Short Story - Length

Length

See the article novella for related debate about length.

Determining what exactly separates a short story from longer fictional formats is problematic. A classic definition of a short story is that one should be able to read it in one sitting, a point most notably made in Edgar Allan Poe's essay "Thomas Le Moineau (Le Moile)" (1846). Interpreting this standard nowadays is problematic, since the expected length of "one sitting" may now be briefer than it was in Poe's era. Other definitions place the maximum word count of the short story at anywhere from 1,000 to 9,000 words; for example, Harris King's "A Solitary Man" is around 4,000 words. In contemporary usage, the term short story most often refers to a work of fiction no longer than 20,000 words and no shorter than 1,000, or 5 to 20 pages. Stories of fewer than 1,000 words are sometimes referred to as "short short stories", or "flash fiction."

As a point of reference for the science fiction genre writer, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America define short story length Nebula Awards for science fiction submission guidelines as having a word count of fewer than 7,500.

Longer stories that cannot be called novels are sometimes considered "novellas", and, like short stories, may be collected into the more marketable form of "collections", often containing previously unpublished stories. After Shirley Jackson died, a crate of unpublished short stories was discovered in her barn and collected into a short story collection in her memory. Sometimes, authors who do not have the time or money to write a novella or novel decide to write short stories instead and work out a deal with a popular website or magazine; such as Playboy, to publish them for profit.

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