Writing Corner: Word Counts

This blog post will be looking at the differences between the different lengths of fiction and what the pros and cons of each are. Generally poetry, drama, the short story and the novel are what pops into people’s heads when they think of types of writing. People often forget about novelettes and novellas.

Micro Fiction: 1 – 100 words

Flash Fiction: 100 – 1000 words

Short Story: 1000 – 7000 words

Novelette: 7,500 – 20,000 words

Novella: 20,000 – 50,000 words

Novel: 50,000+ (though more than 110,000 is often called an ‘epic’)

(Word counts are approximate and opinions on exact boundaries may vary.)

Micro fiction is incredibly difficult to write but can be really powerful. So much meaning can be expressed in only a few words. The other interesting thing about this length is that because it is so short often the reader is left to interpret it to find their own meaning. Can you make a story out of only 7 words? It is indeed possible.

Although I put that flash fiction is 100 – 1000 I would generally consider it to be most often 350 – 800. This length allows for more description than micro fiction but still restrains how much you can say and means you have to choose the few words you do carefully to create the most meaning.

The short story is probably the most common prose length other than the novel. This is a really accessible length to write and often very rewarding. A good way to think about it is that it is basically a mini novel (going back to the previous post this works for novelettes and novellas too), it still needs all the same components as one – characters, plot, rising action, climax etc. – but is compressed into a smaller word count. Like with the other short forms, every word counts and can be used to create meaning.

All of these lengths will be published in some kind of magazine, literary journal, or anthology. There are tonnes of opportunities for publication of these lengths and so many competitions out there. It can be a great opportunity to get your work out there.

The novelette is a short form, but not short enough to be a short story. This length can allow more development of characters than a short story. As the novella is longer you can explore more complex plots than in a novelette.

In terms of publishing, novelettes and novellas don’t generally get published in magazines (as they are too long) or as a book (they are too short). However, you sometimes see novella’s by already established authors. Novel lengths vary vastly depending on the target age group and the genre. In terms of publishability (I think I may have made up that word) a shorter debut is more likely to be published.

But, all these are just numbers. What should matter is what you want to write. I think a story should just end up being the length it ends up. Forcing a story into a novel length which doesn’t have enough substance for it can mean it being full of fluff. On the reverse, trying to cut down the length of a story too much can make it loose the intended meaning or create plot holes unless it is done carefully.

From my personal experience of writing a novella, it can be a good step towards completing a novel because the shorter word goal makes it feel more attainable and completing it motivated me to finish a novel. If you’re struggling to finish a novel why not try completing a novelette or novella?

Author Interview: Ashley Maker

Ashley Maker is a young adult author who recently had her debut novel, Under the Trees, published by Cliffhanger Press. Ashley is from Oklahoma and enjoys writing songs for her books as well as writing them. Under the Trees is a fantasy romance which follows the story of Princess Araya as she runs away to a neighbouring kingdom to escape an abusive arranged marriage. There, she falls into the hands of Prince Thoredmund, who decides to help her and provides refuge for her in his kingdom, unbeknown to his father. As their feelings for each other begin to grow, the fragile peace between the two kingdoms is threatened.

 

Where did your inspiration for Under the Trees come from?

UNDER THE TREES is actually a complete rewrite of a book I finished when I was nineteen titled ARAYA. The first version was much sillier, and I had an agent tell me it had too much of a Middle Grade tone for a Young Adult book. After a few years of it being shelved, I set out to rewrite it as a Middle Grade book, but the first words of the rewrite ended up being the opening scene of UNDER THE TREES. I knew before I hit the end of the first page that I wasn’t writing the lighthearted, comical MG novel I set out to. Araya’s new voice, and her desperation and fear, sent the novel in a darker, much more mature direction, falling squarely in the upper YA category. I loved it so much I plotted the entire novel around that scene, and on giving Prince Thoredmund his own point of view chapters, whereas before he had little journal entries interspersed at the end of every few chapters. The two versions are so drastically different that they’re hardly comparable today. Just about everything changed.

 

What made you decide to write from the alternating perspectives of Princess Araya and Prince Thoredmund? 

I wanted the reader to be able to see the story from both sides, especially since Prince Thoredmund’s first chapter opens where Araya’s leaves off. There are important things the reader would never get to see if it only followed Araya’s POV, like all of the stuff going on at the castle and how the feud between the two royal families plays out.

 

What is your writing process? Do you have any habits?  

