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  • Writer's pictureLise Parton

Lesson 4: About Word Count In Writing...

Even though I have written all my life, I find myself more curious now, and actually reaching out to learn more about the business of writing...


I’m discovering that as a writer who is finally launching my work out into the world, I need to be able to clearly describe my work to provide an accurate description of what I am releasing to my readers, (or publisher) not to mention, at this point I should know more about my craft as I grow and evolve.

This may or may not be something you need to know, unless you have a plan for something you are trying to write. If nothing, you might find some of the following terms and descriptions a little amusing, I know I did.

I have learned the basics, the obvious being whether a I have written fiction (prose in the form of short stories and novels with imaginary people and events), or non-fiction, (prose based on facts, and real people, events, such as history or biography), though I am still learning more about what style, category and genre each project I’ve written fits into, (and there is a broad range of categories and descriptions of categories, so I recommend checking the requirements if you are looking to write for publish with a particular source). For instance, is your work defined as a novel, novella, short story, poetry, prose, or essay (see below for word count definitions); and what is your genre, for instance, romance, mystery, historical fiction, thriller, horror, drama, detective, western, fairy tale, humour, science fiction, gothic, and whether it is for an adult, a child, or young adult, or even LGBTQ. Please note there are many more subcategories depending on the publisher.

Recently, I decided to research further what relationship word count meant as a reference to the type of category a particular project of writing would fall into. Naturally, as a previously published author I knew the basic word count requirements for a novel or novella, as I have published both. However, when I was Googling word count definitions to understand terms like Flash Fiction, or Novelette, and came up with a broader spectrum of writing descriptions, or definitions, I thought I should know, and here I will share with you what I found.

Here are the word count definitions I found surfing the Internet. Please note there were more than one source for some definitions with some small variations with regards to precise word counts.

Novel: 40,000 to 50,000 word minimum to 80,000 to 100,000 words*

(* note that I read that a completed work of over 110,000 words is considered too long for a fiction novel)

Novella:17,500 to 40,000 words

Novelette: 7,000 to 17,500 words

Short Story: less than 7,500 words

Flash Fiction: 6 to 1,000 words (another source said to a max of 1,500 words)

Sudden Fiction: max of 750 words

Dribble: a 50 word story

Drabble or Microfiction: 100 words or max of 100 words

Nanofiction: 55 word stories

Trabble: 300 words

Twitterature: max of 280 characters

Six-Word Story: any story with a single-digit word count is a category unto itself

Screen Play: 50,000 to 70,000 words

According to an article I found by Matt Bell online (Dribbles, Drabbles, Micro- & Flash (Oh my)) there was a mention of additional fun terms like, Fast Fiction, Furious Fiction, Sudden Fiction, Postcard Fiction, Napkin Fiction, Minute-long Stories, Smoke-long Stories, Skinny Stories, Vest-pocket Stories, Pill-size Stories (from the 40’s), Pocket-size Stories, Palm-Size Stories, and…he expected there will be more to come. Delightful!

To be honest, I had not heard of many of the more uncommon terms before, such as, Novelette, Sudden Fiction, Drabble or Microfiction, Trabble and Twitterature. Each of these is partially self-explanatory if you observe the root or the word, such as Twitterature! How much fun are some of these terms?

I did write a Dribble one time for a contest, which I was pleasantly pleased with, but then I promptly forgot to submit it by the deadline. (Sigh.) I will admit, it was harder to write a concise 50 word story than you think, (and I also tried a 100 word story). To engage the reader without backstory, a lot of descriptive information, or details is difficult. Try it! It is not that easy to produce a successful short piece!

I consider the term ‘Twitterature’ brilliant, specified as a max of 280 characters, because of course, it does not have to be just letters, emojis are a huge part of Twitter communications. (As I don’t have a Twitter account I will admit I do not fully know all the ins and out of ‘Twittering’, I will admit.)

Here is a piece of trivia I ran into…the average 100 page (print) book is about 30,000 words. Therefore, it would take a month at 1,000 words a day to write a 100 page book, or 1500 words per week, up to approximately 5 months to produce the same sized book, if you write at a slower pace…just saying…

In any event, I think it is worth mentioning to be able to understand certain elements about the business of writing unless you are purely writing for personal and/or private or therapeutic reasons. I know I write a lot of stories or poetry just for the pure joy of getting loss in the scribing of words, and a lot of my writing never sees the light of day or any other person’s eyes, and that is just fine. But, as I write to produce a novel, or possibly a novella, with the desire to publish it at some point, it is wise to know what the word count should roughly be as I complete my draft and get it ready to publish. I need to let the publishing venue know where my book fits into the scheme of things, and you, my dear readers, might want to know what size of read you are delightfully diving into, don’t you think?

Cheers, and happy writing! Lise

* photo courtesy of thought


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