Tag Archives: Write a novel

Writing Fiction And Story Length: How Many Words?

Writing Fiction And Story Length: How Many Words?

You’re writing fiction. You want to know how much to write… How many pages? I often get questions about length for novels, novellas and short stories, so it’s worth looking at this.

I find “pages” confusing, because print books’ pages can have huge variations in formatting. And of course, in ebooks there’s Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC), which can be considerably different from the number of your novel’s pages that you estimated.

So let’s focus on how many words in fiction. When it comes to length, it’s easer when you count words.

Writing fiction and length: it depends…

Writing fiction and length: it depends

We talked about how many scenes you need this post, Writing Short Stories: How Many Scenes Do You Need?

Over the years, for my own rule of thumb, I’ve estimated novels to be somewhere between 50,000 and 90,000 words. That said, a lot depends on the genre.

For example, Science Fiction and Fantasy novels tend to be longer. It’s all that world-building. 🙂

In the Romance genre, word counts vary widely. Contemporary Romances (many are at 50,000 to 60,000 words) tend to be shorter than Historical Romances, for example, which may come in at 120,000 words. Again, with the historicals, it’s the world-building.

In today’s world, length doesn’t matter

How long or short your fiction happens to be doesn’t matter in today’s world. No one’s chopping down forests of trees for your Kindle ebooks, after all. KENPC may or may not matter to you, again, depending on the genre in which you write.

That said, readers have expectations. So let’s say that you’re writing in a genre which is new to you. How do you know how many words to write?

Writing in a new-to-you genre: guesstimating your word count

Here’s what I’d do, and what I suggest to my students.

  1. Read in the genre, and make a note of the word count. Look at the top sellers in that genre. That’s usually an efficient guide to readers’ expectations.
  2. Ask. Check with authors of that genre. You’ll find these authors in Facebook groups, as well as mailing lists. Ask what word counts they use.

How to fix it if your novel’s way under the word count for the genre

Another popular question: what if your novel’s too short? 🙂

Let’s say that you’re writing a historical romance with paranormal elements. You’re aiming for 100,000 words, but you’re at the mid-point with its major plot twist, and you realize… you’ve only written 30,000 words. At that rate, you’ll finish at 60,000 words.

You’ve got choices:

  • Accept it. This is the length for this novel. That’s perfectly fine. It’s completely up to you — no one’s making any rules, when you’re self-publishing, other than the ones you make for yourself;
  • Slip in a sub-plot or two. I’d insert at least one sub-plot, and I’d juice up a couple of minor characters. Who knows? You might decide to write a series.

There are no rules when you’re writing fiction today, especially if you’re self-publishing; there are only reader expectations. Your fiction’s length is what you decide it will be.

Have fun. 🙂

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

eBook: $5.99
In this book we'll aim to increase your creativity to unlock your imagination and build the writing career of your dreams. More info →
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Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →

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Fiction Writing: The Most Popular Posts In 2017

Fiction Writing: The Most Popular Posts In 2017

I started this blog in 2007 — how time flies, to coin a cliche. Back in 2007, although fiction writing was popular, it took the birth of the Kindle to truly expand authors’ interest.

Authors realized that the gatekeepers were gone. For the first time in history, authors could sell their novels directly to readers.

Why is fiction writing so popular?

By 2012, self-publishing had truly arrived. On the Kindle store, fiction outsells nonfiction by a wide margin, so I expected that the blog’s most popular posts in 2017 would be about writing fiction.

A comforting thought: you don’t have to be a brilliant writer to sell fiction. If you tell a good story, readers will read.

Let’s look at the four most popular posts — check them out, if you haven’t read them.

1. Basic Short Story Template: Keep It Simple!

I wrote the most popular post, Basic Short Story Template: Keep It Simple! in 2014. It’s been updated frequently.

If you haven’t discovered writing short stories as a promotional tool, check out the post, and write some short stories. They’re a super-simple way to guide readers to your novels.

2. Fiction Writing Tips for Beginners: Super-Easy Outlines

Outlines tend to stymie fiction authors, so Fiction Writing Tips for Beginners: Super-Easy Outlines, published at the start of 2017, has been popular.

Words to live by when writing fiction:

Fiction is all about emotion. No emotion? You’ve got nothing. Your idea, no matter how wonderful, will fizzle out.

3. Writing Short Stories: How Many Scenes Do You Need?

Another post from 2014: Writing Short Stories: How Many Scenes Do You Need? has been hugely popular.

One of the first things you think about when you’re writing fiction is — how long is this? Then you (if you’re like me) track your word count obsessively, because you know that your milestones determine the success or otherwise of a piece of fiction.

4. New Novelist: Write A Selling Novel With One Simple Strategy

I’m thrilled that this post, New Novelist: Write A Selling Novel With One Simple Strategy, is so popular.

To write novels which sell, every novel:

… must have a point. All the screaming excitement of your novel can’t and won’t make up for it if there’s no point.

Please use the strategy I outline in that post. The strategy won’t guarantee a bestseller, but you have no hope of selling if your novel doesn’t have a point.

