Have you ever wondered about what type of writing might work best for you? I took me a while to key into what worked best for me, so I thought I would share what insights I have gained with you now. So, what exactly is different between short stories, novellas, and novels? In terms of content they have much in common, so what is most typically cited is word count. Short Stories are generally anything under 7,500 words, Novellas are 17,500 to 40,000 words, and Novels are anything longer than that (though fantasy these days tends to run 80,000 to 100,000 most commonly).
Likely you’re asking yourself why you should write anything shorter than novels, since they tend to sell best, whether it be via self-publishing or through traditional presses. Initially when I began writing, I thought a bit about the money side (what writer who wants to make at least a partial living from his craft doesn’t) so I’m not ashamed to admit I thought the best cost effective approach would be to lead off with writing a 100,000 fantasy novel, give it a nice custom cover, and publish it on Amazon. Would that it was that easy.
This overriding concern with the endgame turned out to be too distracting, with the result that the quality of my writing suffered and I lost my place in my story’s plot progression. Struggling with it for several more weeks, and even more numerous revisions, I came to the realization I wasn’t yet ready to pursue a novel. I needed practice first. While this might not be the same for other writers, and that is fine, writing shorter fiction has served me well as good practice before again tackling a longer work.
That is the main point I wish to make with this post: Don’t disregard short stories or novellas out of hand. Both can be good for experimenting with new ideas and topics in your writing, as well as practice for narrative flow and training in how to “cut the fat” in completing the arc of your story. Additionally, because they are shorter in length than a novel, it is easier for the aspiring writer to commit the necessary time and effort to the completion of a story, whereas a longer work might cause them to become lost in the process and potentially give it up altogether. Lastly, while I can’t speak to a comparison between sales of short stories versus novels, I can say that even an largely unknown writer like me has been able to make a few bucks every month from the few short stories I have self-published on Amazon, and there is nothing more affirming to an aspiring writer than getting paid for your work. Oddly enough, my first few sales were to folks in Great Britain.
That being said, I encourage any aspiring writers out there to not become consumed with a novel right off the bat, but to also devote some time to short stories or novellas as a way to practice and improve their craft.