Novel, novella, short story, flash fiction…what’s the difference between them? Let’s take a look so you know how many words you need for your next story.

How many words are supposed to be in my blog? What about my article? Hey, a white paper? A novel? Flash fiction? Okay, no one said writing was easy, whether you write fiction or non-fiction. When I first started writing stories, I was never sure how long to make my chapters. I wasn’t even sure if short stories were supposed to just have break marks or chapters. As I’ve continued writing and made it my professional career, I’ve come across other writers starting out that have the same questions.

Just how long is this story supposed to be?

To make your life a little easier here is a helpful breakdown of fiction and non-fiction writing types and the approximate word count. I’m using word count because much of our writing nowadays is online, and it’s harder to determine the final page count for, say, a blog.

Digital Non-Fiction Writing

Blog posts – blog posts are odd for pinning down your word count. Why? Well, blog posts come in a variety of formats and serve different purposes, such as lead generation or pillar posts for your website. At a minimum, your blog post should be between 300 and 500, but it can run as long as 5,000. Your blog should be as long as it needs to be to get your story across. Here’s a breakdown of some popular formats.

  • Listicles – 2,300 to 2,600 words
  • How-To – 1,700 to 2,100 words
  • What Is (questions that need answered) – 1,300 to 1,700 words

Longform content – articles, free guides, and anything that requires multiple chapters and their own URL should range somewhere between 5,000-15,000 words.

Case studies – 500 to 1,500 words. This should cover a summary of the case study, the problem that was being evaluated, the solution, the results, and why the results matter.

Traditional Non-Fiction Writing

White papers – white papers typically are used in business to educate an audience about a specific subject. They’re basically an advanced problem-solving guide. This is the one category that I will specify a page count: 6 to 12 pages. At the minimum, your white paper should be 3,000 to 5,000.

Standard Non-fiction Book – 70,000 to 80,000 words

Memoir – 80,000 to 100,000 words. Your memoir could go longer depending on what you’re covering and how relevant the information is.

Biography – 80,000 to 200,000 words. Again, this is just an estimate. You may go longer. Whatever it takes to tell your story.

How-To and Self-Help – 40,000 to 50,000 words

Traditional Fiction Writing

Once upon a time, I used to share my fiction writing online. Back then, I used forums and message boards. They had a word limit where you could only post 2,500 words at a time. Today, you can post your chapter and not worry about the limit. Here are some guidelines for your fiction writing. I will not go into the specific word count for genres because publishers like to determine the word count they want.

Flash Fiction – 300 to 1,500 words

Short Story – 1,500 to 30,000 words

Novellas – 30,000 to 50,000 words. Most fiction novel first drafts fall into the novella category until the final edits are done.

Novels – 50,000 to 150,000 words. Epic fantasy and sci-fi novels hit that 150,000 mark.

Knowing how many words you need for the project you are working on can help you plan your project from start to finish. I hope this helped. How long is the project you’re working on? Drop me a note and tell me about it.


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