The Importance of Word Count

Why is there so much talk about how many words a writer writes?

Because words have meaning. They carry weight. They paint pictures, but they can also bog the reader or the story down.

Word count determines how long your story will be and that will determine whether it is a piece of Flash Fiction, a Short Story, a Novella, or a Novel. Yes, each of these has a range of acceptable word count.

So, should you write 1,000 words or less, 3,000-5,000 words, 30,000-45,000 words, 65,000-120,000 words? That depends on which of the items above you want to write. It may also depend on your genre or whether your are writing for Silhouette Romances or a Fantasy Novel, etc.

I have had people praise my writing. Several have told me, “You are a good writer. You don’t waste words. Every word you use counts.” Of course, that made me feel good. However, because of that, I have to be sure that I work hard to include the things my readers want in my writing as well as maybe include a few more scenes, which means coming up with a few more conflicts, in order to produce the proper-size novel.

What do I mean “what my readers want in my writing”? Well, my critique partners say I do not include enough description of things like the weather on a particular day or what a place looks like nor do I include enough of my characters’ internal thoughts.

Therefore, while others may have to cut words when they do their revisions, I will most likely have to add words/scenes.

What have you learned about your writing in regard to word count?

The Christian Controversy About Christian Fiction

Christian writers constantly face the dilemma about whether or not to mention God or Jesus in their fiction or how much Biblical information and Christian morals should they put in their writing. They have to wrestle with the decision of trying to reach the unsaved or simply write for the Christian reader.

But what about the Christian reader and/or the traditional Christian publisher? If you write for this market, does your entire manuscript have to be squeaky clean? Do your characters have to be perfect? Do you have to be preachy?

Of course, almost everyone has a different opinion. I entered a contest for Christian writers a year or so ago and I am hoping that my novel will reach both Christian and non-Christian readers who like historical fiction stories that don’t have profanity, explicit sex, or excessive violence.

Does that mean my characters are perfect and the story squeaky clean? Absolutely not because real people would not be able to relate to such a character or story. We all make bad choices and have to live with the consequences, and those of us who live the Christian life also do our best to change our behaviors/choices for the better, but we all struggle.

So, back to this contest. My main character is an honorable man who believes in the Lord and tries to do what’s right, but like everyone else, he faces challenges and temptations. Very early in my story he tells a lie, but before the scene is over, he admits the truth. My submission to the contest didn’t go to the next level because one of the judges was highly offended that my main character–the hero of the story–tells a lie and gave me low scores in all areas because of it. The judge also proceeded to tell me that the Christian Hero in a story must be righteous and cannot do something like tell a lie. This judge also said that no traditional Christian publisher would publish such a story.

Now, since I still haven’t quite finished the story, I haven’t even begun to look for a publisher of any kind, but I do know that I will never create a perfect character for thee reasons: 1) I want my readers to be able to relate to my characters; 2) I want my characters to be realistic; and 3) I want my stories to be interesting and hold my reader’s attention/keep them turning the pages.

I know that I would not read a story in which the main character does not face any struggles and does not show growth and change by the end of the book because such a story would be boring!

What about you? What are your thoughts about Christian fiction — perfect characters or characters who struggle with some of the same things you struggle with?

Procrastination

To procrastinate is to go against the old saying, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

The Merriam-Webster definition of procrastinate is “to put off intentionally and habitually”; “to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done”.

I am constantly battling procrastination when it comes to my writing.  I make time to post here on my blog.  I make time for Facebook and Twitter.  Why do I keep procrastinating writing my novel?

I WANT to write my novel.  I LOVE the characters I have created for my novel.  I LOVE my plot line.  I LOOK FORWARD to having people read my novel.  I even have a plan that seems workable to create a schedule that would allow me to write 5 or 6 days a week.  So, what’s my problem?

I think I still have a mental block that I thought I had conquered.  When I was younger and braver and more confident in my writing I never procrastinated.  I finished every story I started back then.

It’s not that I’m not finishing stories now, but I’m taking much longer and it’s not just because I have other responsibilities.  However, I never received the encouragement I wanted or hoped for when I wrote without procrastination in my younger years.

Now, I have others who are encouraging me.  However, I wonder if I subconsciously take their helpful critiques as negative criticism, even though I seek their critiques.  Consciously I don’t feel like they are being negative or mean in any way.  I find their advice helpful for the most part, and I have learned when it is necessary to disregard advice that wouldn’t be helpful for improving my writing (I received good advice on how to tell the difference).

I really want to conquer this procrastination!

Have any of you struggled with this?  What have you found to be helpful to getting past your procrastination?  Please leave comments.  They will be greatly appreciated.

Creativity in Troubled Times

I want to touch on a couple of ideas in this post.  This post was prompted by one of my followers, Pam, who left me some comments recently.  She commented on my last post about plot and structure and shared that she struggles with writing conflict because she doesn’t like to hurt her characters.  This is not something I have experienced, but I do understand it.  Although I do like my characters, I have never had a problem creating obstacles and conflict for them to deal with because I have not viewed them as real.  I see them as creations of my imagination and so I don’t struggle with giving them difficulties.  But, I do understand that it can be a difficult thing to do.  I suppose that it is extremely difficult for people, who have suffered in their own lives or witnessed the suffering of loved ones, to deliberately cause suffering for someone, even a story character, would be a difficult thing to do, and I thank you, Pam, for sharing this.  It is an obstacle that you will have to overcome in order to create good story plot lines and I pray for your success.

In addition to this, I had a difficult day recently, to the point where I felt empty, unable to create anything.  It frightened me and I was afraid that I would not be able to write any stories because I had no story ideas.  Then I prayed and I asked God to help me because He knows how much I have always dreamed of becoming a published author and even in my emptiness that dream was not gone.  A day later God blessed me with ideas for two stories, which I quickly wrote down.  

Writing is a difficult job and if something affects our level of creativity or our ability to create we can stare at a blank page or blank screen for hours without result and too many days like that can cause us to give up.  That is why it’s so important to read articles and stories in the subject and genres we want to write, and it’s important to make time to write everyday.  

For me the most important thing is knowing God and knowing that He loves me and He gave me the talent and ability to write, and He gave me the dream to write.  Therefore, I know that when I am struggling with writing, I can take that struggle and lay it at His feet and He will bless me, enable me and empower me so that I can write again.  I give thanks and praise to my God for the ideas He has given me and I continue to pray, daily, for his help and guidance on my writing journey.