Does Anyone Really Give A Damn About How Many Words You Write In A Day?

 

I love the threads about how many words a person can write in a day. They really tickle me to death. Does is really matter whether it’s 1k or 6k in a day? To me it sounds like the old ‘my dick is bigger than yours’ that boys have so much.

Now, a person can sit back and write 1k of solid, publishable work compared to another’s 6k of shit? Who’s doing better? The more important thing to consider is this: are you writing something that is of high quality? Now I don’t mean lacking typos, because that’s going to happen even if you type slowly. Do your sentences make sense? Are the simple and clear? Did you use a ten dollar word when a fifty cent word would’ve worked better?

There are so many things to consider when discussing how many words in a day one can write. When sufficiently motivated, I can crank out anywhere from 2.5-4k when in the ‘creative’ phase of the book. After that I end up having to do at least 2-3 edits to get it to what might be considered publishable quality.

Like today: I’ve done a final read through/edit of my Talia novel to the tune of 4-6k, I have also written almost 3-4k in my Athol novel, but I can guarantee you the Athol work is nowhere near publishable quality, so what have I gained? Not much. Although, I will admit that when I’m in the creative phase (when I’m actually putting the idea to paper) I tend to write far more in a day then when I’m rewriting/editing. This is because I just want to get the story down while I have it in my head. After that its edit, edit, edit, edit and edit some more.

In a nutshell, don’t compare yourself against others when it comes to how many words you write in a day. Just make sure they’re the best amount of words you can write. Shoot for quality over quantity.


 

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Massaging Final Draft

 

One of the hardest parts of being a writer is taking that final step to getting yourself published. Why is this so? Believe it or not, it’s where you spend the most time.

I know you think I’m crazy, but it’s true.

While actually writing the story takes time, it’s the hard copy edits, etc that eat up your time more than anything else. And let’s not forget the final massaging.

Now the final smoothing can be anything from a simple looksee to check for errors to giving it a final rewrite to get things in the perfect spot. Either way, that’s what eats up your time.

So, when you’re at this point, like I am, take heart and don’t give in. This is where the professionals are made and the chaff cleared out. Ones who don’t truly want to be professional won’t make this step.

So, hang in there.

1st and 3rd Person POV in the same book??

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Dear Lord, just say NO! I have read only one book like this and it was CL Anderson’s “Bitter Angels” and I hope it’s the only one! That was by far the most jarring, poorly flowing novel that I’ve ever read. Here’s why:

She wrote it in a very weird and annoying way. One chapter could be written in first person (the name of the character given) and then she’d write a second chapter from another character’s POV in first. Fine..I can deal with that…

Then…she’d make a third chapter in 3rd person with a third character. See the problem?

Trying to read that book was the ultimate in what’s called ‘head hopping.’ It became a pain in the ass to keep up with it all and ruined what was a very good premise. 

So, just say no!

 

How to know your character is finished

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Is another post I’ve read that is interesting. How do you know your character is done? While characterization is important, this question is rather irrelevant. And here’s why:

A character is never complete when a story is written. Is Talia a complete person? No, because she’s always growing. In the first book she’s very condescending towards humans and their immaturity. This comes from what’s happening during the story. Throw in the subplot about something in her past, and you see a character that’s grown.

Now, in the second novel she’s darker and bitter. This comes from something that happens in the first novel, and it carries over. Throw in three years to brood about it and you get a darker, grittier person.

At the start of the third, she’s more positive and somewhat happier because things in the second novel restore her faith in the universe.

And I’m not quite sure how the fourth novel will turn out because each story takes on a life of it’s own…I don’t plan them out.

What is she like? A warrior who has lived many lifetimes and seen things that most people never will. She still deals with the issues faced by an immortal also, which are many.

Now, how does this factor into my post? Here’s how: character’s need to be known by the writer, along with back story, but not all of it needs to be shown to a reader. In fact, everyone’s got a back story and most of its boring as Stephen King would say.

So, how do you work with your character? Well, he or she needs to be able to grow as a person in whatever direction their personality and life takes them. If the writer decides he or she needs to know every single thing about the character, and their life, then the character doesn’t have room to grow because the writer will control everything. This will stunt things completely.

