S R Silcox - Author

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Tag: Selena Silcox (page 1 of 3)

The Invisibility Cloak of an LGBTIQ YA Author

I’m preparing to give my very first author reading in a few weeks, which means I’ve been spitballing ideas on what to talk about that won’t bore the pants off people and maybe, hopefully, even convince them to buy a book or two.

After asking for advice from friends, thinking about the books I write, and reading a good friends brand new blog, I settled on my theme for my pre-reading talk.

Invisibility.

Invisibility is a superpower for those of us who are introverts. It comes in particularly handy for those of us who write in tiny niches, which LGBTIQ YA stories certainly are.

On the one hand, we wish our stories would get much more attention, if not because it would be good to actually make a living wage off our writing, then to be able to reach readers much more easily.

On the other hand, being invisible as an author writing in a tiny niche means almost never having to explain what you write. It means never feeling judged when you get pressed to answer the question ‘what type of YA do you write?’.

Sometimes, when you mention the word ‘lesbian’ in conjuction with being an author, the person you’re talking to jumps right over that assumption barrel and lands on ‘erotica’ – or at the very least, sex scenes.

It can be exhausting explaining that writing lesbian characters, particularly in the young adult genre, does not necessarily equal sex.

So anyway, thinking about this reading, and what I wanted to talk about, I had decided to explain why I choose to write happy lesbian YA fiction.

I’ve been taken to task by some people – not often but often enough – for not writing realistic characters, which essentially means that because my characters suffer no homophobia, have happy endings and have supportive family and friends around them, that I may as well call my books fantasies.

Apart from the fact that I have been lucky enough myself to have a happy ending, have suffered no outwardly bad homophobia that I can think of, and have loving and supportive friends and family, I just think there are other writers out there better positioned to write those darker stories than me.

And that led me to thinking about how authors like me stumble around on the fringes of the publishing industry.

I’m a niche within a niche – a self-published author writing in LGBTIQ YA/children’s fiction, but I don’t write coming out or angsty stories, which is what seems to be currently expected when you add the ‘LGBTIQ’ tag.

While the big publishers are starting to release more fiction in that niche, the authors of those stories still don’t get the huge backing that other authors of more mainstream genres (ie contemporary romance, fantasy, urban fantasy etc) do.

We’re in effect invisible.

Now, being invisible means we get to toil away, writing the stories we want to write without too much pressure being placed on us by publishers to go bigger and better than last time. (Although I do feel a pressure to write the best I possibly can for the readers I have and give them the stories they want to read, but that pressure is internal).

Being invisible also means there’s less chance of copping criticism. Less chance of someone dragging your hard work through the mud, just to take you down a peg or two because you haven’t managed to be inclusive enough.

Seriously. The LGBTIQ fanverse can be brutal – just ask Ruby Rose about what fans thought of her being cast as Batwoman in the upcoming TV series.

So invisibility affords us a get-out-of-jail-free card of sorts. It affords us a fall-back so that we don’t have to step outside of our comfort zone. We don’t have to stick our head above the parapet lest it get bruised or worse, taken clean off.

But invisibility also means that we feel isolated.

Invisibility means we feel like the only gay in the village, when in reality, that’s so often not true.

Invisibility stops us from living our best selves, and from connecting to others like us who will validate us and make us strong enough and confident enough to claim our own unique place in the world.

And so that’s what I’m going to talk about if I get the chance to do my reading next month.

I’m going to talk about how, even though it takes me weeks of mental preparation to talk to a group of people I don’t know, and then days to recover from the stress of it, that it’s important I stick my head up every now and then.

I’m going to talk about the fact that though some people don’t think my stories or my books are realistic, or even any good (which is entirely subjective anyway), that it’s important that I still write them because of those emails and social media messages I get from readers who are just discovering who they are; those who are living in families that aren’t accepting of their sexuality; those readers who have lost friends from coming out; they need my stories.

I know because they’ve told me.

Those readers need something light-hearted and fun, where the characters are accepted for exactly who they are. Where they’re surrounded by supportive friends and family. Where they get a happily ever after.

