how long is a short story?

Last Updated on January 20, 2023 by Neil Chase

How Long is a Short Story? [Word Count Guide for 2023]

Short stories come in all shapes and sizes. Some are only a few pages long, while others are closer to novella length.

But what is the perfect length for a short story?

That answer can vary depending on who you ask!

This article will explore the different types of short stories and what the word count of each should be. We’ll also give you tips on writing a short story that packs a punch!

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Introduction – How Long Is A Short Story?

The average length of a short story can be tricky to determine, as there is no single definitive answer. It all depends on who you ask and the story’s purpose!

Some readers may call a twenty-page narrative too long, while others may consider that to be just right. Whether you’re writing for yourself, your friends, or even a publisher, it’s essential to understand that stories come in all different sizes and shapes—short ones included!

The best way to figure out how long your story should be is by balancing brevity with impactful character development and an interesting plotline.

Let’s take a closer look at some popular metrics for pinpointing the average word count for a short story!

Definition of a Short Story

How Long is a Short Story

A short story is a fiction work that can typically be read in one sitting. They are usually about a single moment or event and often deal with a few characters and settings.

Short stories often focus on a particular theme or topic, such as love, relationships, coming-of-age, loneliness, or overcoming adversity.

A hallmark of the format is brevity – usually much shorter than traditional novels – so authors must pack powerful emotions and vivid characters into relatively few words.

A short story is a fiction work that can typically be read in one sitting. They are usually about a single moment or event and often deal with a few characters and settings.

Shorter stories often focus on a particular theme or topic, such as love, relationships, coming-of-age, loneliness, or overcoming adversity.

A hallmark of the format is brevity – usually much shorter than traditional novels – so authors must pack powerful emotions and vivid characters into relatively few words.

While many books might have a handful of chapters that may not directly relate to each other, every detail in an average short story serves the same purpose: advancing the plot and exploring the theme.

As you become more familiar with this genre, you will understand why it remains an essential part of literature today.

Short stories were popularized by famous authors such as Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Dickens as a form of engaging writing accessible to readers of all types.

Reasons to Write Short Stories

Writing short stories can be incredibly rewarding. You get to develop a plot and characters with only a few thousand words, so it’s an efficient use of your time.

Short stories also force you to hone your writing skills since you need to pick the perfect words and structure the plot to captivate and surprise the reader quickly.

Short stories are also great if you want to practice writing in different voices because there’s more room for experimentation than with a longer work.

It’s a great format to hone your craft, either as a new writer or an established pro. It allows you to try new things and stretch your abilities in a way that doesn’t require much time.

Finally, if you’re an aspiring author, writing short stories increases your chances of getting noticed – it’s much easier for editors, agents, and other industry insiders to recognize someone who has multiple pieces published than someone who has only written one long novel or nonfiction book.

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Why is Word Count for Short Stories Important?

Short story writing dictates that you keep the number of words you use in mind.

Often the length of a story may indicate its genre. For example, an action-thriller tends to be a shorter page count than an epic fantasy. In the same respect, a short story can indicate similar traits.

A short story can typically range from 1,500-7,500 words. Anything longer shouldn’t be classified as a short story; often, these pieces are novellas or novels.

Word counts vary depending on the genre and magazine or publication, but staying within guidelines will ensure that editors consider your work more seriously.

Word limits force short story writers to tighten their prose and highlight their most concise and powerful ideas, leaving out anything unnecessary. It showcases a mastery of language, which is something all readers appreciate and editors respect.

Knowing your market and sticking to the appropriate word count for that medium ensures that you take your short stories seriously. Before you press send, make sure your story fits the given constraints perfectly!

Word Count Guidelines

Flash fiction (up to 1,000 words)

Writing tight and succinctly is an art form, but it becomes incredibly challenging when you start dealing with short lengths – such as flash fiction, which typically runs up to 1,000 words.

While a thousand words may not seem like much, successfully executing an exciting flash fiction story in just a few words isn’t simple. It requires creative constraint, discipline, and above all else, it demands that you focus solely on the essential elements of your narrative.

Some even challenge themselves to write as short a story as possible – for example, a six-word story is a popular challenge among many writers. In general, anything below 100 words is termed “micro fiction.”

Short stories (1,000 – 7,500 words)

Writing a successful short story takes more than just being a great wordsmith! Following the recommended word count guidelines is one of the most critical aspects of crafting a compelling piece. While there are no hard and fast rules, word count can be important for most writers.

Generally speaking, a good length to aim for would be from 1,000 to 7,500 words – this range hits the sweet spot for grabbing readers’ attention and ensures that your message isn’t lost in too much detail. It is also the range for most literary magazines calling for writer submissions. Keep it concise, and let your fantastic writing take center stage!

Novelettes (7,500 – 10,000 words)

Writing to length can be a difficult achievement when crafting a story. Understanding the basics of word count guidelines for a particular type of work is one way to make it easier.

For instance, your target should be 7,500-10,000 words when writing novelettes. Keep an eye on your page and word count as you write, so you can make content adjustments before submitting your manuscript.

