Editing Tip #110 – Knowing What Format You’re Writing in is Half the Battle

Many new writers know of the two main categories of writing: Novels and Short Stories. Occasionally emerging writers are also familiar with the term Novella but this is where things start to get ‘sticky’. Certain genres do well as novellas and certain others not so much. And then, if you can believe it, there are over a dozen forms of Flash Fiction (smaller than a Short Story) and something called the Novelette…


Let’s break this down.

Flash Fiction: 6 – 1000 words (6 word stories, micro-fiction, postcard fiction, short short stories, sudden fiction, etc.)

by bonnybbx CC0 Via Pixabay

by bonnybbx CC0 Via Pixabay

Short Story: 1000 – 7,500 words

Novelette: 7,500 – 17,500

Novella: 17,500 – 40,000

Novel: 40,000+

Genre Specific Word Counts.

Picture books: 350 – 600 words

Early Readers: individual publishers set targets according to reading level, but under 3,500

Chapter books: 6,000 – 10,000

Middle Grade (or tween novels): 30,000 – 45,000

Young Adult: 55,000 – 70,000

Adult fiction: 60,000 – 90,000

Sci-fi/Fantasy: 80,000 – 125,000

Romance: 55,000 – 100,000 (depending on the sub-genre)

So what does this mean for you?

It lets you know if you’re close to the average or not. Books outside the average (smaller or larger) are rarely taken on by traditional publishers (unless you really are an exceptional writer for your genre or you have a good track record as an established author).  The importance of knowing if you’re in the ‘pocket’, the ‘zone’ or the ‘sweet spot’ lets you know on a different level what kind of big-picture editing you may need to do for your piece. Also, if specific word counts are not given, just genre preferences then you are expected to know the industry standards.

If you decide to self-publish a 55,000 word adult SFF/F novel, then I highly recommend that you research this market before publishing. It’s one thing to ‘get your work out there’ and entirely another to entice other people to read it 😉 If you’re too far off the beaten path it might do you more harm than good.

Happy Editing 🙂

Categories: Editing

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8 replies

  1. Nice insight into the different kinds of short fiction. Never read a novelette well a story that was marketed/labelled such.


    • It’s an older term that seems to be making a resurgence because of the ease with which there is for commuters to read a short novella in a day or two, to and from work. The term ‘novelette’ threw me for a loop at first because the term wasn’t taught to me in my writing studies courses – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Writing Fiction Now.com and commented:
    M.J. Mores breaks down category genres and expected word count for us in the traditional sense. Some guidelines to adhere to especially when submitting, and looking for an agent!


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