The thing about characters is that they are like us. They need to be able to grow and react in the way that is natural to them, and if the writer takes that away, then they’ve killed the one thing that really makes a book special: who the story is about. Know what I mean?

Don’t try to know everything about your characters. Learn enough to know who they are where they’ve come from, but not enough to stunt their growth. That is when you know your character is complete enough to write.

Happy writing.

 

Suspension of Disbelief

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Another post that caught me eye, and shake my head, was ‘How to Make Suspension of Disbelief’ in a compex world? Huh?? Is it that difficult? Here’s the solution:

Suspension of Disbelief comes from the reader being immersed in the world of the book enough to feel like it’s real. How is this done? By the quality of your writing!!! So many of these questions have a simple answer: your writing is the key.

When it comes to creating a novel, nothing matters more then your ability to draw a reader into your world. That’s where the combination of description and characterization come from. A truly believable character can make up for a poorly described world. However, a beautifully described world can’t compensate for a poor, cardboard character.

The combination of the two, when done correctly, are what brings people into your world and then forget it isn’t real. See what I mean?

Instead of spending time on boards asking questions that have already been answered, my advice is to spend time telling a story! It’ll progress your career, if you want to be a professional, more then being a massive poster on various forums.

My challenge to everyone is: Do you want to be a serious writer or to be known as someone who posts under your screen name? Their not compatible in many ways.

I hope this has helped. Happy writing!

Comparing Oneself to Other Writers

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I’m behind today because I cut our 5 acres of grass a couple hours ago, so I’ve just now started cruising the various boards. And, believe it or not, something’s already caught my eye. It was a thread titled ‘Who Do You Write Like?’

What the hell? Does an aspiring writer need to compare themselves against another? All that does is have a tendency to lead one down a rabbit hole as they try to copy the one they ‘compare to.’ Why would you want to do that to yourself? It’s insanity if you asked me.

Who does a writer compare to then?? Themselves! No one writes identically to another author no matter how hard they try. You could try to emulate, or even copy, Stephen King or Nabacov but you know what? It wouldn’t happen no matter what. Each persons word usage, and sentence structure, are different from another and that’s just how it is.

Furthermore, as I said before, it also leads a writer down a rabbit hole they don’t need to follow. By trying to copy another writer, you don’t learn anything on your own. I mean, how do you know the one you’re copying is a great writer or terrible writer? Without being able to create prose in your own style, then it’s impossible to make the determination.

And publishing success doesn’t translate to great writing either. Sounds crazy, but a lot of novels are best sellers because they are entertaining-and that’s a different world then pure wordsmanship.

So, try to be yourself and not copy someone else.

Happy writing.

Starting Your Book With Exposition

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A lot of people are asking if they should start their novel off with exposition and the answer is no! Do not take those first 5-6 precious paragraphs you need to catch a reader’s attention and waste them on useless narration. Do not put back story into them. In fact, you don’t have to write the back story in all at one time. Dribble it out! For example: I got an entire back story built for Talia, but I only let it out in drips and dribs over all of the novels with her. Plus, I’ll run a subplot that deals with something in her past that’s relevant to the current novel to help spread out the background. Keep in mind Stephen King’s quote on the subject:

“The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.”

So, don’t waste that valuable time on needless things.

 

Celebrities and Public Figures in Your Writing

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I got to cruising the various forums this morning and run across, once again, another familiar question. “Can I use real people in my writing?” Well, the answer on that depends and here’s why.

If you’re using a public figure and/or celebrity, their rights to privacy are far different than ours legally. That DOES NOT, however, mean you can defame them. One could write Stephen King into your book and provided you didn’t slander him, things would be okay. However, if you added him and then tried to say he slept with a goat..then you can-and will-get sued. See what I mean?

In my third Talia novel I have Bill Clinton, Sandy Berger, Madeline Albright and the WH Chief of Staff in a scene. However, what I do is write them into the roles the played in real life and left and personal feelings out of the writing (which is what a professional does to be honest). So, it has them being who they were in real life, which frees me from litigation issues. See what I mean?

