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

Updated on June 03, 2016
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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© 2012 Syed Hunbbel Meer

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    • SubRon7 profile image

      James W. Nelson 5 years ago from eastern North Dakota

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

      James W. Nelson

    • A K Turner profile image

      Joseph A K Turner 4 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

    • wynnestudios profile image

      wynnestudios 4 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.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Hunbbel,

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

    • raciniwa profile image

      raciniwa 4 years ago from Naga City, Cebu

      interesting and informative hub...

    • vicki goodwin profile image

      Sojourner McConnell 4 years ago from Winchester Kentucky

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

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

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

    • Hunbbel Meer profile image
      Author

      Syed Hunbbel Meer 4 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 :)

    • uNicQue profile image

      Nicole Quaste 4 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.

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image

      ThoughtSandwiches 4 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Hunbbel,

      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!

      Thomas

    • A K Turner profile image

      Joseph A K Turner 4 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

    • Deltachord profile image

      Deltachord 4 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.

    • kadiesutherland profile image

      kadiesutherland 4 years ago from Oregon

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

    • GALAXY 59 profile image

      GALAXY 59 4 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.

    • profile image

      Autumn 4 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!

    • profile image

      Zion Jain 4 years ago

      What a wonderful explanation!

    • profile image

      princess ada 4 years ago

      It Great

    • profile image

      nitha Tuhalauruw 3 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

      Gloria 3 years ago

      thanks a lot for the clear explanation given.

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 3 years ago from Oz

      At last I know the difference.

    • profile image

      YoungMistake 3 years ago

      This is helpful! Thank you! :)

    • markdarmafall profile image

      Mark 3 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

      Mark

    • married2medicine profile image

      Funom Theophilus Makama 3 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.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 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!

    • deathwalk60 profile image

      Larry Sells 2 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.

    • wyrdwyrm profile image

      Donna 2 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.

    • profile image

      Tabarak 2 years ago

      Excellent. Easily described.

    • profile image

      Hamza 2 years ago

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

    • Eric Calderwood profile image

      Eric Calderwood 2 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.

    • TSLOPEZ profile image

      Tania S Lopez 2 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 :-)

    • profile image

      narmeen malik 2 years ago

      thanks a lot

      it is really helpful

    • Russell Hawkins profile image

      Russell Hawkins 2 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

      Ethan Digby-New 2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      iheanetu chinonso mary 2 years ago

      cool... very helpful write up.

    • EsJam profile image

      Essie 23 months ago from Southern California

      Thumbs Up. Good, helpful information!

    • TheHoleStory profile image

      TheHoleStory 22 months 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.

    • BeatsMe profile image

      BeatsMe 22 months ago

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

    • profile image

      HiMyNameIsDoesntMatter 19 months ago

      It's helpful.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 18 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Zoe_Nightwing 4 months 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!!! :)

    • profile image

      Catie Gorman 2 months 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!

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