Enjoy the posts. 🙂

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

eBook: $5.99
Author:
Series: Romance Writing, Book 1
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
Love makes the world go round, and of all the genres in fiction, romance, with its many sub-genres, is the most popular. More info →
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More Heart To Heart: Write Hot-Selling Romance Fiction

More Heart To Heart: Write Hot-Selling Romance Fiction

eBook: $5.99
Author:
Series: Romance Writing, Book 2
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
I adore writing romance fiction, and now you can write romance too. More info →
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Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.

Writing Fiction: 5 Tips To Eliminate Writer’s Block Forever

Writing Fiction: 5 Tips To Eliminate Writer’s Block Forever

Blocked? That’s OK; it’s common. When you’re writing fiction, you depend on your creativity and imagination. The bad news: you can’t harness them. The good news? You can baby them and reward them into giving you what you want.

Writing fiction takes imagination, playfulness, and energy

What sparks your imagination? Pay attention next time your imagination flows. I’ve found boredom and repetitive tasks useful. Whenever I’m stuck on a novel, I go for a drive, or I dust a couple of rooms in the house, and allow my mind to drift.

Tip: avoid social media. Today, when we’re bored we pick up our phone and scroll through our Facebook or Pinterest feed.

Pinterest can be great for coming up with character quirks, but in general, to spark your imagination, do something physical, and boring.

Now let’s look at some tips which will help to eliminate writer’s block.

1. Enjoy rest and recreation: fill your well

Self-publishing authors find themselves on a treadmill. Amazon rewards new content, so for a month after you publish a book, your Amazon catalogue will enjoy a boost.

Some authors set themselves huge challenges, such as:

  • Publish a book a month, or even every two weeks;
  • Write a million words in 12 months…

While challenges can be beneficial, and anything which inspires you to write is good thing, you need time off.

Rest when you complete a novel. Give yourself time away for a mini-break if you can. Time away from your desk helps you to “fill the well” as Julia Cameron puts it.

If you allow your imagination and creativity time to recover, there’s less chance you’ll burn out.

2. Read for creative energy: find authors who inspire writing

Some authors, like P.G. Wodehouse, inspire me to write fiction. Reading nonfiction history does too.

Luckily I haven’t suffered true writer’s block (the horror) for at least a decade, maybe longer. But I do have days when I’m “not in the mood” to write fiction. On those days, I read a few pages of P.G. Wodehouse.

Here’s why reading works to unblock you: writers who get blocked have lost their joy in writing fiction. When you read a writer you love, you reignite your inspiration.

3. Your characters are your friends: enjoy them

Make friends with your characters. Think about them as you go through your day. Carry index cards so you can jot down ideas if you wish. I carry index cards everywhere, but it’s not necessary. When you’re inspired with a great idea, you’ll remember it.

Why this works: when you’re actively imagining your characters, you’ll be eager to write.

4. Grab your index cards and be outrageous

Recently a student told me that she was beyond bored with her current novel — and her boredom was shading into active dislike.

Here’s what I suggested: “list your major characters, and their attributes. Then make each one face his biggest fear, or his worst enemy. Be funny. Be outrageous.”

Index cards, the larger 5 x 8 size, are perfect to make notes on your outrageous scenes. Brainstorm ten scenes. Choose one, and write it.

Authors who block insist on perfectionism; they choke off their creativity. When you surprise yourself, you’ll regain your enthusiasm for your novel.

5. When you can’t write it, speak it

Do you talk to yourself?

Everyone does, constantly.

Mind-chatter aside, it’s fun to talk to yourself about your novel.

Tip: avoid talking to others about a novel in progress. Usually it won’t help. And if someone says the wrong thing — “that’s STUPID,” for example— you’ll lose heart, and the novel will be dead to you, forever.

Grab a voice recorder, or use an app on your phone. Talk to yourself about your novel.

You can…

  • Talk out the novel’s problems: “I don’t want to write this scene because…”
  • Discover your characters: “Malcolm is an unremarkable man — maybe he should be the murderer? No one would suspect him…”
  • Build your plot: “I need two scenes before the midpoint. What if…”

You can transcribe this material if you wish. The Dragon voice recognition software will do it for you if you have it. Usually however, a complete transcription is a waste of time. Listen to the recording, then jot a few notes of anything you can use.

When nothing works, relax, and enjoy writer’s block

Perhaps the cause of your writer’s block is rooted in something that’s happening in other areas of your life. If it is, wait for your life to become stable again. Just try to relax, and focus on having as much fun as you can.

Alternatively, you may be too disappointed to write. Maybe your latest novel bombed.

Here’s what to do. Tell everyone you’re giving up writing fiction forever. Have a tantrum. Throw things. Before you know it, a little voice at the back of your mind will whisper: “what if…” 🙂

Write Fast, Write Well: How To Be Prolific, and Sell – Powerful tips to increase your writing income

Write Fast, Write Well: How To Be Prolific, and Sell – Powerful tips to increase your writing income

$4.99
What If You Were Twice As Successful, Or Even THREE Times More Successful Than You Are Today? There's No Ceiling On A Writer's Income... You Just Need To Be Prolific. More info →
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How To Write, Even If You Think You Can’t: 21 Easy Exercises To Bring Out The Writer In You

How To Write, Even If You Think You Can’t: 21 Easy Exercises To Bring Out The Writer In You

$4.99
Do you find writing a struggle? I work with writing students every day who believe that they “can’t write.” And yet, they must write, for one reason or another. More info →
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Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.