I'm writing a short story in the same universe as my post-apocalyptic novel, about the novel's antagonist. I'm planning on turning in this piece to my teacher as a part of my AP Lang portfolio. I'm maybe half way through and I'm already at 6 pages. Is there an expected length for short stories, and at what point does my short story become a novella?

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    I think you're getting downvotes because you're asking for opinion based answers with "Is it too much" and "do I need to condense". The point about the length of a short-story and the difference between short-story and novella is a good one and the answers to that will allow you to answer the other two questions yourself. I suggest editing the question accordingly. Mar 12, 2019 at 12:53
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    The tag wiki excerpt for the novella tag says "There are no definite rules for how many words a novella contains, but in general novellas are assumed to be somewhere between 10,000 and 50,000 words in length." The first sentence of the Wikipedia article on novella specifies 17,500 to 40,000 words. Both specify that a novella is longer than a short story. Could you please Edit to elaborate on what you are looking for beyond this? Otherwise, your question looks like it lacks research effort, which is a reason to downvote.
    – user
    Mar 12, 2019 at 13:00

3 Answers 3


The Hugo Award rules list the length limits as

  • Novel 40,000 words or more
  • Novella 40,000 - 17,500 words
  • Novelette 17,500 - 7,500 words
  • Short story 7,500 words or less

These were based on the lengths used for those terms for US magazine publication, and are a bit out-of-date. No traditional book publisher would print a 40,000 word novel these days.

Other bodies may have other definitions, but I don't think they will be all that different.

For the purposes of the question, I wouldn't worry too much. The story should be written at whatever length it works best, that the author has time to write. However since this is at least partly for academic credit, check with the instructor on any limit that s/he imposes. No point in being rejected or graded down for failing to comply with a requirement.

  • What's the source on "No traditional book publisher would print a 40,000 word novel these days"? Novellas get printed... Mar 11, 2019 at 23:47
  • @Galastel : Novellas are published as ebooks all the time. But are they printed a separate physical paper volumes? Is even an ebook at a little over 40k words usually labeled as a novel? But maybe I was mistaken. In any case, I am sure the limits I mention reflect magazine categories from some time ago, and that the OP shouldn't worry too much about exact length limits. Mar 12, 2019 at 0:02

The difference as I learnt at school (Portuguese literature):

One or more protagonists, which are developed at length (whether they end up changing or not is besides the point). A few (or a lot of) important secondary characters, which will likely be well developed through the story, though not necessarily deeply so. One or more main plots, but definitely with more than one subplot. Over 300 pages (an average of 200 words per page would make that over 60,000 words).

One or more protagonists, which are developed at length (whether they end up changing or not is besides the point). One or two important secondary characters, which may or may not be well developed through the story but not too deeply. A single main plot and one or two subplots. From 100 to 300 pages (an average of 200 words per page would make that between 20,000 and 60,000 words).

One protagonist, which is focused on but may or may not be developed (eg. if the short-story is a a sort of photo of a certain moment). One or none important secondary characters, which will probably not be developed. A single main plot; may have one subplot. Less than 50 pages (an average of 200 words per page would make that less than 10,000 words).

Do note that anything bigger than 10-20 pages (about 2,000-4,000) was considered a long short story. The main distinction between long short-story and novella was number of subplots and developed characters. I remember reading a short-story that was divided in chapters but was still considered to be a short-story because the focus was on a single character and there was a single plot, no subplots at all.

By 'well-developped' I mean they have in-story moments where their motivations are explored. The more characters are explored, the longer the story becomes and the higher it climbs in the category.

I completely agree with @David Siegel: talk to the teacher and ask about word limits.


As far as I remember from high school, a short history (conto) is a narrative about one singular event. A novella (novela) is a narrative about a series of events, logically and chronologically chained to each other, but usually centered among a single dramatic conflict. A novel (romance) is a narrative about several series of events, more or less related to each other, usually involving several different dramatic conflicts.

Evidently, a narrative about a single conflict within a singular event cannot be very long, but I am not sure that there is any universally agreed length limit. In theory, at least, a very short novella could be somewhat shorter than a particularly long short story. The difference would be in their respective internal structures.

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