Novella? Or Short Story?

by Tayyaba Batool

Most of us typically think of fiction as either a novel or a short story. However, there are variations between these two categories. Novels, short stories, and novellas draw readers into a fictional world. You may think of novellas as shorter in length than novels, but longer than short stories – which is true. The difference between a novella and a short story goes beyond the length and word count. Here is an overview:

Word Count

The difference between a short story and a novella is literally the word count. A typical short story consists of 3,000 to 7,500 words, however, there are short stories that run longer (and some even a little shorter). A novella is about 10,000 to 40,000 words. Just like short stories, there is no “standard” word count for novellas. It depends upon the publication requirements, set by publishers. Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery’ is an example of a short story at just over 3,700 words. Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ is an example of a novella, at 19,700 words. Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ is a short novel at just over 40,000 words.

Writing Style

A short story is one of the most common forms of short fiction. Writers mostly use short stories to describe a single event or the tale of a single character. Moreover, a short story does not include extensive twists and conflicts. Sub-plots and multiple characters are not common in a typical short story.

The author may either use first person or third person as a narrative style. On the other hand, novellas include multiple subplots, conflict, and characters. You may find more nuance and complications in a novella as compared to a short story. And, novellas mostly focus on a single character’s development, personally and emotionally.


Profit margins for novellas are lower as compared to novels. Large publishers mostly avoid publishing novellas, except in some circumstances. Even if a novella gets published, it might be bound in a collection of different novellas, either written by the same author or different authors, making it an anthology. Digitization has helped in making novellas popular as e-books; their readers are increasing day-by-day. E-publishers sometimes prefer to publish a novella since some e-book readers want shorter texts. On the other hand, a solid place to publish stories is in literary magazines – print and electronic. All you need to do is to research the right magazine for your story!


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