Those are the books I write. I’m not going to shy away from that anymore.

And I am going to do my damndest to get past my own awkwardness and my own tendency to hide away in order to get those stories to the kids who need them the most.

Here’s how you can help people find queer fiction

I was procrastinating  catching up on twitter news when I saw this tweet by Malinda Lo:

There’s a whole thread and conversation going on over on twitter so if you’re so inclined, head over and check it out.

It got me thinking, though, about how hard it still is to find teen fiction with queer main characters. It certainly doesn’t help when authors miss-categorise and miss-tag (deliberately or otherwise) their erotica books so that when you search for things like “lesbian teen sweet romances” what you get in the search result is anything but what you’re looking for.

If you go via the category links to the LGBT YA category (kindle store>kindle ebooks>teen & young adult>lgbt>fiction), the list is dominated by male authors and male main characters.

Don’t get me wrong. I love that we’re seeing an increase in queer fiction across the spectrum being published, but it seems like gay main characters are getting a lot more visibility than female (and other queer categories) at the moment.

Malinda Lo’s thread goes on to detail her ideas on how publishers, readers and authors can help to make books about queer female teens more visible, but her advice (as she indicates in qualifying tweets) mainly relates to traditionally published books.

So I thought I’d do a quick post with a few ideas on how you can help get the word out about queer books, regardless on how they’re published, but particularly if they’re self- or independently published.

  1. If you’re on Goodreads, shelve the queer books you read into queer-related categories and lists.
  2. Review and rate the books you buy wherever you buy them from and mention in your reviews when there’s queer content. More reviews and ratings help with visibility, especially on Amazon, but mentioning the queer content in reviews helps other readers who are looking for those books to find them. Review the books on your vlog/blog if you have one.
  3. Request them at your school and local libraries. Quite often, librarians aren’t sure where to look to add queer books to their collections, primarily because publishers and some major reviewers don’t go out of their way to talk about the queer content. This may be because they’re afraid it might limit the readership, but also because for self-published and independent authors, our books are often not in the release catalogues librarians get, so they don’t even know they exist. As a reader, you can help libraries get more queer books on their shelves for readers just like you to discover.
  4. Tell your friends about your favourite queer authors and books. As a self-published author, it’s extremely hard, especially early on, to find my audience. We don’t have the marketing budgets that are given to traditionally published authors and we don’t have the industry contacts to get our books into the hands of major reviewers. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful ways for books to find their readers as one reader urges another reader to take a look at their favourite books.
  5. Order your books from your local bookstore when you can. If they get enough orders of an author’s books, they’ll consider stocking them on the shelves.

Finally – and this is less to do with getting the word out and more to do with getting more books written – if you love a book, don’t be afraid to let the author know. Writing in a genre like queer fiction means that authors are often writing into a void, hoping that their books reach readers who need them the most once they’re published. Most of us started off as readers, unable to find the books and stories that spoke to us, that told our stories, that reflected our lives, and so we write them. We write them to fill the libraries of our youth with the stories we wished we’d had.

For my part, I’m going to try to recommend books to you when I can, and even get some lesfic ya authors on the blog for guest posts and interviews.

In the meantime, feel free to jump into the comments here or on Facebook and let me know what queer books you’ve read and recommend. We can always use more books in our TBR pile.

Sunshine Coast Pride Festival Wrap-up

Boxed up and ready for the Sunshine Coast Pride Festival.

 

Sunshine Coast Pride Festival was a blast! 

I just had to get that out of the way first up because it was an amazing day and I am SO exhausted because of it. In a good way, of course!

It was my first time out and about in public meeting people and talking about my writing, so it was hard to know what to expect.

It was also the first time the Festival had gone out on its own away from an established market day so it was a big unknown as to how that would translate into crowd numbers. There was no need to worry though because people poured in all day and the atmosphere was electric.

Author Lesley Dimmock and I got to chat with a LOT of people, which as an introvert, made me exhausted by the end of the day.

But!

