The Critically Acclaimed Thriller by Christopher Fielden.
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How Long is a Short Story?

In terms of competitions, short story length is usually between 1,000 and 5,000 words, although I have seen short story competitions with a 17,000 word maximum. Some people might regard this as a novelette or novella. If you write a story of under 500 words, most people seem to regard this as flash fiction. Below is a guide to story lengths and how they might be named (there’s a fair bit of overlap as research shows that opinions differ greatly):

  • Flash fiction: under 500 words
  • Short story: 500 to 17,000 words
  • Novelette: 7,500 to 25,000 words
  • Novella: 10,000 to 70,000 words
  • Novel: 50,000 words or more

I’m of the opinion that the correct name or length is whatever any publisher, competition judge or magazine editor deem it to be. Just write within the parameters they ask for and you’re more likely to win competitions and be published.

By Christopher Fielden

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Gill R
Hi Chris, I have written 3 children's books, I guess you would say Novellas. I self published one for charity (I am recovering from cancer and wanted to raise money) but after Lulu took their cut, there was very little left for the charity.  It's still up there, called Arrowroot the Goblin. 

I've written 2 more, one of which is 10,500 words and I think better than Arrowroot, but have no idea what to do with it. I did try a few publishers. Most said they did not accept manuscripts from new writers, so not sure how you're meant to ever become anything else! And no one AT ALL was interested in charity projects. Any advice much appreciated. Regards, Gill

Chris Fielden
Hi Gill, sorry to hear you've suffered with cancer, but great that you are recovering :-)

Charity projects are tough, unless you're really famous so the publicity is worth it for the publishing house. Sounds harsh, but that's how business works unfortunately. I'd also imagine that the amount of charity projects a publisher receives means they just can't support all of them. 

Have you tried approaching the charity you're fund raising for to see if they can help with publicity? I'd imagine that's more likely to gain a response as there is something in it for them.

You could try approaching agents, rather than publishers, as they will consider previously unpublished authors, but the children's market is incredibly competitive, so you need a VERY thick skin.

I'm not really sure what else to say. It's a tough problem all writers face. That's partly why I started writing short stories - they're a lot easier to complete and there are plenty of publishing opportunities for them and competitions to enter. If you are published through these mediums, people start to recognize your name so you start to sell a few books. It's a long game to play, but I'm afraid I can't think of anything else to suggest!

Anyway, hope that's helpful. And best of luck with your writing and finding an outlet for your work :-) Cheers, Chris

Nicholas S
Hi Chris, I am just nearing the completion of my book (45,000 words at the last count). I hope to reach 500,000 at least. My brother is helping with the editing. It is a fantasy adventure that is written in the first person. I have based a lot of my characters on friends and family (with their permission). I will self-publish through Amazon. Is this a good idea? My brother has already published his book (Mark S) so his input is a great help.

Regards, Nick

Chris Fielden
Hi Nick, sorry a bit confused by numbers - I guess the 500K is a typo?! So 50K words? If not, you have Lord of the Rings on your hands - quite an achievement :-)

I think Amazon is a good way to go, if you don't want to approach agents or publishers. You'll need to market the book well to make many sales, though. If your brother has had success with that in the past then that is likely to be a great help. I think Amazon has more exposure than Lulu (which is the other self-publishing site I've used), so will probably be better, but Lulu is a lot more user friendly and intuitive to use when setting up your book and monitoring sales etc.

Hope that's some help :-)

Nicholas S
Oops, yes its around 50 thousand. I have ended the book with the begining of the next, so I am am also working on that one, it's all go. I wish I could afford to just write as that would be fantastic.

I lived most of my life in Southern Africa and have used a few of my real life adventures in the book. I am now back home in Wiltshire with my family, but one day i hope to return to my adopted continent.

Thanks for your feed back.

Chris Fielden
Sounds perfect Nick, always good to have a series - look at Harry Potter...

I think most writers wish they could afford to just write. If you persevere, at least you have a chance of achieving that dream. Never give up, that's the key!

Best of luck with the books, mate. And enjoy Wiltshire - it's a lovely part of the country. 

Nicholas S
Hi Chris, just an update about my book as you said a while ago. It is now on sale yippee. It is called Shumbachena, Nick

Chris Fielden
Excellent news, congrats Nick :-)

Emani M
Hello Chris, I think it is really great that you have this website.  I think it really helps those who are interested in writing, but have no real idea about how to go about the whole process.  I am one of those people :)  I am going to enter my short stories in some of the competitions you have listed.  Is it okay for me to enter the same story for various competitions?  I would think so.

Okay, keep up what you are doing Chris.  You are great!!

Chris Fielden
Thanks Emani :-)

It depends on the competition - you'd have to read the rules for each. A lot of them ask you not to submit elsewhere while a story is under consideration, but some allow it.

Best of luck with your writing!

Frances D
I like to write short articles from my experiences.  All are non-fictional.  I have written two children's stories.  I don't know what to do with these or who might publish them.  What do you suggest?

Chris Fielden
Frances, I'm not very familiar with non-fiction. Try looking at my short story competition page and see if any of them accept non-fiction submissions. I know some of them do, but you'd have to look through them and see what is most suitable for your work. You will also find competitions for children's stories.

Hope that's helpful. Best of luck with your writing.

Nidhi M
I've written two novels in the Indian language. I've also written a short story. I need finances for my daughter's education. Please can you guide me? How can I send my short story to magazines? It's in English. I had never thought of taking writing as a career but now I think I should, for my daughter.

