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What is the best length for short stories? (2016) (thejohnfox.com)
43 points by smacktoward 47 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 19 comments

I'm pretty skeptical of this methodology for determining the "ideal" story length. In particular, note that none of the stories examined hits this supposed sweet spot. This is kind of like surveying people's personal transportation preferences and landing on "three wheels" as the ideal.

A much more valuable tactic is to look at what various markets are accepting. For flash fiction, that's typically under 1,000 words (though for some, it extends to 1,200 or 1,500). For short stories, the sweet spot seems to be between 3,000 and 4,000 words with a hard cutoff in most markets at 6,000. Anything longer and you might as well push through into novella length.

I thought flash fiction was crazy but found I really enjoy the challenge of keeping a short story to 1K words or less. It meshes nicely with the idea that you can throw out half of what you’ve written and still tell the story well. It took me a while to understand that but it makes sense - at first blush you’re like “but I REALLY need two thousand words to make this story work” and then if you step back and get ruthless with your red marker you’re like “Holy S—t, I can actually do this with half the words.”

Try taking a look at #vss365 (very short stories, daily prompt) and other hashtag writing prompts on twitter. Owner gives a word and you construct a story Or other snippet or poem in 280 characters.

Often I try to do it with a line from my WIP (kids Sci-Fi novel). And it’s a real challenge to squeeze in a snippet and make it fit. But plot does force one to consider the essentials of your snippet. Challenging but fun.

Was it not Hemingway who wrote the two sentence tragedy ? "For sale: newborn shoes. Never worn"

Myth Busted! Still.. left hand edge of the short story bell curve is there or close by (I liked Borges and Bradbury on the list. PKD short stories fit the mould too)

Beats the shortest one I've ever 'read', though this is pretty sad too


given the speed of light, I think its probably true.

I really enjoyed 100 great science fiction short short stories, 1-3 pages long. At that length, they're like jokes, almost entirely twist.


What is the best length of a blog post that recounts a story. According to my analytics, it depends entirely on the story.

According to a rough analysis of HN comments, if readers relate to the first and second paragraph, they'll read it it through.

One of my favorite extremely short stories, Bug-Getter: http://www.bretnor.com/BugGetter.html

That’s great!

Personally? I think the best length is "short."

More seriously, this study is selecting on the dependent variable. No good.

I've almost entirely stopped reading books because I got sick of putting up with filler. Whatever you do, please, don't fill your story with unnecessary content, just to conform to some imagined standard. The purpose of writing is to deliver information, not fill time (or space).

me, reading this: wait, Munroe is at the higher end of the range because she's not writing short stories with wordcounts like that, she's writing novellas, are any of the stories he's listing for her short enough to be shorts?

john fox: concludes the article with a nice infographic that lays out the standard wordcounts from every story size from "microfiction" to "Russian novel"; one of Munroe's stories is at the bottom end of the gap between "short story" and "novelette" with the rest well into "novelette" or "novella"

Such an impetuous analysis have little credibility without controlling for genre, language, market and time period.

It doesn't help that the author uses lots of strong words and categorical statements.

" ... it had to be something readable in a single sitting

As I recall it I read vol. 1 of Lord of the Rings in a single sitting

How long is a piece of string?

Find the average string length by statistical sampling of the string population, model the distribution, and you'll have a useful estimate of the probability that your string is of any specific length.

If you discover length clustering you may need to apply a separate classifier.

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