I had SO much fun talking to people about Aussie lesfic that Lesley and I (and hopefully a few other Aussie lesfic authors, if we can rope them in) are planning on doing the Author Booth at Brisbane Pride Fair Day in September.

The big takeaway for us from yesterday was that people didn’t know Aussie lesfic authors existed, which is such a shame because I know we’re out there writing some wonderful, home-grown stories. I know quite a few of those authors, in fact.

So, Lesley and I are going to work towards ways we can make our Aussie lesfic authors more visible, so Aussie lesfic readers can get to know us and show us some love by reading our eclectic and unique books that are set in some wonderful places on our big island.

The thing about Pride events that I love, too, is being able to network with people in the community. We spoke to a number of young authors- and poets-in-the-making who we hope we see in our Author Booth in the future.

We also spoke to teachers and people working in service areas that were very interested in adding lesfic books to their libraries and resources for their students and clients. I love that part the most – connecting with people who can get my books into the hands of readers who need and want them the most.

One of the highlights of the day was meeting local lesfic music legend Kristy Apps.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that one of your author mates knows one of the biggest names in the local lesbian music scene.

If you haven’t heard the amazing Kristy Apps, you most definitely have to check her out.

Kristy kicked off the Festival with a rocking set that dialled the mood up to ‘party time’.

I also heard a wonderful story about a young man who had just recently come out to his dad, and he and his dad had attended the festival so Dad could learn more about the community. I also heard that young man went home with some rainbow merchandise purchased for him by his dad. How cool is that?

Sometimes those of us who have been out for a long time forget how many kids are still struggling, and sometimes we question the need for Pride events, but stories like that one make you realise why these events are still needed.

So if you haven’t been to one yet, and you get the chance, I highly recommend you go. There’s a good chance you’ll ‘find your tribe’ and have a fantastically fun and gay time to boot.

I will definitely be attending a few more events as an author in the future if I get the chance.

And if you’re an Aussie lesfic author or you know one, or you’re an avid Aussie reader of lesfic, and love the idea of meeting the authors that write our stories, please do get in touch. We’re hoping to get a dedicated Australian lesfic author event (like GCLS and the DIVA Literary Festival) up and running here down under, and we’re happy to take expressions of interest to help us come up with ideas to get started.

See you next week!

 

The year that’s been and the year ahead

(The requisite end of year post).

I meant to post this yesterday (31st December 2015) but there was cricket on the telly and then we caught up with a friend for lunch and then we had to prepare for New Year’s celebrations, and so I’m doing it now, on the 1st of January 2016. I don’t do resolutions, so this is meant to be a quick look back at 2015 and a look ahead to what I want to achieve in 2016.

In general, 2015 was the kind of year that cemented in my mind why I want to write and what I want to focus on. There was a LOT of discussion generally in the publishing and blogging world around diversity in fiction, which is fantastic, though it still hasn’t translated into a marked uptick in diverse fiction being published yet. Though that could change over the next few years as the cogs in traditional publishing are slow to turn, so we may see more diverse offerings in the future. I’m excited to think that I could be part of that.

So. My 2015.

Published

Crush was published in April, after I spent almost 6 months on it from starting the story in late 2014, to submitting it to a small LGBTQ+ press, and then subsequently having the revised manuscript rejected by that press in March after doing a shit tonne of work to it to double the word count from the original short novella. (You can read more about that here). After a couple of weeks of soul-searching and a good pep talk from my wife, I put Crush out myself, and I’m extremely happy I did. While I know it’s going to be hard to gain traction with what I write (YA contemporary romance on the younger end of the scale) by publishing myself, I also know that I’m the one person who is most passionate about those stories.

I also put Crush up on Wattpad in order to gain some readers for it, and it was featured in the Teen Fiction section in October, which really boosted it up the charts. It reached #54 overall in the Teen Fiction Category, which is spectacular, and although it’s dropped off the charts now, it’s still being read regularly and commented on. The comments are the best part about having Crush up on a site like Wattpad – the readers get to interact with the story as well as other readers (and me), and it’s great seeing what readers think in real time as they read each chapter. It will come off the featured list in April, at which point I’ll decide whether to keep it up there or not.

