Flash fiction--< 1,000
Flash fiction is fun to write. Many times the word count required will be 500 words or less, and I have participated in a challenge with a 100-word maximum. It forces you to write tight! Don’t use five words when one very descriptive one will do.
Short Story lengths are what most magazines will request. Each magazine has different requirements, so pay attention to their individual guidelines along with the types of stories they want.
Novelettes tend to be stories that you might see in an anthology. An anthology is a book featuring different authors, usually revolving around a theme (Christmas, vampires, zombies, etc.) that an editor will put together. The editor will request an author(s) to participate in the anthology, or will open a submissions process, detailing the theme and their requirements. Carina Press has done this along with other ebook publishers (many are erotica).
Novellas are a little longer, but not as long as a novel. The story is more involved, but the story must be streamlined since 40,000-words doesn’t allow for numerous subplots. Sometimes you will see these in an anthology.
Novels include everything from middle grade books to adult literary fiction, BUT each genre has their own recommended word count.
500-1500 words--picture books, early readers.
1,000-5,000 words--easy readers and some chapter books
15,000-40,000 words--older chapter books and middle grade
40,000--50,000 words-- middle grade and younger young adult, targeting children between the ages of 8-16.
50,000-70,000 words--young adult (high school and above), some mysteries and category romance.
80,000-100,000 words--rounds out most genres: romance, suspense/thrillers, mysteries, literary fiction, and sci-fi/fantasy.
100,000+ words--some literary fiction, sci-fi/fantasy, some thrillers.
If you have a story that is in the 200,000-word range, then you have a problem. It could be that you wrote a pile of backstory at the beginning that needs to be cut (a very common problem). Or you have two books written instead of one (it doesn’t usually work out that way). Or you need to do some serious slicing, dicing, and tightening, because you went to town with extraneous crap that doesn’t move THIS story forward.
Now the above word counts are simply guidelines. But don’t disregard them because, “Your work is a masterpiece and if it takes 300,000-words then the editor will have to deal with it.”
Try again, Bubba, part of being a writer is learning to edit your writing. You aren’t special and neither is your story. Trust me—no one is going to want to wade through the dreck to get to the good stuff. Learn to edit and come close to the word count for your chosen genre before you submit it. You’ll save yourself a pile of heartache.
And I don’t even want to hear the words “So what? I’ll self-publish.” Your readers won’t want to wade through the muck that is your novel.
Get real with yourself and get editing!