Please guide me. Thank you.

Chris Fielden
Nidhi, you will have to research magazines and see what their submission guidelines are like and whether your work might be suitable. It's best to read back issues so you can see the style the editors prefer. Try this page where I list a lot of magazine opportunities.

Hope that's useful and best of luck with your writing!

Ron A
I have a short story just over 5,000 words in length and I would love to publish it. Can I get some advice? I'm considering three follow ups in the series. I also have a short contemporary drama and according to your words a children's adventure flash story ready for competitions. This will also be a series more like 1,000 words each. I would like to hear from you.

Chris Fielden
Ron, if you check out the short story competition list and the magazine list under the Writing Advice section of my website you will see lots of publishing opportunities for your work. The best bet is to look through them and see which competitions / magazines might be most suitable for your stories.

Best of luck with your writing!

Ron A
Thanks Chris, I actually started going through some of them and reading your advice before signing out and got a couple of key take-aways from it. Thanks again, I am now a fan and will continue to read your stuff. Ron.

Lynn C
Do you have the names of magazines that write in this fashion?

Chris Fielden
Lynn, if you look at the short story magazines page and the short story competitions page (the links are in my comment replying to Ron above) you'll find loads of different opportunities for submitting your work :-)

Lynn C
Chris, thank you so much for the information.

Yin
Chris, I would like advice on stories from the Far East (not exactly a genre that is the flavour of the day). My stories (short and novellas) are based in Malaysia/Indonesia. Are there any publishers who specialise in this genre? Since Maugham, Orwell, Burgess no one seems interested in this part of the world.

Am I killing myself for nothing? Thanks, Yin

Chris Fielden
Yin, I don't know of any publishers who specialise in stories based in the east I'm afraid. That's not to say that publishers wouldn't be interested in them. In my experience, it doesn't matter where a story is set. Publishers are simply interested in strong stories. So it really depends what the stories are about and how good they are. If I were you, I'd try submitting them to magazines and competitions and see what kind of feedback you get. If they're already written, it's certainly worth a try - you have nothing to lose!

I hope that's helpful :-)

Anne M
Christopher, I recently lost my job in the Banking sector and,  as I have always loved reading books, I decided to try and write a short story myself. It's something I always wanted to do anyway. Would it be possible to email or post a copy of my short fiction story to you for  you to look over and perhaps see if it's any good?

Kind Regards, Anne

Chris Fielden
Anne, I'm afraid I receive a lot of requests like this and can't offer to proofread other writer's work for free. Having a full time job and running this site leaves me very little time! However, I do offer a paid proofreading service that might be of interest to you.

Best of luck with your writing :-)

Catherine N
I published a short narrative of 13,300 words as an eBook on Amazon in time for Mental Health Awareness Week. It was promoted during that week by Anxiety UK, Bipolar UK, International Bipolar Foundation, Mental Health Foundation, Mind, Sane, Rethink, Relate, Time to Change, YoungMinds. Claudia Hammond from BBC Radio 4 also tweeted its presence on Amazon. They were all able to advertise the narrative when it was free.

I'd like to work towards promoting it for World Mental Health Day, 10 October 2014. One way would be to find translators so it could be read worldwide.

The narrative is for anyone who supports someone with a mental health problem and those who experience such difficulties. It was described by the Director of Operations at IBF as "a wonderfully unique perspective" as it does not judge or blame any aspect of being ill and shows a journey towards recovery which doesn't shy away from living daily with a mental health condition.

The narrative has taken me 20 years. I don't think there is another piece to follow but I may be wrong. The journey I'd like to take is to help people through illness and into work. Against all odds I am a special needs teacher and I love my work. I don't have experience or contacts in publishing or marketing, nor do I have funds to publish the narrative alone.

Please would you offer some guidance about how to move forwards with the story. It's called The Flight of the Bumblebee by C. C. Neish.

Yours, Catherine

Chris Fielden
Catherine, it sounds like you've already had a good amount of success with your eBook - having all those institutions promoting it is really positive, so congratulations.

I'm not sure I can help with this, as I don't have the right kind of contacts. Most of my contacts run writing competitions and writing websites - they aren't publishing companies. It might be worth investing in the latest Writers' & Artists' Yearbook as that will contain up-to-date contact information about many different publishers.

Sorry I can't be of more help. Best of luck with the book and please let me know how you get on with publishing it :-)

Bruce G
I have written a fictional story. It comes to about 50 pages. It is basically a novelette.   Which magazine would most likely accept my story?   Much appreciated if you can suggest one.

Chris Fielden
Bruce, I'm afraid you'll have to undertake some research and read magazines' submission criteria and see which is most appropriate for your work.

I list a lot of magazine opportunities on my short story magazines page, so that's a good place to start.

Best of luck with getting your story published :-)

Anton A
Dear Chris, great website.

I have written a story about a dog who wants to fly and finally gets his wish. It could be a magic realist story for adults or a simplified a tale for kids - the message is diversity and daring to dream. Theres are two competitions I'm thinking of. One, the Katherine Mansfield, which, if I win, will get me noticed, or with alterations the Dutch Diversity Prize mentioned on your page. I hope I don't sound too cocky, it's my best work so far and I've won a haiku prize and got a bit of poetry published, but I had to quit my job because of pd so I'm looking for another career.

Chris Fielden
Anton, that sounds great. Let me know how you get on with the competitions!

Best of luck with getting your story published :-)