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The Difference Between Short Stories, Novelettes, Novellas, and Novels

What's the difference between these categories?

What's the difference between these categories?

The Difference Between Short Stories, Novelettes, Novellas, and Novels

When I began 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? Have you ever wondered about this difference?

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.

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 stories" until around the turn of the century (the year 2000) when the term "flash fiction" became the norm.

What's a short story?

What's a short story?

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 the 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's a novelette?

What's a novelette?

What Is a Novelette?

7,500 - 17,000 Words

A novelette is also 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's a novella?

What's a novella?

What Is a Novella?

17,000 - 40,000 Words

Novellas were first introduced in the early Renaissance (the 1300s), but their genre did not become firmly established until the late 18th and early 19th centuries. 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 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 on 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.

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What's a novel?

What's a novel?

What Is a Novel?

40,000+ Words

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 that is spread over 80,000 – 120,000 words. Romance novels, however, can be shorter than that. On the other hand, fantasy, horror, and science fiction usually see works of greater lengths. The word count for fantasy novels often touches 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 Phoenix itself has 257,045 words.

© 2012 Syed Hunbbel Meer


Zindan on July 12, 2020:

Excellent Information. Thanks

Patricia Pixie from Mexico City on June 15, 2020:

As a literature lover, I found your article quite informative and helpful. Thanks so much for sharing!

Renata on May 01, 2020:

Thank you, it was very helpful.

Adeoluwa Balogun Adba on January 12, 2020:

This difference is very educative to all students,teachers and lovers of Literature!

Rachel on December 16, 2019:

Thanks for the tip. This is really helpful.

Jane on December 12, 2019:

where did you get your definitions for this blog

Robert Sacchi on August 17, 2019:

Do you know the word count classifications for nonfiction?

Chris House on August 17, 2019:

You cite A Clockwork Orange as an example of a novella, yet it has 67,280 words which, by the definitions in this article, makes it a novel. Just fyi.

Robert Sacchi on May 26, 2019:

Phil Slattery - Have the word count been creeping upward?

Laura on May 26, 2019:

What is a nouvelle , maybe a novelette?

Phil Slattery from Aztec, New Mexico on April 29, 2019:

I have researched this topic for some time, and this is one of the better synopses that I have seen. The word count is about right, though it tends to vary somewhat from writer to writer. I hear that now the minimum word counts tends to be around 80,000, though you find 50,000 listed in some places.

Yangden on April 17, 2019:

I enjoyed reading all comments

Robert Sacchi on April 14, 2019:

Congratulations Jon Rose.

Jon Rose on April 13, 2019:

Man, I thought my story was a long novella since all the novels I read have 200+ pages. I only have 155 pages but 75k words for my story, so I guess I can say I've written my first novel at age 19.

Robert Sacchi on December 01, 2018:

Thank you very much for explaining the differences. I notice there is a 2,500 word gap between flash fiction and short stories. Is there any reason for that?

Henry on September 24, 2018:

Thanks very much

Euphorian on July 20, 2018:

Thanks for the information! It really helped me, since i was pretty confused with everything. This helps me with my own writing, too.

D, Abdallah Dia on July 01, 2018:

the short stories is more simple than others you can understand easily

Maevyn Paige on April 19, 2018:

I didn't realize I'd already surpassed all of these. I'm sitting at 51,000 words, 254 pages and I just past the climax of the story... what have I gotten myself into...

Shekh Ayyaj on March 27, 2018:

T y very much it is really helpful bcoz i know difference between novel,novella,and novelette but didn't know about flash its really helpful...

Zo on February 07, 2018:

Ok, thanks, Ajawesome0919. Thanks for your help.

Now I am currently at 47000 words and 113 computer pages.

(BTW, I'm also a teen.)

Ajawesome0919 on February 07, 2018:

Well Zo, you can always copy-paste into a words document(if its online, which i would recommend) and check the word count. Because it doesn't REALLY matter if you have a lot of pages, its mainly word based. So my recommendation would be to check the word count, and if its over 40,000 words then it passes into a novel. Though you ARE supposed to write about 300 words per page, so if you have say, 40,000 words and 300 words per page (do the math) you would have about 133 pages.

ajawesome0919 on February 07, 2018:

Well, I am currently writing a series(I'm a teen), it seems like Novelette's are really looked down on, but its what I want to write... would people not read it? would a publisher not publish it? It is Fantasy so it will be around 15,000 words. So I'm just wondering if a publisher will publish it, but from my recent work, most of my chapters are around 600-1,600 words, when i read a article that said you should write 300 words and 16 chapters, so maybe i will beat my goal, also GO NaNoWriMo!!!!!!!!!!!

