Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How Long Is It? - FAQ

Forensic portrait of Jane Austen by Melissa Dring
Q: I am afraid to ask this, but, HOW MANY WORDS did it take to finish ART'S BLOOD?

Is there a particular stopping point for you, or is the word count important?  That's a scary thought!

A: My books tend to be around 110,000 words.  I've tried to make them shorter but it just doesn't happen. In general, for fiction and for a debut novel, something around 70-80 thousand words would be a good ball park figure to keep in mind.

Yes, word count is important.  See Fiction Factor , an online magazine with good advice for writers. They have a fuller discussion and explanation of why editors like a certain word count HERE.

Q: I am presenting my book, chapter by chapter, on my web page, mainly to see if it is enjoyed and what comments I can benefit from where my reader's feedback is concerned .

I assume this isn't wise?  Now I'm worrying about the need for a copyrighted blog, and if there IS such a thing. 

A:  I referred this question to my agent and this is what she said:

"The author doesn't need to worry about copyright because the minute you create something it is automatically copyrighted.  As for an agent or editor being interested, well, if the author could claim she had 10,000 followers, that would create interest.  But if she has less than a few thousands, that's nothing to either an agent or an editor.  Is it a wise idea?  I don't think so -- why would anyone pay for a book they could read for free?  Why would an agent try to sell a book that had already been read for free?  But if you had over 10,000 readers, that would show people liked what they were reading and would indicate a wider audience could be reached.
Personally, I don't see any benefit in what she's doing -- a few chapters, okay, maybe create some interest.  But a whole book?  I don't see why it's worth doing."

Which was what I suspected.  But, you say you're hoping for useful feedback? What you want is a small  critique group, made up of knowledgeable folks interested in the genre you're writing.

Remember, I'll add this to the FAQ over on my DAY OF SMALL THINGS blog.  And if you have a writing-related question, email me or ask it in the comments.  I'll do my best to come up with an answer.
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Marilyn & Jeff said...

I can't imagine being able to write a piece with a few hundred words let alone a few thousand ...but I would love to be able to do so! It must be a wonderful talent to have.

Poetry24 said...

Interesting, as always. Anyone contemplating the publication of a novel on their blog, might want to consider the Harper Collins backed, Authonomy.

I have two friends who have found it very useful in terms of feedback. If your novel proves to be consistently popular with your peers, it could get noticed by one of the Harper Collins editors. Visit the site to find out more.

Reader Wil said...

Isn't it frustrating for writers if they have to count words all the time. It's true a story or even a post like ours on the blog can't be too long, but I never count the words, for I think it will kill spontaneity.

Merisi said...

I bow in awe of anybody who writes a book of 110,000 words!

As far a copyright goes, your editor is right, but the sad truth is that too many people think just because something is on the web, it's free for the grab (and not only are there "bloggers" out there who embellish there blogs with stolen pictures, there are blogs who publish nothing but other people's work and have thousands and thousands of followers (and advertisers who don't seem to care that they are promoting their products on what is essentially stolen goods). There are even huge for-profit, commericial sites essentially, that do nothing but harvesting images from the web, offering without permission, so others may get "creative", and nothing is being done against those people who break the copyright intentionally.

I wait for the day that - for example - Blogger offers a tool to protect their bloggers from such thefts. I don't think they even want to try, though.

Pat in east TN said...

I do enjoy reading your FAQ days ... even though I am not a writer, I still learn interesting things.

Brian Miller said...

good insights vicki...i really enjoy this series...as it gives me things to ponder as i write...

Vicki Lane said...

The good thing, Marilyn, is that you just do it in small chunks and then do it again...and again... and again.

Interesting link, Martin.

Wil, I find that as I write chapters, they just naturally tend toward a certain length (around 2,500 words. My editor has never asked me to cut the length.

The only time I really have to pay attention to word length is when I'm asked for a bio and it MUST be no longer than, say, 60 words. It's interesting how much excess verbiage I can cut from my standard bio and still say the same thing.

Oh, Merisi -- and I'm guilty of that very thing in this post -- the portrait of Jane Austen is, of course, not mine. I did provide a link to the very interesting site where I found it. And when I looked (admittedly very quickly and late last night)I didn't see any copyright warnings.

Glad you enjoy these, Pat and Brian! And I'm open to questions on the subject of writing in general or my books in particular.

Merisi said...


I was talking about "blogs" and sites set up not to "create" anything - like you do, and richly so - but only exist to harvest what others create (and making money off it!).

I find the one or other image and link on private blogs like yours enriching, opening sights and worlds that otherwise I would not see.

I have used lines from living poets myself, like Billy Collins, treading a fine line because his poems are copyrighted, of course, but hoping that I would be forgiven because I did not quote in a commercial context.

