Tag Archives: Word count

Row 80 4/2 Writing to a Deadline Part 6: “Writing from the Outline”

My goal is to get published.  At the moment, I am working on a novella for an Anthology.  This is where I am:

If you’re just hopping into the insanity that is my writing life, check out my previous “Writing to a Deadline” posts or this won’t make sense.

I’d love to tell you that this outline is absolutely useless, but I’d be lying.  I think it is actually helping me.

I keep referring back to it, which is good, because it is keeping me on track.

Since I have my story clearly outlined, I know all of the “little carrots” that need to be dropped early in the story so they are not “big surprise veggie bombs” later.  I even caught myself forgetting one, and I had the chance to re-write a conversation that included that little snippet before it was too late.

In the first three scenes, I set up my world (and clearly defined it since it is a Futuristic Dystopian).  Introduced all the characters.  Gave the conflict of the main character and all subordinate characters.

I looked at my word count— 2,685.

Hmmmm.  The submission guidelines say the story needs to be between 5,000 and 10,000 words.  Can I finish it in that parameter?

My outline has 26 items/scenes/”things that need to happen”.  Some are more in depth than others.  I very carefully looked over the list, and placed a word count next to each number.  This is how many words I think I will need to get each idea down.

300 here, 500 there, 1000 there, 2000  for the climax.  You get the idea.

When I totaled it all up it came to 9,685.  That was a bit of a surprise.  I thought it would be higher.  However, I am also brutally aware that I only have 315 words to spare.

Now, my challenge is to hold to those numbers.  If I can’t finish each item it the allotted word count, I need to subtract words from somewhere else.

The writer’s retreat is here.

Two full days of writing with a goal to finish.

Too lofty a goal?  We’ll see.

Writing to a Deadline Part 4: “I hate this stinking outline”

If you’re just hopping into the insanity that is my writing life, check out my previous “Writing to a Deadline” posts or this won’t make sense.

Outlining is not a waste of time

Outlining is not a waste of time

Outlining is not a waste of time

ARGHHHHHH I hate this stinking outline thing!

No!  I am not going to give up.  I have an idea, but I just want to start writing dern it!  I know where I am going.  The outline is in my head.  Just let me GO!

But it’s already in my head.

Don’t you just hate it when you argue with yourself?

My problem is I have precious little time to write.  Half an hour during the day while I’m at lunch.  That’s it.  I just can’t “get into a character’s head” at home (Dog, husband, three kids… you get the idea.)

Writing down this outline when I could be writing the story makes me want to throw things!

In my writer’s group last night we went off-topic, and someone mentioned that after they outlined, the story flew out of their fingers because they knew exactly where every scene was going.  They are probably right.  There is a “bridge” that I need and I am not sure how my character will get there. That is usually the fun part for me… finding out.  The problem is I don’t have the luxury of the time to figure that out while I am writing a scene that might end up getting deleted.  Deadline, remember?

What fun is that?


Going back to the outline, now.  I’ll let you know how I do.

“Can you hit a perfect pitch?” Writer’s Contest

Yay!  I love contests, especially when they mean MAJOR EXPOSURE.  Here’s a great one, sponsored by Brenda Drake.

Here’s the scoop (Copied from Brenda Drake’s website.)

Here’s how the contest is going down …

On January 15th post a two sentence pitch (no more than 35 words) along with the first 150 words (if it falls in the middle of a sentence, go to the end of that sentence) of your finished Young Adult or Middle Grade manuscript to your blogs. From January 15th-16th hop around each others’ blogs and critique or praise them. Revise your entries, if you want, and post them by 8:00am (EST) January 17th to the official entry post. DO NOT POST THEM TO THIS POST. If you want, you may skip the blogfest/critique portion of this contest and just enter the contest. I will have the official post up, along with details on how to format your entries, on January 15th so that you can start posting when you’re ready. To participate, sign up on the linky below. (Go to Brenda’s site to jump on the linky)

You want to know the prizes? The prize (or prizes) is a request to read more from agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette. I’m crossing my fingers for all of you. Have I told you how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE this agent? Okay, well, I can’t say it enough! I totally ❤ her!

What are you waiting for? Sign up now!

Here is my entry.  Please help me decide on Pitch #1 (My original pitch) or #2 (One I came up with tonight)

Please feel free to comment and/or make suggestions.

Genre: YA Science Fantasy
Word Count: 110,000

Pitch #1:

A common boy unknowingly imprinted with the dangerous powers of the Goddess, must find a way to change his fate and the fate of the galaxy, before a jealous prince manipulated by Darkness murders him.


A young boy, cursed with a power he cannot control, must save the Goddess before she is smothered by Darkness.  It would be easy, if he could only remember who he really is.

First 150 words:

“I’m not going to sit here locked in a closet all day.” Magellan pulled away from his mother, leaving his whimpering brothers and sisters clinging to her skirts.

“Magellan, come back here.”

“No. I wanna hear Dad’s speech.” He pressed his cheek against a large crack in the door and closed one eye.  Sconces lit the long stone hallway that lead to the auditorium. “I wish I could see something.”

“Get back mine scum!” A guard threw something against the door, slamming the wood against his face.

