Writing: About Lengths and Words

I’m a concise writer. I know that.

I’ve learned to slow down my writing over the years because at times it can be at breakneck speeds, and there are rumors about that some readers like to stew in the words of a story and not have to gulp them all down from the end of a fire hose.

Who knew?

So length and word count are always on the forefront of my mind when I’m writing. That’s not always a good thing. I’ve heard that the best length of any story is precisely the length it should be. Some stories are meant to be short. Others long. Many others somewhere in-between.

The general standard (some would dispute this) for length is above 20,000 words is a novella and above 50,000 words a novel. If you are well below 20,000, you’ve simply written a short story.

As I’m narrowing in on the ending to my trilogy, I’m finding that volume three is feeling shorter than the other two. Is that bad?

Well, it all depends, and this is where it gets messy and subjective. This is where a fresh pair of eyes and a good editor can help guide you.

I want an ending that’s satisfying but doesn’t drag. That’s well developed but not too short that the reader feels shortchanged. (As a side note, I know that not all readers think alike. Some will never be satisfied no matter the length, but that’s another post.)

How do you navigate your story so it’s exactly right? You can’t. No story is ever exactly right. But you can make decisions which will help guide in the right direction.

First, don’t fret on word count. If the story arc and development leads you to 40,000 rather than 70,000, then please leave it at 40. No one wants to read 30,000 useless words.

Second, make sure your story development delivers on all accounts. Characters. Have you satisfactorily shown their development? Do their decisions in the book make sense in a chronological way? Have you shown the readers what they are desiring and why they do the things they have done? If not, expand. If yes, move on and don’t say anymore. In regards to subplots, are they all necessary. Yes, you might be able to expand your novel another 10% by telling us a backstory or weaving a secondary thread through the plot, but is it necessary. Completely necessary to show characterization, so show foreshadowing, to bring the plot to realization?  If you can’t answer yes to all of these, then nix it. Perhaps write it a short story instead. Don’t bog down the storyline in unwanted information.

Third, slow down and let the language simmer a little more. You always want to keep your language short and concise, but don’t be afraid to expound a little. I’m writing this especially for me. Add that description–especially amidst the dialogue. Because I just love dialogue and I can write some of my draft chapters almost like a play. Not cool! Think of the reader. Show what happens. Describe the movements. Describe the scenery. But don’t feel compelled to write twenty pages about the topography of the protagonists hometown. (Please no! Keep it moving, remember)

A good editor will help you with all of these because, honestly, it’s so hard to judge one’s own writing.

How about you? What helps you in your writing endeavors?

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Choose a Mindset: Growth or Stagnation

Half full. Half empty.

Pessimistic. Optimistic.

Toxic. Encouraging.

Complaining. Uplifting.

Wallow in pity. Wash, forget, and start anew.

Where do you fall of the scale of daily ups and downs in this life?

Whether a situation is best described as half full or half empty actually doesn’t change the situation in the slightest way. It is what it is. It’s what we choose to do about that half-empty or half-full cup which will determine if our life is on the trajectory of growth or stagnation.

Think of a trying situation in your life. Will you be toxic about it, spreading rumors and causing discord? Or will you be the encouraging voice in the room, spreading hope, constructive ideas, and solutions?

Will you wallow in self-pity because “this shouldn’t be like that” or “things should be done differently” or will you put aside the messy, dirty stains you picked up along the way today and wash, rinse, forget, and re-boot anew tomorrow?

We make choices every day which will not only affect our demeanor and the demeanor of those around us but will ultimately affect the trajectory of our life.

Whether it’s dealing with the ups and downs of being a writer, a situation with a difficult child, or a difficult work environment, we make our own stars in a lot of ways.

What’s your trying situation that you will need to navigate in the near future?

Mine revolves around a quickly approaching school year with a new campus that’s not quite ready, new teacher apartments that are not quite ready, piles of boxes and furniture in our old apartment ready to be moved but nowhere to move them to. Unanswered questions about where I will be teaching, how my dramas will be affected if our new theatre isn’t built on time, etc… It’s a stressful time for a lot of people around here, so how am I going to react and respond?

