For the Sake of Story

Back in November for NaNoWriMo, I put together a sequel for SHADE. (And I won myself a discount on Scrivener. Holla!)

Anyway, I had used most of October to meticulously plan out the novel which is what made it really easy for me to write. Once I have my idea outlined, it’s more or less a paint-by-number, though I do leave room for my muse to take me in other directions should it choose.

December came and looking over my nice little rough draft I realized something that I would fight against for months. Book 2 seemed more and more to be me trying to cram two books worth of story into one.

ALL THE THOUGHTS RUNNING THROUGH MY HEAD AT THIS REALIZATION:

But the plot twists!

Another murky middle to deal with?

Splitting a book in half is too hard!

But then all those other moments get pushed to Book 3!

Can I really make this split work?

What about the children? Is anyone thinking of the children for goodness’s sake?

Thankfully, I’ve faced these hard moments before. When it came to Book 1, after a writing conference in New York I knew I had to make substantial changes, not unlike the changes I’m probably going to make now.

DON’T FEAR THE REVAMP

For some of you rewrites are not any kind of problem. It may be your curse. But for some of you the idea of having to majorly revamp your book scares you like Reevers scare Captain Mal.

For the sake of story, suck it up, and do it anyway.

How do you know if you need to revamp the story? The easiest way to find out is beta readers. And some of the best ways to find beta readers is going to writer’s conferences and networking. Your fellow writers will appreciate a beta read themselves, so offer to exchange chapters or even full novels, get feedback and see what’s working and what isn’t.

Another way is right here on the WordPress community. We’ve got some of the best people on here who have loads of experience who can help.

Hopefully it doesn’t come as news to you that golden ink doesn’t drip from your pen—or keyboard. Think of it as getting the translation of the story in your head right. I’ve often noticed while some things in my stories change substantially, the essence tends to remain the same.

And I’ve probably said this before, but revamping or splitting books can often bring about creative discoveries you might not have stumbled upon otherwise. I created a character from a book split I doubt would have come to me any other way—and he’s one of my faves.

If you really want a story that’s going to be significantly impactful to your readers, it’s going to take some work, and often that work will be uncomfortable and hard. But you owe it to your readers and to your craft to present only the best possible.

It is my own personal goal to make every book I write better than the previous. My hope is that my skill will continue to grow and be illustrated in my writing as it goes forward.

What do you do for the sake of story? Have you had to make substantial edits or changes to a book that you didn’t want to make at first? What are your personal goals for your craft?

Make It Word Count

If you’re an aspiring author like me, eventually two words are going to cross your path if they haven’t already: word count.

If you’re really new to this biz, you may still be telling people about how many pages your book is. And that probably works better for friends and family. But all that agents, editors, and publishers want to hear about is word count.

Why? Because you might be writing in Courier, Times New Roman, Squiggly Wiggly (please don’t), but the one thing that stays uniform across the board is word count. How many words have you crammed into that Word Document that is your novel? But more importantly, how many should you have crammed in there?

As is with a lot of things in the writing world, the answer is it depends. It depends on your genre, your age range, and whether or not you’re JK Rowling or Plain Tryingtagetpublished Jane. But is there any kind of guide for how many words a novel should be?

According to Writer’s Digest, this is a typical guide for novel lengths:

Adult: Commercial & Literary ~80,000-89,000 (for you newbies, if you have it double-spaced with Times New Roman, this will be around 300 pgs, depending on your formatting)

Sci-Fi/Fantasy ~100,000-115,000 although lean toward the short end of that figure

Middle Grade ~20,000-50,000 depending on age range

YA (they say the most flexible of ranges) 55,000 – 69,999 although the trend is getting closer to the top of the 80Ks for the max. Again this depends on genre, story, etc.

Picture Books ~500-600

BUT WHAT ABOUT (INSERT BOOK TITLE)? IT WAS WAY LONGER/SHORTER!

The thing is you can’t use other authors to argue the length of your book because 99% of the time your arguments are invalid. Especially if the author in questions is 1) super famous, or 2) wrote something a long, long time ago. When you’re a household name, you can write a 160,000 word book because odds are your name is the money-maker the publishing world sees (although for your reader’s sake, please don’t).

