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Differences Between a Short Story, Novelette, Novella, & a Novel

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.

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.

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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 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 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)