I’m a very slow writer, and I tend to edit while I write. I almost always write in my office at my desk, and before I type anything out, I try to take ten minutes or so to brainstorm what I want to work on that day. As far as habits go, I like to listen to music on Grooveshark, and I always have something to drink and snack on nearby.

 

How long did it take for you to bring Under the Trees from its planning stages to its final manuscript? 

I started the rewrite in the fall of 2010 and finished it in the summer of 2011. That doesn’t include revision, which was an on and off again process all the way up to December 2013.

 

Who is your favourite character in the book and why?

Prince Silas. He’s Araya brother, and I had so much fun with his character because he’s a bit of a wild card. I’m even thinking of writing a companion novel from his POV one day.

 

Do you have any advice for writers hoping to be published? 

Write what you want. If writers followed every piece of advice, or tip, or trend, we’d be writing in circles or not able to write at all. So write something you love and will be proud of, regardless of what others say about it. After your book is revised and ready, that’s the time to look into publication. Be sure to do lots of research on the different avenues of publishing so that you can find the best one for you. If you choose to submit to agents or publishing houses, make sure they’re legitimate since you’ll likely be working with them for years if they offer on your book. Also, while you’re shopping your book out, try to write something new. Publishing is one big waiting game. Having something new to focus on helps during those periods when things are going slow.

 

Under the Trees is available now in paperback and on Amazon kindle.

For more information on Ashley and the novel see:

www.ashleymaker.com

facebook.com/authorashley

twitter.com/ashleymaker

 

You can read my review of the book here.

 

(This interview was originally published in the University of Surrey’s student newspaper The Stag)

Book Review: Divergent (Series) by Veronica Roth

 

 

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia

Publishing Info (of the editions I read):

Divergent – Published February 28th 2012 by Katherine Tegen Books (first published 2011)

Insurgent – Published November 21st 2013 by HarperCollins Children’s Books (first published January 1st 2012)

Allegiant – Published October 22nd 2013 by HarperCollins Children’s Book’s

Pages:

Divergent – 487

Insurgent – 529

Allegiant – 526

Star Rating:

Divergent – 5/5

Insurgent – 4/5

Allegiant – 3/5

Overall – 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Divergent – In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Insurgent – The thrillingly dark sequel to New York Times bestseller, DIVERGENT – a major motion picture in 2014. One choice can transform you – or it can destroy you. Tris Prior’s initiation day should have been marked by victorious celebrations with her chosen faction; instead it ended with unspeakable horrors. Now unrest surges in the factions around her as conflict between their ideologies grows. War seems inevitable; and in times of war sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge and choices will become ever more irrevocable. Tris has already paid a terrible price for survival and is wracked by haunting grief and guilt. But radical new discoveries and shifting relationships mean that she must fully embrace her Divergence – even though she cannot know what might be lost in doing so. New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth’s much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent trilogy is another intoxicating thrill-ride, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreak, romance and powerful insights about human nature.

Allegiant – The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

 

So, I decided to review the ‘Divergent’ trilogy all in one go, because really I need to review the overall impression of the series as a whole. Also partly because I read them so quickly I didn’t have time to review the first one before I was moving onto the next and so on. I’m going to review each book individually and then do a bit about the series.

Divergent

I’m going to start off by saying I absolutely loved this book and gave it 5/5 stars. It just kept me hooked. I literally couldn’t put it down. I never knew what was going to happen next and there was no points where I was bored or where I thought it was too slow.

I like how real the characters are – they have realistic thoughts and feelings and they have flaws. Now, they don’t just have flaws for the sake of flaws like I see in some books because authors put them in to make their characters real. In Divergent the characters’ flaws make sense and fit with their individual personalities and environment. I also like Tris as a character and thought she had a good narrative voice. Four is also a good character. He seems raw and has a really individual character. He’s not like a typical bad boy and is actually quite nice and considerate but he has an interesting edge to him which makes him different, intriguing and stands out (in a good way). Also, the romance was realistic and it didn’t feel forced (and no silly love triangles! Yes!).

The plot was really interesting and I felt that Roth did a good job at the world-building. It was well thought out and I got a real sense of the place without there being tonnes of info dumping or over the top descriptions.

So overall I absolutely loved this book and I would really recommend it. It’s one of the best YA Dystopia novels I’ve read (though maybe not as good as The Hunger Games).

Insurgent

I was so excited for this sequel and it did not disappoint me. Yes, I gave it 4 stars rather than the 5 I gave Divergent as it didn’t quite have that 5 star feel for me but it was still an amazing and exciting read.

