1. Squeakyfiend
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    Squeakyfiend Member

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    30k

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Squeakyfiend, Sep 26, 2013.

    I have a strange problem and I was thinking there must be other people who've encountered it. Basically, there seems to be some sort of invisible wall in my writing where my stories always end up at 30k words give or take a couple of thousand. I think it's down to planning, because I usually write 'by the seat of my pants' with only a one page rough plot for reference.

    So I guess what I'm really asking is how can I learn to fill the space in between my ideas with actual words? I've tried to plan more in-depth, but I lose motivation because I love the part of imagining things on the fly.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    first of all, by 'stories' do you mean you are trying to write 'novels' and not 'short stories'?

    if so, the problem may be that the plots you dream up are not complex enough to develop into a novel and you may want to consider writing short stories instead... or, you can go the other way and expand your plots, adding subplots, to make them novel-worthy...

    or, you may not be developing your characters in any depth, may not be setting your scenes with enough attention to detail so that the readers will be drawn into them, and/or not including enough dialog to relieve the narrative...

    the best way to tell what you're doing wrong or not doing, is to compare what you've written to novels by the most respected authors in the same genre... you should be able to see what's missing... you can also post a couple of excerpts here in the workshop, after you fulfill the site requirements [see site rules for posting in the workshop], so we can take a look and give you more pertinent feedback...

    love and hugs, maia
     
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  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There's nothing wrong with a 30,000 word novella. You could try to do what Jim Harrison does: publish two or three novellas as one single book. Stephen King has done the same. Many of the greatest writers of all time have written in the novella form.

    If your story fits well into the novella form, then let it be a novella.
     
  4. Squeakyfiend
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    Squeakyfiend Member

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    Minstrel, I think the problem is that they shouldn't be novellas, they are just novels that are not very well fleshed out. I think Maia is right in that I need to develop my characters, set more detailed scenes and include more dialogue. I mainly write (and read, despite being in my twenties!) teen/young adult stuff and I have a feeling that because they tend to be simplified for the target audience, I see that and end up with undeveloped characters and settings. Looking back at my plots, you guys have made me realise how linear they are too.

    Do you guys recommend somewhere I can go/something I can read or study to go back to basics and really learn these fundamentals?
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There probably isn't really a good substitute for reading a few good, well-constructed novels and examining how they're made. Take notes if you have to. How many scenes are there? How long is each scene? What percentage of each scene is dialogue, or narrative, or description? How many characters are there? How many subplots? How many pages before the inciting event occurs? How many pages are devoted to the climax? Etc. etc. etc.

    Do this with a few good novels, like the ones you had to study in high school. Really take them apart at a nuts-and-bolts level. See how they were built. You'll probably be able to answer your own questions within a week or so, and you'll have a writer's - not a student's, or a critic's - understanding of writing.
     
  6. alex ramirez
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    alex ramirez New Member

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    Minstrel has some really good advice. But really your novel is what it is. If it's a novella then let it be a novella. Don't force your book to be something that it's not by fattening it up just to reach a certain desired length. If you're happy with the flow and the pace of your then book don't interrupt that just to reach a certain word count.
     
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  7. Tara
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    Tara Contributing Member

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    If you reach 30k and it's a good story I'd say you shouldn't try to make it any longer because you'll only add "useless" information, which will most likely make you lose the reader's interest rather than anything else.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've sometimes seen "scenes" that are really plot summaries of scenes; are you maybe doing that?
     
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  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I also read mostly YA and I'm writing YA right now - my previous drafts have consistently finished at around 80k and on my latest rewrite it's looking like it'll be closer to 100-150k. If you look at books like Harry Potter (7 books out there), His Dark Materials trilogy, CS Lewis' Narnia (another 7 books I think) and even the Hunger Games trilogy, or even Twilight (4 books) and 50 Shades (3 books) - these are ALL YA (with the exception of Narnia, which is more like children) - and they've all spanned at least 3 books or more.

    What I'm trying to say is, it's got absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you read and write YA. It's a myth that YA contain only underdeveloped characters or simple plots, unless you're saying characters like Katniss and Lyra are flat and Harry Potter wasn't "developed" in plot and character. There's nothing simple about any of the concepts and characters in either Hunger Games or His Dark Materials, that's for certain. In fact it's been discovered that a large percentage of readers of YA fiction is actually adults in their 30s and up.

    There's also nothing wrong with linear plots. Most books are linear, going from A-Z. Something like Hunger Games involved only 1 POV since it's written in first person and the whole thing is chronological.

