In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Social Media
* Writing Across the Genres
* Some Genre Tidbits
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“In math, you could get 100 percent. It was very fair. That’s what I liked about math. You could figure it out, and the teacher couldn’t have a stupid opinion about it.” Norm MacDonald
“You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don’t.” Ray Bradbury, from an email from Tom Woods
I publish this Journal not only on my own website but also on Substack so I can send it to subscribers via email.
Because I want to share the Journal with as many folks as possible, I also share each post on Twitter as soon as I publish it to Substack. I do that only because Substack makes sharing there so easy.
But every now and then I make the mistake of reading something posted there. Yesterday it was a writer who posted, “Is it okay that a novel comes in a little short at only 78,000 words?”
When I was a child, the “average” novel (per traditional publishing) was 60,000 to 80,000 words. If the manuscript ran much longer than that, they wouldn’t publish it. If they really liked it, they would send it back to the writer with a mandate to cut X number of words.
Then sometime in the 1960s or ’70s someone in the tradpubs realized they could charge more for books of a certain length. Hence, artificial price points and mandatory word counts came into being.
Thank goodness yet again for this brave new golden age of publishing in which you can write what you want, let the story be the length it needs to be, publish and let the readers decide what they like instead of being spoon-fed by some corporate overlord.
But believe it or not, most writers today—even many writers who aren’t stunted and frightened enough to continue chasing agents and traditional publication—still strive to reach the artificial word counts that lend themselves to tradpubs’ artificial price points. Of course, those word counts are what they grew up hearing. Still, it’s insane.
Anyway, even knowing there was an excellent chance my response would be pooh-poohed and set aside as ridiculous, for some stupid reason I still did what little I could to help the guy out.
I said a story should be whatever length it needs to be.
For the record, that’s a non-should. A story should never be forced to meet some artificial requirement for length, dialogue-to-narrative percentage, or anything else. And if it is, the false requirement should be established by the writer, not by someone else.
I also mentioned that literally Everywhere On Earth other than the US—and even IN the US before the tradpubs started creating those artificial price points—novels came in as short as 25,000 words.
But never mind my advice, which is based firmly on history and knowledge and experience. I suspect that writer, like most, will go ahead and pad-out his work because some other writer or even would-be writer tells him meeting the word count is essential.
And that’s annoying, because that advice is to meet some artificial requirement that means absolutely nothing just because some cog in some corporate entity somewhere who wouldn’t give you the time of day if his or her middle finger was a watch said a novel is “supposed” to be a certain length. Deep breath.
And that’s why, other than clicking Share and then Post (or maybe it’s “Share” again, I dunno), I stay off social media. Too much free advice from people who have no clue what they’re talking about.
When anyone sneaks through and tells me anything about what my characters or story or anything else “should be” I catch them right between the eyes with a hearty, “Thank you! And precisely how in the hell would you know?” Feel free to use that yourself. It’s effective.
And as the clod is stammering for a response, I turn and walk away or click out of wherever I am virtually. No need to let my darker angel continue down that path.
Writing Across the Genres
You can learn something about writing Romance or Action-Adventure by reading a post on writing SF. As long as it’s written in the same language, you can learn something about writing in any genre from reading about writing in any other genre.
The accepted tropes and maybe reader expectations are different from one genre to the next, but otherwise it’s pretty much all the same. Writing fiction is writing fiction.
So I’m just saying, don’t be the woman who literally crossed her arms and said she would never even read Heinlein’s Rules because she doesn’t write SF (what?), and don’t be the guy who believes you can’t learn anything from Jack Higgins’ or Stephen King’s work because you don’t write action-adventure thrillers or horror.
All genres use the five-senses exercise, all involve grounding the reader in the setting, all include major and minor and transitional scenes, all include dialogue, well-rounded main characters and stand-out secondary characters, all regulate pacing, and so on and so on.
Some of those aspects are treated differently, sometimes, in different genres, but that should excite you, not dissuade you from learning about a genre you don’t write. You might find a treatment in one genre that hasn’t been tried yet in yours, and one that will work or even greatly enhance your own story.
Anyway, I wrote all of this partly because there’s a post labeled Genre Tips in “Of Interest.” According to the author, it’s the first of five posts on genres.
I encourage you to read all five. Why? Because you never know what you might learn even from a post that isn’t specifically about your genre.
Some Genre Tidbits
Did you realize…
SF trumps all the other genres? It’s true. If a story or novel contains even one SF element, the story or novel is automatically in SF genre or subgenre.
SF, Fantasy (even not science fantasy), and Westerns are the only genres in which Setting is the most important element? The most important two elements in the other genres are
Romance = Character, Plot
Mystery = Character, Setting
YA = Character, Voice
Literary = Voice, Style
Christian = Character, the second element depends on the subgenre
Thriller = Plot, Character
By the way, you needn’t automatically buy this. If you read these genres, pick a book you’ve already read for pleasure and see whether you can determine the most significant element, the second, third and so on.
Romance is the largest and best-selling genre, followed by Mystery, then Fantasy, then YA, then Thriller, then SF and Westerns (especially in novellas and ebooks) and Literary.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Genre Tips: How to Write Fantasy” at https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/genre-tips-how-to-write-fantasy/. Just in case there’s something you can use.
The Journal…………………………………… 1160 words
Writing of “Hortencia Alvarez” (shrug—I dunno)
Day 1…… 1089 words. Total words to date…… 1089
Writing of Wes Crowley: Deputy US Marshal 2 (WCG9SF4)
Day 1…… 3231 words. Total words to date…… 3231
Day 2…… 2990 words. Total words to date…… 6221
Day 3…… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 8026
Day 4…… 2025 words. Total words to date…… 10051
Total fiction words for February……… 1089
Total fiction words for 2023………… 47962
Total nonfiction words for February… 6780
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 27130
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 75092
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer because of my zen-like non-process. If you want to learn it too, either hang around or download my Journal Archives at https://hestanbrough.com/the-daily-journal-archives/, read them, and try WITD for yourself.