Novel, novella, novelette, short story…what are you working on right now?
Although I’m a big proponent of mapping out your work in order to avoid writer’s block when you hit a stumbling block, sometimes the work and the creative forces take over. That’s a good thing. The idea for a short story suddenly grows into a full-fledge novel with interweaving story lines, multiple characters, and enough twists and turns to keep a mystery maven happy.
But what if that’s not the case? What if you have a great idea, but for the life of you, only 5,000 words come out of your brain. As long as they are a fantastically woven, tightly bound 5,000 words, then it’s no problem.
Don’t get me wrong. Every story, whether it’s a short story or an 80,000 word novel, must follow strong rules of plotting and pacing in order to keep the reader interested and avoid rambling thoughts. However, there is merit in short works as well. Old-time radio thrived on serialized stories and they’re making a come back in print versions.
Here’s a guideline by word count of the different formats:
Novel: a work of 40,000 words or more
Novella: a work of at least 17,500 words, but under 40,000 words
Novelette: a work of at least 7,500 words, but under 17,500 words
Short story: a work of under 7,500 words
So whatever you’re working on make it your best work possible by ensuring your characters are interesting, the dialogue is compelling, and the plot is not predictable. Give your readers what they want, and give yourself a break in knowing that size doesn’t matter…unless you’re writing a passage in a romance novel!