Tag Archives: novel

What Kind of Beast is This?

What sort of beast is this?

One of the questions most frequently asked in creative writing classes is “how long is a novel/play/short story/screenplay?” And, as is often the case in creative writing, the answer is that there are no rules but… there kind of are.

There is not an official cut off word count for any of the above literary forms but the publishing industry has generally accepted average lengths. Be alive to the fact that just because your word count has hit the “magic number”, it does not follow that you are finished. Apart from the fact you’ll be lobbing off at least a third in edits, you also need be sure that you have brought all the strands of your story to satisfactory conclusion, have made your point and your character has undergone some sort of change / journey / learning arc in the process. Otherwise, to paraphrase Truman Capote, your’re just typing.

What follows is a rough guide/ballpark figure for each literary form:

 Novel

The average commercial novel is 78,000 words in length; this roughly amounts to 300 A4 pages in double spaced twelve-point font. However, a novel can be anything from 45,000 words onwards. A book between 20,000 – 45,000 is usually marketed as a “novella”.

 Short Story

Traditionally, a short story is meant to be read in one sitting. Normally, this narrative form is quite pointed in its message, involves a single setting and few characters. A short story can be anything from 1,000-20,000 words.Writing short stories is a good way of building up your story telling skills, honing your craft as a writer and amassing a writing portfolio. Also, the short story is the literary form favoured by writing competitions. Such competitions usually look for stories in the 2,000-5,000 word bracket.

Flash Fiction

This is the short story’s kid brother. Somewhat akin to the Haiku, a flash fiction story often aims to capture a fleeting moment. It can be any thing between 100-1,000 words. Flash fiction is becoming very popular in competitions these days. Personally, I think this may be to save reading time for judges.

Screenplay

The standard “Hollywood” screenplay is 90 minutes long. Given the rule of thumb that one page equals one minute of movie, you should be aiming for a90-page long screen play. Obviously, this is an approximation.

 TV/Play

Likewise, the page per minute rule applies here too. Bear in mind the slot your are aiming for. commercial TV and radio stations will include advert breaks in their schedule – so a half hour comedy show might in fact be only 22 minutes long etc… If you have a slot in mind, time the duration of the actual show (excluding theme music and commercial breaks.)

 Stageplay

The page per minute rule can roughly be applied to stage plays too. If a stage play were to last an hour and a half, it should be 20,000 words long and span 90 pages.

 Poem

A poem can be as short or as long as you like. A  haiku is traditionally 17 syllables over three line. The Iliad is 25,000 lines long. For the try outs, however, you might aim for two or three verses.


And the prize goes to…..a website!

And the prize goes to.....a website!

Many, many thanks to all you lovely people for your support and inspired suggestions re how I ought to spend my hard earned twenty quid (thirty dollars).

It was a tough call, given some of the rather interesting and tempting suggestions you dangled before me but my newly fortyish head won out and I blew the lot on an upgrade from blog-to-own website.

So, welcome to suehealy.org : )

Ici n’est pas une banane

watch this space xo


Are You a-Mused Yet?

Get Your Muse On

There are writers feel story and character ideas are fed to them from “somewhere else”. That “somewhere else” is a very vague concept and means different things to different scribes. Nonetheless, writers who hold such beliefs say it is very important to allow your mind to be open to receiving these ideas – wherever they come from.

Personally, I’ve had moments when I felt plugged into a conduit, receiving stories, characters and ideas- though I hesitate to say if this was a spiritual event or just the  way the brain works in creative mode.

And it is a rare enough event – I can never conjure ‘the writing rapture’ but if I write often it’ll roll around every now and again. And when it does, it’s a  magical moment when stories and characters come swimming to me, all done-up, pre-packaged and ready to go.

All we can do is sit down to write every day- most days you’ll get coal but if you keep at it, the diamond muse will show up sooner or later.


All Work and No Play…

 

Humanity according to Sue

Writers worth their ink need to be making some point with their story. By that, I mean your tale ought not be solely just a boy-meets-loses-regains-girl trip. Beneath your storyline, there should be something else going on, a deeper message, your comment on how humanity works, or doesn’t.

It is a writer’s (or artist’s) job to present the human condition as they interpret it. I’m sorry if that comes over all heavy and scary. It isn’t meant to, I’m simply suggesting that once you’ve written your story, or even just have an idea for one, you should sit back and consider what it could be saying on a larger, universal scale.

