Some Writing Thoughts

Kind of a brain dump today, both about my own writing and my personal thoughts on a few writing topics that seem to be getting a lot of attention around the blogosphere.

My Progress

When I first decided to write a novel I discovered a generally acceptable word count for a submission is 50,000-60,000 words. My first reaction? Holy crap that's a lot.

It sounded insane, writing that many words.

Now that I'm into writing the book myself, it doesn't seem so bad. I did the prep work which I've talked about in a few other posts and did some outlining of what I wanted to accomplish, chapter by chapter, of the 36 I ended up planning. After that all I had to do was actually write the words to finish a draft. I also now feel replicating this process on a second, third, fourth story is entirely possible, without feeling the fear of having to produce so many words in one place.

As of right now I'm 14 chapters into the first draft of the novel and have written over 26,000 words. Suddenly, the word count doesn't seem like a big deal at all. I've adjusted as I've gone along, removing some planned chapters, adjusting content, adding others, and now I have 38 chapters planned. If I keep up the pace that'll put me right around 70,000 words when I finish the first draft.

Which, of course, means I will have plenty to cut in the editing stages. I'm cool with that, because I'd much rather cut then finish with a word count that looks anemic for a book and have to decide where to inject new elements into the story.

Of course, there is another way to look at the words I've generated so far. An author I follow on Twitter - I can't recall who it was, but if I figure it out I will give proper credit - posted something similar to this the other day: "Latest manuscript is up to 40,000 words. Or, as I like to call it, 500 words that will actually appear in the book."

That's a painful thing to consider. True, but painful nonetheless.

Author Branding

Despite the fact I am nowhere near anything resembling the "seeking representation" stage as an author, which comes before the "try to get it published" stage, I still have been doing a lot of reading from various blogs - both from writers and agents - about the industry. Seems like the smart thing to do.

One of the hottest topics on those sites is the concept of branding. Most experts say you should create a blog to help build an audience of readers and also be active in social media, on things like Twitter and Facebook, all in the name of creating the brand of you as a writer.

Makes sense. There are quite a few authors I've connected with in this way I might not have otherwise met, authors whose books I have read and enjoyed based on how they present themselves online without ever having read a review.

I think it's a good idea. I mean, if I were a real author - which I hope to be at some point - I think this blog is a decent vehicle to give potential readers an insight into me as a person, to help make that personal connection. However, that's about where my agreement with the topic ends.

It seems like to many a writer's blog should spend an inordinate amount of time on, well, writing. The struggle, the insights, all of those things writers do on a daily basis. But is that really what gives potential readers the connection the topic in general deals with? For some readers, sure, because they are also writers themselves. And writers as a group always like to borrow from each other in order to achieve success, so they want the Extra Special Secrets (this is really no different than any other profession).

But does that mean if I am a writer I should only write about writing? Wouldn't that, honestly, be boring as hell? If I get to that point I'd like to think this blog really wouldn't change at all. Perhaps the location will change, perhaps I'll eventually have to out myself as a real person, and perhaps the integration with something more authorly will have to happen, but the tone and presentation in this blog I think is exactly as it should be.

Want insight into me as a person? Can you really do any better than learning from the stories I tell of my pets, the stuffing of my face, and anything else that is already on here? Trying to pass myself off as a writing expert might be asking a bit much anyway. Sure, I will still write about writing a bit (you know, like now), but to dedicate an author blog solely to that subject - and the subject of things like appearances and publishing dates - seems like the absolute opposite of the intention.

Cheap Ebooks and Self Publishing

In this new age of publishing, getting a book into the marketplace seems to be getting easier and easier. Established writers are skipping the normal publishing route and doing their own thing, while new writers who haven't been lucky enough to find that right agent or publishing house choose to publish themselves.

Someone asked me if I was going to self-publish. I hadn't even thought about it, honestly, but no, that's not my plan, at least not as of today. The best route to a long-term career is still going through the traditional agent-publisher route, even it's not instant gratification because it takes a long time to find the right fits.

There is also something else to consider: What if you self-publish and then do a poor or lacking job promoting the book, electronic or physical? That's the part many writers miss, and that's why some decent books may not ever be found by people who would love them. That's the part publishers really can help with.

I think many also hope they will prove agents or publishers, who may have turned the novel down, wrong by finding instant success doing it themselves. Agents, I know, will respect the fact an author does find success this way, but their idea of success is very clear. One agent I asked on Twitter said selling anything less than 10,000 copies on your own would be a clear turn-off to them (or, if you like it straight, a failure). And that failure doesn't go away - it follows one around on the next submission.

Some people will find success this way. Some will be able to turn it into a traditional publishing deal. Me, I'm going the old-fashioned route. If some undetermined length of time passes and I get no nibbles, perhaps I will change my mind, but until then that's my plan.

Then there is the cost of ebooks. Some writers are angry self-published ebooks sell for $.99 or $1.99, claiming it devalues the book market as a whole, setting an expectation all ebooks should be dirt cheap to consumers. Others defend the practice, saying writers should be able to sell for whatever they like.

I see both sides. If a writer is self-publishing they can set the price wherever they like - that decision is on them. But, to the claim of devaluing books as a whole, I say no way. With books, just like with any consumer item, there is a range of prices. People will spend for quality in books, just like they do with cars or restaurants or wine or anything else. Just because author A sells for $.99 doesn't mean consumers will decide everything should be $.99. Some may, sure, but again that's true for any market.

Readers are not going to expect all books to be dirt cheap - that's just silly.


There was an epic blowup last week on the net where an author took umbrage to a poor review of their book on a blog. This author commented, angrily, that the review was unfair, the discussion devolved into f-bombs, and it was not a proud moment. If you are interested, I'm sure Googling it will find you the right page.

I personally don't think that much about the possibility of negative reviews. Heck, I'd just like to get the book drafted first. Then edited. Then peer reviewed. And edited again. And find an agent. And a publisher. And - you get the point, that such a worry is so far away from where I am now it's not on the radar.

But still, reviews will (hopefully) happen and inevitably they won't be all warm and fuzzy. I've dealt with that in writing before, so I'd like to think I can take it. I'd also like to think I could just not read any, but that probably won't happen.

Above all the most important thing is to keep cool. Regard it critically, because it might have some truth. I know going in this book may not appeal to everyone, but that's just how it is. I've tried supposedly the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever, but found another recipe I think is better. That's just the way it is.

Hakuna Matata.

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