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

Updated on June 3, 2016

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.

The words "novel," "novelette," and "novella" come from the Italian word "novella," feminine of "novello," which means "new."


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.


What do you like to read the most?

See results

© 2012 Syed Hunbbel Meer


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    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      3 weeks ago

      Phil Slattery - Have the word count been creeping upward?

    • profile image


      3 weeks ago

      What is a nouvelle , maybe a novelette?

    • PhilSlattery201 profile image

      Phil Slattery 

      6 weeks ago from Aztec, New Mexico

      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.

    • profile image


      8 weeks ago

      I enjoyed reading all comments

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 months ago

      Congratulations Jon Rose.

    • profile image

      Jon Rose 

      2 months ago

      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 profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      6 months ago

      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?

    • profile image


      8 months ago

      Thanks very much

    • profile image


      11 months ago

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

    • profile image

      D, Abdallah Dia 

      11 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Maevyn Paige 

      14 months ago

      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...

    • profile image

      Shekh Ayyaj 

      14 months ago

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

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      Ok, thanks, Ajawesome0919. Thanks for your help.

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

      (BTW, I'm also a teen.)

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      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.

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      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!!!!!!!!!!!

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      Can anyone anwser my question. It is very urgent.

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      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.

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      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!

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      Good article!

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      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)

    • profile image


      17 months ago

      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 :)

    • profile image


      18 months ago

      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

    • profile image

      Waseem Bhat 

      19 months ago

      Thank you!

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

    • profile image

      Ewete Titilayo 

      20 months ago

      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 .

    • profile image


      21 months ago

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

    • profile image


      21 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Ruth Kamasungua 

      22 months ago

      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.

    • profile image

      ramjan ali 

      23 months ago

      Different between novel and novella.

    • profile image


      23 months ago

      thank you so much. Now i am understand

    • profile image

      Mateus de Melo 

      2 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Catie Gorman 

      2 years ago

      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!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      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!!! :)

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 

      3 years ago from India

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

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      It's helpful.

    • BeatsMe profile image


      4 years ago

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

    • TheHoleStory profile image


      4 years ago from Parsons, West Virginia

      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.

    • EsJam profile image


      4 years ago from Southern California

      Thumbs Up. Good, helpful information!

    • profile image

      iheanetu chinonso mary 

      4 years ago

      cool... very helpful write up.

    • profile image

      Ethan Digby-New 

      4 years ago

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

    • Russell Hawkins profile image

      Russell Hawkins 

      4 years ago from Southeast United States

      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.

    • profile image

      narmeen malik 

      4 years ago

      thanks a lot

      it is really helpful

    • TSLOPEZ profile image

      Tania S Lopez 

      4 years ago from Fayettevile, NC

      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 profile image

      Eric Calderwood 

      4 years ago from USA

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

    • profile image


      4 years ago

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

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Excellent. Easily described.

    • wyrdwyrm profile image


      4 years ago

      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.

    • deathwalk60 profile image

      Larry Sells 

      4 years ago from Decorah, IA

      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 profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma

      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!

    • married2medicine profile image

      Funom Theophilus Makama 

      5 years ago from Europe

      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.

    • markdarmafall profile image


      5 years ago from Moundsville,WV

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


    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This is helpful! Thank you! :)

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 

      6 years ago from Australia

      At last I know the difference.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      thanks a lot for the clear explanation given.

    • profile image

      nitha Tuhalauruw 

      6 years ago

      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....

    • profile image

      princess ada 

      6 years ago

      It Great

    • profile image

      Zion Jain 

      6 years ago

      What a wonderful explanation!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      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 59 profile image

      Galaxy Harvey 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      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 profile image


      6 years ago from Oregon

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

    • Deltachord profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      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.

    • A K Turner profile image

      Joseph A K Turner 

      7 years ago from West Yorkshire

      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 profile image


      7 years ago from Reno, Nevada


      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!


    • uNicQue profile image

      Nicole Quaste 

      7 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      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.

    • Hunbbel Meer profile imageAUTHOR

      Syed Hunbbel Meer 

      7 years ago from Karachi, Pakistan.

      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 profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

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

    • vicki goodwin profile image

      Sojourner McConnell 

      7 years ago from Winchester Kentucky

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

    • raciniwa profile image


      7 years ago from Naga City, Cebu

      interesting and informative hub...

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 

      7 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)


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

    • wynnestudios profile image


      7 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      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.

    • A K Turner profile image

      Joseph A K Turner 

      7 years ago from West Yorkshire

      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

    • SubRon7 profile image

      James W. Nelson 

      7 years ago from eastern North Dakota

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

      James W. Nelson


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