Resolutions: A Little Late & A Little Early

Much to my surprise, NaNoWriMo took a lot out of me. I still find myself recovering from thirty days of staring at a computer screen for at least eight hours a day. My most recent issue has been that any time I look at a computer screen for more than thirty minutes, my head begins to ache severely. I’m not sure if that’s a large issue, but I’m already beginning to get over that, hence this new post. Another persistent issue though, is my aching ass from all the sitting. That hasn’t changed, and most likely won’t until I can afford a more comfortable chair to write in.

But I think the majority of my pain has passed. I’ve taken more than enough time to give my brain a well deserved rest, and now it is time to come back with a vengeance. I have been keeping up with the editing of my first novel, The Drive Home, and I have dedicated myself to the goal of having a “presentable copy” of the book by early January. Very early January. So far, in my editing, I am about the 3/5 the way through manuscript and a lot has changed since my early drafts. Near the start of the New Year, I will have a version of my novel that I can comfortably start showing to friends and family without that fear of inadequacy.

Late, 2013, Resolution #1: Have a finished, polished draft of The Drive Home, in the New Year (this New Year!was my resolution at the start of 2013, but it took a bit longer than expected).

That is only the beginning. This is where I will start powering out newer versions of my novel, editing like a mad man, and making it perfect. I mentioned this once before, but Hemingway re-wrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms, thirty-nine times. As much as I would like to avoid that being the case for The Drive Home, I’ll do whatever it takes to make it perfect. I would love to hire a professional editor, which is highly recommended for self published, or any sort of published, authors, but I am more broke than I care to admit (you didn’t just read that). I hope to find a decent editor to review my work as both a copy editor and a content editor, but until I find one that’s inexpensive, my friends, family, and myself will have to do.

That brings me to my first resolution for the New Year.

2014 New Year’s Resolution #1: Finish, and I mean finish, The Drive Home.

I have a plan, a production schedule and even a business plan, to begin uploading and printing, and selling my novel, in six months. Half way through the year is my goal. If I can accomplish this sooner, outstanding, otherwise, six months is a reasonable goal with a finished novel. But don’t any of you worry; you’ll be the first to read sections from my novel, before it goes into publishing. I said I’d do that, and I won’t let any of you down.

2014 New Year’s Resolution #2: Finish writing, then editing, my NaNoWriMo novel, One Last Hunt.

So, I have one finished novel, but during the month of November, I wrote another, completely different novel. I didn’t quite finish it during November, but I did get very, very far with it. Since November, I’ve added another seven thousand words and I still have about five chapters left to write. For the first draft, at least. But my priorities are in order, and the first thing on my docket, is to finish The Drive Home.

I have many more plans for the coming year, but most are dependent on those resolutions above, and the success of each project. Once I near these goals, I’ll keep everyone updated on my progress, my plans, and how I went about achieving these goals. But until then, I’ll keep writing, slaving away at something I love (if only everyone could be so lucky). I hope everyone had a merry Christmas, and have a great New Year, I know I will.

Lastly, if anyone else has any any writing / creative / storytelling, resolutions for the New Year, I’d love to hear them.

Write Your Own Story, Or Publish It

Over the last few months, I’ve been studying up on the art of publishing, and thinking to myself: “I hate waiting for and relying on other people to do things for me.” This thought really began to cross my mind after I started submitting my novel to publishers. I find myself checking my email every ten minutes hoping someone will send me an email reply . And don’t even get me started on weekends, when lots of companies are closed until the following Monday. Then, I can’t sit still as I wait anxiously for a response that is most likely not going to show up in my inbox. So, what does all this frustration mean?

Essentially, it means that I prefer when things are solely base on my performance. That I thrive when no one else is to blame but myself. To sum it all up, it means that I have been considering going the self publication route for my writing. Now you might be asking yourself a few questions:

First question: will I make as much money self publishing? That entirely depends on my effort and the quality of my work. If I hit the ground running and continue to market my work with my growing enthusiasm, then, I believe that I can make as much money. In addition, the royalties are usually higher. The royalties for eBooks when self publishing can, on average, net the author up to 85% of their list price.

When it comes to print books, the royalties may not be exponentially higher, but they are still much better, especially the books sold directly through amazon.com. Using their print on demand method of printing, authors don’t need to print ten-thousand copies of their book, and then find out how to sell them all. The author doesn’t even need to worry about printing at all, essentially, every time someone clicks “buy,” Amazon prints a copy and ships it to the consumer.

Second question: how can my marketing compete with that of big publishing companies? From all the author testimonials I’ve come across in my research, big publishing houses only do extensive promotion if your a previously well selling author, or someone really, really, believes in your novel. Otherwise they tend to leave the author to publicize at their own discretion. So, essentially, it’s a fairly level playing field. I’ve made a number of connections in my past and I plan on using as many as possible to help further my own goals, and maybe do a few favors to further some other friends marketing goals as well.

