Monthly Archives: February 2009

Philip José Farmer is dead

Another writer gone. I remember first reading Philip’s story “Riders of the Purple Wage” in Harlan Ellison’s “Dangerous Visions” anthology. His works have always been a wild ride.

RIP Philip.

One Hundred Thousand Words – All Good From Here

imageIt may be premature, but I’m going to pause for the moment and celebrate.

When I first started writing novel-length manuscripts, it took 60,000 to 80,000 words to make a novel.  This was imposed by the big publishing houses, and so that is what I used to shoot for.  Now the bar has been raised higher, and the current threshold you need to shoot for is at least 100,000 words.

Let me tell you, not many things in the novel-writing arena suck as much as writing your heart out and finishing a story that you think is perfectly complete, only to find you’ve undershot the word count, and find you have to come up with another 20,000 words to artificially bloat your manuscript to fit the publisher’s criteria.  Sucks, I tell you.  Sucks.  And it can make your novel suck, too.

So I keep track of my word count as I write, just so that I know in the back of my mind where I stand as I go.  If I have a lot of words left, I feel free to add more complications to the plot.  This is counter-intuitive for someone trained to write short stories, where the goal is to say more with less.  And while that’s still a good rule of thumb when writing a novel, you can always expand the story, dig deeper into the characters, give them one more hurtle to jump.  And have it make sense, too.

It’s a lot easier to do that if you keep track of the word count as you’re writing than to try and shoe-horn it in later.  Then again, if you’re one of those writers who effortlessly hits a quarter million words and find you have to go in and trim a third of them out … this doesn’t pertain to you.

Anyhow, you can tell I’m in novel-writing mode now, because I’m being long-winded.  I’ll stop and sum up what I’m announcing:  I’ve reached the point in this novel that I can stop caring about word count.  At over 93,000 words, and quite a bit of story left to tell, I’m definitely going to make the 100,000 words.  No problem.

Not that I won’t celebrate again 7000 words from now, when I actually do cross that threshold.

And yet again when I finish.

It’s all good from here.