Counting Words by Polly J. Brown

Near the beginning of the year I joined a small group of writers who committed to writing thirteen romance-related short stories over the course of the year. The idea of writing some short stories excited me. It presented the chance to work with new ideas, fresh characters, and it provided a temporary distraction from my novel-length WIP which I needed to put aside for a time.  But most importantly, writing thirteen short stories meant that I would finally finish something. I would have some pieces to tuck away for future use. 

So, a week after I joined the short story group, I sat down, cracked my knuckles, and began to write.  For short story number one I chose the bad boy/ good girl trope. Why?  I thought it would be easy to write- the characters meet, experience some heated conversation, and BAM. End of story. Project number one completed in less than 5,000 words.

However, after I began to write the story shifted. Complications developed between the characters. Bad boy became vulnerable and as for my female main character, well, her title of good girl is debatable. I eventually finished the first draft three months later and well over my target word count. I wondered if the story could even be considered a short story, so I took the question to some of my peers.

Opinions varied about the shift from short to novella, leaving me confused so my next step was to ask my friend Google.  While Google did her best, even she was unable to provide me with a definitive answer. Each site I visited provided me with a different word count range and a different list of story types. Here’s a summary of what I found:

  • Micro Fiction- less than 100 words
  • Flash- 100 to 1,000 words
  • Short- 1,000-8,000 words   (This one varied. I saw ranges from 1,000 to 30,000 words)
  • Novelette- 7,500 – 20,000 words (Again, the ranges for this category varied)
  • Novella- 20,000 – 40,000 words (Ranges varied)
  • Novels- 50,000+ words (Though the actual word count depends on the genre of the manuscript.)

Based on the categories above, I’d written a novelette. Great! A finished novelette. Wonderful!

Project number one completed. Only, it wasn’t.

Despite the fact the piece was finished, the plot continued to churn in my head. Sub plots appeared with new characters and the Happily Ever After shifted to a Happy For Now.

I didn’t know what to do. Leave the story at the length it was or revise and keep writing? So I asked another friend and she gave me a great piece of advice:

If you’re thinking about the main character’s family, her job, her friends, and the other events occurring in her life then you need to make it a novel.

Her words resonated with me. So now, I’m taking a short story novelette and turning it into a novel length piece. I’m giddy, excited, but still a little disappointed. Five months into the year and I have yet to complete a single short story, let alone several. But there’s time. The year isn’t over yet and I’ve learned that short stories don’t have to be much longer than a blog post.

And if all else fails, there’s always Flash.


Polly J Brown manages money and people, both at work and at home.  She resides on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore with her husband, three children, and a geriatric beagle.  When she isn’t dreaming of writing short stories, she is hard at work on her first novel-length work.


3 thoughts on “Counting Words by Polly J. Brown

  1. Pingback: Why not turn that novel into a short story? | jean's writing

  2. While finding the definition of terms is helpful (and thank you for that by the way; I can never keep them straight), I understand how it wasn’t exactly what you were looking for. I guess it isn’t unusual for writers to start out writing one thing and end up writing another. I think that’s why they say just write, you never know what will come out of it.

    For myself, I tell people who ask that I have never thought in terms of a short story. I always write novel length, and I think it’s because of the advice you got: I’m thinking fairly in depth and detailed about my characters. You just can’t do that in a short story. I’m not sure I could even write a short story.

    I consider writers who can flip back and forth between short stories and novels quite accomplished and in command of their story telling. It’s great that you want to expand your writing expertise.

    Nice blog. Thanks


    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s