Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Writing in Numbers

It's been a while since I wrote last. Finally time caught up with me and much as I ran I couldn't escape it, my french course started last week. It's quite interesting and I have to confess I'm enjoying it, though it has been hard to put up with eight hours of not understanding much. The worst part by far is that I had forgotten how tiresome school is and after university, I still have a house to clean and a family to take care of, forget about a writing career. I haven't been this busy in a long time. For now, I'm managing school, taking care of my two little girls, and cooking, cleaning... you know what I mean. On top of all that I'm still trying to write at least three pages per day but it's quite a frustrating exercise when your mind hangs up on you and all you produce are lifeless conversations and uninspired prose.

In any case, before the hectic days began I tried to write as much as I could to have something to work on while I got used to the new rhythm and feel more comfortable. I proudly state that I managed to finish a short story, (4000 wd) called "Francis" that I sent to a Short Fiction Contest; I got the rough basics of a second short story that it's in the works, and I finished the first draft of a not-so-short story (12000 wd).

Well, this last work posed a bit of trouble for me, I didn't know what market, if any, there was for it and for a moment I thought it would become a personal exercise with no hope for publishing. You see, I started writing in what, I felt, was a genre I was familiar with but there were things I'd never paid attention beforehand, like the length of the books and stories I read. I was resigned to leave this piece behind but, unwilling to find myself in this position once again, I decided to turn to the greatest source of information in this century: The Net.

After a short day of research I came out with more understanding of what was expected of me in each area and genre; it also reminded me just how much I don't know in this, my chosen field of work. It turns out that there's a name for every piece of work one does, that doesn't make it any more sellable, though. Here, I'll share with you what little knowledge I've gain on the subject.

An average page of a novel contains more or less 300 words, 250 if there's dialogue; keep that in mind when reading the following.

A work of up to 100 words is called Micro Fiction; this kind of story is becoming increasingly popular among magazines, though it is complex to write and do it well.

A piece that has between 100-1000 words is called Flash Fiction; extremely popular since long, it's the perfect work to put in Cosmo magazine as short romance or as a short comedy in a Men's magazine.

Now, from 1000-7500 words you'd call them Short Stories. These, you all know very well since they've carved a space in literary and film history.

A Novellette is the story that is anything from 7500-20K words-long. Alas, a name for my baby! But the good news stop there. These kind of pieces are the hardest to publish since most magazines consider them too long, and most publishers won't find it profiting enough to pony up with the cost of printing and marketing for a book whose point price has to be low. This work does better when put together with other pieces in a Compilation Novel.

The new electronic market has made popular a different kind of book called Novella. This work is 20K-50K words-long and fits perfectly with most e-readers' expectations; it offers a growing market with great promise for those with no interest of seeing their stories in print.

Finally, every genre of Novel has it's own especificities but in general a work that contains something between 50K-110K is acceptable. Epics and Secuels run even longer.

There it is, in a nutshell, what most writers should know about what editors and publishers are looking for, besides riveting stories. Back to my own work, I've called the Novellette "Perpetual Night" and I sent it to some friends; in general it got good reviews but it clearly needs more work. Right now I'm revising it and as soon as this weekend I'll start editing. My goal is to finish it before nov 30 because a publication has asked for such kind of work and the deadline is the end of the month.

I foresee many sleepless nights before I see it through but, if it gets selected everything will be worthwhile.

Wish me luck friends. I'll keep you posted!

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