However, once you started reading the series you can’t really stop and that brings me to the final book in the series.

Allegiant

This book was a massive disappointment and I only gave it 3 stars. Gradually, each book in the series lost another star point. While Insurgent was a slight step down but still great, Allegiant was like falling into oblivion. I found a lot of the novel quite boring and it didn’t catch my attention and keep it held the same way the first two books did.

An important thing to tell you is that the book is told from the alternating first person perspectives of Tris and Four (whereas the first two were just Tris’ point of view). I wouldn’t have minded, but Roth’s characterisation ability went out of the window in this book. I found myself having trouble telling the difference between the two characters’ voices. The characterisation was very poor in this book, made even more noticeable by the contrast with the amazing characterisation in the first two books.

Without spoiling the book all I can say is the way the plot turned in this one seemed unrealistic and fell flat of my expectations built up from the first two. The ending is very controversial and, although I acknowledge Roth’s guts in writing the ending she wanted, it seemed like a pointless, purposeless ending that didn’t really have to happen and the rest was very drawn out.

Overall

I would very much recommend the first book, and probably the second to. But, if you start reading the series you end up needing to finish it and be aware that the final book is disappointing, anti-climatic, poorly written, poorly constructed, and unexciting.

First Novel

Earlier this month (January 6th to be precise) I finished writing my first novel. It’s taken me a couple of weeks to get around to sharing this amazing news on my blog, maybe because it’s taken me this long to really take in the fact. I have finished a novel. It seems so surreal to me. I’ve been writing seriously for 8 years now and for a while I never thought I’d get around to finishing one. And now I have. In 5 months. You spend 8 years of painstaking attempts and then you knock up a book in 5 months. I’m still not sure I’ve really taken it in.

The novel is called ‘The Water That Sings’ and follows the story of Anna, who is diagnosed with schizophrenia. The first draft is 77,565 words long, which is 164 A4 pages (roughly a 310 page normal size novel).

Now all I have to do is edit it!

thewaterthatsings3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover and images used ©M.T.Wilson 2014

Book Review: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

Genre: General Fiction, Adult Fiction

Publishing Info: Vintage; Reprint edition (3 Jan 2008)

Pages: 166

Star Rating: 2/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

It is June 1962. In a hotel on the Dorset coast, overlooking Chesil Beach, Edward and Florence, who got married that morning, are sitting down to dinner in their room. Neither is entirely able to suppress their anxieties about the wedding night to come…

On Chesil Beach is another masterwork from Ian McEwan – a story about how the entire course of a life can be changed by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.

I found this a peculiar novella to say the least. The book was well written, like all of McEwan’s works and is a fairly quick read since it isn’t very long. The whole of the book takes place on Edward and Florence’s wedding night, with some flashbacks about how they met and so on. So if you don’t like books that take place in a very short time frame (e.g. one evening) then I would not bother even picking this up. The plot is thin and focuses on the characters general everyday lives.

The characters were well written, although I found them a little plain and boring. I didn’t really connect with them at all and there was no development – they were the same all the way through. Surely experiences change people – not these two.

McEwan captured the 60s era very well, which I felt was one of the strengths of the novella. There was a real sense of setting and social expectations which influenced the characters and their actions.

It was a very slow book in which not much happens. It shows the characters feelings well, assisted by the dual narrative, yet this is the focus of the novella. There was nothing in it that kept me engaged and frankly I was bored a lot of the time reading it. The only reason I didn’t put it down is because it is so short – I thought I may as well finish it. As endings go it was nothing spectacular and kind of inevitable. However one small, tiny bit was quite touching.

I have little else to say about On Chesil Beach. It was a pretty mediocre book – it wasn’t good but it wasn’t exactly bad either. I think a lot of it depends on personal preference. Some people might really like his style of writing but unfortunately this book did not ‘wow’ me at all. I endeavour to read one of McEwan’s full length novels in the hope I shall enjoy one of his works, since he is undoubtedly a great writer.

Book Review: Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Publishing Info: October 2011 by Simon and Schuster

Pages: 438

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

The noise between Patch and Nora is gone. They’ve overcome the secrets riddled in Patch’s dark past…bridged two irreconcilable worlds…faced heart-wrenching tests of betrayal, loyalty and trust…and all for a love that will transcend the boundary between heaven and earth. Armed with nothing but their absolute faith in one another, Patch and Nora enter a desperate fight to stop a villain who holds the power to shatter everything they’ve worked for–and their love–forever.

