Works in Progress: How Many Is Too Many?

I often go hunting for quotes from authors about writing, usually for my weekly writing update posts. I recently stumbled across the following quote from novelist Philip Roth, and I really dig it. He said:

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”

-Philip Roth

It’s a great quote, and I think it cuts to the heart of the most difficult thing a writer can do–call something “done.” If you’re like me, then your hard drive is chocked full of flash fiction pieces, short stories, and novels languishing under the label “work in progress.” So I thought I’d take a dig through my files and see just how many projects I’ve started and yet to finish.

First some ground rules. These rules apply to me and only me. You can, of course, make up your own mind for what counts as a work in progress.

  • One, I will only consider a piece I’ve actually submitted as a work in progress if it is currently undergoing a major revision, like pretty much a total rewrite.
  • Two, I will consider a work as “in progress” if I have actually completed an outline. Jotted-down story ideas don’t count.
  • Three, anything I am contractually obligated to write I won’t count because it WILL be finished. To me, a true WiP needs a little uncertainty.

Okay, let’s have a look.

Flash Fiction WiPs: 13 (about 13,000 words)

The main difference with my flash fiction works in progress is that everyone of these is technically a finished first draft. That has a lot to do with how I generate my flash fiction, primarily in one-hour flash fiction contests/writing exercise that by their very nature ensure I end up with 1,000 words by the end. Most of these are in serious, serious need of revision, but a couple are almost there and will likely head out the door in the near future.

Short Stories WiPs: 22 (about 50,000 words)

My short story works in progress range from simple outlines to ancient completed works that need to be totally rewritten and everything in between.  A fair number of these might never see true completion and submission, but there are a half dozen I’ll finish in the next few months, let my critique partners read, and then send them out into the world.

Novel & Novella WiPs: 3 (about 65,000 words)

This includes one novel in which I’ve written about 35,000 words (my next project), a full novel outline, and a finished novella I’m still tinkering with. The novel that has progressed beyond the outline stage will definitely be finished, and I’m working on it now. The outlined novel I might get to one day, but it’ll be down the road a ways. The novella needs some revision, mostly because it’s the sequel to a published short story, and I’m not sure it works without that short story.

In Summary

In total, I have 38 works in progress totaling about 130,000 words. That’s actually less than I expected, though if I counted stories that have been submitted at least once and are not undergoing major revision, that number would be much, much higher (maybe double).

Now let’s answer the question I posed in the title of this post. Do I have too many works in progress? Maybe, but it’s more a question of identifying which works are actually worth completing and which I should maybe set aside as ideas that are not gonna pan out. If I did that, I guess I’d end up with half the number of flash pieces and short stories, and, as much as I hate to say it, that outlined novel might not make the cut either. This kind of winnowing of WiPs is probably a good thing for every author to do at some point. Basically, I want my creative energies going toward works that are meaningful and might have a shot at publication. Of course, that’s a tough decision to make, and, as you can see, I kinda suck at it.

How many works in progress do you have going? Tell me about it in the comments.

The Long View II: Genre Markets for Novelettes & Novellas

A couple of years ago I wrote a post called The Long View: Genre Markets for Novelettes & Novellas, and it turned out to be one of my more popular posts. Guess there are a lot of folks writing at that length. Anyway, in that post, I took a broad look at the number of genre markets that accept novelettes and novellas using Duotrope as my primary source. I think it’s time for an update on this subject, especially since my last post did not include The Submission Grinder and my methods were, uh, less than perfect. I’ve also included two more genres in this analysis: mystery and romance.

It’s important to note that my numbers are not complete. They’re a snapshot in time of which markets are currently accepting novelettes and novellas and are listed on Duotrope and The Submission Grinder. Though I’m likely hitting most of the markets that accept stories of these lengths, there are certainly others not listed on either market database or are currently closed to submissions.

We’re only going to look at novelettes and novellas, which Duotrope and the Submission Grinder define as such:

  • Novelette: 7,500 to 15,000 words
  • Novella: 15,000 to 40,000 words

As for pay scale, I’m looking at three categories, defined as:

  • Token: under 1 cent per word
  • Semi-Pro: 1 cent to 4 cents per word
  • Pro: 5 cents per word and up

Lastly, (D) stands for Duotrope and (SG) stands for The Submission Grinder in the tables below. Also, note the two databases have a lot of overlap, and many publishers are listed on both. This is reflected in the numbers below.

Okay, lets look at those genres.


Since I’m a horror writer, primarily, let’s look at the horror market first:

Horror Token (D) Token (SG) Semi-Pro (D) Semi-Pro (SG) Pro (D) Pro (SG)
Novelette 12 21 4 4 2 3
Novella 4 11 0 1 2 2

There are a fair amount of token horror markets that will accept longer works, and a lot of these can be found on The Submission Grinder. Pickings get thin once you hit semi-pro and pro, however, and you’re really restricted to just a few markets for novelettes and novellas. The other thing to note here is that many of these publishers are not pure horror markets. For example, Clarkesworld and Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show accept a wide array of speculative fiction that includes horror.


Let’s move on to fantasy, where thing open up a little.

