50,000 for the 9th Time

I’ve hit 50,000 words for the 9th time in my life. That means I’ve written 9 novels. Not sure how many people in the world could ever say that, so that’s pretty cool, I guess.

Here’s the proof:

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That was last week, actually. It’s now over 77,000, probably on its way to 80k to finish up the novel. I’m working on the last chapter as I take a break here.

I’ve said this before, but it’s always a big deal to make a long enough, coherent enough story that it qualifies as a novel.  I remember watching the word count of my first novel like a mindful hawk. The words seem to climb so slowly and the story seemed to be culminating too early. I thought it would peak at 30K in depressing novella territory. I didn’t ever think I would reach 50k. Eventually, I did, and the story ended at about 60.

I’ve always been a concise writer, but my stories have grown longer. WHICH HALF DAVID was my longest at about 100k. Well, unless you count my trilogy as one long novel then which clocks in at around 230 thousand.

Of course, word counts mean nothing to story. Great stories come at any and all lengths. But accomplishments should be celebrated.

Now for the hard part: writing draft 2, and 3, and then the editing process.

And then, after that, the hardest part of all: getting people to read it.

This story is about five teenagers in a band in Penang, Malaysia. Into their lives step Mr. Musa Marbun, a poor and crippled 67-year-old who has lived a horribly difficult life. What would a group of teens ever have in common with a person like that? It is precisely what this novel is all about.

Coming in 2020. Please stay tuned.

And don’t forget to try my trilogy:


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?

As 50,000 Loses its Luster …

Every novel accomplishment should be celebrated. That is why 50,000 still has meaning to me. I’ve told the story many times about writing my first novel and scratching and clawing my was to 50,000 words, feeling like I had accomplished the impossible task. I am a concise writer after all. It was a lot of words for me.

50,000 is the standard number that the industry calls a full-length novel. Nowadays, it’s nearly a non-issue for me except for the fact that every novel should be celebrated. Earlier this week, I broke through the 50,000 word barrier (now sitting at about 57k) for my seventh time.

It’s funny how a writer progresses. The count, in the past, became an obsession of mine, and probably still is seeing that I’m writing about it. But I’ve learned that it’s all, 100% about the story you want to tell, regardless of its length. This just so happens to coincide with my ability to write more complex and involving stories which easily produces a work well beyond the 50,000 word range. The book I’m writing now is a continuation of my 6th (yet to be released) novel, and I intend to expand it to be a trilogy which will top out over 200,000 words. That is a prospect I never thought I would be able to do: write a story beyond 200k. Are you crazy?

I guess I am.

Conquering the 50k milestone was a theoretical hurdle I had to become comfortable with if I wanted to be a novelist. That mission is accomplished. Now I’m tasked to write quality stories that engage readers and make them think. This is, of course, still a work in progress, and the struggle to write quality books will never end. One must always be willing to spend more time, revise two more times, and push the limits of one’s satisfaction and patience in order to produce the best book possible. From now on, this is my goal.

I just hit 50,000 words for the fifth time. That deserves a post.

For me, a writer who likes to be concise, hitting 50,000 words is always a feat, but I’m noticing that it’s not nearly as big a deal as it used to be.

Fifty-thousand is, of course, the usual plateau where a work officially is granted the title of novel – though I’m not sure who these shadowy people are who decide these things.

When I was attempting my first novel, I was worried sick that it would languish in the realm of novella forever. Fifty-thousand seemed like too many words to me. I thought that maybe I should become a short story writer instead. But I pushed and pushed until the day arrived – 50,000 – and to my utter amazement, the story hadn’t finished yet. I cruised to 61,000 and celebrated!

I had similar fears with my second novel, but my third, fourth, and now, fifth novels seem to write themselves, so I guess I have grown as a writer.

Why? I don’t really know. Although I do take notice when I pass the novel thresh-hold, it is no longer the goal – the story is the goal. The story itself will dictate how long it ends up being. My third novel is still my longest novel, finishing at about 80,000 words – still a far cry from some of those super thick novels you see on the racks in airport bookstores.

The one I’m currently writing may actually take me to new heights, but it does depend on how stingy I become with words as it progresses into the final third of the book. I’ve been accused by readers of being stingy with words. I heard comments about how some readers wanted me to develop certain story lines deeper, but I always remain skeptical of doing so. I like my works to be described as a “fast read”, “read in one sitting”, “leaving you wanting more” kind of read. Much better than “slow and plodding.”

Anyways, writing is a blast. I’m so glad I’ve had enough time these past three and a half years to write five novels. I hope I can keep up the pace.

Writing Session: Follow Your Story No Matter How Long or Short

It felt good to get in a solid writing session on my fourth novel this afternoon. I probably tallied 2000 words as the story heads for its conclusion. It’s now upwards of 43,000 words and will comfortably cruise into the novel territory before I write its final words.

But I have discovered that I’m now at a crucial point in my story where I have to decide how long it will ultimately be. I’m a concise writer. I know it, and so do my readers. I’ve had many reviewers say that I write fast-paced stories which are lean on long-expounding passages which really go no where. I suppose I write stories in which I love to read. I cannot stand unnecessary words. Henry James anyone? I could not tolerate his style. I was always a Hemingway guy. Short, to the point, but extremely meaningful. I would rather have someone say that they were wanting more than saying that they skipped 60 pages and didn’t miss a smidgen of the plot. That’s just me. Others will disagree with this.

So I am wondering how far down a new rabbit hole I want to go with my new story. I’m guessing not too far. I like to stay focused on the prize – focused on the slim plot which highlights what I want to say. I read a book review the other day where the reviewer said that this particular book had a couple different subplots which didn’t really play into the main story. That, in my book, is a big mistake. I love subplots, but you can be sure they will always be tightly connected with the larger picture I am painting.

This is a strange post, and I realize it. But it has convinced me of one thing: keep my eyes focused on the end. Do not add unnecessary subplots or words to your stories. Do not go on unnecessary tangents. Keep focused on the story, and if it is complex, it will be longer. If it is a simple creative expression, it will be shorter. But just don’t add words to pump up the word count.

Bloated word counts serve only one purpose: they make readers turn the pages quicker looking for something of substance. I don’t want that to happen to my writing.

Therefore, I’m going to keep the focus narrow and finish my fourth novel. Thanks for listening and helping me decide what to do.