or two characters or situations. Short stories usually explore one theme or idea rather than sprawling worlds. Famous short stories include The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.


Pros to short stories:

-Deep exploration into single topic

-Easy to distribute


Cons to short stories:

-Must have collection to publish in book form


A novella is a short novel. The word is borrowed from Italian for “short story.” Longer than a short story but shorter than a novel, novellas are typically from 15,000 to 40,000 words in length. 


With more real estate, a story can be more complex. Famous novellas include Animal Farm by George Orwell, Of Mice & Men by John Steinbeck, and The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. 


Pros to novellas:

-Middle ground between short and long

-Allows for experimentation


Cons to novellas:

-Can be too avant garde


A novel is the most typical fiction publication. A novel is generally between 70,000 to 120,000 words in length. Such a length allows for more varied themes, characters, and multiple plot points than a novella, and much more than a short story. 


Pros to novels:

-More depth to plot

-Space for worldbuilding


Cons to novels: 

-Longer novels are less marketable than shorter ones

-More expensive to publish, more expensive to buy


Novels are the most common avenue for fiction. Plan out your story in advance to see what length it could possibly be.


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