Zo on February 02, 2018:

Can anyone anwser my question. It is very urgent.

Zo on January 27, 2018:

I have a question.

How many computer pages is considered to be a regular novel?

Because I am at 98 computer pages in my story and I want to know what is the correct length for my "book" to be a novel.

Marie on January 26, 2018:

In today's world we do everything in a hurry, because we want to do 'everything that interests us'.

We also do a lot of reading in small chunks on the small screen, so there is not much time left to devote to reading for pleasure.

The short story seems to me to be the ideal length to fit into my time rationing!

CV on January 25, 2018:

Good article!

Zo on January 23, 2018:

People who said that it is really helpful, I have to agree,

I am writing a story that currently is about 40,000 words long . . . I'm still working on it . . . it is sadly considered a novella. My goal is for it to be a novel. (Hopefully)

Liz on January 04, 2018:

This is really helpful! I only knew of novellas and novels and got confused when I saw the term novelette, but this cleared everything up :)

Skye on December 02, 2017:

Thank you for this! I am working on a piece right now that is just over 13,000 words. I used to think this would be a considered a novella but it’s actually (based on your info) a novelette

Waseem Bhat on November 20, 2017:

Thank you!

It's really helpful,I get to know about various things.

Ewete Titilayo on October 13, 2017:

Thanks for the insight . Iam a Nigerian . I have written a prose work of about 23,000 words. It is very interesting ! I may still extend the lenght .

Mahacharya on September 12, 2017:

Can some one please tell me what is a Cine-Novella means

anna on September 07, 2017:

Ruth Kamasungua will be teaching writing and did not know the difference between short story, novelette, novella and the novel. lol

Ruth Kamasungua on July 27, 2017:

Thanks! Find your article helpful because I will be teaching creative writing this semester and needed some insight and explanations on the difference between short story, novelette, novella and the novel. ... I have also written a number of short stories that are ready to be published and I need to know which category each one of them fits into. Keep it up! Great hub.

ramjan ali on July 17, 2017:

Different between novel and novella.

ayy on July 11, 2017:

thank you so much. Now i am understand

Mateus de Melo on June 10, 2017:

Too much emphasis on length. A short story is a style, more than anything else, how a story is told, how it reads, like a punchline, or a tale, or 'the moment before the climax, then the bang'.

it remains the most difficult genre to write.

So don't confuse a story that is short, with a short story.

Catie Gorman on January 22, 2017:

This was a great help! It really gets right to the point which helps me a lot. It couldn't find the scale but I'd rate this page a ten! Thanks!

Zoe_Nightwing on November 23, 2016:

Thank you so much for the help, I really need it! I have to write an essay over the differences between short stories, novellas, and novels. thank for the help, again!!! :)

Shaloo Walia from India on September 07, 2015:

thanks for this informative hub...frankly, i knew only about short stories and novels..was unfamiliar with the other two terms!

HiMyNameIsDoesntMatter on August 18, 2015:

It's helpful.

BeatsMe on May 26, 2015:

Very interesting information especially for those who are looking forward to become creative writers.

TheHoleStory from Parsons, West Virginia on May 26, 2015:

I never knew this before. This is really good information. I guess I write Novellas, because mine are just a little over 30,000 words.

Essie from Southern California on April 22, 2015:

Thumbs Up. Good, helpful information!

iheanetu chinonso mary on February 16, 2015:

cool... very helpful write up.

Ethan Digby-New on January 29, 2015:

I always enjoy reading articles about writing itself. Nice job with this one!

Russell Hawkins from Southeast United States on December 20, 2014:

I enjoyed this. To be honest, I can't remember the last time I read a novelette. I just looked up "Animal Farm," which is the shortest "book" I can remember having read, and it's definitely at the novella mark.

narmeen malik on November 21, 2014:

thanks a lot

it is really helpful

Tania S Lopez from Fayettevile, NC on September 17, 2014:

This article is a great resource for beginners as to one of the 1st questions is usually "how many words do I need?". Thank you :-)

Eric Calderwood from USA on September 02, 2014:

I didn't know that a novel could start at as few as 40,000 words. Thanks for the clear and well articulated article.

Hamza on August 21, 2014:

I just finished reading Animal Farm, and it was an amazing novel.

Tabarak on August 02, 2014:

Excellent. Easily described.

Donna on July 25, 2014:

Thanks for clearing up the difference. Really useful to have.