Here’s a few reminders to myself: The situation is as it is. There’s no changing the past. Complaining in the present isn’t going to better the situation. Participating in gossip or destructive conversations about “how things should have been done” also won’t change anything. Negativity accomplishes nothing, but it can hold back progress.

Our school has some unique challenges in the weeks ahead. But challenges are opportunities for growth. The important thing to remember about growth, however, is that it doesn’t come easy. Growth takes time, hard work, stubbornness, resiliency, and grit. A growth mindset builds into others. It seeks solutions to improve situations. It’s a learner’s mindset, because to grow we must change. Change our attitude. Change our talk. Change our behavior.

But if you don’t choose growth in whatever situation you are currently facing, what are you choosing?

One of the antonyms of growth is stagnation. Stagnation doesn’t take any time. It requires no hard work. It comes easy. There’s no need to bounce back from adversity and you’ll need to stick with nothing in order to achieve stagnation.

So what will it be? Growth or stagnation?

Book Update – Theatrical Duets: For Stage, Competition, or Classroom

I’ve just updated and expanded my collection of theatrical duets. These are unique, fun, meaningful, though-provoking, and stage-proven duets which can be used in a variety of situations. Most all of them have been stage-tested. Many of them have been used for high school forensics competitions – with four of these winning awards! I’ve been using many of these for years in my drama classroom.

I’ve just added two new duets to the book. One of them about bullying – semi-autobiographical I might add – and the other is called “Wishing Well,” a touching portrait of a father and daughter going through a difficult time. “Wishing Well” came to be as one of my former drama students contacted me and asked if I could write them a script for their HS forensic duet-acting competition. I’m not one to turn down a writing assignment requested by one of my students. So as I finished this short script, I decided it would be a good time to add it to my collection and update my book.

So I did.

It’s available in paperback for $10.99. If you know a drama teacher, drama enthusiast, or actor in your midst, please let them know. I think they will enjoy this collection.

Thanks!

Amazon: Theatrical Duets

Theatrical Duets from THE BOOK DEPOSITORY with FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING

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Trilogy Book 1: New Lower PERMANENT Kindle Version Price!

Finally, book one of The Forgotten Child Trilogy – A Man Too Old for a Place Too Far – is now and from here on out only a buck 89 on Kindle. That’s $1.89! You’ve got nothing to lose and a whole lot of a gripping week of entertainment to gain!

$1.89 – Why?

It’s regular price of $3.99 might be too much of a gamble for an unknown author. But I want to make it cheap enough for anyone to try! I believe in this three-part story and am working hard to complete it over the next month or so. Two-thirds of it are now available, so what are you waiting for!

Now Available:

Book 1: A Man Too Old for a Place Too Far  (Kindle $1.89/Paperback $13.99)

Book 2: The African Connection (Kindle $3.99/Paperback $13.99)

Coming Soon

Book 3: A Parting in the Sky (on Kindle & Paperback in 2019)

Amazon: A Man Too Old for a Place Too Far

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I’ve Been Hiding in Italy on Vacation

My poor blog. It has lost the fight against ancient relics and priceless cuisine. I’ve been on the most amazing tour of Italy the last week plus that I forgot there was a world out there I used to know. Way to much to show and tell on this one little post, but I thought I’d drop a few photos to show what I did just yesterday. Lots more to come. Consider this the primo.

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Magic Square in Pisa. Okay. Too many people diss Pisa. I’ve heard them say there are so many other places to go. Skip Pisa. Well, no. Magic Square as they call it is rather magical. Of course the leaning tower gets all the glory, but the cathedral and baptistry (foreground) are stunning. Absolutely gorgeous. Well worth a trip from Florence.

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Look at this. Stunning, isn’t it? This is the library ceiling from the Siena Cathedral. This is just the ceiling. Original fresco never restored. You are looking at the colors as they were applied back in the 13th century. Stunning. My old church had a library, but I think it had a matte-white Sherwin-Williams finish. Not quite the same thing.

2018-08-02 12.35.06Tuscan country side. So beautiful. This is actually a view from a restaurant where we had lunch. If you look way in the distance, you can see San Gimignano – the so-called “Manhattan of the Middle Ages.” See below.

