How long is a short story?

Trying to work out some process for my (now) anthology of my historical fiction works based on the immigration journeys, and very early life in Australia, of my ancestors, I needed to work out just how long I could get away with for a short story. The way I put the work together relies on it.

Found a very interesting article on Bookfox, aka John Matthew FoxIn it, he compares the short story lengths of seven well-known short story authors: Gabriel Garcia Marquez (average count 2412), Ray Bradbury (average count 3794), Raymond Carver (average 4263), Ernest Hemingway (average 4940), Alice Munro (average 10,215), Flannery O’Connor (average 6902) and Edgar Allan Poe (average 3620). The overage of all authors combined turned out to be 5,100!

The article also contains a breakdown of all the fiction lengths, although other sources will differ slightly.

Christopher Fielden suggests that a short story can be as long as 17,000 words – although he gives the start length for a novelette as 7,500 words.

I was starting to get a little confused as I found many differing suggestions on the length of a short story. But I stumbled across a definition of a short story in Joe Hiland’s article entitled When is a short story too long?, in which he claims that  Edgar Allan Poe described a short story as, ” … a work of fiction that can be read in a single sitting”. Hiland then goes on to say that, in reality, a short story length is all dependent on the perceived audience and where it will be published.

Given all of this, I’m just going to put it together the way it seems to work, aiming for no more than 7,000 words – but I won’t be holding tightly to that. And mostly, without a problem, they will be well under that. It’s just that if Tom and Harriet make an appearance, it will be longer because, quite simply, I have more information on them than I have on anyone else.

The bonus of my search was finding the article: Storyville: Tips on Putting Together a Short Story Collection Together by Richard Thomas. I will be revisiting this often I think!

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