Monday, January 28, 2013

The Importance of Word Count part 2

This will be a brief post, but I hope it will lead to some lengthier discussion.  I simply have a couple of questions.

1. As a reader picking up a book from an author you've never heard of, how likely are you to pick up a book the size of a phone book?  And I'm not saying from the library.  How willing are you to purchase an epic tome if you know nothing of the author and they don't have any previous titles under their name?

2. What length would you find "acceptable" for you to consider purchasing a book, regardless of reviews, recommendations from friends, or even a personal relationship with the author?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Importance of Word Count part 1

Quick explanation: I had some stuff come up last week that basically kept me from doing anything on my computer.  Hence no updates and no work on my WiP.  But onto the topic of the day!

Word count can be a touchy subject for some people, including myself.  A few years ago, I wrote a very long post that led to several long discussions on one of the writing forums about the "acceptable" maximum length for Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction.  I vaguely remember what I discussed, but I know my views have changed DRASTICALLY over the following years.  Mostly because I'm no longer in the bubble that surrounded me while I worked on my first several books.  (It wasn't a bubble that I put up to remain naive, it was simply a state that I didn't realize I was in until I started working toward the next step in my career.  Education and interaction with the writing community brought new information into my life, along with new perspective and a larger bubble that will probably prove to be ill-informed as I try to educate myself more.)

Anyway, two years ago, I learned that, especially for unrepresented debut authors, word count is a huge indicator of the writer's ability to craft a story.  If the book they're writing is targeted toward Middle Grade readers, for example, a short word count (less than 45k) might reveal (from an agent's perspective) a lack of story arc, world-building (depending on genre), and character development that will help the reader engage with the book.

A long word count, on the other hand (longer than 70kish) can indicate a writer's struggle to remain concise with an audience that's considered to have a shorter attention span and therefore needs to be engaged regularly in order to entertain them.  (Before a debate on THAT subject begins, keep in mind that I don't necessarily agree with that concept, but it's something that drives the industry and MUST be considered when writing.  Agree or not, it's a fact that CANNOT BE IGNORED!!)  And remember, it's easier to sell a book that's "longer" than the industry standard than it is to sell something that's shorter.

I could go on for a very long time, and I intend to continue my thoughts on the subject.  But for now, let's discuss this one aspect of word count.  Keep in mind, I'm sharing something that I have heard from several agents.  What do you think?  Is this something you've heard, and do you agree or disagree?

In part two, I'm going to delve into some thoughts about books that are "too long" for industry standard.  I'll share some of what I've learned from other people, and then put in my own two cents worth.

So discuss!  Throughout the next several days, I'll do my best to join in.  Have fun, and let's learn something :D

Monday, January 14, 2013

Good Stories for Inspiration

As anyone who's surfed the pages of author fansites, wiki projects, and the Nook, Amazon, and various other  eBook libraries, there are many, many, MANY novels, novellas, and short stories available for all of us to read.  Some of them are put out by big-name publishing houses.  Others by indie publishers who may follow the "traditional" model, or possibly they focus more heavily on eBooks, or perhaps they're exclusively an electronic publishing house.  And, of course, there are self-published titles.

Each and every one of these books, if well-written, can serve as inspiration for whatever project a writer may be working on.  And I may be making an extreme statement when I say that the genre is pretty much irrelevant.  At least to the extent that I'm referring to.

What I mean to say is that good story structure serves as a model for anyone writing Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, Commercial Fiction, Literary Fiction, Memoirs, Horror, etc.  The basic plot needs to be in every one of those styles (no matter what you say about Literary Fiction).  The same can be said about descriptions, character development, world-building (to whatever extent that must be done in a given project), dialogue, or any other facet of writing that one can think of.

My point, here, is that inspiration can be all around us, even in places where we may not expect it.  And if you, as a writer, are struggling with a certain project, maybe move to something from a different genre or niche.  Personally, I read a lot Fantasy.  But one of the most rewarding experiences I ever had (and I learned a LOT about writing and story development) was reading Romance.  Westerns give me ideas for characters in my Sci-Fi universe.  So do classics, like Cabbages and Kings by O'Henry.

If you write and read exclusively Fantasy, break away from it.  Go check out a Mystery novel.  Pick up something from the Literary section, even if it's more commercial.  The change in style may just open your eyes to something that you didn't realize you were missing.  And it will help you reforge your words in a manner that could stand out to agents and editors.  Giving it that extra something that will catch your audience's attention.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Two Links

Today is a simple post.  I just have two pages I think you should check out.

#1 is a list of highly anticipated Fantasy and Sci-Fi books coming out this year, compiled by io9.  Read it, take notes, and get ready to buy some AWESOME books!

