Fiction and Word Counts


For a long time now, i’ve struggle to find an exact answer for what length each type of fiction should be. each person or organization seems to have their own ideas about this and it can be difficult to differentiate between the options.

So how do we know what the difference is between micro fiction and flash fiction? How can you tell if you’ve written a novel or a novella?

Treasure Island Chapter 06

Image via Wikipedia

There are no simple answers but if you’re entering a contest or submitting to a specific publication you will need to check the submission guidelines for details. The word count will usually be given as well as the type of creative work they accept.

To help clear up some of the confusion I’ve collected a list of the averages that I’ve come across on the web.

Average Word Counts For Fiction:

Microfiction

This is usually a very small piece of fiction or sometimes a vignette (though that can be defined separately. Microfiction can be up to:

  • 100 Words
  • 250 Words

Flash Fiction

Some flash fiction can be specific word counts such as a 100-Word Prompt or 55 fiction but generally it’s:

  • 100 – 1,000 words (some publications specify 500 or less)

Short Story

This can vary quite a lot when looking for submission guidelines but the most common consensus I’ve found is:

  • 1,000 – 7,500 words

Novelette

The lesser known type of fiction, this is not as popular probably because it doesn’t fit well into publication sizes. On average the word count given is either:

  • 7,500 – 17,500 words (or)
  • 7,500 – 20,000 words

Novella

The lines seem to blur between short story and novel, the word counts varying even more. Novella of all categories can be between 5000 words and 50,000 words (with 20,000 being the average). People often confused novella and novelette for each other but generally a novella is:

  • 17,500 – 50,000 words (or)
  • 20,000 – 50,000 words

Novel

This category is even more complicated because it can change depending on the genre. Here’s a great webpage that list some of the averages for genres. The average is usually given at 80,000/90, 000 words and doesn’t (usually) exceed 120,000 words.

  • 50, 000 – 110,0000 words
  • 75,000 – 100, 000 words
  • 80,000 – 120,000 words

Epics

This can be a much wider range again but averages at about 120,000 or more. These can go a lot higher, with books up to 500,000, 600,000 even over 800,000 but generally it’s a bigger risk for publishers to take new authors with higher word counts so, always check the submission guidelines!

  • 110,000 words or more.
  • 120,000 or more.

Don’t worry too much about word count when you first start out with writing. This guide is designed to help you find which category your work fits into and where it fits (or doesn’t fit).

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