Fantasy Token (D) Token (SG) Semi-Pro (D) Semi-Pro (SG) Pro (D) Pro (SG)
Novelette 20 33 5 10 9 10
Novella 11 18 2 3 7 6

You have a pretty wide range of markets to choose from for long-form fantasy, even pro markets. There’s a fair bit of overlap between novellas and novelettes in that often the same market will publish both lengths. The pro markets here are some of the biggest names in speculative fiction, including Asimov’s Science Fiction, Clarkesworldand Fantasy & Science FictionThough a number of these pro markets are listed as publishing novellas, they cap word counts at 25,000 words or less.

Science Fiction

Now science fiction, likely the best genre for long-form fiction in terms of available pro markets.

Sci-Fi Token (D) Token (SG) Semi-Pro (D) Semi-Pro (SG) Pro (D) Pro (SG)
Novelette 19 23 6 11 11 11
Novella 7 13 4 3 9 8

There are more semi-pro and pro markets for science fiction novellas and novelettes than any other genre. That said, many of these markets are also present in the fantasy accounting above (and even horror). Also, word counts here, like fantasy, are often restricted to the lower end for novellas. You’ll find a lot of the big names you’d expect among these markets, including those that publish only sci-fi, such as Analog Science Fiction Fact.


Next is mystery/crime, and options are limited here.

Mystery/Crime Token (D) Token (SG) Semi-Pro (D) Semi-Pro (SG) Pro (D) Pro (SG)
Novelette 1 6 1 2 2 3
Novella 1 3 0 0 2 3

There really aren’t that many semi-pro and pro markets for mystery/crime of any length, and you’re really restricted if you want to write something longer than a short story. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine are the big names here. Note Hitchcock’s does not accept novellas, and while Ellery Queen does, they cap them at 20,000 words.


Finally, let’s look at romance and erotica.

Romance Token (D) Token (SG) Semi-Pro (D) Semi-Pro (SG) Pro (D) Pro (SG)
Novelette 4 8 1 1 0 1
Novella 4 6 0 0 0 1

Your options are even more limited in the romance and erotica genres. The only pro romance market that came up was East of the Web Romance Imprint, which does publish novellas up to 40,000 words. I found no professional erotica markets listed on either database for novellas and only one semi-pro.

Pro Markets for Novelettes and Novellas

Finally, here’s a list of all the pro markets from the tables above that publish novelettes and novellas and where they cap word counts for novellas. As always, make sure you read the guidelines thoroughly before you submit to any of these publishers.

Market Genres Novelette Novella
Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine M, T Y N
Amazing Stories S Y N
Analog Science Fiction & Fact S Y to 40,000 words
Asimov’s Science Fiction F, S Y to 20,000 words
Beneath Ceaseless Skies F Y N
Clarkesworld Magazine F, H, S Y to 16,000 words
East of the Web Children’s Stories F, S Y to 40,000 words
East of the Web Horror Imprint H Y to 40,000 words
East of the Web Mystery Imprint M Y to 40,000 words
East of the Web Romance Imprint R, M, T Y to 40,000 words
East of the Web Science Fiction/Fantasy Imprint F, S Y to 40,000 words
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine M Y to 20,000 words
Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF) F, S Y to 25,000 words
Future Science Fiction Digest S Y N
Grantville Gazette S Y unspecified
Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show F, H, S Y to 17,500 words
Reckoning F, S Y to 40,000 words
Strange Horizons F, H, S Y N
Universe Annex [Grantville Gazette] F, S Y to 40,000 words
Writers of the Future Contest F, S Y to 17,000 words

F – fantasy, H – horror, M – mystery, R – romance, S – science fiction, T – thriller

You’ll of course notice a lot of overlap, especially with fantasy and science fiction, and slim pickings for pro horror, romance, and mystery markets. As I said earlier, this is not an exhaustive list. It’s a snapshot of which publishers are currently open to submissions and are listed on either Duotrope or The Submission Grinder.

So, what’s the take-away? I don’t want to give the impression you shouldn’t write long form genre fiction, but it’s important to understand that works over 7,500 words limits your options for publication in traditional magazines, zines, and anthologies, especially if you want to submit to semi-pro and pro markets. That said, sometimes a story just needs to be the length it needs to be.

Besides the markets I’ve listed above, what other options does a novelette/novella writer have? Well, a few big publishers, like and Hydra (a digital imprint of Random House), occasionally accept submissions for novellas (both are currently closed to submissions). I’ve also seen a number of smaller book publishers put out open calls for novellas. Examples include Parvus Press (recently closed to submissions) and Twelfth Planet Press (open to submissions). A little research is likely to pull up more small publishers that produce novellas, just make sure you vet these markets thoroughly to make sure they’re a good fit for your work and that they’re legit publishers (not vanity publishers in disguise, for example).

Lastly, there’s self-publishing, which seems to be a popular option for novellas, and I see a fair amount of authors going that route. Obviously, self-publishing comes with its own share of challenges, and you definitely want to do your homework before diving in.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for today. If you know of any good markets for genre novelettes and novellas, please share them in the comments.

