30 September 2010

Word Counts

Something writers think about, or should be, is word counts. In magazines, that seems to be laid out right in the guidelines. With novels, agents, and publishing houses, not so much. Colleen Lindsay has an update on expected word counts for genres, which seem to fluctuate. If you're shopping a novel, the whole article is worth a gander.

middle grade fiction = Anywhere from 25k to 40k, with the average at 35k

YA fiction = For mainstream YA, anywhere from about 45k to 80k; paranormal YA or YA fantasy can occasionally run as high as 120k but editors would prefer to see them stay below 100k. The second or third in a particularly bestselling series can go even higher. But it shouldn't be word count for the sake of word count.

paranormal romance = 85k to 100k

romance = 85k to 100k

category romance = 55k to 75k

cozy mysteries = 65k to 90k

horror
= 80k to 100k

western
= 80k to 100k (Keep in mind that almost no editors are buying Westerns these days.)

mysteries, thrillers and crime fiction
= A newer category of light paranormal mysteries and hobby mysteries clock in at about 75k to 90k. Historical mysteries and noir can be a bit shorter, at 80k to 100k. Most other mystery/thriller/crime fiction falls right around the 90k to 100k mark.

mainstream/commercial fiction/thrillers = Depending upon the kind of fiction, this can vary: chick lit runs anywhere from 80k word to 100k words; literary fiction can run as high as 120k but lately there's been a trend toward more spare and elegant literary novels as short as 65k. Anything under 50k is usually considered a novella, which isn't something agents or editors ever want to see unless the editor has commissioned a short story collection. (Agent Kristin Nelson
has a good post about writers querying about manuscripts that are too short.)

science fiction & fantasy = Here's where most writers seem to have problems. Most editors I've spoken to recently at major SF/F houses want books that fall into the higher end of the adult fiction you see above; a few of them told me that 100k words is the ideal manuscript size for good space opera or fantasy. For a truly spectacular epic fantasy, some editors will consider manuscripts over 120k but it would have to be something extraordinary. I know at least one editor I know likes his fantasy big and fat and around 180k. But he doesn't buy a lot at that size; it has to be astounding. (Read: Doesn't need much editing.) And regardless of the size, an editor will expect the author to to be able to pare it down even further before publication. To make this all a little easier, I broke it down even further below:

---> hard sf = 90k to 110k
---> space opera = 90k to 120k
---> epic/high/traditional/historical fantasy = 90k to 120k
---> contemporary fantasy = 90k to 100k
---> romantic SF = 85k to 100k
---> urban fantasy = 90k to 100k
---> new weird = 85k to 110k
---> slipstream = 80k to 100k
---> comic fantasy = 80k to 100k
---> everything else = 90k to 100k

28 September 2010

Are we creating reality together?

I read something very intriguing recently...

In The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction famous F/SF academic/critic/writer Farah Mendlesohn writes: " ...sf is a discussion or a mode, and not a genre." and "...the reading of a science fiction story is always an active process of translation..." This is because "Cognitive estrangement is tied inextricably to the encoded nature of sf: to style, lexical invention and embedding. Cognitive estrangement is the sense that something in the fictive world is dissonant with the reader's experienced world."

And "...effectiveness in creating dissonance relies on the expectation that the reader will either understand what is written or will fill in the gap, creating meaning where none is provided. These two techniques are crucial to the sf project and they are cummulative. Science fiction has come to rely on the evolution of a vocabulary, of a structure and a set of shared ideas which are deeply embedded in the genre's psyche."

Wow. Do you agree? Disagree?

Send us your stories. Let's fill in the gap... let's create the genre's psyche together. ;)

26 September 2010

Thinking in first, writing in third

In previous posts, I compared writing to method acting. The key point was that you need to be in your character's head to write in your character's head. For this reason, I like to encourage new writers to write at least some of their stories in first person. It's a great way to work on getting the thought process of characters on paper and avoid the trap of simply "telling" the story like a distant, uncaring narrator.

I've discovered that when I'm truly in a character's head, I think in first person even if I'm writing in third person. Let me explain. Say I'm writing from the POV of Joan and something bad happens to her. I might think: I can't believe this happening, not after all I've gone through to get this far. If I happen to be writing in third person, it might appear on the page as, Joan couldn't believe this was happening, not after all she'd gone through to get this far. Alternatively, it might also appear on page as thought: I can't believe this is happening, thought Joan. . . .

The downside of this technique is that sometimes I forget what I'm doing and start writing in first person. I have to go back and change it. But, for me, the upside is worth it. It allows me to remove one more barrier between author and character and (hopefully) give my writing a greater impact.

