Word Length – When Is A Novel, A Novel?


I often see writers posting about the length of different categories of works, asking what word length makes a story “short”, how many words make a novel? Are there any types of marketable story between them? A while ago, to find out, I consulted that all-knowing trove of knowledge – the internet. In looking for an actual carved-in-stone definitive rule, I was to be a little disappointed.

Why? Because numerous sources in the publishing and writing industry didn’t quite agree on the exact figures or categories – most of the ones I found seemed to either contradict each other or miss each other by varying tallies of words per category, sometimes even in the thousands of words! (Incidentally, I listed* some of the sources I found at the bottom of this article.) As a matter of fact, according to IAPWE (the International Association for Professional Writers & Editors) “There is no universal standard for the different classifications.”

IAPWE goes on to say “However, standards established by organizations such as the Science Fiction Writers of America provide some guidance. For the SFWA, a short story is up to 7,500 words, a novelette is more than 7,500 and up to 17,500 words, a novella is more than 17,500 and up to 40,000 words, and a novel is 40,000 words or more.”

In this respect it seems that SFWA appears to set the tone for other genres as well – but again, other sources differ on word count significantly – apparently without referencing genre as a guideline.

More interestingly, I also discovered a few new categories wrt word count – and some subcategories I’d never even heard of along the way!

According to Writing World, a novel goes up to 110,000 word – and anything over that is regarded as an “Epic”!

Oh well, variety is the spice of life, or so the old saying goes, right?

Below then, fellow writers – a table of word-count categories I compiled for your fiction writing projects!

  • Flash Fiction: 1 to 1,500 words
    • Micro-Flash: 1 to 500 words
      • 6 Word Story: 6 words
      • a Dribble/Minisaga: 6 to 50 words
      • a Drabble: 6 to 100 words
    • Sudden Fiction: 501 to 1,500 words
  • Short Story: 1,501 to 7,500 words
  • Novelette: 7,501 to 17,000 words
  • Novella: 17,001 to 40,000 words
  • Novel: 40,001 to 109,999 words
  • Epic/Super Novel: 110,000 words (and more).

Anything more than that, according to my wife Wendy, and you probably have a Waffle. 😉

Best of luck with your writing endeavors!

*References: 


If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2020.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. matthewjrichardson
    Jan 21, 2020 @ 14:31:57

    Excellent summary! Although I’ve always worked to the rule (no idea where this was provenaced) that flash was max 1000 words. Never heard of ‘sudden fiction’ before so that’s my take-home for the day!

    Like

    Reply

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