My son and I were having a discussion about writing essays for scholarships. The natural question, to me, was “How long does it have to be?”
“5,000 word maximum” he says. Pffft . . . puh—leeeeeeze. I have bowel movements longer than 5,000 words. At 5,000 words I’m just getting warmed up, as a general rule, especially if I’m on a roll about a subject I’m passionate about. I can understand how that can seem intimidating to a student, though.
I started thinking about it a little. When I write a story I rarely ever have a word count in mind; I write it until it’s done. Seems pretty cut and dry to me. Most publishers and editors are going to have word count requirements based on their specific needs or desires, to be sure. If I happen to encounter one who wants a story to be a certain length then I will work to that spec—until then, it’s my choice, so I’ll take my ball and play elsewhere for the time being.
This is relevant right now because I’m on the cusp of finishing my next, err, short story. Thing is, I don’t consider it ‘short’, per se. As I write this post it’s sitting at around 20,000 words, and I’m not quite done yet.
click to enlarge
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the title is The Apocalypse of Hagren Roose
. Hagren has had a few personal issues with his daughter and has been a less than stellar father figure. He’s about to find out what price his actions have extracted from him.
I’m going to release it in digital format, beginning with the Kindle platform and eventually for the Nook and other e-readers as well. But that’s not the point of this post, is it?
When I’m asked if I’m working on anything I tend to hesitate, because I’m not quite sure how to properly approach it. It’s way longer than a “short story” if you ask me, but it’s well off the mark (in both content and word count) to be considered a “novel.” For someone who likes to have a fairly square idea of what defines an object trying to stick the correct property to Apocalypse can be difficult because there is no hard and fast standard. Listed below are some general guidelines, and I do mean general (thanks to Rob Bignell at inventingreality.com for the breakdown):
n Short story – 7,500 words or less
n Novelette – 7,501-17,500 words (many editors simply lump this category into either the short story or the novella groupings)
n Novella – 17,501-40,000 words
n Novel – 40,001 or more words
Personally, I would think a full blown novel would be far more than 40,000 words. But that’s just me and my two cents worth. At this very point in this post you have read 487 words! See how fast that goes?
I propose a new category, something a bit more descriptive to give readers a more precise idea of what they’re getting into. How about a shorvella? Whaddya think? It’s catchy—not quite a short story, not quite a true novella (although Apocalypse falls nicely into that category now, which I admit just sounds cool: The Apocalypse of Hagren Roose – a Novella).
So, essentially, scholarship applicants who are being required to write an essay are being asked to write almost the equivalent of a short story . . . and truly, some short stories, by other definitions, are around 2,000-2,500 words! So that’s two or three short stories!
Well, I can’t say with any certainty that shorvella will catch on. But if it does you can say you know precisely where the term got its start!
Word count for this post — 646.
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