#2 is a guest blog I wrote for Amie McCracken.  It's all about why authors should write short stories.  She's revamping her website, too, so go look around and show some support.

Have a great weekend, and enjoy your reading.

Oh yeah, and GO BRONCOS!!!!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Sporadic Updates

I think I've mentioned before that life has been quite busy.  And despite the new year, that hasn't changed.  I'm still plugging away at my WiP, and I'm trying to do more research into various writing-type stuff.  This means I may come up with a few topics to discuss in the future.  But I don't want to waist anyone's time with random twitter-style updates.

My regular schedule will remain as is, but I may not update as often as I would like.  It may just be one or two updates sometimes.  But I will still try to get something up as often as possible.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Why I Set Goals

A couple of weeks ago, I set a goal to finish the first draft of my WiP by the end of the year.  Well, that didn't happen.  When I set the goal, I knew it wouldn't happen simply because I had so much going on in my life at the time, there was no way reach the end.

But I did get over 15k words written because I pushed SO hard!  And that's why I set the goal.  I needed something to strive for that, if given enough free time, I could manage.  I'm absolutely certain that if I hadn't gotten sick on my vacation, and if I hadn't taken on other responsibilities throughout December, I would be ready to revise my novel.

Without that goal in mind, I had the motivation to create scenes that excite me, push the story forward, and give me something to work with when it's time to improve the book on the second pass.  The scenes, as they stand, aren't the best I've ever written, but that's because they need some serious polish.  But they have potential.  And I fought my way through them with the enthusiasm and gusto of someone working on a serious deadline.

As I mentioned, I did get sick over my week off.  The week I was supposed to spend with my wife doing fun stuff around town, and I honestly wanted to get more writing done.  But since both of us were sick, we spent most of the week sleeping and watching TV.  As a professional, I will work when I'm sick.  I've worked ten hour days with a fever of 102 before, and while it wasn't fun, my over-developed work-ethic won't let me simply back out on my obligations.  When I'm writing full time, that will be true for deadlines that I have to make with my work.

In summation, goals are important for us, even if we don't reach them as quickly or efficiently as we hope.  As long as they motivate us.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Sci-Fi vs. Fantasy

Sometime in my youth, I got it into my head that sci-fi fans and fantasy fans were two rival gangs in the same spiral-towered, neon-lit city.  I'm not sure where this impression of the two fan-bases came from, but I never really saw a genuine rivalry between them.

I have a friend who, for a long time, absolutely loved everything sci-fi.  As a fan of both genres, I assumed he'd read The Lord of the Rings, and I wanted to talk with him about it.  He admitted he'd never read fantasy before.  When pressed, he did say that he'd tried once and couldn't get into the book he'd read.  But then the LOTR movies came out, and he sat down to read the books.  And he liked them.  I don't remember if he loved them, but he did enjoy them a little bit.  But then he said that was it for him.  Nothing else really grabbed his attention: he was a sci-fi fan.  And aside from Harry Potter (which doesn't fit snugly into classic, high fantasy), that's pretty much all he's read.

It's been pretty much the same with my D&D game-master.  And he grew up playing D&D, Magic the Gathering, and Warhammer!  But as far classic fantasy went, he couldn't get into it.  Until he started reading George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss.  He's not a ravenous fantasy fanatic, but he's found some authors he enjoys.

Then there's me.  I've read a few sci-fi novels over the years, and I enjoyed them quite a lot.  But for most of my life, I've gravitated toward fantasy.  It's not that I dislike sci-fi, in fact I love it a lot!  I get excited over Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, and Battlestar Galactica!  I'm just very picky about writing style, story, and the details of the setting.  But I'm the same way with the fantasy novels I read.  And just like my friends, when exposed to something well-written and enjoyable, I don't have anything negative to say about either genre.

So I really don't know where my impression of this rivalry between fans came from.  I think both genres have a lot to offer readers.  And I absolutely LOVE both genres!  I know this is very rambling, confusing, and maybe a little lacking in a point, but I guess I have some questions: do you have a preference?  Do you love or hate one?  Do you care?  Have you ever read either genre?  If not do you want any recommendations?

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Charity of the Month: Gary Sinise Foundation

Look at that: it's a new year!  We'll have lots to talk about this year, but I want to start it out right with another charity.  This is a charity that I featured back in 2011 and had planned to feature in 2012, except several natural disasters struck our nation, so I asked for donations to organizations that were sending relief to those in need.

Anyway, Gary Sinise has done a great deal of work for active-duty and veterans of the United States Military.  The link to the right can give you tons of information about all the great work he does when he's not filming CSI: New York.  So click the link, check him out, and then consider giving his organization a donation.