24 September 2010

Le Guin on Fiction

I love writers that think and write about writing! Don't you? Award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin has many thoughts on writing...

...the tricky thing about imaginative fiction, both science fiction and fantasy, is the coherence of the imagination, because you are making a whole world out of words only. It's all made to hold together."

That's what fiction does, isn't it? All fiction? It makes a world and makes it seem real. Inner coherence (which can become aesthetic completeness) is the principle secret. It's achieved by imagination, selection, and accurate description--whether any counterpart to it exists in the real world or not really doesn't matter.

What does matter, perhaps, is whether we can find ourselves in the story as we
read it, can recognize the emotional and moral weight of human existence. Sf and fantasy are not as relentlessly human-centered as realistic fiction; they both show human beings in relation to the nonhuman, they include the human subject in a larger or stranger universe than the realistic novel does. But the story is still about us. We seem to be all we are ultimately interested in. And so, for writers and readers who see people as individuals rather than as types or groups, character becomes important even in genres where it is usually considered secondary.

What do you think matters?

23 September 2010

Le Guin on Science Fiction and Fantasy

Award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin has written quite a bit on science fiction and fantasy. I find her comments very thought-provoking. Perhaps you will as well...

Regarding SF:

Science fiction begins at the moment where science ends, and then you can go on and build on what is known. Therefore, science fiction is getting more and more difficult to write because science develops so fast that the science-fiction writer has difficulty coping with it. This is one reason why there is less and less technological science fiction written because technology has overtaken it.

I think a lot of science fiction does exactly that, 'what if' and then you propose a social change, or a physiological change, or a physical change in the world and then pursue it, like a thought experiment, pursue the consequences.

Regarding Fantasy:

Fantasy changes the world deliberately, allowing impossible things which science fiction at least pretends not to allow. ...Then you just follow out, you just follow the fictional enterprise like any novelist, it seems to me, and the more detailed and accurate you are, the better the book will be. And of course, the tricky thing about imaginative fiction, both science fiction and fantasy, is the coherence of the imagination, because you are making a whole world out of words only. It's all made to hold together.

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree?

Stay tuned tomorrow for more Le Guin on fiction.

16 September 2010

What's a paying market?

I just had to share this pet peeve of mine. If a magazine says its a paying market, then I think it should mean that its is going to pay something (of value) for your story. Period. It does not mean that the "top" story of the issue gets some amount while others get nothing. Authors are not submitting their story to a contest, they're submitting it to a magazine. I'm not even that thrilled with those markets that pay more for their "top" story than others. I think it's pretty deceptive to say, for example, we pay $200 for a story when really it is $200 for one person and $5 for everyone else.

While I'm on my rant, I'll just mention that I'm somewhat suspicious of contests that charge an entry fee. What does the entry fee pay for? Maybe it is like the ante in a game of poker. The winner gets the "prize" which consists of everyone else's entry fee--minus, of course, the cut for the House.

Am I just a little bit crazy about this stuff, or do I have a legitimate beef?

13 September 2010

Conference Rundown

Two workshops and 2 panels.

Countless conversations.

Thousands of jokes.

12 hours of sleep in 3 nights.

Hours of fun and learning about the industry with this guy.

Even more with this one, Mario Acevedo, Master of the Tequila Sunrise...

So many old friends and new ones. Notables: Jeanne Stein, The Vickis, Twitter girls, Eric Sidle and The Assgrabbers, Tamera, Pam Nowak, Susan Mackay Smith, Carol Berg. Fellow Inklings Lesley, Dave, and Rebecca. The Janets, Susie for doing a bang-up job on the Suite, Marne (thanks for the socks!) Shannon Baker, Bill Brock for sharing his wisdom on writing and marketing short fiction... I'm sure I'm forgetting about a million folks. It was fabulous to see you all.

Hilarious speech from Connie Willis. "Your mother in law is ALWAYS coming next week. Write anyway."

Awesome audiences during our workshops, even the one where Lesley and I were pulled in at the last minute and winged it on a few hours of sleep. ("Don't ask me any big questions. Just little, direct ones!" My train of thought was shot by then.)

Those who thanked me after our sessions, complimented Electric Spec, asked interesting questions, hit me up for a chat, or just said hi. The people in our industry makes all the hardship so worth it!

Thanks to both Terri Bischoff and Denise Dietz for approaching this small-time editor and chatting briefly, even for all the smiles and good wishes in the elevator. The camaraderie among writers and editors and agents was amazing. Everyone raved about how friendly and approachable the industry pros were.

