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?

Writing Corner: What to Write?

So you’ve decided you want to write a book, but you’re not sure what to write. Maybe you have a few ideas and you’re not sure which to pick. Hopefully this short guide will give you a few things to think about.

Firstly, why are you writing? Are you writing for fun? Do you hope to one day be published? There are many ways to approach what to write. You could come from the direction that you want to pick something that is highly publishable in the current market. I, personally, dislike this view and think that you should write whatever you want! Just because something isn’t popular now, doesn’t mean it won’t be a few years down the line.

If you hope to finish writing your book you need to pick a project you love and will enjoy writing. You need to pick an idea that makes you excited and passionate. Writing about something you really care about will produce the best results.

If you have several ideas and aren’t sure which one to work on set them side by side (physically or in your head) and consider: how original is the plot, do I like the characters, does the idea excite me? If you’re really not sure you could put them in a hat and pick one at random!

Or, you want to write a book, but you don’t really know what to write about. Don’t force any ideas, let them come naturally. Immerse yourself in music, films, games, books, art, anything that you could draw inspiration from.

Whatever you do, just remember to actually get to the writing part!

 

Ideas suggested in Writing Corner are just that, suggestions, and may not suit every writer.

Camp NaNoWriMo Top Tips for Success!

The July Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is just around the corner, so I thought I’d share a few little bits of advice from having done NaNoWriMo twice before.

IMG_22931. Pick a project you love. You’re going to be working on the same book for a whole month so you need to pick a story which you have fallen in love with and desperately want to write or you could lose interest or give up.

2. Pick a realistic target. One of the plusses of Camp NaNoWriMo is that you can pick your word count goal, whereas the original November NaNoWriMo is fixed at 50,000 words. So if you’ve got a lot of work on or you have exams coming up and there isn’t really any way you could reach 50,000 in that month just set yourself a lower target! Don’t try to aim high, aim for what you can realistically achieve in that month. 10,000 or 20,000 might be a realistic and amazing achievement for some. I was over the moon when I managed to write 18,000 words for my first NaNoWriMo in 2011!

3. Plan. I know not everyone likes planning, but in the case of NaNoWriMo I would say at least some planning is essential for success. If you’re writing a book over a few months or even years you have the luxury of being able to dip in and out and plan as you go along if you wish. With NaNoWriMo if you don’t plan and get stuck you could lose a day or two writing time while you’re trying to figure out what will happen next, whereas if you plan all you have to do is actually do the writing part! Obviously you might still get stuck even if you plan, but I’ve found it’s the best way to approach NaNoWriMo.

4. Don’t fall behind. It’s easy to think ‘oh it won’t matter too much if I miss out today since I’m quite busy or I feel a little tired’, but missing out writing for just one or two days can make you massively behind, and then you’re left with a mountain to climb in the remaining days. Try to at least write something every day, even if it’s only a couple of hundred words because then at least it’s not nothing and it won’t be so hard later on.

5. Try and get ahead! If you have a day where you have lots of spare time don’t limit yourself to your daily word count goal. This may sound obvious, but when you get to it it’s very easy to think ‘I’ve reached my word count goal for today so I’ll do something else’ but if you have the time that day then writing extra can be very beneficial. Then later on if you have some days where you don’t have much time you won’t need to write as many words that day because you’ll have written extra on previous days.

Here’s the link to the website if you’re interested: https://campnanowrimo.org/sign_in

Good luck to everyone taking part!