    The truth is, maybe your story just isn't complex enough to grow into a novel. Why do you want your stories to be longer anyway? Have you had any feedback on your current finished works? What have your readers said? See what their feedback is - if they feel the story is complete, maybe you're worrying over nothing. Or if something was lacking, then you can pinpoint what that is and start fleshing it out. Ask yourself questions - What happened? Why did it happen? How did it happen? If you have a real answer for every time you ask these questions, you'll easily cover 80k.
     
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  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    do what minstrel said, which is what i would have said if he hadn't said it first... read well-written successful novels to see how it's done... and stop reading juvenile stuff if you want to write for adult readers...
     
  11. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    What I'm about to say may not be politically correct, but...since I assume your goal is to write well enough to sell your work: why are you asking people who, for the most part have been unable to sell their work, how to write for publication? If we knew we'd be selling our stories regularly, and perhaps, charging to teach others how to do the same.

    My point is that damn little in our schooling trained us to write fictionprofessionally because the skills we learned there are general skills. Our math classes didn't make us mathematicians, nor history make us historians. So what's the probability that drowsing through English class will have given us the skills of the professional novelist? I'd say somewhere between slim and none.

    Reading fiction can give us an appreciation for good writing, but did all the TV watching we did give us the skills of a screenwriter? Of course not. Viewing the product of any profession teaches us damn little about the process used in creating that product, or the decisions the writer must make as they construct a scene.

    Here's a small test I often give new writers:

    There's something different about the first paragraph of every chapter, of roughly half the fiction you read. That difference is also often found following a return from a white-space or scene-break. It's something you've seen all your life as you read. Without checking, do you know what it is? Because if you don't—and most people don't—and you missed something so obvious, how much that's subtle did we miss, as well?

    Our storytelling skills help not at all in writing for the printed word because they're performance skills that require the audience to both see and hear us—two things the page can't reproduce. Our school-day writing skills are designed to supply potential employers with a trained labor force, one with predictable skills for the needs of business (the traditional three R's: read'n write'n & 'rithmatic). And as such they're nonfiction writing skills, fact-based and author-centric. Nonfiction meant to inform. Fiction, though, is emotion-based and character-centric—designed to entertain. So naturally different compositional skills are needed.

    And that, I think, is the cause of your dilemma. A scene in fiction isn't the same thing as one in a film. And the the elements of it are unique to the form. So when you make use of your existing skills (and an undergrad CW course doesn't change them) you won't take into account the three things a reader wants to know quickly on entering a scene—because no one ever taught you that they exist. Without knowing what a scene goal is, and the role it plays, you won't take it into account, either. And because you're not familiar with the structure of a scene you won't know why they usually end in disaster for the protagonist.

    Given that handicap, can anyone really plot out a story in the way a pro will?

    See the problem?

    You have the stories, the desire, and everything you need other than a few tricks-of-the-trade. Why not add them to your tool box? As with everything. If you want to know, ask a pro.

    Michaelangelo did not have a college degree, nor did Leonardo da Vinci. Thomas Edison didn't. Neither did Mark Twain (though he was granted honorary degrees in later life.) All of these people were professionals. None of them were experts. Get your education from professionals, and always avoid experts.” ~ Holly Lysle

    Seems to me that investing a few dollars and a bit of time in our writing skills and knowledge would be prerequisite if we're to call ourselves, serious writers.

    And to that end, some suggestions:

    The very best book I know on the nuts and bolts of creating fiction that will captivate a reader is Dwight Swain's, Techniques of the Selling Writer, available on Amazon.
    A damn close second is Jack Bickham's, Scene and Structure. That's available in most library systems, and has the advantage of being free. Free is good. Right?
    A close third is Debra Dixon's, GMC: Goal Motivation & Conflict. It doesn't go into the same depth as the first two but it is a warm easy read, which some find a little less intimidating.

    Sadly, none of them will guarantee you a writing career. They will, however, give you the tools with which to achieve one if it's in you to do that. And without tools... As they say, if the only tool you own is a hammer, everything is going to look like a nail.

    Hope this helps.
     
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  12. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    Most public schooling gets you to the level of being able to identify flaws in prose, reading and other aspects of writing; rarely does it give you ways of addressing them. I've found that writing for Wikipedia has strengthened my writing by the identification of redundant wording and the power of measured prose that educates the reader without creating confusing or ambiguous statements. Though, thirty thousand words is sizable, by what marker or market do you find a fault with it? Never pad your word counts, an edit religiously. Go from scene to scene and add as necessary, it will probably put another 10k-20k in. You will likely lose 5k or more when you fix the redundant or poor prose in the next pass. Still, 30k is more manageable to edit and since you will probably go through it 3-4 times; this may be ideal before sending it out to a publisher.
     
