1. Cromulent

    Cromulent New Member

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    How long should a standard short story be?

    Discussion in 'Short Stories' started by Cromulent, Jul 10, 2017.

    I'm working on what I think will be a short story. I'm doing the initial draft and want to know what word count I should get the finished product down to when I have finished editing. As I am on the initial draft I am just doing a word dump and getting the basic story elements down. Once this has been finished I'll edit it to a reasonable number of words and clean up the text somewhat.

    The only question I have though is how many words should I limit myself too when writing a short story? I've heard people mention 4000 or 5000 words but I don't know what the short story publishers like to accept.

    Is there an industry standard for the maximum number of words in a short story?

    Thanks for any help :).
     
  2. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    I wrote an FAQ on word count over here: https://www.writingforums.org/threads/faqs-on-word-count.152108/

    It varies widely. I suggest you choose the publications you'd like to submit to and read their submission guidelines for word count.
     
  3. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributor Contributor

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    It varies by market and genre, but generally under 5000 is easier to sell. Some markets prefer 2-3000, and some accept as long as 10,000 or even an occasional novelette, but usually indicate the longer works are a tougher sell.

    What you can do is look at the magazines/ezines/anthologies you intend to target and see what they prefer.

    That said, it's probably best if you write the story being as efficient as you can but letting the word count fall where it may. The better quality story, the better chances of finding a market, and readers enjoying it. You may be able to assist in this effort (keeping the word count low) by planning/plotting the storyline.

    Good luck!
     
  4. Cromulent

    Cromulent New Member

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    Awesome. I'll be sure to check that out. Thanks.

    Thank you for the advice. I think I'll write the story and then edit it down to as few a words as possible and then see who might be interested in it. I'm not expecting any success with this story as I am only just getting back into writing again (I've been ill for some time which has stopped me from writing) but I would like to do it properly and see what is wanted by the publishers in the short story market.
     
  5. DueNorth

    DueNorth Senior Member

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    I think that one of the best ways to learn about writing short stories is to read them. There are many great short story collections. A couple fairly contemporary short story writers that I like are Ron Rash and Benjamin Percy. I agree that if your goal is to get published look at (and perhaps subscribe to) anthologies/journals that accept submissions to get an idea of what they are looking for (and what actually gets in--it's not easy).
     
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  6. Cromulent

    Cromulent New Member

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    Oh. I'm not looking to get published. I know that is way out of my league I just want to write a story that follows publishers requirements just so I know I'm doing it properly.

    Maybe after 5 years of practising my writing skills I'll start thinking about trying to get published. In the mean time I'm just doing it for fun but I do enjoy making sure I do things in the best way I can hence this thread.
     
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  7. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    Oh well in that case, why not try our very own short story contests? They're just for fun, run once a month with different prompts, and can be anywhere from 1,200 - 5,000 words. Plus, you'll get feedback on your story if you ask for it. :) They take place here: https://www.writingforums.org/weekly-short-story-contests/

    Or you could try the flash fiction contests, for stories under 500 words. https://www.writingforums.org/weekly-flash-fiction-contest/
     
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  8. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributor Contributor

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    So. What do you like to write? I am mainly just curious but it is slightly notable.

    Some stories just need a higher word count. I remember doing a story that my first try was like 3k but it was way too bare bones. So the fix was making it like 13k.
     
  9. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I totally agree with this and love your picks. Anyone who wants to write well should read a ton. Reading great short stories will give you an idea of how to do it like nothing else. Structure, length, pacing... and so on can all be picked up on by reading short stories. Nothing wrong with asking questions, but you've got to read if you want to have a shot at writing anything good.

    An interesting thing about short stories is that I find myself going back and rereading them. Sometimes it's years later or whatever. I was just reading some Raymond Carver over the weekend. His stuff never gets old for me. I could say the same about many other short story writers too. Do you guys do the same thing? Go back and reread your favorite short stories?
     
  10. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    Yep! I try to leave it a while though so I forget some of the details (sometimes even the ending) and have a pleasant surprise.
     
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  11. Speechless

    Speechless Member

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    The short story "The mist" by stephen king is approximate 200 pages long and can be found in the short story collection book
    "Skeleton Crew". I do not know how many words it has but it is quite long for a short story.
    I have written one once which has 8000 words and I am very proud of it.

    But yes I do reread short stories. If i need some inspiration or need to get into the mood I pick the ones which scared me or I liked the most.
     
  12. DueNorth

    DueNorth Senior Member

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    Interesting to see this thread pop up again after being dormant for six months. Since I've completed my novel and haven't really settled on a storyline for another, I've been working on short stories. I just completed revising one that I hope is good enough to start the arduous process of submitting. My goal was to keep it under 5000 words (seems to usually be the max allowed). When I completed what I thought was my last revision yesterday the word count was 5065--oops. One more revision (at least).
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2018
  13. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    500
    1000
    2500
    4000...then they get longer.
     
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  14. DueNorth

    DueNorth Senior Member

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    AND... before you know it, they’re novels.
     
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  15. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    FWIW, the SFWA defines stories being considered for Nebula awards as follows:

    Novel: 40,000 words or over
    Novella: 17,500 to 39,999 words
    Novelette: 7,500 to 17,499 words
    Short story: under 7,500 words
     
  16. mavramartes

    mavramartes New Member

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    I would say the minimum to a novel should be 80k words
     

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