Novels and Length

I’m not sure if I’ve written about this before but for whatever reason my stories all seem to come out to be about 100,000 words. Some a little less 96,000 or so and some a little more 106,000 but right about in that range. When I was writing Hollow World I was pretty sure it was going to break that mold. Half way through I figured it would come in at 150,000 and it currently is around 104,000 and we’ll see what it is when the copy editors are done with it.

I think Rhune is going to go over that and once again I’m predicting 150,000 based on the fact that I think I’m about 1/2 way through considering where I am now.

For me I never “plan” on a certain length…I just write the story that needs telling and as I said it usually falls into a particular range for me.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that self-published genre writers concentrate on turning out shorter work. I don’t know if that is true…I’ve never done an analysis of word counts on various titles, but in some way if they are making a conscious effort of that nature – it’s a pretty smart thing to do (in my opinion). After all I think 3 books of 90,000 will earn more than one book of 270,000.

I was tweeting about my word count yesterday and someone said, “My manuscripts have been known to break floorboards when I drop them.” My first thought was…this might be losing the author a lot of money…if they could take a step back and look how they could turn that mammoth tomb into a series, it would be much better for them in the long run.

I’m not advocating an un-natural breaking up of a novel. I’m a firm believer that each book should have its own conflict and resolution and be satisfying in its own right. A cliffhanger – which makes you HAVE to read the next book to get resolution for the one you are reading is a bad thing (again imo). People should WANT to read the next book not be held hostage to do so. That being said…adding a little tease at the end…well that’s a good thing. You show that the door is open a crack but as I said the current book has already wrapped nicely.

So I guess I really have a few things to say.

  • Don’t shoot for a word count, let the story naturally unfold and make it the length it needs to be
  • If your story has A LOT packed into it, such that you think it will be really long, then take a step back and see if you can compartmentalize it

That’s it for today.  I’m excited to get back to work writing.

The H is silent…

So, in my last post I alluded to the fact that I worked on some cover ideas, and that ended up adjusting things in my books.  So I thought I would spill the beans.  Especially since I now have the titles (or at least the titles I want for the books) worked out.

This series revolves around the wars and interactions of three races which I initially named: Rhunes, Dergs, and Freys.  When I told my wife the titles she looked puzzled.

“Derg? Is that D-h-e-r-g?”

“No,” I said, “it’s D-e-r-g.”

“Hmmm…” she said,” it doesn’t sound right.  Too short.  Can it be Dherg?”

“If you feel strongly about it.”

So I started laying out the books and Robin was right I really liked the symmetry between Rhune and Dherg.  For some reason I put the titles in all caps and showed her covers for RHUNE, DHERG, and FREY. Robin immediately noticed that Frey stuck out as it had only 4 letters verses the 5 of the other 2.  So while she looked over my shoulder I changed it to  FRHEY.

“I like it,” she declared, “but…”

“But what?”

“Well, can it be FHREY” then it would be symmetrical with the other ones.

Visually we both loved the way the three looked one after another.  “Too bad,”  Robin declared finally, “They look good, but no one will no how to pronounce them,  and most people will misspell them.”

Considering I’m constantly seeing my debut series referred to as Riyra or Ryria, as well as the actual Riyria, I knew that FHREY would be a problem.

My daughter, who is dyslexic, cam home from work just as we were deciding the naming fate of the last book.  I asked her to read the titles.  She rolled her eyes and gave an exasperated sigh. “You know that I have  no clues when it comes to phonics.”

“Don’t worry about that, just give it a shot.”

She struggled and came out with sounds that were nowhere near the actual renunciation. Well except for the first one, which I’m sure she has heard my wife and I talking about from time to time.

“How would you say it if I told you the ‘H’ was silent?” her mother asked.

“Oh, that’s easy…roon, durg, fray,” she said without pause.

“That’s good enough for me,” Robin said.

So for now, I’m running with it – and have gone through my 70,000+ words and performed a global search and replace. Later I pointed out to Robin that this causes a problem.

“How so,” she asked.

“Well one of the places that exists across both series is Dahlgren.”

“No,” she says, “It’s not a problem.  The ‘H’ is silent in it as well.  It’s just one of the cases of a word that morphed over time and between cultures.  At the time of  The First Empire that place is called Dhalgren. In the time of the second empire the humans have changed it into Dahlgren.  And in another two thousand years it may become Dalgren.”

“Good point,” I concurred, and went off to adjust my map.

And so, there you have it.  A little exercise in creating the covers of the books has ended up becoming a part of the language of this world and a convention for naming things.

No one but those reading this post will probably ever understand the evolution of this, but from here on out, every time I’m on a podcast or talking to an audio producer who is struggling and fumbling, a smile with creep to my face and I’ll save them from their flailing with a simple, “The ‘H’ is silent.”

Has it really been 2 months?


I can’t believe I’ve not updated this blog since April!! But rest assured I’ve not been idle. I’m going to try resume updating this on a regular basis , although daily is probably not going to be possible, but I will strive for once or twice a week minimum!!

The big reason that I’ve not been updating is distraction with other projects.  But those are now all pretty much behind me so for the last week or so I’ve been writing Rhune – and I’m glad to be able to devote some time to this and get it moving again.

So what was distracting me?

  • The Riyria Chronicles – which are absolutely “done…done”  I don’t have hard copies in my hands but I do have .pdfs of the files that were sent to the printers. I’m going to be a guest of honor at ConnictiCon in early July so I’m hoping my books come in early and if they do, I’ll take a few copies to give away there.  So if you are in or around Hartford CT July 12 – July 14 stop on by the Convention Center.
  • Hollow World I couldn’t be happier with how this project has turned out.  While the bulk of the heavy lifting is done, I have the manuscript out to two great copy editors and we are still on track for an early July release for people who backed the Kickstarter, and of course the official release will be in January.  I’m also in the final stages of signing a contract for the audio version of this book – which is quite unusual for a self-published work.
  • Cover design – Yes I’ve designed covers for the three books of this series.  Now that sounds like a really stupid thing to do, especially since the chances are pretty good that this series will be traditionally published and they will disregard my covers completely…but it helped in a number of ways.  Most notably in changing the titles and  requiring updates to some words I was using in this book. I’ll save the details of this for my next post

So where am I now?  Well having been away for a very long time I had to reacquaint myself by reading what I had up to that point.  In so doing, I realized I had some problems so I had to rip out a big section of the book and rewrite.  So I spent about a week or so revising what I had written before being pulled off the project and  the story is much better for going through that process.

I’ve had about a week writing “new stuff” and now the word count is going in the positive direction again (Robin was upset to hear it going down each day as I ripped out stuff in the re-read.)  I’m now at 70,000 words and I’m now at a part of the story where several plot threads are coming together. I tend to write faster toward the end, rather than the beginning and I’m definitely seeing the light at the end of this tunnel.

More to come in the next few days.