Here is the legal definition of slander and defamation of character:

(not both are from legal-dictionary.thedictionary.com

Slander:

 oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed. Slander is a civil wrong (tort) and can be the basis for a lawsuit. Damages (payoff for worth) for slander may be limited to actual (special) damages unless there is malicious intent, since such damages are usually difficult to specify and harder to prove. Some statements such as an untrue accusation of having committed a crime, having a loathsome disease, or being unable to perform one’s occupation are treated as slander per se since the harm and malice are obvious, and therefore usually result in general and even punitive damage recovery by the person harmed. Words spoken over the air on television or radio are treated as libel (written defamation) and not slander on the theory that broadcasting reaches a large audience as much if not more than printed publications.

Slander is the spoken word, done with malice (which is the key to prosecuting these cases), that tells lies about another person. So, once again, if I went out and said someone was  a rapist when they weren’t, then that person could sue me.

Defamation of Character:

Any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person’s reputation; decreases the respect, regard, or confidence in which a person is held; or induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against a person.

Defamation may be a criminal or civil charge. It encompasses both written statements, known as libel, and spoken statements, called slander.

The probability that a plaintiff will recover damages in a defamation suit depends largely on whether the plaintiff is a public or private figure in the eyes of the law. The public figure law of defamation was first delineated in new york times v. sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S. Ct. 710, 11 L. Ed. 2d 686 (1964). In Sullivan, the plaintiff, a police official, claimed that false allegations about him appeared in the New York Times, and sued the newspaper for libel. The Supreme Court balanced the plaintiff’s interest in preserving his reputation against the public’s interest in freedom of expression in the area of political debate. It held that a public official alleging libel must prove actual malice in order to recover damages. The Court declared that the First Amendment protects open and robust debate on public issues even when such debate includes “vehement, caustic, unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” A public official or other plaintiff who has voluntarily assumed a position in the public eye must prove that defamatory statements were made with knowledge that they were false or with reckless disregard of whether they were false.

Where the plaintiff in a defamation action is a private citizen who is not in the public eye, the law extends a lesser degree of constitutional protection to defamatory statements. Public figures voluntarily place themselves in a position that invites close scrutiny, whereas private citizens who have not entered public life do not relinquish their interest in protecting their reputation. In addition, public figures have greater access to the means to publicly counteract false statements about them. For these reasons, a private citizen’s reputation and privacy interests tend to outweigh free speech considerations and deserve greater protection from the courts. (See Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323, 94 S. Ct. 2997, 41 L. Ed. 2d 789 [1974]).

Distinguishing between public and private figures for the purposes of defamation law is sometimes difficult. For an individual to be considered a public figure in all situations, the person’s name must be so familiar as to be a household word—for example, Michael Jordan. Because most people do not fit into that category of notoriety, the Court recognized the limited-purpose public figure, who is voluntarily injected into a public controversy and becomes a public figure for a limited range of issues. Limited-purpose public figures, like public figures, have at least temporary access to the means to counteract false statements about them. They also voluntarily place themselves in the public eye and consequently relinquish some of their privacy rights. For these reasons, false statements about limited-purpose public figures that relate to the public controversies in which those figures are involved are not considered defamatory unless they meet the actual-malice test set forth inSullivan.

Determining who is a limited-purpose public figure can also be problematic. In Time, Inc. v. Firestone, 424 U.S. 448, 96 S. Ct. 958, 47 L. Ed. 2d 154 (1976), the Court held that the plaintiff, a prominent socialite involved in a scandalous Divorce, was not a public figure because her divorce was not a public controversy and because she had not voluntarily involved herself in a public controversy. The Court recognized that the divorce was newsworthy, but drew a distinction between matters of public interest and matters of public controversy. In Hutchinson v. Proxmire, 443 U.S. 111, 99 S. Ct. 2675, 61 L. Ed. 2d 411 (1979), the Court determined that a scientist whose federally supported research was ridiculed as wasteful by Senator William Proxmire was not a limited-purpose public figure because he had not sought public scrutiny in order to influence others on a matter of public controversy, and was not otherwise well-known.

Further readings

Collins, Matthew. 2001. The Law of Defamation and the Internet. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

Friedman, Jessica R. 1995. “Defamation.” Fordham Law Review 64 (December).

