Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Sunday, February 7, 2010
That got me thinking about word counts. One issue I ran into during my youth was that all my stories were extremely short. Always wanting to write a book, I made a few attempts, but always finished within a few thousand words.
I was one of those geeky, analytical kids. Heck, I'm a geeky, analytical adult. What that means for my writing, if I'm not careful, is that I have a tendency to get straight to the point. Just the facts. Get it over with.
This time, I'm writing a book. My plot has to be rich and full, with possible sub-plots running concurrently. I should add descriptions and character developing scenes. But, even doing that, would I have enough to fill a book? Not knowing how many words were actually in a book, I really didn't know the answer to that question.
Activate researcher mode!
After a bit of research, I learned that if I followed the guidelines I outlined in my previous post about formatting (double spaced, 1" margins, monospaced font) then I would run about 250 words per page.
After a bit more research, I learned:
- Short Story - Under 7,500 words
- Novelette - 7,500 to 17,500 words
- Novella - 17,500 to 40,000 words
- Novels - Over 40,000 words
- Romances - 50,000
- Fantasy/Sci-Fi - 60,000 to 80,000 (or more, with many fantasy novels being 125,000)
- Young Adult - 20,000 to 40,000
So now I had a goal. I knew I wanted to get to the 70,000 to 80,000 word mark. I have been writing a fantasy novel and those tend to be larger than the standard mainstream novels.
On to the next part. How do I find my word count? Most word processors out there today will give you a word count. This isn't always the same word count that publishers are looking for, sometimes it is. So how do you find a word count that publishers and agents will use? You look on their websites. Some have switched to the count word processors give and some stick to the old methods.
Here's the old method:
- Count the number of letters on a line. Include spaces. (And I'm assuming you're still using a monospaced font--a font where all the letters are the same size. Courier is a popular one.)
- Divide that number by six. The averge length of a typical word is six letters.
- Count the number of lines on the page. Again, include spaces/blank lines.
- Multiply the number you got when you divided by six and the number of lines on a page.
- Multiply that number by how many pages you have in your manuscript. (Round up to the nearest hundred.)
The discrepencies happen between the above math equation and word processor counts when there's a lot of spaces or blank lines--word processors don't count blank lines, whereas publishers do. I don't have many blank lines yet, so it wasn't really a big deal.
Turns out I was averaging about 230 words per page. Again, that's pretty typical. I had about 20,000 words at that point and still had quite a bit of plot to delve into. My fears of not having enough to write about were quelled for the moment.
The benefit of having a word count to aim for gave me a goal. Now I knew where I had to add to my story or substract. I could put more thought into the plot lines and not just guess that it would be in the ballpark.
I got my answers, so I deactivated research mode. With peace of mind, I was able to sit down and write. My concentration was again on the story and not those pesky random thoughts that tend to pop up at inopportune times.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
I love book series. When I find a writer and style I like, I want to immerse myself in their world. I'll obsess over reading each book in order, back-to-back until I'm done with the series.
So, I'm going to review book series on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. I'd do more, but we are talking series (several books at a time) here and if I did a review more frequently I'd quickly run out of series and would have to quit my job so I could read the next series to be reviewed.
Whereas, I would love to do that, the bank that holds my mortgage (and my husband) wouldn't like the lack of monthly payments coming their way.
Therefore, in an effort to not become homeless, I'll restrict my reviews to twice a month.
The first review will be this Wednesday, February 3 at 8 PM EST.
This will serve two purposes:
1 – It gives me one more deadline to inspire some semblance of routine in my writing world.
2 – It will be slightly more interesting than hearing my ramblings about what was going on in my head while I was writing.
Something for you and something for me. It's a win/win situation!
So, I'm merrily writing along. I've got about 40,000 words now. Half way done. Yes! I just finished my masterpiece of a scene, the one I've been thinking about and wanting to get just right. It's a really dark scene involving torture, interrogations, starvation, and other cheerful subjects. I go back and reread it. It gives me chills. Yeah…I'm good.
It's still horrible stuff really, but I'm writing and getting my thoughts out. I can always go back and edit later. Everyone has to start somewhere ,right? This is my first "real" attempt at writing anything longer than a few paragraphs in years.
Even though I am applauding my bravery, I reflect back and realize how naïve I was. At the time, I thought my writing was artistic and interesting. In reality, it was boring. Nothing happens until page 70 for crying out loud! And I hadn't even gotten to do the alternate universe world building part yet. This was all about the MC's boring existence in the plain old ordinary world.
What kind of fantasy novel drones on about the MC's personal life, or lack thereof, for pages and pages *cough* Twilight *cough*. Yeah, Bestseller's list here I come! (Please note that I really am a huge Twilight fan, but you have to admit that nothing really happens in the beginning.)
However, at that point, I was all proud of myself. Life was still good. I was still writing the next masterpiece, sure it was going to be a trilogy at least, picturing them next to Tolkien and Meyers in the book stores.
That's when a little, annoying thought started niggling in the back of my head.
I was still reading vampire stories, because heaven knows there's enough of them out there. I had resolved myself to the fact that vampire plots have been beaten to death with a baseball bat and then the bat broken up into splinters, stomped on and burned to ash. Coming up with a new idea or unique twist was nearly impossible for a newbie like me.
I guess when I said I had resolved myself against coming up with a new idea, I really meant, I took it as a challenge. I couldn't let it go. Even though I was knee deep in my other "work of art", there was a small compartment in my brain that kept chugging along searching for a new twist on the old vampire theme.
An idea flitted across the conscious part of my brain. What if…
That's all it took. I was off and running on a new idea. It was all still in my head. Vampires, werewolves, witches, pixies, they'd all been done before. But making them all misfits, throwing them together to fight off the "real" bad guys, well, that had been done before too.
Who is the MC? Ah, that would be Kat. She's a misfit too, but because she's an average girl who grew up in a house of witches. She meets this other group of misfits and "accidentally" becomes their leader. Her insight is snarky and sarcastic (something I'm well versed in).
My head is busting with ideas at this point. There's so many ways to go, so many paths. The words start writing themselves in my head and it's all I can do to find a piece of paper or a computer to write them down.
I get the first chapter done in a matter of a couple hours. I reread the lines and realize, this is a much better idea than the other novel I have half written.
Printing the pages, I thrust them in front of my wary husband. He'd been ducking my pleas to critique my work for weeks now. Realizing he had no escape, he took a deep breath and actually read the first page.
He laughed in all the right places. He asked WTF in all the right spots. For someone who had also read/seen a lot of vampire stories, I'd shocked him with my take on the theme.
He read through the pages, 10 in all. Setting them down he looked over at me and asked when the next chapter would be done. I'm sure I blinked at him in disbelief. This was the same guy that I couldn't get to read one page of my first novel. I hooked him. I actually hooked him to the story.
A little shocked at my own ability, I went to work on the next chapter.
So what's the point of this post? Sometimes when an idea strikes, you just have to go with it. The second novel is leaps and bounds better. The idea is better. The plot is better. More importantly, the writing is better.
I still have that first half novel sitting in a file on my computer. It was extremely helpful because it taught me that I can write and I do have a story to tell, enough to fill a book. I also learned how to play with words and sentences. I learned that I could box myself in with my own plot lines and other such interesting things.
I fully intend on pulling out that poor forgotten novel and working on it again. However, out of the 40,000 words, I will probably only keep 10,000 and rewrite the rest.
For now, I'm going where the story takes me.