When Size Matters



I remember writing in high school when our class was assigned to write a short story. Of course, everyone groaned to learn that it had to be at least a page long, printed. And that was double-spaced, of course. One classmate commented, “Of course Schmitz is gonna write at least ten pages and make us all look bad.” Guilty as charged. But size and length does beg the question, What defines a short story?

I’m often referring back to a list that I have regarding definitions of stories by word lengths.  We humans tend to judge things by comparison and so I’ll add some famous story word lengths, too, for you… just remember  word count is not a true measure of quality and more than weight is a measurement of physical beauty.

Completing Nanowrimo also sounded so impressive. I just wrote half the requirements in 2 weeks to complete One Star, my newest story that struck in a bolt of inspiration. It helps when you learn that the minimum word count of a Novel is probably less than you think.

Here are the story types based on word count
Novel: 40,000+
Novella: 17,500-40,000
Novelette: 7,500-17,500
Short Story: 1,000-7,500
Flash Fiction: a type of 500-1,000 word short story often done as contests (including 6 word stories, twitter stories, etc.)

My Short works typically fall in the Novelette category, however, I’ve written and published stories in each of these categories.

Many types of books expected word counts vary depending on the specific genre of the story. That said, it’s important to note that it’s virtually unheard of in our modern era to be traditionally published with a debut novel of over 150,000 words and PH.D. dissertations are typically limited to 100,000. Rein it in people.

I think back to that high school experience nowadays and think, that requirement was only like 250 words. That’s barely a rant on twitter by modern comparison. Here are some of your favorite modern and classic books by word length, starting with the largest English work for reference.

History of a Young Lady, Samuel Richardson, 985,000
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, 565,000
War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, 560,000
Battlefield Earth, L. Ron Hubbard, 420,000
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling, 77,000
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling, 191,000
Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins, 100,000
The Maze Runner, James Dashner, 101,000
Twilight, Stephanie Meyers, 119,000
A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin, 293,000
The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien, 177,000
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, 95,000
Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, 89,000
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card, 101,000
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis, 36,000
Old Yeller, Fred Gibson, 36,000
The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Beverly Cleary, 22,000

Hopefully this gives you some good reference points. Happy writing.

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