And the third major question is: how would I even get started? Major publishing houses have been around for nearly a century and have the market fairly well cornered. But, as I mentioned, I’ve been researching this quite a bit and there are a lot more resources available to authors on the subject, now more than ever. With the options mentioned above, I can sell my book through a number of venues and not pay a dime to get started. Through Amazon.com, I can sell a print version of my book by merely allowing Amazon to take a percentage of the sale each time a copy is sold. So, not costing me anything out of my own pocket. Additionally, if I choose to pay an additional $25, I can allow my book to be purchased wholesale by large retailers, such as Barnes & Nobles, which allows for greater distribution. When it comes to the eBook side of publishing, the two best sites I’ve found for publishing are Smashwords & Lulu. Each of these put your eBook up on on a number of sites and on all major eBook reader stores. And again, they only take a percentage of each sale, not requiring you to pay any upfront fees.

There are a few more steps in regards to self publishing that I have been working on and preparing for. I’ve written an ever growing, 15 page business plan, with market projections and production schedules. If i choose to self publish, I’ll want to make it a self publishing company, so, I’ll need to create a business name, register with the local government for tax purposes, and open a bank account to do business as that company. Websites will need to be created, contractors may need hired for work that I’m not as skilled with, such as cover design, and there are some more steps which I have been slowly working out as well. But so far, I’ve come quite a long way from anxiously waiting for someone to sift through an enormous pile of manuscripts, hoping they’ll get to mine next, to being ready to “write my own story,” so to speak.

I’ve moved on and I think I’m ready to take my future into my own hands and be responsible for my own success or failure. But anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t take kindly to failure, and that I will sweat and bleed for this opportunity, because I know it’s what I enjoy, it’s what I want to do, and if I can access a bit of my “good old fashioned Irish luck,” I may just hit the big time. That’s the end game though, and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has experience as a self published author, about the ups and downs, success or horror stories. Don’t hold back, I can take it, and I’m more than intrigued to hear what anyone has to say!

It’s Not The Size That Counts…

Before I began writing my novel, I did a lot of research into “how long should my novel be?” What constitutes a short story? Can a novel be too short or too long?” What’s the difference between a novella and a novelette? For anyone starting to write a novel these questions can be a bit daunting, especially since there really is no exact answer for how long your book should be. That is putting it rather frankly, but it’s actually true, to a degree. So let’s break it down into a number of different categories: flash fiction, short stories, novelettes, novellas, novels, and sagas / sequels. In my research I have found many definitions for each of these categories and have put together, what I feel, is a good scale to gauge story lengths by.

Now, there’s something important to mention here, and I can’t stress this enough. There is no set rule or specific length to classify your works by. Everything mentioned below is simply a guideline. Publishers may classify their book types differently than what you find here, or they may be exact, you just wont know until you work with a publisher. Sometimes they state their novel length preferences upfront, on their submission page, other times it’s a simple luck of the draw.

Additionally, there are always exceptions to the rule. Just because a certain type of book is harder to sell than others, doesn’t mean that a unique novelette wouldn’t grab a publisher’s attention with ease. So, here we go, a few guidelines to help classify your work and give you a goal to shoot for when writing.

Flash Fiction – Under 1,000 Words: Flash fiction is a type of story that is often found in magazines or publications to fill a single page. I’ve found that writer’s often tend to take on flash fiction (and short stories) as a sort of challenge. It can be difficult to write an exceptional story in under 1,000 words and still have a beginning, middle, and end. Being able to include those, and still develop a sense of character is a worthy challenge for any author. (I even plan on undertaking this challenge eventually)

Short Story – 1,000 to 7,500 Words: A short story is, obviously, short. If looking to get published, short stories can be a bit more complicated. Unless you happen to have a number of completed stories. Publishers usually aren’t looking for a single short story, only coming in under thirty pages, it’s often hard to justify the cost of publishing. A number of publications, such as magazines, newspapers, websites, and e-magazines, accept single short stories and are great ways to publish them. If, however, you have a number of short stories, that can add up to the approximate length of a novel, a number of publisher do publish compilations.

Novelettes – 7,500 to 20,000 Wrods: Novelettes are a tad easier to write than short stories or flash fiction, because you have more pages to work with. The trouble with novelettes is that they may be harder to sell to a publisher. The reason being is that they are too long to fit into a magazine, and they are too short to be published as a novel. From the research I’ve done, it seems that authors often times combine a few novelettes into a compilation. But, as stated above, there have been novelettes published by themselves. In my opinion, they’re actually perfect for a majority of modern day, on-the-go readers. A short, easy, good read that you can finish quickly and pick up a new one.

Novellas – 20,000 to 50,000 Words: Novellas are excellent for modern day readers, just like novelettes. They’re good for an easy read, but can be just as in depth as a novel. Characters can be deep, plots can be complex, but can still be finished in a couple days depending on how fast you like to read. While many publishers won’t bat an eye at a novel this short, novellas are excellent for e-books. Just like novelettes, they’re easy to pick up and put down, and reading it in your spare time on a screen just seems to work. Additionally, there have been many novellas published as standalone books, so if your story fits this category don’t try to stretch it out any longer than you need.

