Types of Fiction and Which One You Should Write

Below is a discussion of the different types of fiction and which one might be best for a beginning writer. This page is focused on short stories versus novels versus novellas, but if you're more interested in reading about different fiction genres such as mystery, fantasy, or science fiction, click here.

At the bottom of this page, you'll also find more creative writing resources, including a free writing course.


Types of fiction based on length

A prose fiction work is generally classified, depending on its length, as a short story, a novella, or a novel. There are no universal rules marking the line between one form and another, but here's my take:

  • If it's under twenty-five or thirty pages, call it a story. (Ultra-short stories under 1000 words are known as "flash fiction.)"
  • If it's over 125 pages or so, you can start calling it a novel.
  • If it's in between, it's in a kind of limbo that is the home of the novella. Novellas are not a very popular fiction form, probably because they're a bit long for magazine publishing and a bit short to be sold as books. Normally, they're bundled with other novellas or with short stories for publication.

Types of fiction - which one should you write?

Everyone wants to write a novel. Saying you're a novelist sounds great. "Short story writer" just doesn't have the same ring, and I don't think "Novella-ist" is even a word. But unless you have a lot of creative writing experience and confidence, honestly, I'd start with short stories.

  • Your style is still developing, and writing a novel is a long project. So if you start a novel now, you'll probably be a very different kind of writer by the time you finish. This can deform your novel. And, worse, it can stunt your development as a writer if you force yourself to stick to a novel that you've outgrown. It's a bit like marrying too young. There's the risk of growing apart. And there's the risk of not growing.
  • Writing short stories will give you plenty of "fresh starts," opportunities to experiment and try different voices, subjects, techniques. This will add to your range as a writer and help you find your own creative writing style.
If the idea of writing short stories doesn't inspire you -- or even if it does -- the first step is to read a lot of great ones. The best writing school is the work of other writers. Read short story anthologies and literary journals to get to know a variety of writers and writing styles. Then read more work by the writers whose fiction you like the most.

Types of fiction - next steps

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