1. Baller Dale
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    Baller Dale Member

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    Writing my first short story. How long should it be?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Baller Dale, Feb 23, 2012.

    I'm just planning right now, but I don't know how long it should be. I was thinking 2000-3000 words? How many words do you guys usually write for a short story?

    Any other advice to a newcomer?

    Thanks! :D
     
  2. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    My latest short story was around 3,000. Since short stories aren't really my forte, i'm guessing a short story can start from 500 words upwards. Depends on what the person defines as short story though.

    Any other advice? I'll try :D One of them would be, start from the middle of the story. For example, with a novel chapter, you might start with the cause of the conflict, while with a short story, it's better to start when the conflict happens.
    Another one thing is that only have one main focus that one want to get across throughout the short story. It makes it more shorter and more easier to write.

    In terms of character, it's better to have a small cast, since you won't be able to go deeply into their character or develop them, since it's a short story. It also allows you to avoid the hassle of having too much characters and having to sort though the useless one and important ones...
    I hope that helped :D
     
  3. TheIllustratedMan
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    TheIllustratedMan Active Member

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    Make it as long as it takes to tell the story.
    "'Begin at the beginning,' the King said gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'" -- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; Lewis Carroll
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The length mostly matters if you intend to submit it. Check the submission guidelines of where you will consider submitting to.

    The shortest complete short story I have read (excluding Hemingway's famous challenge) was ten words. It was written with a solid sense of humor by author Larry Niven, but its message was absolutely clear.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've written a lot of short stories, and they've all been between 3,000 and 8,000 words. I have a few novellas as well, between 20,000 and 40,000 words.

    I write mostly science fiction, and the science fiction magazines define a short story as less than 7,500 words, usually.
     
  6. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    Check out the short story contests available in your chosen genre and see what they require. It is also a good place to get hold of previous winners short stories and help you with an indication of the kinds of writing styles they favour.

    In the SF genre, which I write for, there are alot of story comps less than 1,000, a good deal 1,000 - 3,000, some up to around 10,000 and very few over 10,000. The Writers of the Future competition is for stories less than 18K if i recall correctly. Thats international submissions in English. In your country, wherever that may be, I haven't got a clue.
     
  7. TheWritingWriter
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    TheWritingWriter Senior Member

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    I personally consider short stories to be from 10,000 to 15,000, but that's only because there were contests I joined on a website, and 10K to 15K was what was considered a short story & that's just what I go by. Habit.
     
  8. TheIllustratedMan
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    TheIllustratedMan Active Member

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    All of these word counts are nice guidelines for how to categorize a particular piece of writing, but they should have no bearing on what is written, unless you are trying to publish X story in Y format.

    Just write the story. If it falls in the < 10,000 word range, it's probably a short story, so shop it to magazines that publish those. If it happens to be more than that, maybe it's a novella, or a full blown novel.

    It doesn't really matter when writing the story what your word count is. Just write the thing. You can figure out later whether it's a short story or something else.


    (I will add that short stories and novels tend to have different structures, so if you're just rambling on and on about the same plotline for 100,000 words and never giving any subplots or chapter breaks, varying rising and falling action, etc... it's probably going to be garbage. Similarly, if you try to have three plotlines and four different climaxes in 10,000 words, it's probably going to be garbage. So be aware of style... but really don't worry about word count unless a publisher tells you to keep it in some range.)
     
  9. Cosmic Latte
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    Cosmic Latte Member

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    Amen. Not one word too many or too short. Just use the words you need to tell the story and nothing more. When you get to the point of being able to write to a specific word count, can manipulate story arc, handle complex character and plot development within a publishers' guidelines, and yadayadayada, then you can worry about word count.
    .
    I think you did ask a valid question, though. I tend to think of the short story as less than 30,000 words (which on this website seems long), novellas around 45,000, and novels between 70,000 and 100,000 (depends on the genre). Flash fiction is just that - a flash. Or you can think of it by its structure, like this: a short story has 1 plot, novels have many plots. As long as you keep your short story focused on following the development of one thing, you'll do okay whatever the word count.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as long as it needs to be... but for maximum chances at being published, you'll find that 5k is the upper limit for most magazines and literary journals... check the submission guidelines of each one you want to submit to...

    www.duotrope.com is your best source for finding the ones your story will fit...
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    The magazines I have submitted to wanted exactly 1,500 words or 2,500 words, in order to fill the correct number of pages. You must check guidelines if you are interested in submitting fiction to a magazine. Non fiction tends to be shorter. For competitions, 3,000 is often the upper limit. Again, check first and prepare accordingly. Novellas seem to be pretty difficult to get published, although some niche and romantic publishers e.g. Avon, do want them. They give details on length on their websites.
     
  12. Rapscallion
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    Rapscallion Active Member

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    Something you might also want to consider is your target audience.
    Very generally, the lower the age group, the shorter the story. As the readership becomes older, so the range in length becomes broader.
     
  13. Salt
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    Salt New Member

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    How long is a piece of string? Classifications such as flash fiction or novella or short story or whatever come after you've written it. If you try to write to be, say, two thousand words, you're probably going to be missing out on words you'd like to include, or putting ones you don't need in to hit the wordcount, then, well, you're not telling the story you want to tell the way you want to tell it. For me, that's the joy of writing - the only limits are my own use of language and time itself.
     
  14. Baller Dale
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    Baller Dale Member

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    I didn't know you could sell short stories to magazines. I guess I have a lot to learn.
     
  15. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    Yes, you can sell short stories to magazines.

    If you go to your local bookstore, you'll hopefully see a magazine section with literary magazines. Pick one up and go through it to read other people's short stories and check submission guidelines, if you're interested.

    But for now, just focus on practicing short story writing. A story should be as long as it needs to be. Don't worry too much about length especially if it's your first short story. And don't pad it like you would an essay for school, trying to add to the word count. Just write whatever strikes you.
     
  16. DaVinci
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    DaVinci Banned

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    As long enough to still be a short story.
     
  17. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    I submitted a short story that was less than 4,300 words, and I thought that was ok, but I met recently with an established author during a conference for a consultation on my story, and he said i should to around 3,000 words if I have any hopes of being published. The guidelines usually say 5,000 or so, or up to 7,500, and the guidelines for this publication were up to 7,500 so I thought my 4,300 words were appropriate, but I guess not!
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    why would you 'guess not'?... the opinion of one person, 'established author' or not, does not override what the guidelines of the magazines you'll submit to say... and is that author 'established' in writing short stories?...
     

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