How Word Counts Influence Your Form

Photo by Surendran MP on Unsplash

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure what age I started to write down my thoughts, but my first memories go back to my early childhood. I remember writing my first fanfiction when I was about 13, and it involved a girl group based on the Spice Girls—no shame in my game. Since then, my writing has continued to grow and evolve. I can’t think of my life without writing being a part of it. Period.

Many beginning writers get bogged down in details and tend to fret about the length of their work. They have a rough idea of how long each of their characters or settings will be, but they might not know the exact number of words they’ll need to complete their story. They may wonder if there’s a way to tell how many words their story will be without actually writing it.

This table gives you an idea of the different options. It’s not the be-all, end-all list. I’ve written short stories that were a paragraph long. For example, please read my short story, Blood That Shames the Red, Red Rose, in my portfolio. Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure is one of my favorite books that I like to look at from time to time. Six words! A memoir! It’s crazy to think about but maybe not when you think about it?

Short story1 to 7,500 words
Novelette7,500 to 20,000 words
Novella20,000 to 50,000 words
Novel50,000 to 110,000 words
Epics and sequels110,000+ words
a table listing word counts for different types of forms

You have a lot of options. The more creative you are with conveying your message, the more memorable your piece will be. The creative process is all about finding your creative voice. In the end, though, the form you choose should let you tell your story. Don’t try to cram an epic into a short story unless you can do it well.

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Guilliean Pacheco (she/her) is a writer and editor of color, but you may also know her as the host of the Raconteuse Radio podcast. Her work has appeared in Nevada Humanities and Helen. She has an M.F.A. in Writing from the University of San Francisco. She’s a misplaced California girl who lives in Las Vegas normally if one could call living there normal. Follow her on Twitter.

Use Your Words