Missives From Troy

I am Helen Doremus. I write. I sing. I create things. I do kung fu. I wear a hat. I occasionally curse. I like pie. When I make a thing that's meant to amuse, it comes here to live.

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good:

…American educators work the most hours of all industrialized nations, but are the fifth lowest paid after 15 years on the job. Only Luxembourg, Hungary, Iceland, and Norway pay their teachers less.

American Teachers Do More Work for Less Pay Than Their International Peers - Education - GOOD

(via good)

theatlantic:

Meaningful Activities Protect the Brain From Depression

Our entire lives, when you think about it, are built around rewards — the pursuit of money, fun, love, and tacos.

How we seek and respond to those rewards is part of what determines our overall happiness. Aristotle famously said there were two basic types of joy: hedonia, or that keg-standing, Netflix binge-watching, Nutella-from-the-jar selfish kind of pleasure, and eudaimonia, or the pleasure that comes from helping others, doing meaningful work, and otherwise leading a life well-lived.

Recent psychological research has suggested that this second category is more likely to produce a lasting increase in happiness. Hedonic rewards may generate a short-term burst of glee, but it dissipates more quickly than the surge created by the more selfless eudaimonic rewards.

"Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided," a study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found last year.

Read more. [Image: Natesh Ramasamy/flickr/Olga Khazan]

strandbooks:

Postcard found in a book.

Darling, I am probably now more mixed up than before.

kaylapocalypse:

(Originally published at The Swivet)

by Colleen Lindsay

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Although I’m no longer an agent, I still work with writers and I find that this post is one of the most highly-trafficked entries on my blog. Information on suggested word counts for fiction seems to be tough thing to find online so I decided to not only leave this post up here, but to revise and expand it as needed. 

I sat down recently with several fiction editors and hammered out a more comprehensive list of suggested word counts by genre & sub-genre. As you read through this, keep in mind three important things: 1.) these are suggested word counts; rules get broken all the time; 2.) these suggested word counts will most often apply to debut writers; successfully published authors are the ones who end up breaking the rules, and 3.) if you are planning to e-publish only, and your book will never be printed out on actual paper, these guidelines aren’t nearly as important.

Something I saw a lot in queries as an agent were word counts that exceeded 100k. Often, a manuscript exceeded this by a considerable amount: I’ve seen word counts of 140k, 160k and one writer actually told me about a YA manuscript he’d written that was 188k.

Somewhere out there a myth developed - especially amongst science fiction and fantasy writers - that a higher word count was better. Writers see big fat fantasies on the shelf and think that they have to write a book just as hefty to get published. And sometimes a writer just writes a long book because they aren’t yet a very good writer. Good writers learn how to pare a manuscript down to its most essential elements, carving away the word count fat that marks so many beginning writers. And the fact of the matter is, most of those “big fat fantasy” books you see on the shelf actually only have a word count of about 100k to 120k.

The exceptions are usually authors who’ve already had an established track record of sales with previous - shorter - books, like George R.R. Martin. And, yes, once in a great while you will see an incredibly long debut novel. But the writing has to be absolutely stellar; knock-down, drag-out, kick-you-in-the-teeth amazing. (A good example is Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, which clocks in at just about 240,000 words.)

And I should also point out here that the longer a successful writer has been with a publishing house and the more actual dollars that author brings to the house (and the bigger that author’s advances get), the more clout that author may have regarding being able to keep his or her novel intact, without taking advantage of the editorial guidance being offered. And that is never a good thing for the book. Editors exist for a damned good reason, and no author is ever such a fabulous writer that a good editor can’t find things to make better in his or her manuscript.

There was a time about ten or so years ago when bigger word counts were the norm and not the exception. Like everything, the book industry goes through trends. But these days, editors of adult fiction - even editors of epic fantasy - squirm a little when presented with a manuscript that runs over 110k words. Books with a higher page count cost more to physically produce, resulting in a higher per-book manufacturing cost, meaning even more copies will need to be sold to make the estimated P&L work.

Publishers want to make money; bookstores want to make money. Do the math.

When you search around the Internet for information on word counts, you get a lot of conflicting information, some of it just plain wrong, and often this information is coming from sources that would appear reputable to a writer who didn’t know any better. One article I read last week that was posted online at a major writing magazine actually insists that the average novel (non-genre) is 150,000 words. I have no idea where the writer of the article got his or her information, but that’s simply untrue. An average novel length is between 80k and 100k, again, depending upon the genre.