Novella (10,000 – 40,000 words)

Writing a novella is a great way to be creative and challenge yourself artistically.

Word count guidelines can provide structure and focus for your work, helping you craft a compelling story arc and create a cohesive narrative.

When writing a novella, the recommended word count is usually between 10,000-40,000 words, giving you quite a bit of freedom within the constraints.

This length also establishes entry points into other genres like short stories, novels, or full-blown works of fiction. With this range in mind, you can experiment with different characters, plots, and pacing approaches to maximize your creativity and add richness to your work.

Novel (50,000+ words)

While there is some leeway between a short novel and a long novella (the grey area between 40,000 and 50,000 words), in the end, it’s up to the author to decide which format better suits the work.

That said, a novel is typically considered as such if the word count is over 50,000 words. There is no upper limit to the length of a novel, with some spanning many hundreds of pages. However, always remember your chosen genre and the audience expectations and convention norms therein.

how to write short stories

Writing Tips for Short Stories

Develop interesting characters and settings

Creating engaging, relatable characters and settings for a short story is an integral part of writing that should not be underestimated. When readers connect with the characters in your stories, they become invested in what happens.

To make them memorable, think carefully about the personalities, backgrounds, and motivations of the main characters you create. These details should organically tie together to form a fully-realized portrait.

Similarly, bringing your story settings to life can help immerse readers in your world. Clearly define the looks and feel of each location and include relevant descriptions so that it becomes vivid.

Focus on the plot with a set beginning, middle, and end

Many budding writers tend to run into trouble when trying to write an excellent short story.

It’s important to remember that you should always focus on telling a compelling story as your foundation. When constructing the plot of any piece of writing, it’s essential to have a clear beginning, middle, and end so that the reader is presented with an easily-followed journey.

The beginning of the story should introduce the tone and setting of the tale, while the middle should present active conflict and rising stakes.

Finally, at the climax in the final act, you can bring all those elements together in a resolution that adequately ties off all loose ends without feeling rushed or contrived.

This structure will help you to keep control of your narrative and make sure that your main story point shines through in every aspect of your writing.

Edit your work for style and grammar before submitting it for publication

If you’re looking to publish a short story, the most important tip is to ensure that your work is edited for style and grammar.

It’s essential to take a thorough look and eliminate any typos or grammar mistakes that may take away from the impact of your literary work. Many book-writing software programs can help you ensure that your short story is well-formatted and grammar-checked, such as Scrivener, ProWritingAid, and Grammarly.

Additionally, consider whether your writing has the right feel and tone for your manuscript; having an experienced editor check it can help you. You can even use an AI novel writing software program, such as SudoWrite, to help with editing!

Finally, once you’ve made these edits, read it several times to ensure everything is ready for submission and publication.

Common Questions About The Length of a Short Story

How many pages are a short story?

Short stories can range in length, but typically they are between 1,000 to 7,500 words long. That is roughly the equivalent of anywhere between three to twenty-five pages. Whether a story is labeled as “short” depends on its content and word count rather than page count. The essential factor to consider when determining if a piece of writing fits into the short story genre is whether it can be read in a single sitting. If so, it likely qualifies as a short story and should have between three and twenty-five pages.

Can a short story be 15 pages?

Absolutely, a short story can be 15 pages! Of course, the length of a short story varies from writer to writer, so there is some flexibility regarding word count. Generally speaking, stories that fall under the short fiction umbrella tend to span between 1,000 and 7,500 words. Therefore, 15 pages would be considered a long-ish short story (or perhaps even a novella).

Is 1,500 words enough for a short story?

Yes! When writing a short story, it’s essential to consider the ideal word count. In general, short stories tend to be around 1,000-7,500 words. While this can feel daunting at first, it is an ideal length for a short story since readers have limited attention spans. Creating a short story of 1,500 words allows a writer to develop characters, introduce and resolve conflicts, and create a plot without being overly long–a perfect balance for more effective storytelling!

What is considered a short story?

A short story is a piece of prose fiction that typically can be read in one sitting, making it shorter and more concise than a novel. Generally, short stories range from 1,000 to 7,500 words, which makes them easy to digest in a single setting. They usually have only one or two characters and center around a particular event or situation, which helps to keep the narrative focused and entertaining. Short stories often focus on creating an emotional response from their readers with the brevity of their content.

What are some famous short stories?

Few pieces of literature are as timeless and emotionally gripping as the short story form. Examples include literary classics such as Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi, Mark Twain’s The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. These stories have captivated audiences for centuries with their compelling characters and unforgettable plots.

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Conclusion: How Long is a Short Story?

As you can see, the length of a short story isn’t as cut and dry as one might think.

Whether your goal is to write short flash fiction about a specific moment or emotion or take readers on a long journey with your novella or novel, this guide should give you a good idea of how many words your story should involve.

Utilizing these tips as reference points, don’t be afraid to get creative and let the ideas form within your head. After all, writing is another way to explore our world and tell stories that challenge our perception of reality!

Last Updated on January 20, 2023 by Neil Chase

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