A good way to understand this concept is to consider Aesop’s Fables. Each one is a tale that could be enjoyed on a superficial level by a child, yet there is a deeper meaning, or moral, which endeavors to teach the child some universal truth about life, ie being slow yet determined is often better than being hasty and fickle (Tortoise and the Hare).

A good place to seek inspiration is a list of proverbs. A proverb is usually a metaphor and encapsulates in simple terms, a lesson from the common experience of humanity. Here’s an exercise that might get you going: sit down and have a think about the specific meaning of the following and then go freewrite a story illustrating this philosophy.

Graveyards are full of indispensable people.

You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.

A little learning is a dangerous thing.

The belly has no ears.

Trees don’t grow to the sky.

A dumb priest never got a parish.

The only free cheese is in the mousetrap.

Eaten bread is soon forgotten.

The squeaky door gets the oil. (Thanks to Sally Ann for this one!)


Go “hggahgoiihaghoogla”

Got that morning feeling?

It’s dawn 6am and you’ve risen early just to get those ‘morning pages’ done. And you’re staring at a blank sheet. Writer, you need warm up.

Just as many painters will apply a beige wash to a blank canvas to stop it looking so virgin – you’ll need to put something down on the page – “hggahgoidihgogha” will do, just get something down, break that white, crack that ice. Next, do a non-dominant hand exercise. If you are right-handed, then pick up a pen and start to write with your left. If you’re on a laptop, then type “The quick brown fox…” with your left hand alone. If you’re left-handed, apply vice vearsa.

Enjoy the sensation of the pen flowing over your paper or the tap of your finger tips on the keyboard and don’t think too hard about what you’re writing. Let it flow. When you’ve written out the fox/dog sentence a few times, continue on with the story. Where does the fox go next? Why is the dog feeling lazy? Where are they? What does the air smell like? What sounds can you/they hear? Is it hot or cold? Wet or dry? How does the dog feel when the fox jumps over him? Does he plan revenge? Once you’ve done a paragraph or two, you’ll probably find that the creative juices are flowing enough for you to turn your attention to that story you were working on before – or read over your freewrite, there might be the kernel of something worth working on.

Now, I’m off to take my own advice…


The Why of it All

A Norfolk flint wall, cracking with ideas

Well done all of you six month challengers who have plugged into the writing rapture and are producing realms of the stuff. I am in awe.

I haven’t been doing so well on my target of 500 a day, and that makes me feel awful as I was the one who launched the comp. I know I can find excuses what with being out of the country and all but it’s just not good enough, dammit.

I’m also being slack re writing short stories of late and I’m usually very on the ball there. I think I may simply be tired. Anyway, to motivate myself and hopefull you too, I’m going to re-post here a list of reasons I should keep working on my short stories (as well as my novel, but that reason is self evident).

a) Being shortlisted encourages and motivates when such stuff is difficult to come by in the writers’ life.

b) I can get published in literary magazines.

c) Money, if I win.

d) It keeps me on my toes and hones and polishes my craft.

e) By writing stories I build up a portfolio just in case I’m ever offered a collection.

f) It gives me an edge when applying for bursaries, residencies, funding etc..

g) It might bring  the attention of publishers.

h) Short stories are something I can work on when time is limited.

i) An agent once told me that it is important to build up your writing ‘credits’.

j) Agents are human and sometimes don’t trust their own judgement, so wins and commendations give you that ‘seal of approval’/credibility.

k) Short story writing is a better displacement activity than making a cup of tea.

M) Having good writing credits help when applying for writing jobs.

p) Writing short stories reminds me that I’m a writer.

Now, I guess I should stare at a wall like Leonardo da Vinci and get inspired. Hello wall, have you got any novel ideas?

Six Month Challenge:

Day 5

Word count: 1,900


Back in Norwich. Back in action.

 

The Market, Norwich.

 

Apologies for the scant and scatty posts over the past few days. As explained, I was in Ireland to run my first creative writing workshop (well, the first that I’m running independently). All went extremely well. The feedback was positive and I’m now motivated to bring this workshop forward and make it a regular event, hopefully hosting sessions in Ireland, France and Hungary.

Also, RTE have contacted me again (that’s the Irish national TV station) about writing for them. It is the second time they’ve asked if I’d be interested in trying out for a gig with them and I might as well give it a go this time. I’m now awaiting news on my short-listing for the Wells Literary Festival competition and my long listing on the HISSAC. These three ships may indeed sink before they make it back to port, but at least they are on the horizon now and that’s exciting.