Folkways Note Book said...

Your post is interesting -- similar to the bricks and mortar approach to building a structure. -- barbara

Suz said...

Lucky pooch...what a view
and a good spot to view it

Miss_Yves said...

Jane austen seems so malicious in this portrait...was was she thinking ?I can't imagine her counting her words!

Friko said...

You are very generous with your advice Vicki. It all comes in very useful.
The hardest thing to do (after writing) is to find an agent.

Tess Kincaid said...

I'm always fascinated by the process, Vicki. You certainly have my admiration!

Anonymous said...

I posted three chapters and gained some much needed feedback and enthusiasm for the direction in which I was headed. Now, at 20,000 words, I find that I have fallen SO in love with the leading character that I often find myself staring into space, visiting with her and sharing life.

I find myself wondering if this is ANYTHING near normal! lol At least for a presumably "normal" person.

I thank you SO MUCH for answering my questions, although I fear greatly the eventual search for an agent.

While YOU, my dear lady, held the faith after SIXTY denials, I would sadly fold after the third one.

Now, thanks to you, I know better "intellectually", but emotionally? I hope I don't have to find out that three is NOT my lucky number. I would fall by the wayside, a "never was".


Vicki Lane said...

I see what you mean, Merisi. (Whew!)

An apt comparison, Barbara.

That's William, working on his tan, Suz.

I think she just looks mischievous, Miss Yves. I suspect she had a rapier wit. And I doubt she had to worry about word count -- publishing was VERY different back then.

You're right, Friko. Everything about traditional publishing is harder now -- for may reasons. One of which is that more people are writing and fewer people are buying new books.

Fogged persistence, Willow.

Dana -- if the idea of three rejections is enough to make you quit, then you aren't cut out for this writing thing. There's rejection at every hand -- from agents . . . and should you get an agent, then you have to deal with potential rejection by publishers/editors. Should you get a contract with a publisher, how will you react to criticism and suggestions that you make changes to your manuscript from your editor?

And should the book be published -- what about bad reviews -- how will you deal with that, should it happen?

Writing for publication -- not for the faint of heart.

Vicki Lane said...

Make that DOGGED persistence -- it's my mind that's fogged.

Anonymous said...

I'm just concerned with having agents reject me. If it's in THEIR best interest to choose a book that is publishable, and they hate what I've written, then I would believe (based on their thoughts) that it was unpublishable, undesirable, and hopeless..

If my manuscript was accepted, then returned with edit marks and sections x'd out, I'd be overjoyed! If they would care enough to take the time to show me the errors of my ways, I'd happily take the road they point me down.

I've got my agent guide beside me, my manuscript half finished and the joy of loving my leading character.

She's the kind of woman who can run without twisting a dainty ankle, built of ancestral strength and definitely not a shrinking violet.

Just who I'd like to be.

And if gritting my teeth through 60 rejections without twisting MY dainty ankle of self-esteem, then that's exactly who I'm GOING to be.

whew! How do you like me NOW? LOL

maría cecilia said...

Dear Vicki, I don´t know much (nothing) about writers and never would have thought editors would count the words in a book... is it like someone counts your tomatoes or flowers or ducks is your wonderful farm?? (sorry for this so silly thought...)
maria cecilia

Vicki Lane said...

Much better, Dana!

Publishing is a business, Maria Cecilia. Editors like to 'standardize ' the product and expect an author to produce books of a more or less predetermined length. Fortunately, the writer isn't held to an exact word count.

Anonymous said...

Vicki, forgive me for taking up so much of your comment area.

Last night I read HOW TO WRITE A QUERY LETTER, and THE ART OF THE SYNOPSIS, and realized where my HORRIBLE panic is coming from.

I am not a salesman and would be unable to sell a furnace to an Eskimo. Therefore, I cannot imagine "selling" my own book to a person with more professionalism, experience and expectations than I possess.

I am positively intimidated beyond belief.

How I can grab a stranger's attention with an opening sentence, and an outline (and I've NEVER been able to work a good outline) has me positively gob-smacked right between the eyes.

So it's not the "judgment" of my book I fear. It's my lack of salesmanship that will shoot me in the foot

Vicki Lane said...

Dana, stop your whining and finish your book. When it's done, polish it till it's as perfect as you can make it. THEN you can start worrying about query letters. They're not easy, for sure. But now isn't the time to worry about that. One thing at a time, Go write your book.

(This is my version of Tough Love for writers.)

Anonymous said...

DAY-UM! I needed to hear that. Thank you for whopping me upside my head, and once I'm finished refining and honing, I'll be at your doorstep whining BIG TIME about finding an agent that accepts confusing and pathetic query letters!

How long do I have to stand in the corner?

Vicki Lane said...

Dana- Get out of the bloody corner and work on your book.