How long is a short story?

Allegedly Ernest Hemmingway wrote a story with six words. Augusto Monterroso definitely wrote one with eight. In the 1980s Science Fiction pioneered Drabble, where every story is exactly 100 words. Variants of this are known as micro-fiction or flash fiction, sitting below the 1000 word mark where short stories begin.

A short story should be read in a single session. On average people read a minimum 200 words a minute so 2000 words will keep them occupied for ten minutes. 7500 words enters novelette territory and novellas start at 15000. These numbers are not universally agreed so you should always use the submission guidelines for each publication.

Remember that shorter works are easier to sell. Fifteen short stories can fit into the shortest novella. That’s more choice for the readers and less risk for the editor.

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