Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Is This a Novel?

Last time I spoke about the excitement of getting started on the next bright idea.  But, how can you be so sure that idea is a novel?

First, what is the difference between a novel, a novella and a short story.  Most obviously, it's the word count.  A novel is around 75-110k (thousand words).  A novella is around 45k and a short story is around 3-8k.  Of course there are exceptions and different sub-genres have their target length.  The whole length thing is quite a big debate and stress point for a bunch of writers.  But, whatever, generally, this is what "they" are looking for.

So, is word count all that separates a short story from a full-length novel? 


But, it's not just any words, it's having good words.  You can't just type "the" 80,000 times and claim you turned a 3,000 word short story into a 83,000 word novel.  You can't add fluff.  You can't send your character on some random tangent for a few ten thousand words.  You've got to fully use and leverage each of those words to be part of a compelling story.

Easier said than done.

So, what CAN you do if your novel is too short?
Add a subplot.
Do your other characters have their own challenges that complement your main plot?  Maybe your character is dealing with a miscarriage.  Possibly her sister could be dealing with a child that got diagnosed with a learning disability.  This compliments the issues that your character is going through and can add an extra level of drama.  "Why are you so upset that your kid has Autistm?  Mine is dead!" 

Maybe it's not the end
I know that my next great idea will be in novel form.  But I'm not sure if it's long enough.  If it's not then, I'll just have my current end goal be an intermediary goal.  Worst case, I've got a happy middle with a nice act 1 or act 2 resolution and can introduce new and exciting complications.  So, ask yourself...what next?  But, the pacing does dictate that the "what next" be even bigger, more important and more difficult than the first part.  The reader has to want to keep reading.

Add plot layers
We all have tons of stuff going on in our lives.  So should our characters.  A romance is always a fun option for a plot layer.  In my WiP, my character is a widow who is still working through the loss of her husband so that isn't a good plot layer for me.  But, it might be a good subplot.  Maybe her son has a girlfriend.

Add complications
Your character has a goal, but what are some set backs he or she can face.  You can add some to the main plot or to one of the sub-plots.  Just make sure that your main plot stays main.  The complication must be directly impacting the main plot or one of the important sub-plots.

Admit that maybe its not a novel
Writing a novella or a short story might not be as marketable in today's market, but it's still something.  Enjoy what you've written and what you've achieved.  This might be the hardest of all my suggestions.  Each piece of work is special and took a ton of your creativity and energy.  Don't try to make it something that it is not.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Getting Started on the Next Bright Idea

I've gotten to the point in my current WiP that I'm ready to send it to agents.  I've revised and revised and revised again.  It's gone from useful, actual changes to a compulsion.

So, I've decided that it's time for a new WiP. 

I've not started a new project in years.  I'm really excited about this one.  I got the idea after speaking with a co-worker about his time in a refugee camp in Turkey when he was a teenager.  He was a refugee, not a volunteer.  That little nugget spun off in a totally different direction.  I do write fantasy.  But, I think it's a fresh premise.  I won't share the premise with you as the full plot is still percolating.  I will say that it's a steam-punk fantasy about a widowed mother who is trying to keep her family alive. 

Honestly, finding the idea was not the hard part.  Picking which idea to pursue was.  I'm not one of those writers who can work on several novels at the same time.  I've got to dig in and figure out what's going on with my characters.  What do the good guys want?  Why do the villains want to stop them?  What's their world like?  Why do the characters care?  I'm just driven to answer all these questions and more.

The new project isn't the fun idea, it's all the twists and turns inside it.  It's meeting all these new characters, pushing them to their limits, hearing their snappy dialog.  That's what has me all excited!

What gets you excited about your new projects?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Dreaded Query

So, I stopped blogging.  

That's pretty obvious when you look at this post's timestamp and the post before this one.  

I did not stop writing. 

Why did I stop blogging?  I felt that I kept making goals and not hitting them.  I felt like I was talking about being a writer, but had no finished novel.  I promised myself that I would not blog again until the whole submissions process was ready to go.  I started and then finished a new project.  I revised and revised and revised some more.  Then I found a nice friendly batch of beta readers who read my WiP and gave comments.  

Then I revised some more.

Now my manuscript is ready to go out to the world of agents...  But I have to take my 90,000 word masterpiece and condense it to a couple paragraph query letter.  God, this is scary.

Hailey Troubare had planned on being a Scholar, but when the Edge of the World begins to crumble she must swap books for daggers to battle political intrigue, her family, her lover and the gods themselves in order to save her planet.
Hailey’s mentor is murdered, but the authorities blame his death on old age.  Hailey investigates and uncovers a clandestine organization concealing a prophecy that could eradicate the Edge.  Unfortunately, the prophecy would also release a creature so evil that even the gods fear it.  Hailey believes that saving her world is worth risking the rest of the universe.  Others, including the father of her unborn child, disagree.  Civil war ensues.  Hailey fights against heartbreak, archaic prophecies and sword-wielding mages all while knowing that even if she succeeds, she'll likely lose her life.
I have been writing creatively for my own enjoyment since I could pick up a pencil. I have my BA in Mathematics from Roosevelt University and work in Chicago as a Director of Development in a web software company.
Complete at 90,000 words, PROPHECY’S PROMISE is a first-person fantasy.  The full manuscript is available upon request.

Two questions:
1) Any thoughts on the query?
2) For those of you who have published, how many agents did it take?

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