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A Short, But Helpful Post

Okay peeps, I’m still doing some San Fran recovery and getting back onto a blogging schedule, etc. But I won’t leave you without something useful. So here is that something.

It’s called Word to Pages. Why is that so interesting? So glad you asked. Have a contest you’re eying, but not a good guesser at how many words equals how many pages in your world? Well, look no further than Words to Pages.

You can select single, 1.5, double-spaced and the font and the size and it will give you an approximation of how many pages that is.

Now it isn’t perfect. Especially for those of you dialogue happy or short sentence/short paragraph writers. But it at least gives you a ballpark estimate of what to expect. If you tend to have a lot of paragraphs, I’d probably take Word to Pages‘ estimate and go a little lower.

Now you have a helpful tool at your disposal.

Say Whaaaaaaat??!!

We interrupt this regularly schedule blog day for an important announcement. How many of you like that movie, the Dark Crystal?

Okay, I thought there would be a few of you. Now, how many of you would like to write a Dark Crystal novel and make your writing debut?

That’s what the Jim Henson crew is offering. Whether published or not, you now have a chance to compete to write a Dark Crystal novel. Check out the details more specifically on this site.

The idea is you write a “7,500-10,000 words that represent the story you would tell in a full-length Dark Crystal novel.” The deadline is between October 1 and December 31, 2013. They want the final novel to be somewhere in the 50,000 range, so try and make yourself a nice, tight-knit story.

They’ll also be posting all of the lore and world details on DarkCrystal.com, but all the creativity is up to you.

What do you think my hearties? That many words is about 14-18 pages, depending on your spacing, font, etc. We’ve got until October. I guess my thinking is why not? What better exposure for your work than writing the new Dark Crystal novel? And even if you don’t make it, it’s good practice, especially if you’ve been laboring on the same novel for years (like me).

I’m going to check out the website and see if I become inspired. We’ve got this peeps!

UPDATE: Thanks to a few good writing cohorts, I was made aware of this blog post. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you are published with the Henson company name, I’m sure agents and publishers will be clamoring for your next book. But it’s good to know exactly what you’re getting into. I guess this contest is much like the Amazon one when it comes to rights, but read this post carefully before you submit. Also the official RULES.

Monday’s Writerly Quote

We’ve all been through it, or are going through it. And if you haven’t, hold on to your keyboard, you will in the near future. You finish a rough draft, pat yourself on the back for a job well done. After all, lots of people say they’re going to write novels, but you, my friend, have actually done it.

Now what? The EDITING! And with that editing comes some suffering. Why? I’ll let Stephen King explain.

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.

Hold up a sec, Stephen! Are you saying I need to kill off my characters? But I’ve got sequels in the making. Nooooooo!

No. What Stephen means is find those scenes that you spent a lot of time on, or those supporting characters you are enamored with, or those bits of phrases and sentences you really thought you wrote brilliantly and be ready to kill them like Uma Thurman looking for sweet revenge after being in a coma.

Here’s the thing: those scenes, sentences, characters, they may be weighing your book down. But it’s hard, because you love them so much. You spent a lot of time on said scene. Or everyone in your writer’s group told you that opening sentence was brilliant. Guess what? Doesn’t matter. Because if you’re serious about telling a good story, even things you love most must be up for execution. It doesn’t mean you’ll get rid of everything you love, it just means you must be willing to.

I had what I thought was a great opener for SHADE. It spelled danger, coupled with an intriguing concept. The line got me high praises at a writer’s conference and I felt pretty darn good about it if I do say so myself. But guess what? I had to kill it. Noooooo! Really, I did. I kept trying to force it in elsewhere. But it’s brilliant, I reasoned. It must remaineth! Nope. I killed it. It doesn’t show up anywhere in the novel. The idea of it does, but not the line itself. But once I got rid of it, I was able to move forward in a slightly different direction and have gained a lot more opportunities with SHADE since.

So kill your darlings my friend. Besides, it’s the one time it’s completely okay to murder something.

Have you had to kill any darlings? Any that were excruciating to do away with? Or do you disagree and shield those darlings like a mama bear?