Word Count

I started a conversation in a Writer’s Group that I participate in on Facebook. I don’t think, however, that I quite got across the point of what I was asking about.

Here is what I posted to the group:

Why is there a word-count competition?

We talk about word count a lot, as though it is a competition to get books as large as possible.

I have written everything from flash fiction (about 1k) to short stories (anything from 2k – 15k), novellas, and novels (my longest being about 130k words or so).

The storytelling style, the story development, even the enjoyment of the story itself varies between flash-fiction, short stories, novellas, and novels. Even with novels, the style of storytelling is going to vary if your book is 80k, 130k, 180k, the Stand, etc.

So, what do you think happened to the appreciation of both writing and reading the different types of stories?

Is there a way to fix this?

Now, people immediately decided to defend the need for things like:

  • authors monitoring word count
  • word count as a way to differentiate between types of stories
  • complaints against authors who list a 5k story as a “novel”

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Ur Shulim

 

The ruins of Ur-Shulim in present day Syria

The ruins of Ur-Shulim in present day Syria

The word Shulim means “center of the Four Regions”. The City of Ur-Shulim (not to be confused with the Ur-Shulim said to have become Jerusalem) is believed to have been a center of trade for the different diverse settlements in the Middle East in the pre-Sumerian era. It is the largest known city in this region during that time, dating back to between 11,000 and 16,000 BC, depending on dating methods used. The apparent age of the city makes it a very controversial site.While the age of the city falls within the accepted time-frame of human habitation, it pre-dates any known permanent settlements by about 10,000 years.

The city is also far more advanced than any known habitation of the time. It is a large city. The foundation structure, which is all that remains, indicates that the city was actually divided into two symmetrical halves. In mapping out the ruins, the layout of the city follows a pattern matching the symbol that became known as the Symbol of the Four Regions in Sumeria (which would come later).

The connection here is obvious. The settlers of this city would have been the ancestors of the Sumerians. What is interesting is the symmetry of the city. It is built perfectly. At the center of the city is a mound, the excavation of which is its own study.

The ruins themselves are amazing. All that remains of them are the foundations and a few items that may be pottery or parts of ancient weaponry. No archaeological study, however, can produce any evidence of the walls that would have stood above the foundations. The absence of these structures led earlier expeditions in the early 20th Century to conclude that the site was not a city, but merely a geographic anomaly. The understanding that this site was, in fact, a city is far more recent.

There are no histories that remain to tell us what became of this city, or why only the foundations remain. The condition of the site and the ruins rule out war and natural disaster. Some have suggested that the site was abandoned, however abandonment still does not explain the condition of the ruins themselves.

Whatever mysteries this location holds, the answers lie in what little has been found among the foundation and pottery and within the mound in the center of the city.

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The perils of being a writer

I keep hearing these voices while I am working. They say things like “I’m hungry,” “meow,” and “spend time with me.”

I turned around today and realized, there are people living in this house. A man, a child, and two cats. They keep looking at me like they expect something from me.

I still haven’t worked out the swollen belly I seem to have acquired. I keep feeling motions inside.

Could be an Alien.

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About Life

I have decided that I’m going to put some personal stuff up here once in a while. Why here and not over at my author website? My author website is also my portfolio. It just doesn’t feel right to have personal stuff over there. This is my place that I come to talk about being a writer.

Part of being a writer is having a personal life.

So there you go.

I think I’m going to start with cats.

desk clutter and kitty cat

This is Sheba and my very cluttered desk.

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Asking for 5-Star Reviews? Stop It Now!

I am in a few different writer’s groups online. It does not matter how many times we all talk about the importance of integrity (especially among Self-Published and Small Press authors) or honest reviews. Every once in a while someone will still pop up with “I’m looking for only 5 Star reviews” in a thread. It is aggravating and disheartening. And it does not matter how many times the rest of us call these people out on this practice. People still pop up and do it.

Stop.

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New Harbin & Klai

Harbin and Klai are moving from the college dorms into their own downtown office, officially opening their own paranormal investigations office. They have the help of Harbin’s wealthy grandmother and her Society connections, but they come with a price – being the display centerpiece at Society functions.

Still, our investigators cannot pass up the opportunity to get inside Mooreland Hall. The house is famed for hauntings and mysterious disappearances. They cannot take their big equipment, but then again, when the ghosts come to you, who needs clunky machines?

You can purchase it on Amazon & Smashwords.

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Making the Case for Self Publishing

I’m going to share a really great post from another blog.

Should you follow the traditional or self publishing path? Numbers point the way.

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Getting Images for Cover Art

Copy of 2010 03-06 utc 037“Do you know how to find free images that you can use online?”