Silence is the third book in the Hush, Hush series and was, unfortunately, a disappointment. I loved the first two books in the series (Hush, Hush and Crescendo) but Silence was a complete let down. This will be a short review, since, well, nothing much happened.

I don’t want to spoil anything so won’t say too much, but basically Nora loses her memory of the last several months and is trying to find out who kidnapped her and remember everything that happened. This is incredibly frustrating because as the reader you already know what happened to her. It wasn’t too bad for me as it had been several months since I read the second book so couldn’t remember everything anyway. But if you read it straight after it would be so frustrating and boring. The memory loss isn’t even a vital part of the plot! It seems like Fitzpatrick just flung it in for the fun of it. To be honest, the majority of the book could have been scrapped and the small amount that was necessary put on the beginning of book four.

What I liked most about the first two books was the mystery. It wasn’t just a paranormal/romance, it actually had a large element of the mystery genre which kept me intrigued. There wasn’t any of that in Silence (unless you count the pointless memory loss plot device which backfired). Barely anything actually happened in the book. There was a little bit of excitement and intrigue in the last two chapters but other than that it was pretty eventless (bar maybe two other scene – no spoilers).

Furthermore, Nora was at her worst in this book. She spent most of her time being a whiny damsel in distress. There is one thing that has dismayed me throughout the series, and that is why on Earth Nora fell in love with Patch. He is incredibly devoid of personality and a bit creepy. He doesn’t improve in the third book at all.

I don’t have much else to say other than that I don’t want to put you off the first two books, as they were very good. I hope this is just a blip and that the fourth (and last) book will be an improvement.

Book Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Matched by Ally Condie

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Romance

Publishing Info: Penguin 2 June 2011

Pages: 384

Star Rating: 2/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

On her seventeenth birthday, Cassia meets her Match. Society dictates he is her perfect partner for life.

Except he’s not.

In Cassia’s society, Officials decide who people love.

How many children they have.

Where they work.

When they die.

But, as Cassia finds herself falling in love with another boy, she is determined to make some choices of her own.

And that’s when her whole world begins to unravel . . .

 

I’m going to be honest and say this book disappointed me. It had such potential but failed to meet it on pretty much all accounts. Generally, I’m rarely disappointed by books and have never given a book below 3 stars before, until now of course.

What really intrigued me about the book was the setting – it was such an interesting setting which rung a little like 1984. However, I didn’t really get a feel for the setting and there were lots of terms such as “Aberration” and “Infraction” which weren’t properly explained which left me feeling quite confused.

As I read, I kept thinking ‘It’ll get better, just keep going, something exciting will happen!’. But to be honest – it didn’t. Not much really happened. The only thing that really kept me reading was the hope that something big was going to happen. There was only really one subplot and it wasn’t exactly gripping. It was just a very uneventful book.

One of the worst things about it was how dull it was. I didn’t connect with the characters at all. There wasn’t really anything wrong with their characters themselves, I just felt they weren’t developed well at all and the romance fell flat. I felt no connection between Cassia and Ky at all. I never really felt for the characters. There was only really one scene which made me feel any emotion towards the characters and their situation. One thing I didn’t like was the narrative and Cassia’s inner thoughts – they seemed very unreal to me, she seemed to look way too in depth at everything in a way that is just completely unrealistic.

Well, now for a little paragraph of things I did like. I loved the way Condie used the telling of the poetry and of Ky’s story and it made me sad every time she had to incinerate a part of something she had been given by these people she loved so. The relationship between Cassia and her family was very well written – I really believed that they cared for each other and Bram was written very well also. I found the concept of the blue, green and red pills very interesting and wanted to know what the red pill would do (and thankfully, unlike so much of the rest of the book, I was not disappointed but I won’t give any spoilers). There was one good thing about the silly love triangle that seems to be a necessity in Young Adult literature: the ‘love interests’ were normal, nice guys who were Cassia’s friends. So often at least one of the love interests is actually horrible or cocky or something. I could actually believe that Cassia would fall for Ky or Xander, unlike so many of the other ‘love interests’ in YA novels. I also quite liked the writing style, it’s just a shame the plot didn’t live up to its potential.

Overall I felt this was a very average, bordering on dull, book. It didn’t keep my attention and the plot and romance fell very flat. I don’t know whether or not I’ll be reading the sequel, Crossed, but most likely I will not.