10th April, 2011: Sunday listmania

  • In response to some recent questions, here’s my annual discussion on how I know that what I am writing will run to 100,000 words: I have written four novels, am about to finish my fifth, and am concurrently collaborating on a sixth. In that time, I’ve worked out what 100,000 words feels like, and with that word count in mind, I can plot and write a story to that length. I’m not artificially constraining a narrative to fit within that limit – a story is as long as it needs to be. But with practice (and that’s what writing is and continues to be – practice) you learn how to plot a story to the required length. It’s the same as any kind of fiction – if you write a short story to submit to a market that has a limit of 5,000 words, for example, you know the length of the story before you start, and you sure aren’t going to write an 11,000 word story.
  • Having said that, I tend to write to 110,000 words – a 10% fudge factor seems about right. As it happens, my current project, Hang Wire, looks like it’s going to come in at around 90,000 words. No doubt it’ll hit 100k on the second draft, as I already know a couple of things I need to expand.
  • Speaking of words, today’s writing advice is from Stephen King: “One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones“. Oh, how true this is. The number of books I have put down and never picked up again because the writer is not writing but choosing words (believe me, there is a difference) is surprisingly large.
  • Speaking of putting books down, I’ve just finished Vegas Knights and now need to read something else. How do you choose, when your to-be-read pile is several years long? I think I may need to break out a random number generator… although that means counting the books up first. Still, anything to take the heavy responsibility of choosing what to read next away from me!
  • The World Fantasy convention is coming to the UK at the end 2013! Memberships are available now, and will go fast. Yes, even for an event which is two and a half years away.

Does five items count as a listmania? Does in my book.

I have a feeling I’ll finish Hang Wire either today or tomorrow. I’m writing the final showdown now, and then there will just be a couple of post-adventure chapters, and I’m done on draft 0. Actually I’ll definitely be done by tomorrow at the latest, as I have a whole writing day booked in.

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 2,090
Words total: 84,092/100,000 (84%)
Total words for 2011: 114,073