As usual, a few writers started their conversations with me by mentioning I've rejected them. Better approach:"I read Electric Spec."

Colorad Gold post mortem

I think a good time was had by all at Colorado Gold this past weekend. Thank you RMFW for organizing such an awesome conference! We Electric Spec Editors particularly appreciate those of you who were brave enough to paticipate in the short story workshop on Friday afternoon. We hope our comments were helpful and we wish you success with your stories. We also appreciate the folks who came to Short Story and Beer Friday night in the bar. We had a rousing discussion of what makes a story good...or not. :)

Thanks, too, to the folks who Focus on Short Fiction on Sunday morning. For those of you who were there (and those who weren't) Editor Betsy reminded us about her First Page Contest here on the blog. Please send the first page of your story to our submissions email: submissions@electricspec.com with "First Page Game" in the subject line and Betsy (and others?) will critique your anonymous first page. For my promised market info, keep reading.

Also on Sunday Betsy and I were pulled in to help on another panel with authors Mario Acevedo and Jeanne Stein, 'The Long and Short of it--Does Size Really Matter?' We were talking about fiction, of course, and I'm not sure we answered the question--What do you think? Is long fiction better or short? :) I mentioned some market info and promised to put it on the blog so here it is:

Regarding Short Fiction Markets; the web has a lot of (too many?) resources.

08 September 2010

more about Colorado Gold

As Editor Dave mentioned earlier...the Electric Spec Editors will be out in force at RMFW's Annual Conference Colorado Gold. In my M.F.A. program we had a discussion last week about writers conferences and how they are great for your writing career. The consensus was: not-huge conferences, like Colorado Gold, are the best because you can mingle with pro authors, editors, and agents and not get lost in the crowd, and they are relatively inexpensive. There may be a few spaces left if you're interested in attending and haven't signed up yet. Otherwise, I definitely recommend considering it next year. It's always in Denver the weekend around September 11. (Yes, this is a sad anniversary, but Colorado Gold pre-dates the tragedy by many years.)

So, anyway, what are we up to at the conference? Well, I'll tell you...
  • Friday afternoon we are all participating in a Short Story Intensive where pre-registered participants receive feedback from editors and other attendees on their 4000-word short stories. (three hours).
  • Friday evening we have Short Story & a Beer a casual workshop held in the lounge where we can do a short reading of published short story, discuss how it works—and maybe how it doesn't—and let the conversation—and drinks—flow from there. And, yes, I do believe this was Editor Betsy's idea.
  • Sunday morning we have Focus on Short Fiction We'll focus on crafting short stories, why some stories make the cut and why some don't, short fiction markets, the growing electronic fiction market, and how to build a career by writing short stories. (one hour)

We hope to see you there! If you see us, please feel free to come up and say hi.

07 September 2010

Huzzah for Hugos!

As many of you know, the 2010 Hugo Awards were announced this weekend at Aussiecon 4.
And the winners are...
  • Best Novel: TIE: The City & The City, China Mi√©ville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK); The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)
  • Best Novella: “Palimpsest”, Charles Stross (Wireless; Ace, Orbit)
  • Best Novelette: “The Island”, Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2; Eos)
  • Best Short Story: “Bridesicle”, Will McIntosh (Asimov’s 1/09)

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!

Read more about it at: www.thehugoawards.org.

Was anyone there? I'd love to read some comments about it...

06 September 2010

Electric Spec @ Colorado Gold

If you've ever wanted to meet the Electric Spec editors live and in person, stop on by the Colorado Gold Conference sponsored by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers in Denver this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Bets, Lesley, and I are offering three workshops: Short Story Intensive; Focus on Short Fiction, and (our favorite) Short Story and a Beer. One of the really fun things about these conferences is it gives us a chance to meet some of our writers and readers. We also love helping writers improve their craft and increase the chances of their story being selected by Electric Spec or another magazine.

p.s. You may recognize Bets or me for our Blogger pictures, but Lesley doesn't really look like the Pillars of Creation nebula, so she may be a bit tougher to pic out of the crowd.

01 September 2010

We're Live!

Check out our awesome new issue over at www.electricspec.com! We've got six fabulous stories and a fabulous author interview with Jeanne Stein! Woo hoo!

I do want to take this opportunity to thank authors for contributing. Thank you for sending us your stories. I also want to thank our behind-the-scenes tech people. Thank you for being behind-the-scenes tech people! Thanks, too, to my fellow editors. You rock!