I made a few contacts at Brisbane Pride in October, and sent down some paperback copies to the Newfarm Library as well as to QSpace at the Gold Coast to add to their LGBTQ+ libraries. I’ve also been asked to donate to a local library on the coast, and though I haven’t had the opportunity to get that done yet, I’ll certainly organise that early this year. I also gave away a few paperback copies to some excited Wattpad readers, and will do another giveaway a month or two before Crush is due to be taken off the featured list.

Also late in 2015, I decided to publish two short stories under a pen name to test an idea I’ve been mulling over for a few years that falls into the adult crime fiction category. I stuck them both in KDP Select, which means that Amazon readers who subscribe to Select can borrow them for free as part of their subscription. I’ve not done any advertising or publicity for them, and they’re both being borrowed regularly, which is cool. I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to do with them as yet, but I will decide in the second half of 2016.

Process

I’ve learned a lot more about my process over 2015. Firstly, mornings are my most productive time for writing, because it’s the quietest time in the neighbourhood and the least likely time I’ll get distracted or interrupted. In light of this, I’m working on changing my daily routine to take advantage of this, which includes waking up earlier (which I seem to be doing naturally anyway) and getting in an hour of writing before I do anything else.

I’ve also learned (or reinforced my belief really) that I write much faster with a solid plot summary and chapter outlines. I’ve also worked out what’s most important in those plot summaries – characters and setting. If I know those two well enough, the story will come naturally. I’m working on ways to get better at getting the summaries done more effectively before I start the actual writing process.

I’ve also learned that the longer I take to write a book, the worse I feel about it over time, so I think it’s important I get the outlining process sorted so I can become more efficient all round and stop my brutal inner critic from lording it over my creative process. The fastest book I’ve written (Three Wishes, which was written in under a month from idea to published) is still the one that needed the least amount of final editing. I think that says something.

 

Writing Goals

I missed last year’s writing goals due to a bit of upheaval in my personal life in the second half of the year. We moved twice in a month – the first move in the same town, and the second to another town 6 hours away. It’s likely we’ll have another big move one way of the other in the next month or so, so I’m keeping my goals modest for the first half of the year.

In light of that, my most basic goal is to hit 1,000 words minimum per working day, which in my instance is weekdays only since I don’t work weekends (and going by an online counter gives me 250 working days, excluding public holidays). That will give me 250,000 words for the year, which is more than double of anything I’ve written previously. Because I write shorter novels (or novellas) of around an average of 35,000 words, this means I should get 7 and a bit books finished – though that also depends on editing and the creative process.

Which brings me to my only other work-related goal for the year, which is to get a better handle on my process. I’ve struggled with it over the last few years, so this year I’m determined to get myself into a more solid routine and put my writing time ahead of everything and everyone else. I tested a routine for the last couple of weeks last year and I got more work done in 2 weeks than I did in 2 months previous, so I think that’s really telling me something.

Personal Goals

One of the things I’ve struggled with is the distinction between personal time and writing/publishing time, and I guess a lot of people who work for themselves and/or from their home office go through the same thing. So this year, I’m going to schedule in personal time so I don’t feel like I’m goofing off too much, or working too much and not having enough ‘me’ time.

Also, one of the things I decided late last year was to pick one new skill or thing I want to learn and do that for a year. 2016 will see me learning to play the ukulele, which is so far proving to be great fun. My wife bought me a cool little uke for Christmas which I’ve already started strumming and getting the hang of. Youtube and the internet certainly make it much easier to learn, though I have to make sure I don’t get too distracted by all the videos and methods and just choose one or two sites to concentrate on. So far, I know four of the most basic chords and can play (almost through from start to finish) I’m Yours by Jason Mraz, Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin and Riptide by Vance Joy. It’s a cool little instrument to play and having played the guitar previously has made it easy to pick up. I’m planning on having a good repertoire to play by the end of the year and the confidence to play them in front of family and friends.