I see this discussed in groups a lot. Let’s face it. When you are a self-published author, especially if you are a new author, you cannot always afford to pay for artwork. Maybe you can save up for a once-a-year cover for your novel. What if you are a short story or novella author needing artwork on a monthly or even weekly basis? Chances are your art budget is going to outstrip what you bring in from your writing – at first anyway.

There are ways to get free images that you can adapt to photos. You just need a photo-editing program, a little skill, lots of practice, and some knowledge.

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Review: Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Heart of Darkness is an excellent book and one that I cannot recommend enough. Conrad is a brilliant author, and it shows in this work.

A word of warning to the socially conscious – this book will make you uncomfortable. It includes some racist imagery, and it presents a very unkind picture of the Ivory trade, even as the central characters are participants in what takes place. I won’t go into much else. Some very brilliant dissertations and rebuttals have already been made about the racism in the Heart of Darkness and they are worth reading to understand how different people receive the work.

What makes this book brilliant is how Darkness and Fear are built up and played with. Reading this book will leave you haunted, not just by the mistreatment of Africans in the ivory trade, but in how all of the elements come together to affect our narrator, his companions, and Kurtz himself.

This is a must read for any aspiring writer. I highly recommend it for those who write in the paranormal genre. Though paranormal elements in this book are more with superstition than presentation, it does show you how those elements, real or imagined, can shape the minds of those they affect. That lesson is excellent if you want to add realism and darkness to your paranormal work.

View all my reviews

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The Elipses – When to Use Them and When Not to Use Them

You know what the ellipses is, the [ … ].

Do you know what it is used for?

Often in blogs (including here sometimes) it is used to indicate a trailing off of thought or a pause, in a way that a comma or semi-colon might be used. This is an informal usage of the ellipses and is fine for informal settings, like many blogs.

When you are writing a book – whether fiction or non fiction – such informal use of the ellipses is a bad mistake, and one that I see many authors make.

How do authors often use the ellipses?

Authors often use the ellipses to indicate a pause, an insecurity, or to indicate that the thought or prose has trailed off or a character has been interrupted.

Examples:

A Pause.

She was entrancing … beautiful … sultry … and everything he wanted in a woman.

An Insecurity

Amanda did not know what to think. She was … confused. Why was this happening now? She knew she did not deserve this … did she?

Trailing off or interrupted.

He was on his way to the store. He needed chips, beer, and some kind of dip. He entered the store when she appeared, drawing his attention from his shopping list …

Each of these are examples of ways that I see [ … ] used a lot in fiction writing, and every single one of them is wrong.

How should the ellipses be used?

The ellipses in formal writing (this includes fiction writing) should only be used to indicate omitted text.

Example:

Full text.

John went to the store today to buy fruits and vegetables when he was struck by a car.

With omission.

John went to the store today … when he was struck by a car.

What is important to note is that the meaning is not changed. If you are relaying information you were told about John going to the store and being struck by a car, it is not important to know that he was going to buy fruits and vegetables. When relaying it in print, we indicate the [ … ] to tell our reader that some information is missing, but it is not important to what we are talking about. You never omit key details with the [ … ] as this is dishonest writing.

But in the examples above, the author could have been omitting thoughts when using the [ … ].

This is true. This is also a very bad thing to do in writing. The [ … ] is not a time for you to be lazy as a writer. If you are struggling with what your character is thinking as he talks about his ideal woman or she wrestles with her insecurities, then step back and think. You are probably struggling with it because your character is struggling with it. Think about what that struggle looks like and feels like. The way it feels to you is probably the way it feels you your character. Give detail instead of [ … ]. Why? Because you are omitting important details and crippling your storytelling.

In the case of ending an interrupted or trailed off thought/scene – well. In the case of an interruption, simply use a [ – ]. You will notice that programs like Word like to elongate the [ – ], but if you are interrupting dialogue, this can become messy. What I do is this:

He said, “I am so angry – a”

WordPress does not do this, but if you were in Word, when you space after the [ – ] and type the “a” you see the [ – ] elongate. End the quotation after the “a” as normal. Then simply back space to remove the “a” and the extra space so that your statement looks like this:

He said, “I am so angry -” (with Word leaving the [ – ] all elongated and pretty.)

In the case of a thought or scene trailing off. Sometimes it is fine to simply end the sentence with a [ – ] and no period. Other times, it is best to actually show the character’s thoughts and attention shifting away from what he or she was doing and onto something else. It depends on context. Generally, if a sudden thought, action, or dialogue is to follow the trailing off, then a [ – ] is fine. If you are going to move on to new descriptions with no sudden action, then you should describe the shift in words.

Now you know why you are probably using the [ … ] wrong.

Stop doing it. Write what you mean to write, use proper punctuation, and happy writing everyone.

 

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