Writing a Story?

You decide to write something - what genre are you writing in? Is it a short story, is it a novelette, a novel? -  Do you know the differences?  Are there different skills required?

The genres of writing can sometimes be very confusing. For example, some writers will call their personal essay a story, and others will call their essay a memoir. To make matters even more complicated, a number of literary magazines are beginning to accept what is commonly called mixed genre writing. It’s important to understand the difference between the types of short prose, whether you’re writing an essay, short story, memoir, commentary, or mixed genre piece – and then of course what is short, what is a Novelette, what is a Novella and what is a Novel?

Any “story” is classified as a work of fiction as opposed to memoirs and biographies/autobiographies which are factual (allowing for memory lapses of the author).

A story is therefore a work of fiction.  Its characters may be loosely based on real-life people, and its plot may be inspired by a real-life event; but overall most, or all of the story, is “made-up”.  A  story is a work that the writer holds to be fiction (i.e., historical fiction based on real events, or a story that is entirely fictional)

Stories may be literary, or they may conform to genre standards (i.e., romance, science-fiction, fantasy, a horror story, etc.).

Something to remember – if you write about true life happenings, in your own or others lives, but embellish or change some of the happenings to “spice it up”, then you are writing fiction.  Based on true life events = fiction.

Short Stories : under 7,500 words. (Up to 30 A5 pages)

A short story is best described in the words of the master short story teller, Edgar Allan Poe - “A short story is a dramatic narrative intended to be read in a single sitting and designed to produce a single effect.” (No longer than an hour)

Novelette:               7,500-17,500 words. (31 to 70 A5 pages)

Novella:                   17,500-40,000 words. (71 to 160 A5 pages)

Novel:                      40,000 words and up. (More than 160 A5 Pages)

Note: Some publishers may contest these figures, but it is a good indication.


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