Finally, 2016 is the year I want to get healthier and fitter. Writing is such a sedentary occupation and sitting for long hours in front of a laptop can cause havoc with your health. Last year, my wife completed the Michelle Bridges 12WBT for the second time, and as I’m the main cook in the house, I did it with her. I lost around 6kgs, which is great, and now I want to tone up and keep the weight constant.

I started doing Five Tibetans last year as well, as a way to get myself out of my chair for 20 minutes or so to get my body moving and that’s really helped to maintain my weight. I got some resistance bands for Christmas, so I’ll be adding a morning resistance routine to my fitness regimen as well. I’ve only been doing that for a few days, but I can already feel the difference, especially in my mental capacity. Getting the blood pumping in the morning is very conducive to opening up the mind and getting my creative juices flowing.

 

Coming up in 2016

Okay, so what to expect from me in 2016?

Firstly, I’m working on the second book in the Girls of Summer series, called After Summer. I’m about half-way through the first draft at the moment and after I spend the first week in January adjusting the plot for some changes I’ve decided on over the Christmas/New Year break, I’ll get stuck back into it with the intention of getting it to first readers by the end of January. I’d love to have it ready to release in May.

I have a 3-book project I was going to get done last year, but Crush and After Summer took up the majority of my time, so it was held over until this year. I’ve gone backwards and forwards on plots for the stories, going from three to five and back to three again. I’ve got the main plot points down for all three books, and want to spend February (while my first readers mull over After Summer) completing the book summaries and chapter beats. Because it’s to do with cricket, I want to get at least the first two books complete so I can get the first one out in November 2016.

With a goal of 250,000 words for the year, completing those four books leaves me with a lot of wiggle room to write some short stories and work on a few other projects I’ve had in mind for the last few years, as well as make a start in the last half of the year on the third book in the Girls of Summer series (which I haven’t decided on yet).

I also want to get Three Wishes out into print, and though I have the files ready to go for that, finances prevented me from getting covers completed. I also have a follow-up book mapped out for Sophie, Kate and Mac which I’d love to get done in time for Christmas, so all things going well, that one will be out as well.

 

Have a fantastic 2016!

SR

Crush paperback unboxing and pre-order

When I was just starting out on my self-publishing and writing journey, I discovered an author who has become one of my all time favourites. When I was feeling down about my writing, watching his first unboxing video used to give me a great pick-me-up. I still watch every now and then to remind me how exciting this big adventure can be, and how far I have yet to go.

(You can see Hugh Howey’s unboxing of Molly Fyde on youtube here.)

Since Crush is my very first novel, I wanted to share the excitement of opening the box and seeing it in print for the first time. You can see that video below. You can also scroll down to the video below that to hear the details of when the paperback copy will be available and where.

For the initial launch through until the end of July, you’ll be able to get Crush for $12 plus postage. After that, the price will go up to $15 (plus postage).

 

See the video below for details on when the paperback will be released.

Don’t forget, the pre-order page will go up on Monday the 25th May.

Release Day is here!

CrushIt’s release day for Crush, and I thought I’d share some cool facts about the story to celebrate. These are a little spoilerish, but they’re mostly about settings, so no real plot spoilers.

If you don’t like spoilers full stop, then stop reading this post now and go read the book. You can get it here. I’ll wait.

Still here? Fantastic! Here, then, are five cool facts about Crush:

1. Chesterfield is based on the small town I was born in. (Bonus points if you don’t know me personally and can work out where that is – there are clues in the book!)
2. Piggies was a real cafe in that small town.
3. Pop and Gran’s farm is based on the farm my grandparents owned when I was younger. It’s still in my family, though I don’t get to visit it anymore.
4. There really is a Crush Festival, but I didn’t know that until after I started writing the book and was doing some research. It’s nothing like the festival in the book though.
5. And finally, ‘Chitty’ the old VW beetle really exists. In fact, here’s a picture:

Chitty on the farm

Chitty on the farm

You can find out where to buy Crush from here.