  13. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    I've been sitting on 30K for a while now, but that's because I feel the urge to perfect it so I know where to go in the next 30K. I think I'm doing somewhat of what Minstrel said... Although, I'm not saying out loud it's a collection of novellas. I guess I'm writing that way, but in the end I'd just combine them into a novel... My writing style when it comes to long fiction is to let thoughts swarm my mind for months... I write these thoughts out and imagine scenes and parts until I feel I have enough to go on.

    I feel that your barrier may just be a lack of subplots. Look for ways to make the entire plot more engaging. Look for ways to put more of your characters in hot water to give you something interesting to write... I don't know, it's always hard answering a trouble's writer's questions, I'm just suggesting what I know...

    I hope this helps.
     
  14. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    Just beware the subplots - I've gone off the deep end a few times and ended up with such a tangled web that no reader could reasonably follow it. For myself, this is acceptable, but published work should not have more than 2 sub plots going at any time unless you fancy yourself to be the next Tolstoy.
     
  15. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some very good points here, but I have to add something that most people miss: there is little to no structural difference between a novel and a novelle (and a novellete) except for the word count.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    by 'novelle' did you mean 'novella'?...

    in any case, you're right... word count is the only major structural difference...

    the main 'practical' difference is that in the US at least, traditional publishing opportunities are severely limited, since they're too long for most magazines, too short for book publishers... the advent of e-books/stories, however, has made length a non-issue for those who choose to self-publish...
     
  17. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @mammamaia novellle is the plural, right? :) (and German :p)
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, bb, but i don't know of any language where an 'e' ending = plural... and there's not enough syllables and no capital letter in the middle for it to be german...;)

    so you'll have to cop a plea for poor spelling, or typing, i guess... but you get points for inventive excuses!

    hugs, m
     
  19. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @mammamaia sorry, but
    de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novelle

    and

    en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/novelle

    and
    learn more languages: Latin first declension (puella/puellae), though it's a diphthong... and in my native language 'e' is a common ending for plural feminine nouns...
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2013
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yikes!... stupid me... i forgot about italian, which is really stupid, since i speak/read it somewhat... enough that i could get along when in italy and am half italian/sicilian...

    as a partial 'excuse' i didn't mean 'ae' which is a common latin plural ending... only 'e' after consonants... sorry, should have been more specific... but that still doesn't excuse my forgetting about italian... mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

    i'm intrigued... what is your native tongue?... can you give me some examples of plurals with consonant/e endings, along with the singular version?... i love languages and am always open to learning more... thanks for your patience...

    hugs, m
     
  21. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @mammamaia no prob: I call my language serbo-croatian, because I believe it's the only proper term for some 5 or 6 standardized versions of, basically, the same language...but that's politics, and who gives a damn...
    Anyways, basicially all feminine nouns (and adjectives in feminine forms) fall into a "Third" declinsion, where nominative singular has an -a ending, and gen. sing. and nom. pl. share the -e ending... That's pretty much like in the First Latin declension, where diphthongs evolved from short E vocal (or evolved back to it in later period, I'm a bit rusty with my Classical vs Ecclesiastical pronunciatio) :)
    Ex: woman = žena - žene ('ž' like in 'pleasure')
    or sister = sestra - sestre
    or building = zgrada - zgrade

    Sorry OP for off-topic posts :)
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    thanks for the example, bb!

    and, op, ditto the apology!
     
  23. Gilborn
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    Gilborn Member

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    Agents and publishing houses, have become more open to authors who can submit two novella's with a short, or 4 to 6 shots with their novella as a first novel publication. There are also several group publication each year, which are happy to take novellas from new authors. However, these options tend to pay little to nothing. (Always be run from any publication that wants you to pay. ) However, self-publication has become the new way to go. I live in Austin, and I can't count the number of self-published novels I see everyday down here,,it's everywhere like the music use to be. But, I only pay a max of $3 for a self-published digital copy and $10 for a hard copy, which means hard copies are not profitable really.

    For what my opinion is worth, finish your novel at what every word length happens and send it off to several publishing housing and agents, just to see what you get for a feedback. Then have at least 5 strangers read your work. Based upon that feedback, you'll know what you need to do to satisfy yourself, and your target audience.
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    how can novellas and a short, or several shorts = a 'first novel'?
     
  25. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Gilborn you mean "first book publication, not "first novel publication"?
     

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