The Long View: Genre Markets for Novelettes & Novellas

If you regularly submit short stories to genre markets, you’ve no doubt learned the longer your story the fewer publishers who will accept it. This post isn’t meant be a condemnation of longer stories, but it is beneficial to understand where many genre markets stand on novelettes and novellas.

I’m going to take a close look at the market for three popular genres—horror, fantasy, and sci-fi, i.e., the ones I know best—and see how many accept stories of the most popular lengths. All of my stats will be drawn from Duotrope, which is a pretty robust database of potential markets, but it is not a database of all markets. So my numbers are naturally skewed and will not include publishers that aren’t part of Duotrope’s database. Also, the data here is a snapshot, and counts only those markets that are currently accepting submissions. In other words, this is not a scientific study by any means; it’s a quick summation of the data I have easily at hand and should be viewed as such.

Okay, some definitions first.

In each of the three genres I named above, I’m going to see how many markets accept stories in the following four lengths: short story, flash fiction, novelette, and novella. Duotrope defines those lengths thusly:

  • Short Story: 1,000 to 7,500 words
  • Flash Fiction: Less than 1,000 words
  • Novelette: 7,500 to 15,000 words
  • Novella: 15,000 to 40,000 words

It’s important to note that while Duotrope’s definition of a short story is a piece up to 7,500 words, many publishers do not publish fiction at that length. In my experience, 3,000 to 5,000 words is more common for short stories, and of those publishers that do publish up to 7,500 words, some don’t do it very often and will often state that in the guidelines.

I’m also breaking the markets down into three payment tiers: token, semi-pro, and professional. (I’m keeping non-paying markets out of this simply to keep the numbers manageable.) Dutrope defines those payment theirs like this:

  • Token: under 1 cent per word (often a flat rate)
  • Semi-Pro: 1 cent to 5 cents per word (most of these markets tend to be on the low end of this scale)
  • Professional: 6 cents per word and up

Okay, let’s look at our first genre—horror.

Horror Token Semi-Pro Pro
Total Markets 98 42 9
Short Story 88 34 8
Flash Fiction 53 27 6
Novelette 31 7 4
Novella 9 3 2

As you can see, most of these markets accept short stories and a fair number of them also take flash fiction. (The ones that don’t take shorts often specialize in flash.) The numbers drop off dramatically the longer the story gets, hitting single digits when you get into novella length. In fact, if you want to submit a novella-length horror story to a professional market, it’s currently Clarkesworld Magazine or Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show or nothin’ (according to Duotrope). It should be noted that Clarkesworld cuts off novellas at 16,000 words and Intergalactic Medicine Show at 17,500 words. So if you’ve got a 20,000-word horror novella, there currently isn’t a pro market to send it to in Duotrope’s database.

Okay, now fantasy.

Fantasy Token Semi-Pro Pro
Total Markets 131 72 28
Short Story 112 57 22
Flash Fiction 71 44 17
Novelette 47 19 11
Novella 18 8 7

Fantasy is a bigger market than horror, but the numbers are similar. Lots of places that accept shorts and flash and far less that accept novelettes and novellas. You’ve got more options with longer works in this genre but not by much. Again, like with horror, most of the pro markets definitions of a novella falls well below 40,000 or even 30,000 words. Only one of the seven pro markets above accepts novellas up to 40,000 words; the rest cut off at 25,000 words and below (most are below 20,000).

And, lastly, science-fiction.

Sci-Fi Token Semi-Pro Pro
Total Markets 149 78 30
Short Story 131 64 25
Flash Fiction 71 43 17
Novelette 57 19 11
Novella 20 10 8

Again, similar ratios as the other two genres, but since sci-fi is the largest of the three, you do have a few more options for longer story lengths. Like with horror and fantasy, novella writers will need to keep their works on the low end of the spectrum. Only two markets here accept novellas up to 40,000 words, the rest cut off at 25,000 words and below.

That’s a whole bunch of numbers for you, but the conclusion is simple: there just aren’t many markets in these three genres that accept longer stories (I’d guess it’s similar with mystery and romance, but I could be wrong). It’s something to keep in mind when you’re writing. If you’re targeting semi-pro and pro publishers, then you may have a more difficult time selling a novelette or novella simply from lack of potential markets. Again, I’m not saying don’t write to these lengths–a story needs to be as long as it needs to be–just be aware it’s a tougher road.

It’s not all bad news. Some of the big book publishers are actually open to and even looking for submissions of novella-length manuscripts. Here’s a couple I found with just a quick internet search (there are likely more):

  • Tor is looking for fantasy novellas between 20,000 and 40,000 words that are not modeled on a European culture through January 12th, 2017. Check out the full guidelines here: novella submissions.
  • Hydra, a digital-only imprint of Penguin-Random House, is looking for horror, fantasy, and sci-fi works of 40,000 words and up. Technically, I think they’re looking for novel-length submissions, but 40,000 words is the upper limit of what most people consider a novella. They’re looking for queries first, and there’s a online form you can fill out right here: Hydra submission guidelines.

If you have additional info about potential markets for novelettes and novellas or if you have experience with a genre outside of fantasy, horror, and sci-fi, please tell me about it in the comments.