Introducing The Girls of Summer series

So, remember those sweet romances we read as teenagers in the 1980s an 1990s? The ones with lesbian main characters who fell for other girls and had fun adventures and happily-ever-after endings? No? Me neither.

I do, however, remember those sweet teen romances from Silhouette First Love, Dolly Fiction, Sweet Valley High… The list goes on. I remember hiding in the stacks in the library at high school reading those books, never checking them out lest they appear on my borrowing record. Though I loved sci-fi and fantasy (Day of the Triffids and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are still two of my all-time favourite books), when I hit 14 or 15, I started being very interested in the way relationships worked. Because I was a voracious reader, the way I discovered those things was mostly via fiction.

I’ll go into my personal story in a future post, but as I read those short romance books, I quickly learned that it wasn’t the female main characters I identified with the most. It was the male characters that the girls lusted after. I wanted to be those boys that the girls chased after, had fun adventures with and fell in love with by the end of the book.

I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I knew it meant I was different.

I’m not sure whether reading a book with a girl who fell in love with another girl and nothing bad happened and they got to be together in the end would have made me realise back then that I was lesbian, but who knows?

What I do know is that we’re in an exciting time in the publishing industry, when there are more and more books with diverse main characters making their way into the world. A good number of them, however, deal with the ‘bad’ side of being different – the bullying, homophopbia, unhappy endings, coming out etc. While those stories are needed and valid, we also need stories where sexuality isn’t the main plot point.

I think we need more happy endings, more sweet romances, more girls-who-love-girls and that’s okay stories.

And that’s why I’ve been working on a series of sweet teen romances that will feature lesbian main characters, whose problems are just like any other teen, and whose sexuality is not a major plot point.

I touched on the series in this post back in August last year, but since then, I’ve refined the series idea and decided on a direction for it.

The books in The Girls of Summer series, beginning with Crush, are intended to be short and fun reads. Lighthearted sweet teen romances where the girl might struggle to get the girl sometimes, but she’ll never be dealing with bullying or homophobia as the major plot point.

Though they will be linked by taking place in summer (my favourite season of the year), they will be stand-alones that can be read in any order.

And most importantly, the girl will get the girl in the end.

 

Wattpad Edition

Wattpad Edition

Crush is due for release on the 1st May 2015. You can get it for free before it’s released to the general public by signing up to the mailing list here. You can read the first five chapters and synopsis here.

 

 

 

A Christmas Special

Three Wishes - Low res (2)

(If you’re a subscriber to my newsletter, you’ll already know this).

In the spirit of Christmas, I’ve discounted my Christmas-themed novella, Three Wishes, down to 99c for the entire month of December. If you haven’t got yourself a copy yet, now’s the time to get one cheap.

It’s for sale at all the usual online stores, but some of them (B&N, Apple etc) may be a bit slow on the price adjustment as I distribute to those stores via Smashwords.

It’s on sale at the following stores now:

Amazon
Kobo
Smashwords

I’ll be sending out an email next week to subscribers with my favourite Christmas reads, as well as some other recommendations, so if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up on the Newsletter page.

 

Five things I learned from the publication of the First Time for Everything Anthology

I posted pre-order links to the First Time for Everything anthology a few weeks before it was released. I also posted buy links to facebook for the ebook and paperback versions when it released in September, but it wasn’t until I posted photos of me opening the box of author copy paperbacks I received that I got any type of response.

Me with my shiny new paperback copy of the First Time for Everything anthology

Me with my shiny new paperback copy of the First Time for Everything anthology

I think that’s because most people “get” paper books and once they saw me holding it, it became as real for them as it was for me to have a story published. Apart from realising that paper still means “real book” to some people, here are five other things I learned from the publishing experience.

