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Author Archives: Writer's Relief Staff

The Long And The Short Of It: What’s The Best Length For A Short Story? | Writer’s Relief

Thanks to the Internet, there’s been a renaissance of literary magazines that publish short stories. Since online publishing has become more prevalent, Writer’s Relief has noticed that more literary journals are publishing short fiction and nonfiction. Check out these trendy topics short story editors are loving.

Here’s more good news for short story writers! We’ve also seen an increase in literary magazines that are dedicated to the so-called “commercial” genres: horror, mystery, noir, pulp, sci-fi, and fantasy.

And while the novel still reigns supreme in the fiction section of bookstores, the Internet has indirectly contributed to a growing interest in short story collections. With more people reading on mobile devices, shorter works are becoming more popular. Learn more about how to get a collection of short stories published.

As the popularity of short stories has soared, the word count of your writing submission can still make or break your odds of getting an acceptance. So how do you determine the best length (word count) for a short story?

The Best Word Count For A Short Story (Fiction) Or Personal Essay (Nonfiction)

There are two answers to the question of how long a short story should be. The first is to say a short story should be however long you want it to be. It should be the right length for itself—and not one word more or less.

But if you want to be published, it’s important to know the word counts that literary journal and magazine editors prefer. Always check a journal’s submission guidelines and follow them. In this era of shortened attention spans, if a short story is over 3,500 words, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a meaningful number of markets that will even consider it.

Why? In the digital format that more and more readers prefer, short stories tend to be most well-received when they are easy to digest in a single sitting (and that’s not necessarily a very long time in an increasingly fast-paced world). Yes, you can still find literary journals that are specifically dedicated to long short stories. But you’ll find more publishers favoring shorter works, including flash fiction, micro fiction, and short short stories.

What If A Short Story Is Really, Really Long?

If your short story is over 15,000 words, you may be leaving the boundaries of the short story world and verging into novella territory. But don’t worry: There are all kinds of new ways to get a novella published. You can enter a novella/short fiction chapbook writing contest. You can self-publish. You can connect with a digital publisher who specializes in alternative-length fiction or nonfiction. A little research goes a long way for long short stories!


Question: Some clients have told us that restrictions on word count have actually forced them to become better, more effective writers. Do you agree?

Should Online Literary Magazines Pay Writers? | Writer’s Relief

For many poets, getting their work published is a labor of love, not money. Writer’s Relief found this article on the literary magazine Plowshares’ blog that explores why literary journals do not (and perhaps should not) pay writers for the privilege of publishing their work: Online publications have proven especially meaningful as the literary community… Continue Reading

3-Word Writing Prompts: A Great Way To Break Through Writer’s Block | Writer’s Relief

Writer’s block can stifle your creativity in more than one way. Sometimes, you reach a point in your writing where you feel stuck—you simply can’t figure out what happens next or how to end a story or poem. Other times, you’ve finished the piece you’ve been working on and can’t think of something new to… Continue Reading

Where Does Your Time Go? How To Create A Time Budget For Your Writing Career | Writer’s Relief

Writers are responsible for all aspects of their writing career—marketing, promotion, accounting, research—and of course, the actual writing! Writer’s Relief knows it can be hard to find time to get everything done. When most people think “budget,” they’re thinking about their finances. But for writers who are struggling to find more time in a day,… Continue Reading

The Easiest Way To Write A One-Line Summary For Your Novel | Writer’s Relief

If you’ve ever struggled to summarize your book so it fits into a single-sentence pitch, Writer’s Relief has found a plot/synopsis generator from Electric Literature that can help: The most important part of a novel isn’t the plot, the characters, or the language. It’s the elevator pitch. That one-sentence descriptor is how you sell the… Continue Reading

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