Short or Long?
There you are, pen in hand, or fingers on the keyboard ready to write a story. What should I write? Flash fiction? Short story? Novella? A novel? What is the difference between these? How do I choose?
*Note: One thing I haven’t touched on is writing poetry. With good reason. Last time I wrote a poem was back in the early 80s. I don’t know beans about writing poetry so this is something I won’t cover. Writers World Poets Corner is the best places for this.
I’ll start off with a brief description of the above items, so you have an idea of what is what.
Micro Fiction — Up to 100 words. Very difficult to write, but an interesting exercise for you to try. Like all stories, this needs a beginning, middle, and end.
Flash Fiction — 100 to 1000 words. A bit easier to write, since you can go into more detail and dialogue.
Short Story — 1000 to 7500 words. You should be familiar with this form of writing form English class in school. Write a short story as an assignment on such and such theme.
Novelette — 7500 to 20,000 words. Something like this could be expanded into a novel.
Novella — 20,000 to 50,000 words.
Novel — 50,000 to 100,000. Accepted lengths in today’s publishing market. On average around 80,000 words.
Epics and Sequels — 100,000 plus.
What about word count for various genres?
Fantasy Genre — 80,000 and 150,000 words
Romance Genre — 80,000 and 100,000 words..
Historical Fiction Genre — 85,000 to 100,000 words.
Mystery Genre — Stand-alone mysteries 75,000 and 100,000 words. Cozy mysteries 50,000 to 60,000 words.
Suspense/Thriller Genre — 90,000 to 100,000 words.
Speculative Genre — 80,000 and 100,000 words.
Young Adult (YA) Genre — 40,000 and 75,000 words. This depends on the target age group
Western Genre — 45,000 to 75,000 words.
If you plan on submitting your completed and edited work to a publisher, make sure you check their website for the exact information on the word count they accept. If you are going the self-publishing route, you have a little more leeway. However, you should take into consideration how many self-published books are vying for readers’ attention. Being a writer — I also hope you are a reader — check out various eBooks that are out there to find out their word count for the genre you want to write in.
You can start out by writing short pieces before tackling something like a novel or an epic novel. Create a few collections of short stories in the genres you like. As a self-publisher this would give you a presence in the writing world while you work on a novel.
Write flash fiction and post it on your blog, will give people something to read and let them see what you can do. This is a way to start a following for when you publish your novel or collection of short stories.
If you are into writing fantasy and have created a wonderful world for your characters to live, write a series of short stories of the lesser known areas and cultures of that world. You can also write short stories for minor characters in your novel.
Perhaps you are into private investigator stories. You can write a series of shorts based on the PI’s cases. With the popularity of paranormal and horror fiction, PIs can have a variety of cases to solve. Don’t limit yourself, let your imagination soar.
Another thing to consider is Fan Fiction or FanFic as it is also known. These are written by fans based on a favorite movie or book character or setting and rarely published. They come with a disclaimer too. Usually these are read by other fans. Something like this would be a good exercise for you to do.
It’s entirely up to you what you want to write and how long you want to make that particular piece of work. For myself, I started out writing long pieces and now I’m learning to write short stories and flash fiction. You need to be more careful in your word choice and detail with shorter pieces, but that stands you in good stead when it comes to writing a novel. You learn to keep lengthy descriptions out of your work, allowing the reader to imagine for themselves.
May the words ever flow!