Jones, William K. 2003. Insult to Injury: Libel, Slander, and Invasions of Privacy. Boulder, Colo.: Univ. Press of Colorado.

Smolla, Rodney A. 1999. Law of Defamation. 2d ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West Group.

 

While slander and defamation of character are the same (one is spoken and the other is written) the concept remains the same. If the statements are:

1. Untrue

2. Done with Malice

then you don’t have a leg to stand on.

However, with that said, the biggest part of the tort liability suit (which defamation/slander is a civil crime) is proving it was done with malice. If that can’t be proven, then the suit stands a chance of being won by you…but why take the chance?

Best bet? If you’re going to use them, then damn well keep them in the position they were in and don’t deviate from what you’ve seen from them publicly of you’ll end up in deep crap.

My advice for any writer is to read up on tort law anyway. I’m lucky, I took business law, which exposed me to most of the torts out there, and know how they work. However, if you don’t, then don’t risk it.

 

 

Novel Openings

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I cruised the various boards today and another familiar question has come back up. “How do I start my novel?”

There’s two school of thoughts about this and I’ll share them both. The first believes in the ‘wham bam’ type opening. Something BIG happens, either an explosion or car chase or something, right off the bat. This viewpoint says that the reader will instantly be hooked by the rapid-fire action. The second feels that a slower, more cerebral entrance will draw the reader in. While there’s merits in both, whether or or the other is best to use depends on what genre you’re writing.

In novel writing you have two types of openings: 1. Action  2. Active. Let me break them down.

A “action opening” is exactly what it says. Something big is happening, whether it’s a foot chase, a battle, or something that involves some sort of physical action. This, when used correctly, can draw a reader in to the story off the bat. In my opinion it’s a bit of a gimmick, but I’ll explain that later.

An ‘active opening’ is a different type of beast. There’s not overwhelming ‘action’ even happening but it’s more cerebral in how it gets the reader’s attention. A typical opening of this type presents a problem, or a situation, that makes a reader start to wonder what’s happening and will compel them to read on to see the answer.

My personal opinion is that the ‘action’ opening is overused. It’s become a gimmick, similar to those things done in Hollywood, to get the attention of a person. Any person can write a pure action scene, but what happens after that scene’s over?

Active openings take more skill from the writer to pull off but have the higher reward. When done correctly, they completely engross the reader with the world and they keep turning the pages. The trick, though, is how to pull it off. And there’s only one sure fire way to learn this skill, and that is to continually practice on it.

Here’s a blog post on the matter by a literary agent named Kristin on her blog on blogspot about this subject.

http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2012/06/writing-craft-action-vs-active-openings.html

I hope this helps out in understanding the difference.

Description in a Novel

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Another post I see a lot when cruising the various boards is “What is too much description?” While description is necessary to a novel, it also slows down you pace. So, when you’re writing your novel and you go ahead and write two pages of description, ask yourself: Is this necessary?

The key is to give them just enough description to be drawn into the story, but not enough to keep them from using their imagination. Now, I can hear what you’re saying. “But..but..what about showing versus telling?” While you want to mix showing AND telling into your novel, there’s no point in taking a page to describe a room. It get’s boring to a reader and also slows your story down to a crawl. There’s a quote, believe it or not given his writing, from King on this:

“In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.”
― Stephen KingOn Writing

A big problem, and one I too had to overcome, is being in love with your own words. Too many writers don’t want to cut down their description “because it won’t show the world to the reader.” If you feel that you need to give them every little tidbit then you’re insulting your reader!!! They aren’t so stupid that they can’t piece together the information you left out! Have a little faith in them. Second, when I hear folks say: “I just finished my first novel and it’s 300k words long,” I know they’re in love with their words. Unless you’re trying to write War and Peace, no novel needs to be that long-especially if you’re a new writer.

Also, and you can’t skip this step, description isn’t something that you just learn how to do. Only by reading great novels, learning from them, and writing your own work will you improve in the situation. I’ll leave you with one last quote from King:

“Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”
― Stephen KingOn Writing

Happy writing and good luck!