I have to admit that I’ve not done any novel writing today. I’m leaning on the excuse that having eventually found a non-fog-bound flight back to Norwich from Ireland yesterday, I was too exhausted to get out of bed this morning. Wee weak girlie that I am. Am determined to make up for this tonight.

My current word count is 1,500.  It’s day four. I’m 500 words under target.

 

How are you guys all doing?


1,000 Word Kick Off

I’m in Ireland, having just finished running my first workshop . All went well, I think (I’m waiting to get feedback).

Managed to hit my 1,ooo word target for the six month challenge. I promise to post properly when I’m back on my own Internet connection. Well done to all you who’ve had a good lift off and have also met your targets.

Day 2

Wordcount: 1,000


A Dream on Tour

Dreamer

A quick post to thank all of you who have signed up for the ‘write an novel in 6 months’ challenge. I’m looking forward to getting up at the crack of dawn (well, sort of) on Saturday to get my first 500 words down. We can do it (ooo, feel a slogan coming on…)

Saturday will be a day for firsts for me. I’m launching my creative writing workshop in Waterford, Ireland at Grayfriar’s Art Centre in the city on October 1st. The course, which I’ve authored myself, provides novice writers with the basic tools of the creative writing craft. It’s designed to entail two face-to-face workshops taking place on the first and last Saturday of a given month.

The first Saturday will focus on: finding inspiration, use of language, developing character, theme and structure. The ensuing four weeks will see the students work on a project of their choice with online support from me. The final face-to-face workshop, on the last Saturday in the month, will focus on editing, submitting and will finish with a peer workshop  – after which I’ll give a professional critique and advice on how to bring the piece forward.

I’m planning to run a further workshops in Waterford at the end of the year and in Galway in the new year. If all goes well, and I’m confident it will (well, nerves aside) I am hoping to ‘tour’ the workshop outside Ireland, taking it to Budapest, Nice and London in 2012.

It’s an ambitious plan but I can do it (there’s that slogan again). And we’ve got to dream – as writers, it’s part of the job description.

Therefore, I hope my fellow six-monthers will understand if I don’t post about the the first 500 words until Monday – as I have to fly to Ireland for the workshop.

Please wish me (and my touring course) good luck


Jobs for Creative Writers

A wise writer once said to me that it’s not so much the pram in the hall that’s the impediment to a writing career, but the bills on the door-mat. Money worries are the bane of creativity. And unless independently wealthy, the emerging writer will have to make a living while waiting for that book/film deal (and probably for a while after that fact too). Writers need to work; the question is what kind of jobs are out there?

Here she is, cooking up the next Ulysses over a cupcake

Many will consider other (more lucrative) forms of writing to bring home the bucks. Journalism is an obvious  choice and is still, probably, the most common second career for many creative writers. Moreover, a journalistic background provides marvelous training re editing and brevity of approach. Copy-writing, particularly website copy, is also a popular income booster for writer but both copy-writing and journalism are less satisfying forms of writing for the creative writer and spending all day writing on the day job can make it difficult to come home and do the same at night.

Teaching English and/or creative writing is another common earner for writers. My TEFL training and experience has given me a sound grip of grammar and the intricacies of the English language – all of which is of great practical use to a writer. A TEFL teacher also (usually) travels and such experiences can feed into your work. Teaching creative writing allows you to deconstruct the tools of creative writing, which may benefit your own writing. However, you usually need a track record of publication before you begin to look for work in this area.

It is not uncommon for writers to work a mundane job such as on a factory line or as a manual laborer. Such tasks sit quite well with a writing career as they give the writer time to think, to let ideas bubble and boil ready to write down after the shift has finished. Also, with a job so utterly removed from writing, you will be fresh and eager to sit at your laptop of an evening. The downside of any brain numbing, repetitive work is that it has no status. This fact should not be important but it is because writers are human, so for a writer to stay in a lowly job, s/he needs determination, focus and confidence in their reason for doing this type of work.

Writers, of course, come from all walks of life and all career backgrounds. For those of you who may be considering giving up your job to write full time, you need to remember that you’ll (most likely) still need to make a living. Maybe the job you have is not glamorous or interesting, but these are often the best complementary jobs for writing. So, if you really want to be a writer, the greatest sacrifice you make may be NOT giving up the day job –  but staying with it.