As a writer, you likely have a list of topics you want to talk about. If you blog, you probably write about your passions or around a central theme. If you craft stories, you may be writing to answer big life questions. Or you may simply want to use writing to connect with a fan base, customers, and expand your business by creating meaningful content. In any of these scenarios, you will greatly benefit from knowing how to use popular forms of writing. Effective writers know how to leverage the tools of their craft – grammar, literary devices, and writing styles – to their maximum potential, and writing forms undergird these. A writing form brings together the separate parts of a literary piece and creates a masterful whole. Sometimes, we label these writing genres, but genres encompass a broader range of categories that include types of literature.
For a description on the types of writing and how you can use them, check out another blog post I write on the subject!
One of the most familiar writing forms to high school and college students in the essay. A writer creates an essay from a limited, personal point of view as a short, formal piece which deals with a single subject, all within approximately 2000 words. The simplest essays, called “sandwich” essays, have three parts: an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion. The writer opens their argument to the reader in the form of a thesis statement, summarizes evidence to prove their point of view, and delivers a summary of their argument and its findings in the final paragraph. Informal essay writing lends itself well to blogging, both in format and because it represents a single point of view (yours or your company’s!).
Short stories, the bread and butter of American fiction, are a distinct literary form which emphasizes the economy of narrative. A short story echoes the key elements of a novel, which are character, setting, conflict, plot and theme. Typically, a short story will be from 1000 to 20,000 words in length, and you will be able to finish it in one reading session. These key characteristics make short stories a powerful form of literature. Because you can read them in a single sitting, the entire story has the ability to affect you the way a novel cannot. Short stories can be self-published on blogs, and they can also be published in magazines and literary journals.
A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.Edgar Allen Poe
A step up, the novella has both the brevity of the short story with the more languid arc of the novel. Thanks to extended room for developing characters and themes, novellas are an exceptionally rich form of literature, providing a detailed, intense exploration of a topic or theme. For some writers, this is an attractive compromise between a short story’s dedicated focus and a novel’s broader perspective, especially if they are building their craft skills to the penultimate novel. Novellas range between 20,000 and 50,000 words (for the supremely technical, a modern novel is 50,000+ words, a novella is 20,000+ words, and shorter works between 7000 and 20,000 are occasionally called novelettes). A novella may be the right piece for you if you want to dip your toe into the publishing world for the first time. Many memoirs fall into this category, to capture a slice of your life or career story.
For many writers, novels represent the pinnacle of writing. Simply defined, a novel is a long, printed story of imagined characters and events, usually describing intimate human experiences in a way that communicates a specific theme. While novels are defined as being over 50,000 words, publishers prefer between 80,000 and 120,000 words. We use the word genre to describe the types of novels; some of these include historical, drama, romance, science fiction, fantasy, suspense/thriller, mystery, and young adult. Novels include the same elements as novellas and short stories, but with space for longer arcs, more characters, and often – though not always – a more intricate plot. Novels can also include elements of many of the other forms, like a collection of essays or short stories around a specific topic. Writing novels represents a significant time investment from the writer and the best succeed with careful planning.
Which of these writing forms fits your career – or personal – needs? If you have a goal to publish your own story or start your blog, set up a consultation with me to discuss which of these forms will suit your professional goals!