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Here’s the square in San Gimignano. There are many of these towers which are visible from far off – making a stunning medieval city on a hill. This town was one of my absolute favorites. A must see surrounded by the incredible Tuscan countryside – grapes, olive trees, lavender, etc…

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That’s what I’ve been up to. Oh, and tomorrow I go to Venice. Last week I was in Rome. Yes, I am spoiled beyond belief. I’ll get back to writing one of these days.  I hope you are enjoying your summer as much as I’m enjoying mine.

Plotting or Plodding?

Humph! Here’s the real truth about writers: sometimes we have no idea how it’s all going to turn out.

I mean, really, what are we doing? What am I doing? What is my plot doing?

Sometimes it feels like I’m playing a giant connect-the-dots while blindfolded. Are these two dots really going to connect in the end?

This is an issue with any type of writing – including a stand-alone novel. But with a series, humph! Plotting seems like plodding at an ant’s pace.

I’m working on the final segment of The Forgotten Child Trilogy, and while I’m currently on chapter 19 – more than half way finished, I am starting to wonder how I’m going to tie up all of these strands. Yes, I like strands. Perhaps too much. Maybe I should have stuck with the third person limited. I did that once with the novel A Love Story For a Nation and I must admit it was freeing because every scene whether description or dialogue came from one person’s perspective. That’s why books which in the first person “I” have such an appeal.  It’s immediate. It’s personal. But let’s admit it. It’s also limiting.

My first series is being written in third person omniscient. It has to be this way because there are so many characters who are helping to tell the story. Now, I don’t write the narration from everyone’s perspective. In fact, there are three (maybe four) antagonists and I don’t tell it from their perspective at all. It’s just a choice I’ve made in this particular series. I wanted their motivations to be slightly obscured through the perspective of the different protagonists. Yes, this story is about many people.

There’s the rub. It can be confusing because I’m trying to balance many different strands from many different perspectives: Frick, Bee, Ash, Hatty, Ruthy, Rachany, Haddock, Adams & O’Malley – any more?

Okay, so what’s the solution? How to keep my head on straight?

First, take a deep breath and know that no one else – I mean no one – will ever see your first draft. So it’s okay if it’s terrible, and it usually is.  Just get the story down the best you can. You may not fill all holes at once and that’s okay.

Second, plan on spending the next six months doing rewrites and revisions. Just do it. Build in the time into your writing schedule. You’ll be amazed at how your mind will shift and you’ll get new ideas – better ideas – over time. Don’t be in a rush to get it done. Take your time.

Third, remember that it will work out in the end. It always does. The ‘i’s will be dotted the the ‘t’s crossed. It just takes time. It may seem chaotic right now, but after you write that next chapter, some clarity will come. More direction will be revealed and you’ll get there.

Four, remember to tie up all the ends even if it means re-writing. Don’t leave anything hanging when you come to the end of the series. Therefore, read the whole thing again. I know, I know. You told yourself that you’d rather bang your head against the wall than read your story one more time. But it will be worth it. Slow down. Read it again. Make sure it’s all tied up neatly in the end.

A good last impression is the best impression. Don’t let the end slip away from you.

Okay, now I need to start following my own advice.

Review of THE AFRICAN CONNECTION

Author Colleen Chesebro gives a thorough and excellent review of book 2 of THE FORGOTTEN CHILD TRILOGY on her blog “The Fairy Whisperer.”

In addition to giving it the vaunted 5-STARS, she says:

“I’ve been a fan of Mark Sasse’s fiction for a few years now. The Forgotten Child Trilogy has captured my imagination and my heart. Just make sure to read this series in order so that you understand who the characters are.”

Head on over to read the entire review HERE! Make sure to check out her other reviews as well.

To get yourself a copy of THE AFRICAN CONNECTION, is available on Amazon HERE! (Kindle & Paperback)

And, don’t forget to get your FREE Kindle copy of book 1 of the series available for FREE through the weekend. FREE ON KINDLE: A MAN TOO OLD FOR A PLACE TOO FAR

 

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