I once read somewhere Mark Twain kept a running word count in the margins of his manuscripts. Word counts are probably a weird obsession held largely by writers. We survive by them. Sometimes we’re paid by the number of words we write. Sometimes we use the count to measure a good day’s work, whether those words add up to a few sentences or several pages.
Word counts also tell us—somewhat arbitrarily—what sort of work we have written. Is it a Tweet (which actually is even more micro, down to the character)? Is it an essay? A short story? A novella? A novel?
A few months ago, a writer friend of mine Gerald Warfield and I shoptalked about just such things. We couldn’t come up with a solid answer. But a blog post from Writer’s Digest gives some novel advice at least, breaking down some average word counts for novels of different lengths.
The link is here. Of course, it’s not the end-all declaration of authority, but it must count for something.
One of my new favorite writers is John Scalzi. Besides writing some good SF, he also writes a blog—Whatever—in which he writes, well, whatever he wants. Often his posts, to my delight, are a look inside another writer’s life; it’s the sort of site that’s often encouraging and inspirational, but grounded in the realities of writing for a living. And it helps me feel not quite so alone in my ambitions and worries and even my small triumphs as a writer.
One of today’s posts addressed an issue most writers have to struggle with—money. Specifically saying it’s OK and good to actually make money from writing. It doesn’t make you a hack or sell-out. Upbringing (“money is the root of all evil”) combined with university English courses and professors and fellow students that romanticized the suffering, always struggling pauper writer/artist, it’s hard to break free of such a negative mindset toward money. So, I wanted to share Scalzi’s post below for those, like me, who have struggled constantly with this issue:
By an overwhelming majority 2-1 vote, loyal readers have elected that I keep up with my writing workshop blog.
Because the people have spoken, I will try to keep that blog running.
As an experiment I have posted two stories of my own — one fiction, one nonfiction — for my loyal readers. Please feel free to drop by the workshop, have a look at the stories and critique them if you’d like (at this point critiques will have to be done through comments, until I can further experiment with the site).
Also, feel free to give me comments about how you might improve the site. I need all the suggestions I can get.
A few days ago I received a comment from writer/blogger Richard Gilbert, and followed his link (as I usually do unless you’re an obvious spammer) to his blog Narrative. It’s an informative blog on creative nonfiction, and he’s recently published a piece in Brevity and has commented on that piece on the Brevity blog. Go check it out.
Writer Lisa Romeo has a nice post on beginnings and endings, and then a nice piece at Tiny Lights on the same subject.
For me, beginnings tend to come easier (by easier I mean pulling less hair out) than endings, especially personal pieces. When I write feature stories, I’m usually able to find something that either ties back to the beginning, or something to open up the story.
A lot of times, though, I seem to get stuck with a beginning and a lot of middle.