sallyhanan’s blog

A writer’s blog

Flash, Short, Nano, Micro . . . Categorize Your Fiction July 28, 2009

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Joy in a Box is an e-book (and soon to be published) collection of thirty flash-fiction stories. Because I have readers reviewing it, I was asked what flash fiction is. Most names for fiction relate to the fiction piece’s word count so I’ve made a list that gives a rough word count guide. It is not definitive, as many publishers have their own ideas on what the word count of various types of fiction should be.

Nanofiction: 55 words

Drabble: 100 words

69er: 69 words

Micro-fiction: 10-250 words (although some would say up to 750)

Flash fiction: 250-1,000 words

Sudden fiction: Slightly over 1,000 words

Short shorts: 1,001-2,500 words

Short story: 2,501-7,500 words

Novelette: 7,501-17,500 words

Novella: 17,501-40,000 words

Novel: 40,001 words and up
Pamelyn Casto write in her article Flashes on the Meridian: Dazzled by Flash Fiction:

“Other names for it include short-short stories, sudden, postcard, minute, furious, fast, quick, skinny, and micro fiction. . . . In China this type of writing has several interesting names: little short story, pocket-size story, minute-long story, palm-sized story, and my personal favorite, the smoke-long story (just long enough to read while smoking a cigarette).”
My own name for flash fiction would be coffee-time or toilet-visit fiction, but Americans might find the latter distasteful because then they’d have to admit to reading on the toilet. 😉 The other negative to admitting to reading on the toilet is being unable to resell your books, as George discovered (in “The Bookstore” episode of Seinfeld).

REBECCA: (Opens the cover of the book) Oh, wait a second. (Certain) This book has been in the bathroom.
GEORGE: (Nervous) Wh-what are you talking about? That – that’s ridiculous.
REBECCA: It’s been flagged. I know. I used to work in a Brentano’s.
GEORGE: (Desperate to get rid of the book) Alright, I, I’ll just take fifty. Do – do we have a deal?
REBECCA: Yeah, and here it is: You get your toilet book out of here, and I won’t jump over this counter and punch you in the brain!

It can take a while to get the hang of writing a good piece of flash fiction as you only have a limited number of white space you can use. I used to take part in the Faithwriters weekly challenge and got so used to writing short pieces that I can now hack and slash anything that’s too long. I’d highly recommend attempting to write a complete story in less than 750 words. You must have at least one setting, one problem to be resolved, and one character because this is to be a complete story, not just a vignette (or slice of a story). The practice will make editing your novel a lot easier on the heartstrings—your writing ends up tighter and no words are wasted. Just like it is with kids at dinner time, you don’t want your readers pushing the half-eaten dish away because they are too full.



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