rita ackerman

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Short Fiction: An Overview


Wherever I go I hear the words “flash fiction” or “short-short fiction.” I’m asked what these things mean in my book discussion group and they are discussed in my writing groups. I decided to do a bit of research and bring it all together here.

The main problem with all of these types of writing is the names change as do the requirements. I found different definitions on different sites. Here’s the breakdown as close as I can figure it out.

First of all, short fiction should have a beginning, middle and end. In other words, it should tell a story. There should be as setting and one or more characters along with some conflict and a resolution. The title may or may not be part of the word count.

Fifty-five Fiction: exactly 55 words

Drabble or Micro Fiction: exactly 100 words

Flash Fiction or short-short story:  100 to 1,000 words

Short Story: 1,000 to 7,500 words

Novelette: 7,500 to 20,000 words

Novella: 20,000 to 40,000/50,000 words can be made into a chain-novel

Novel: 50,000 to 110,000 words

Short stories have been written by most authors of the past. Hemingway was a master of short stories. As periodicals disappeared short stories became harder to publish. Anthologies were about the only outlet for short fiction. As self-publishing becomes a major force in the field many authors or groups of authors have published their own anthologies. Literary magazines published by universities and other organizations are available in print and in e-form.

Readers often prefer something short as many can’t seem to find the time to dig into a novel. Young adults seem to be especially drawn to reading and writing short fiction.

It would seem that writing short would be easier but it is actually harder to write short. It takes practice and determination to make every single word count. It is great practice. Give it a try with this prompt: an abandoned car.


You can also check out these contests: (I don’t know anything about these so be sure to do your research on their validity and on any contests you hear about.)

WOW – Women On Writing

Writer’s Digest Short-Short Story

Freelance Writing

Happy writing and good luck.




  1. Thanks for the breakdown of short fiction – it’s amazing how many different forms there are!

  2. Windy Lynn says:

    Great list, Rita! I love to read and write short stories 🙂

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