Posts Tagged ‘wordcount’

Short manuscripts put publishers off.

40,000 words does not a novel make.

That’s a novella and publishers usually won’t touch them with a barge-pole.

Because reasons.

60,000 words is too short for a novel and too long for a novella.

Long manuscripts also put publishers off.

Even if it’s good.

Yelling at the Publisher: “Never mind the length, feel the width!” isn’t going to cut it.

Short manuscripts don’t look like a good value proposition to the publisher, or customer, which costs money.

Long manuscripts require serious editing, and more pages, which costs money.

70,000 to 100,000 words is the right length for a first novel.

Because reasons.

The right length differs from genre to genre.

If you’re happy to take the chance, or self-publish, then write whatever damned length book you want.

Because ebooks.


The defining thing of being human is that we make a story of everything — no other animal does this.

If you find a Dolphin Dostoevsky, you needn’t worry about anything ever again.

We want our lives to have meaning, to make a good story, to have a narrative arc.

We lead richer inner-lives of fantasy yet external-life is mundane.

The change that you want won’t be found in your pockets.

What do you choose to record?

“The lessons you take from your travels across novel-land this month will serve you well throughout the rest of your life. You will walk away from the escapade with a mischievous sense of boldness and an increased confidence in your creative abilities. You will read differently, write differently, and for better or worse, you will begin seeing the world with the ever-hungry eyes of a novelist.” – Chris Baty

The first draft, eh? A bit daunting isn’t it? Remember, every writer you’ve ever loved started out at this exact point — and it scared the crap out of the lot of them.

Here we are, looking out over the vast uncharted territory of your novel. Some of you have map and compass and heavy-duty all-weather gear — others just have crazed expressions and a willingness to roam in the wilderness.

Enjoy the view. You’re looking for quantity not quality. This isn’t the place for perfect grammar or well-constructed sentences — it’s where you go stomping through the mud.

Leave your inner-editor at home. In fact, hand over your inner-editor right now for safe-keeping. Place a comment at the end of this post, relinquishing your inner-editor and saying exactly how you expect it to be treated whilst you’re busy writing your novel.

Don’t worry, you can have it back afterwards. That’s why I said ‘leave it at home’ and not ‘leave it face-down in a ditch.’ After the first draft, your inner-editor comes to the fore.

Think of whatever you write as placeholder text — just get something down on paper.

Don’t get it right, get it written.

Details, or anything you’re unsure about, are just TK (to come).

Then you have words to move around.

Go back and make it better in whatever time’s left.

Then get it fit to print — good enough, but not brilliant.

This blog post is a good example.

It’s not great, but at least I didn’t run out of ti—


A bit back I asked you to see if you could guess what it was about the opening lines from different novels that made them so wonderful.

The answer is voice – that’s what pulls you in and makes you want to keep reading.

It’s not something concrete that you can always put your finger on, but it is what will rock your reader’s socks every time if you have it.

It’s also your newfound secret weapon for making it through writing sessions with maximum quality and word count.

There are two main voices in the novel — the voice of the protagonist and the voice of the narrator.

There’s also the implied narrator (the impression of the author that the reader gets from reading) but you don’t need to worry about that just yet — not if you want to get to the end of a writing session with your sanity intact.

It’s easiest to judge the effectiveness of Voice in first-person novels for obvious reasons.

If the author manages to pull it off, like a method-actor, and convince you that the voice is authentic then you’ll keep reading.

You can also use it just as effectively in other novels, as was shown in the extracts that I posted up here.

Voice is a big subject, and there’s loads that I could say about it, but I’d still be writing about it long after the cows came home.

So instead I’m going to give you a VERY SIMPLE technique to use.

A strong voice will keep you reading like nothing else. We love stories and we love to be told them.

Forget what you hear about “Show, don’t tell” (it’s good advice but often misunderstood and gets in the way of your natural storytelling ability) — when you were little did you ever say “Please SHOW me a story”?!

So, that’s what I want you to do. I want you to TELL the story. And I want you to tell it using the most powerful voice that you have — your own.

For first-person novels: Unless you already feel like you’re the main character and speak like them and in fact ARE them (in which case the men-in-white-coats are standing by), you’re going to have to wing it.

Instead of pretending to be the main character and trying to put on their voice parrot fashion, I want you to imagine that YOUR VOICE is the voice of the narrator.

For third-person novels etc: For the next few days, YOU are Charles Dickens.

Forget about trying to sound arty or interesting or literary, just tell the story in your own voice, in exactly the same way that you’d tell it to your friends.

Whatever type of novel you’re writing, put down what you’d say if you were telling this story to someone close to you.

Imagine you’re in a pub telling your best friend if that helps.

Stammer, swear, repeat yourself, get over-excited, repeat yourself — I’ve said that!

Any time you get stuck, or write yourself into a dead end, say, “No, that’s not what I meant at all” and carry on.

Tell it like it is. Just use exactly your voice, your words, your way.

What could be easier than telling the story exactly how you’d tell it? (don’t answer that, I can already hear you thinking of witty and sarcastic replies).

Just try it. Not only will it lead to some scarily good writing, it will also send your wordcount through the roof — which at this stage of the game is exactly what you need.