1. Xplorer

    Xplorer New Member

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    What are the main differences between a novel and a short story?

    Discussion in 'Short Stories' started by Xplorer, Oct 5, 2017.

    Hi. I would like to know what are the main differences between a novel and a short story. How short is a short story normally? What about the plot in a short story?

    Thanks for your help.
     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Novels have a lot more words than short stories.

    @Tenderiser has a great thread about that here:

    https://www.writingforums.org/threads/faqs-on-word-count.152108/

    Here's the relevant part excerpted here (but I would still check out the full thread... loads of good stuff):

    2. What are the word count thresholds for flash fiction, short stories, novellas, and novels?

    There is no definitive answer to this. Definitions vary among magazines and publishers. I can only give you the most commonly agreed thresholds based on my research - check the requirements of the publishers you're targeting!
    • Flash fiction: Up to 1,000 words.
    Some publications want as few as 50 words, some no more than 500, and I've even seen one that takes up to 1,500.
    • Short stories: 1,000 - 10,000 words.
    Again, this varies widely, with some anthologies accepting up to 15k. There is crossover between long short stories and short novellas.

    2,000-5,000 is the most common, in my experience.
    • Novella: 10,000 - 40,000 words.
    40k seems to be the upper limit almost everywhere, with most markets requiring a minimum of 20,000.
    • Novel: 40k+ words, with different minimum and maximum lengths for different age groups and genres - please read the next question.
    Many publishers will require a minimum of 50k. Theoretically, there is no upper limit. The Guinness World Records states that A la recherche du temps perdu is the longest novel ever published at just over 1.25m words.


    If you're asking about the structural and content differences, picture building a birdhouse as opposed to building a skyscraper: it takes a lot more material and there are many more things that can go wrong.
     
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  3. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I'm sorry, is this question for real? I feel like there have been a few posts where the OP is just having a laugh or bored or something. Obviously, everyone knows the difference between a short story or a novel or (crazy idea) you could read a few and I'm sure that would answer this question right away. The only reason I am even posting here is because a lot of you regulars I feel like I've gotten to know. You always try to help people. But a question like this is just a waste of everyone's time.
     
  4. Xplorer

    Xplorer New Member

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    Thanks Homer Potvin for your help.

    Now for deadrats, I am totally new to this. I know that a short story is shorter than a novel but I was more interested to know what are the things we should add or remove from a short story. The things that matters the most like getting right through the actions.

    We are not all writers like you deadrats. I'm sure that when you began you were like me or worst.
     
  5. Skibbs

    Skibbs Member

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    As much as I agree with you here - surely there must be more to the difference? I see that that may be the literal meaning of the terms - but in my perspective, I've always considered a short story being based somewhere along the lines of being a descriptive piece, with little storyline. For a novel, however, if I had to pick a definition, I would say that it was a piece of fiction with a complex story-line. Perhaps this is just the way I see things, but it's interesting to debate the subject a little.
     
  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Sorry. But I have to say you're totally wrong about short stories. I'm starting to feel like people who post about short stories really don't read them. Like at all. Of course, there is a story there. That's why it's called a short story. Who really cares about description? That is no more a short story thing than a novel thing.
     
  7. Skibbs

    Skibbs Member

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    Yep, it's just my trail of thought then. It's interesting, because that's the way I've always defined my short stories and separated them on novels. I'd have to disagree (if I read what you said right) that description is not used in short stories. To be honest - on the rare occasions I do write short stories, I tend to focus on the description more than the actual characters. Please do correct me if I read your post wrong, however.
     
  8. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Good luck publishing something anywhere that really counts. I've wasted enough time on here for the day.
     
  9. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's the opposite. Short stories need to get right down to work to make an impact with the shorter word count. Novels have much more room for description, philosophy, observation and mind drift.
     

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