The Difference Between Stories, Novelettes, Novellas, and Novels
When I first started writing professionally, there were a lot of basic questions in my mind, one of which was, What are the major differences between a short story, novelette, novella, and a novel?
Novellas and novelettes might not be very common, but we often see short stories and novels. Knowing the differences, however, is still important. Although they are all works of fiction, each type has its own purpose. In this article, I will try to put light on some of the major differences between flash fiction, short story, novelette, novella, and a novel.
Beginners will find this very helpful in their writing journey. Apart from some of the basic differences in terms of word count, you will also learn a few technical points that differentiate these works of fiction.
Flash Fiction: 53 – 1,000 words
Short Stories: 3,500 – 7,500
Novellettes: 7,500 – 17,000
Novellas: 17,000 – 40,000
Novels: 40,000 + words
What Is Flash Fiction?
53 – 1,000 Words
Flash fiction (also known as short, short stories, micro fiction, or postcard fiction) are stories that take pride in their extreme brevity: some works of flash fiction have only 53 words, while others have 1,000. These works used to be referred to as “short short stories” until around the turn of the century (the year 2000), when the term “flash fiction” became the norm.
What Is a Short Story?
3,500 – 7,500 Words
The most important difference between a short story, novelette, novella, and a novel is the word count. An average short story usually has at least 3,500 words and no more than 7,500. Traditionally, short stories were meant to be read in a single sitting. They are usually published individually in magazines and then collected and published in anthologies.
A short story is one of the most common forms of writing. It is often used to describe a single event, a single episode, or a tale of one particular character. A short story does not usually involve major twists and conflicts, and involvement of various sub-plots and multiple characters is not common. A short story is basically fictional prose, written in a narrative style. However, the narrative style may either be first person or third, or whichever the author chooses.
What Is a Novelette?
7,500 – 17,000 Words
A novelette is also a narrative fictional prose. Back in the day, the term “novelette” referred to a story that was romantic or sentimental in character. To be honest, in modern times, the term is rarely used, and novelettes are rarely published singly.
A novelette is longer than a short story, but shorter than a novella. The word count is usually between 7,500 words to 17,500 words.
What Is a Novella?
17,000 – 40,000 Words
Novellas were first introduced in the early Renaissance (1300s), but their genre did not become firmly established until the late 18th and early 19th century. A novella is longer than a novelette and is sometimes called a long short story or a short novel. Although in the past, novellas were commonly written and published, and some to great acclaim (A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess and The Metamorphosis by Kafka, for example), these days it is considered to be an awkward length and it may be more difficult to get a novella published.
It can involve multiple sub-plots, twists, and characters. Its length constraints mean you’ll find fewer conflicts in a novella than you will in a novel, but there will also be more nuance and complication than you’ll find in a short story. Novellas are more often focused on one character’s personal and emotional development rather than with large-scale issues. In the past, the novella was often written with a satirical, moral, or educational purpose in mind. Therefore, it usually depicts the tale or story of a single character, but as I mentioned, it can involve multiple characters. Unlike novels, novellas are usually not divided into chapters, and like short stories, they are often meant to be read in one sitting.
What Is a Novel?
The novel is one of the more common works of fiction that we encounter. A novel often involves multiple major characters, sub-plots, conflicts, points of view, and twists. Due to its considerable length, a novel is meant to be read over a period of days. The plot moves forward through many characters, actions, thoughts, time periods, and situations. The reader often feels that the story deviates and is affected by the involvement of different sub-stories and sub-plots, by the passage of time, or by the involvement of new important characters– this is considered the real beauty of a novel.
The word count of a novel is really debatable. This is because different genres have different requirements. However, a novel is usually no shorter than 40,000 words. For modern publication, editors often consider a novel one which is spread over 80,000 – 120,000 words. Romance novels, however, can be shorter than that. On the other hand, a fantasy, horror, and science fiction usually see works of greater lengths. The word count for fantasy novels often touch the 240,000 mark. Some famous books, like the Lord of the Rings series, are famous for containing so many words. The Harry Potter series has 1,084,170 words; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenixitself has 257,045 words.