Word counts for different kinds of novels vary, but there is are general rules of thumb for fiction that a writer can use when trying to figure out just how long is too long. For the purposes of this post, I’m only talking about YA, middle-grade and adult fiction here. And bear in mind that there are always exceptions, but good general rules of thumb would be as follows:

middle grade fiction = Anywhere from 25k to 40k, with the average at 35k
YA fiction = For mainstream YA, anywhere from about 45k to 80k; paranormal YA or YA fantasy can occasionally run as high as 120k but editors would prefer to see them stay below 100k. The second or third in a particularly bestselling series can go even higher. But it shouldn’t be word count for the sake of word count.

paranormal romance = 85k to 100k

romance = 85k to 100k

category romance = 55k to 75k

cozy mysteries = 65k to 90k

horror 
= 80k to 100k

western 
= 80k to 100k (Keep in mind that almost no editors are buying Westerns these days.)

mysteries, thrillers and crime fiction
 = A newer category of light paranormal mysteries and hobby mysteries clock in at about 75k to 90k. Historical mysteries and noir can be a bit shorter, at 80k to 100k. Most other mystery/thriller/crime fiction falls right around the 90k to 100k mark.

mainstream/commercial fiction/thrillers = Depending upon the kind of fiction, this can vary: chick lit runs anywhere from 80k word to 100k words; literary fiction can run as high as 120k but lately there’s been a trend toward more spare and elegant literary novels as short as 65k. Anything under 50k is usually considered a novella, which isn’t something agents or editors ever want to see unless the editor has commissioned a short story collection. (Agent Kristin Nelson has a good post about writers querying about manuscripts that are too short.)

science fiction & fantasy = Here’s where most writers seem to have problems. Most editors I’ve spoken to recently at major SF/F houses want books that fall into the higher end of the adult fiction you see above; a few of them told me that 100k words is the ideal manuscript size for good space opera or fantasy. For a truly spectacular epic fantasy, some editors will consider manuscripts over 120k but it would have to be something extraordinary. I know at least one editor I know likes his fantasy big and fat and around 180k. But he doesn’t buy a lot at that size; it has to be astounding. (Read: Doesn’t need much editing.) And regardless of the size, an editor will expect the author to to be able to pare it down even further before publication. To make this all a little easier, I broke it down even further below:

—-> hard sf = 90k to 110k
—-> space opera = 90k to 120k
—-> epic/high/traditional/historical fantasy = 90k to 120k
—-> contemporary fantasy = 90k to 100k
—-> romantic SF = 85k to 100k
—-> urban fantasy = 90k to 100k
—-> new weird = 85k to 110k
—-> slipstream = 80k to 100k
—-> comic fantasy = 80k to 100k
—-> everything else = 90k to 100k

Editors will often make exceptions for sequels, by the way. Notice that the page count in both J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series gets progressively higher. But even authors who have been published for years and should know better will routinely turn in manuscripts that exceed the editor’s requested length by 30k to 50k words, which inevitably means more work for that author because editors don’t back down. If a contract calls for a book that is 100k words and you turn in one that is 130k, expect to go back and find a way to shave 30k words off that puppy before your manuscript is accepted.

Remember that part of the payout schedule of an author’s advance often dangles on that one important word: acceptance.

I cannot stress highly enough that there are always exceptions to every rule, especially in SF/F. Jacqueline Carey and Peter F. Hamilton, among others, have proven this quite successfully. If an agent finds a truly outstanding book that runs in the 200k range (yes, it happens!), he or she may advise your cutting the manuscript into two books to make life easier for everyone. But for a debut novelist who is trying to catch the eye of an agent or editor for the first time? Err on the side of caution with your word count.

 

(via fixyourwritinghabits)

fixyourwritinghabits:

I want to particularly highlight this bit:

STEP 4B: AVOID RESEARCH

I’m unsure whether not doing something can be a step. But that’s not important. What’s important is avoiding research. I’m serious. Research is useful in two phases: the idea phase and the rewriting phase. In between, research is a stupid boring voice that says, It doesn’t work like that. You know what? I’m writing this story, I’ll tell you how it goddamn works. I’ll make it plausible in rewrites.

Because for real, if you’re in the middle of your first draft, your one and only job is to get through that first draft. Make a note and fix it later. Lately I’ve been shooting myself in the foot by trying to find the exact location of a building that doesn’t exist anymore. For two hours. When I could have written ‘do this later’ and kept on.

Whatever you do, keep writing.

I stop looking things up as soon as the first draft starts. Otherwise I’d never finish the draft and be stuck rewriting a handful of things indefinitely. Research begins again once I’ve put the completed manuscript in a drawer for a couple of weeks before rewrites begin in earnest.

ruckawriter:

I rarely use this to just blog. I’m going to just blog now, so you can all just ignore this if it’s not to your liking.

Warning. Contents under pressure.

Read More

There goes mah hero, watch him as he goes nuclear on sexist bullshit.

In a classic experiment, the psychologist J. Philippe Rushton gave 140 elementary- and middle-school-age children tokens for winning a game, which they could keep entirely or donate some to a child in poverty. They first watched a teacher figure play the game either selfishly or generously, and then preach to them the value of taking, giving or neither. The adult’s influence was significant: Actions spoke louder than words. When the adult behaved selfishly, children followed suit. The words didn’t make much difference — children gave fewer tokens after observing the adult’s selfish actions, regardless of whether the adult verbally advocated selfishness or generosity. When the adult acted generously, students gave the same amount whether generosity was preached or not — they donated 85 percent more than the norm in both cases. When the adult preached selfishness, even after the adult acted generously, the students still gave 49 percent more than the norm. Children learn generosity not by listening to what their role models say, but by observing what they do.

shoomlah:

The Cask of Amontillado ( high res )

(via alynn-literarian)