Novels – 50,000 to 120,000 Words: Now we get to what many writers, including myself, aim for. Novels are the easiest to publish (easy being a relative term, most accepted book length to publish, if you can get a publisher to read your book). The most recognized range of published novels would be between 70,000 and 100,000 words. As I said previously, I can’t overstate the fact that just because you’re not in that “sweet spot” doesn’t mean you won’t get your novel published. My Novel, “The Drive Home,” comes in just over that 50,000 mark. If your work is nearing the higher end of this range, you may want to consider some strict editing and cut your word count back a bit. For a first time author, or an author with little credentials, a publisher might be wary to publish anything over 100,000 to 110,000 words.

I decided on 50,000 words for my goal, because over the last couple years, I have participated in the NaNoWriMo competition. Thirty days, at least 50,000 words, that was the goal. So, that was my goal for my first novel. 50,000 words for someone who hasn’t written a full length novel before can be pretty a daunting task. When I began writing “The Drive Home,” I thought that goal was impossible. Now that I have finished, that seems like a piece of cake. During the time between finishing my novel and beginning the editing process, (“they” say you should put your novel away for two months or so, I took two weeks) I took the free time to start writing something more science fiction oriented. In that two week time period, I wrote one hundred pages, which came in just under 25,000 words. And I have only progressed through about 30% of the story line. By completing my first project, my confidence, my writing, and my speed have increased exponentially.

Epics / Sequels / Sagas – Over 120,000 Words: Novels of this length are often turned away when written by first time authors. If you fall into this category, you may want to consider separating your novel into a sequel or trilogy. Writers who create this type of novel are often well established, to the point that the publisher doesn’t really care how long your novel is, because they know it’ll do well. The most obvious and overly used example: Stephen King. If he wants to publish a novel that’s under 50,000 or over 150,000 words, his publisher will take it on faith, because he’s good at what he does. Personally, I love the idea of writing something that matches the weight of a newborn baby. A book that when you set it down on a table it shakes and lets everyone know, “Hey, I’m reading an enormous book!” But, until I make a name for myself and sell millions of copies, I can be satisfied with writing a trilogy of shorter novels, rather than a something this size.

Wow! That was a lot of information. Hopefully, this sheds some light on where certain word counts are classified. But the bottom line really is, that the story dictates the length of your novel. You don’t want to stretch something over 300 pages when it really should have only been 150 pages. The reader may get bored if you drag your story on. The opposite is true as well. Don’t upset the reader by denying them deep characters or climactic plot points, when you have enough content for a 250 page novel. Either of those scenarios could very well affect the sales of your current or future works.

That’s it. That’s your cue to start, or continue with your writing. No matter what the length, genre, or content, get it done and enjoy what you’re writing. It’ll be finished when it’s supposed to be finished and not a moment sooner.

Cover Your Shame!

Not to say your written work is your shame, it was just a catchy pun to get your attention (by now, you know what you’ve gotten yourself into by reading this blog). As mentioned in a previous post, once you have your manuscript formatted for submission, you’re not quite done yet. You still need an appropriately formatted cover or title page. When you’re still in the process of writing, this can actually be a good motivator. Every time you open your draft and you see your title page, it makes you feel accomplished, and driven to finish your work. Just the act of coming up with the perfect title for you novel makes you feel accomplished. Even if your it is just a work-in-progress title, that W.I.P. usually fits your story perfectly, or you simply think “Man that title sounds cool.” So, here is a sample of how your cover page should look, then after I will examine a few parts for clarification:

Title Page

Then, nothing below that point on your title page. So, the first thing to examine is the spacing on the page. You don’t need any extra spacing, like 2 pt. spacing you would use in the body of your manuscript. You’ll notice in the upper left hand corner, there is no additional spacing between lines. Now, the centered section where the ‘title-by-author’ is located, has a bit of spacing between. That is not needed, but I prefer to put 2 pt. spacing where the title is located, simply because it looks ‘prettier’ to me. The concept behind the title page is that it is simple. No fancy fonts, no coloring, no images. Just a simple place to have all of your contact info, IF the publisher would like to see more. Below the title-by lines, there is an approximate word count. As mentioned previously, most publishers assume each page to have 250 words each. So, do a little math: 250x(page count) = approximate word count. A warning: check your publisher’s submission specifications, some do specify how they would like you to determine your word count. I’ve come across at least two that wanted the count as specified by Microsoft Word.

That ‘covers’ just about everything, when it come to your cover page. Make sure that you come up with an outstanding title, write a whole lot of words, then tell the publisher about on this page. One last thing to mention, don’t put a page number on this page. In MS Word, you have to check a specific box to prevent this from happening, if a publisher sees a page number here, there’s always a chance they will ignore your manuscript. I’ve never heard of that happening for this specific reason, but better to be safe than sorry. So, keep it simply, and have fun writing!