An e-book doesn't have to be a guide. It's just a format of book, such as hardback, paper back, and electronic book. The term e-book doesn't refer to length, style, or content.

Larry Sells from Decorah, IA on July 24, 2014:

Thanks I guess I write novellas and flash fiction. Thanks for the information. I love the way you break down the groups. it was helpful.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on May 09, 2014:

Very good analysis. I know that the terminology varies, but I would put the modern short story at more like 1800-7500 words. We also have the recent prevalence of what is sometimes termed the short-short, prose between about 300-1800 words. Very good read!

Funom Theophilus Makama from Europe on February 23, 2014:

This is beyond awesome and fantastic put together.. What a piece you have here and trust me, you just said it all. You want a suggestion? Try to get this book "The Soul Talkers" by Dr. Funom Makama and trust me, you will never regret reading it. It keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

Great hub here and thanks so much for the share.

Mark from Moundsville,WV on November 05, 2013:

Awesome hub. I learned a wealth of information that will help me in the future as I pursue my writing dreams. Thanks


YoungMistake on July 13, 2013:

This is helpful! Thank you! :)

Richard Parr from Australia on June 17, 2013:

At last I know the difference.

Gloria on April 24, 2013:

thanks a lot for the clear explanation given.

nitha Tuhalauruw on April 14, 2013:

I'm a student of English Department,

and my lecture of prose class give us some task about what is novel, novelette and novella and i can found it in this..

well thanks yaa....

princess ada on March 13, 2013:

It Great

Zion Jain on March 05, 2013:

What a wonderful explanation!

Autumn on February 11, 2013:

Thank you for this!! I am a highschool student and my English teacher asked me to write a report on the differences between novels and short stories and this was one of the most helpful resources!

Galaxy Harvey from United Kingdom on October 28, 2012:

Very interesting hub. I myself find it very difficult to write anything under 60,000 words, so even when I intend to write a short story they tend to turn into novels. I just get carried away! My first two published novels started out as very short stories and just grew and grew.

kadiesutherland from Oregon on September 14, 2012:

Thank you for providing the distinctions between the terms. The word count makes quite a difference! An excellent read.

Deltachord from United States on June 19, 2012:

Good article. It is hard to say which type I like the most...a good story in any of the forms is fun to read.

Joseph A K Turner from West Yorkshire on June 07, 2012:

The key is, you aren't writing a novel you are just writing a few thousand words a day! Trust me I have drafted three books

ThoughtSandwiches from Reno, Nevada on June 06, 2012:


Thanks for explaining this to me. I had thought I'd been putting together short stories but many of them are in the 8-9000 word range...I appear to be rocking novelettes! Also, I managed to put together one novella (33,000). Next stop...a novel. Yikes, that's a lot of words!


Nicole Quaste from Philadelphia, PA on June 06, 2012:

I think it is very important for people to recognize the difference between these forms of literature. As a senior English major at college, I appreciate when people can classify these accurately. You made these very easy to distinguish. Great hub.

Syed Hunbbel Meer (author) from Karachi, Pakistan. on June 05, 2012:

Thank you, everyone, for stopping by and honouring me with your valuable comments.

@Nell Rose: The above-mentioned four types usually refer to fictional and/or non-fictional work. I believe that an eBook is usually an informational guide about something. Therefore, it will still be termed as an eBook :)

Nell Rose from England on June 05, 2012:

Hi, just wrote an ebook and wondered what to call it! lol! so it's a novelette? thanks!

Sojourner McConnell from Winchester Kentucky on June 05, 2012:

Great information. Thanks for such an informational hub. Voted up and interesting.

raciniwa from Talisay City, Cebu on June 05, 2012:

interesting and informative hub...

Daisy Mariposa from Orange County (Southern California) on June 05, 2012:


Thanks for explaining the differences in such an easy-to-understand manner.

wynnestudios from Phoenix, AZ on May 29, 2012:

The way I was writing today, my article may have almost turned into a short story! Yikes! Sometimes the words just flow but like yesterday, I struggled. For what ever reason the words were blocked.

Joseph A K Turner from West Yorkshire on April 12, 2012:

It's a toughy, I mean i have written two books, both are under the 80,000 word mark, but they are exceptional reads (or so I am told). each book is about 75K. the thing is I don't want to extend it, because what happens is you end up with 80,000 of trash rather than 75,000 of tight writing. Thank you for your insight

James W. Nelson from eastern North Dakota on March 25, 2012:

Wow! What an honor to appear in your hub, Hunbbel, thank you so much.

James W. Nelson

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