  1. Don’t discourage anyone from supporting you, even if you don’t think your book is to their taste. Friends and family will be excited for you (at least in the beginning) so if they want to buy your book, don’t discourage them.
  2. On the other hand, sometimes, people don’t give a shit. Yes, it’s exciting to publish a book, but not everyone will care. Don’t fret if people don’t share the same enthusiasm as you do and share your news (and links to your book) with everyone they know like you’d hoped.
  3. Take the compliments on board, and then get back to writing. It’s great to get praise for something you’ve laboured over for what seems like months (or sometimes years). The biggest compliment anyone can give you is to buy your next book and they can’t do that if you’re still fawning over the last one.
  4. Share links to your work often (but don’t spam). People miss them on facebook and twitter and tumblr because of the churn of the timeline and other people’s posts. Give a direct link so people can buy in the easiest way possible.
  5. Non-writers are fascinated by writers. Yes, it can get annoying answering the same questions over and over again (“So, do you write, like, Twilight/50 Shades/Game of Thrones/[insert hot new release here]?”) but at least they’re trying to relate to you. Have patience and answer their questions – they wouldn’t ask if they weren’t interested. Plus, you never know when you might gain a new fan.

Bonus:

Take some time to bask in the glory of what you have produced. I know I said get straight back into it and write the next book, but you should take a few days to ride the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with writing and publishing. Not everyone gets to experience the feeling of seeing other people read their words, so enjoy it for a little while and then get back into it.

With all of that said, my time for basking is over so I’m off to write the next one.

On writing short

It’s taken me a long time to get into a sort of groove with my writing. I’ve learned to plot just enough to keep me going on the story without getting stale or losing my way (thanks largely to the “Beats” chapters in Write. Publish. Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B Truant – highly recommended for writers everywhere).

Apart from the plotting side of things, it was always hard for me to work out a word count to aim for. Years ago when I first started writing, I’d done my research into manuscript lengths accepted by various publishers, depending on the genre etc. The general rule of thumb back then, as I think it still is now, is that for a new writer, a length of around 75,000 words is a good length to aim for.

75,000 words is a daunting number, especially when you’re just starting out.

The advent of the kindle and KDP have disproved the theory that word counts matter largely, I guess, because digital books don’t have an actual size. Unlike paper books, which we can hold and weigh in our hands and compare to the one beside it for perceived value ($ per page I suppose), digital books don’t seem to get that same treatment.

It’s true that some reviewers have given books fewer stars in reviews because the story wasn’t long enough compared to the price paid (sometimes as little as 99c!), but for the most part, I think those reviewers were just unsatisfied with the endings.

I digress.

A lot of new advice I’ve been reading lately, when newer writers ask about lengths for manuscripts, has been “write to the story’s natural length.” I think the “natural length” theory also applies to writers.

For example, in my first (and only) attempt at completing Nanowrimo, I topped out at around 25,000 words.

Before I started the book I just finished, I gave myself a target of 15,000 words and ended up at just over 21,000 words. It’s yet to be edited, so that word count will change, though probably not markedly.

During the course of writing that book, and plotting out others I’m working on, I’ve realised that novellas between 15,000 words and 35,000 words seem to be my sweet spot. I think the reason for that is that I tend to be a “sparse” writer – just enough detail on characters and scenes to set the reader up, but I leave most of the description to the reader’s imagination. Whether readers will like that or not remains to be seen, but the fact remains that I write better short.

If I don’t give myself a smaller target to hit, I tend to waffle on (as can be seen by some of my earlier blog posts). It’s also a great motivator seeing the word counter tick closer to the target and then surpassing it with plenty more to write when I have smaller limits.

Shorter books seem to be doing well on kindle now too, though it does depend on the genre I think. Hugh Howey’s Wool started with a 12,000 word novella which turned into a 3-book series of novellas, and there are very few people who complained about the length. Incidentally, he also serialised his books, preferring to publish each part as it was finished, rather than wait until he’d completed the entire books.

Romance novellas are going great guns as well, with authors able to churn out more books more quickly in series that fans devour, because they’re shorter reads.

So, whether my books stay around that 25,000 word length or not, only time will tell. For the moment though, that’s what I’m concentrating on, because the best thing about aiming for a 25,000 word book as opposed to a 75,000 word book is that I get them finished sooner.

And nothing motivates me to continue on to the next book like finishing the last one.

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