How Long is a Short Story?

What is the max/min words for a short story?

Depends. If you're writing it for a magazine, a book compilation or a contest, it's whatever length the editors tell you it is.

Generally speaking, you should be able to read a short story in one sitting. If it's fewer than 1,000 words, it's usually considered a short-short or flash fiction. If it hits 20,000 words, it will probably be called a novella. Anywhere between those two, you get the label short story.

Most often, a short story is between 2,000 to 5,000 words.


Marny said...

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) give the following definitions:

* Short Story: less than 7,500 words;
* Novelette: at least 7,500 words but less than 17,500 words;
* Novella: at least 17,500 words but less than 40,000 words
* Novel: 40,000 words or more.

That is for their awards categories. Other organizations/contests will have their own variation. Like LDSP said, it depends.

Most of the time it doesn't matter. When you submit a story, check the guidelines and include the total word count. The magazine or contest can put it in the correct category from there.

David J. West said...

Looks like most of what I am trying to throw out there this month is novelette sized.

Hands of Fate-10,900 words

Name of the Game-15,000 words

Under the Gun-10,000 words

Charlie Moore said...

Guidelines always depend upon the publisher. Some are strict while others aren't. I submitted several short stories to Amazon Shorts (an electronic outlet Amazon.com implemented to showcase short stories electronically). Their guidelines for length were 2500 to 12,500 words, I believe. They don't accept submissions now. But when they did they were very lax with those guidelines.