“Ouch,” Magellan rubbed his cheek. “Jerk.”

Footsteps clomped away, and his mother exhaled. “Magellan, your father said…”

“I know what he said.” Magellan furled his eyebrows.  “Right before they locked us in here.”  He flicked a bug from the damp stone wall beside him. “I’m not a baby anymore. I want to help.”

He ran his fingers across the locking plate, and jumped as flames flashed across the metal, spinning and swirling around it

Thanks for looking!

Lesson Twenty-Three from a Manuscript Red Line: Kindle Syndrome

Does your novel have Kindle Syndrome?

Would you be able to recognize it if it did?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

I read right over this comment at least five times.  I do not own a kindle, so I didn’t understand what the publisher was saying.  This past weekend, I messed around with my sister’s Kindle.  Now this makes sense.  Let me explain…

The publisher said:  “This is a very long section that takes up two kindle pages of material.  Break it up with action and reaction.”

I believe I’ve already blogged about the overall problem of info dumps that go on too long, but this time when I read this comment, the “Kindle” word jumped out at me.

It would be foolhardy for anyone to think that their novels are going to be read 100 % in printed form.  In this new era, it’s just not feasible.  As we all know, technology has finally taken over the publishing world.

When I beta-read novels, I sometimes blow up the pages and just look at them.  If it looks like a text-book, I know there is a problem.  People want white-space when they read recreationally.  A dense page seems like too much work, right?

Now think about the Kindle (or choose your e-reader)…  What does it look like?  Do you see a full page like in a book?  Unless you are reading on something large, the screen is much smaller than an actual page.  A Kindle reader may press the forward button 2-3 times to get through a printed page of material.  I checked the word count on the section that they were talking about, and it was 230 words.  That’s about one page in a standard book.  If you change the type font and make it larger, there would be even more clicks to your page.

Do you really want your reader to click forward 3-4 times and have them still skimming reading the same description?

This is what I am getting at… The importance of White Space

White space is when you can “see the paper” behind your words.  White space can be achieved by new paragraphs, but it is done most effectively with dialog sequences.  Open up a few novels.  You should be able to see what I mean.  Your novel should not look like a text-book.  If there is dialog, it will look more “interactive”

I know as a reader I like white space.  It makes me feel accomplished.  True, on a kindle you cannot feel yourself getting to the end of a novel.  You might not even know you are at the end until you are there, since there are no page numbers (at least on the one my sister showed me)—so feeling accomplished while reading one must be hard…  But because of this, your reader will be effected EVEN MORE by lack of white space, because it will be so much more dramatic on a kindle screen rather than on paper.

I know a lot of you might not care… but I thought this would be worth mentioning.  We are living in a new world.  We have to consider what your novel will look like on the new media.   One or two long dense paragraphs might be fine once in a while, but make sure your scenes are broken up not only for pacing, but to get some of that “all so important” white space.

Amendment:  Since writing this post, I was given a Kindle Fire by my wonderful husband, and I am now 75% through my first novel.  Now that I am in this “electronic world,” I have to admit that everything I said up above really does apply.  Some of the description in the novel I am reading go on for 5 or more kindle pages of dense text.  The prose is beautiful, and well written, but to be honest I always start skimming somewhere in the middle of the second kindle page, which is far sooner than I would have on paper.

Also, on the Kindle Fire there are no page numbers, but it does tell you “percentage read” so you do see yourself getting to the end.

For me though, it makes the long descriptions even more monotonous because I like to feel accomplished.  I try to read a certain percentage each night, and I don’t know how many pages I have to read to achieve another “percent” read.

Yeah, I’m a nut.  But I am sure I am not alone!  Have mercy on a nutty reader.  Avoid Kindle Syndrome.

Jennifer Eaton

Great Opportunity if your Manuscript is Finished… but it’s tomorrow! (Monday)

Robin Weeks tuned me in to this great contest.

“An Agent’s Inbox Contest”

Unfortunately, I will not be giving her any competition, although I’d love to take a shot at this.  For those of you lucky enough to be working tomorrow, (Monday) this might be tough (My company’s security won’t even let me access the internet on my own laptop.  Ugh.)  But for those of you who are free tomorrow…

If you have a completed, polished manuscript, you can post your query and first 250 words to this site just like you were submitting them to an agent… and guess what… YOU WILL BE.

Taylor Martindale of Full Circle Literary will be reviewing the queries and making comments on them.  It’s a great opportunity to get advice from a real agent on your query…  and BONUS — since she is a real agent, if your stuff is good, she can always ask you for a little more to read!

That’s almost enough to make me want to take a day off!

Good luck to all of you who are able to enter!

Jennifer Eaton

Row 80 Check in 11-13-2011

Here’s my update:

1.   Blog Posts:   Two regular blog posts completed (a Manuscript Red-line post, and a writer’s advice post from the Q&A session)

2.    Reverse-Nano goal:  My novel started at 119,479 words.  Now I am down to 114,713

3.    Inserted the new “Stuck in a Closet” beginning (Increased the word count Ugh.)

4.  Completely re-wrote my ending (again) It’s much more intense now, but yikes do I need someone to read it to make sure I’m not nuts.

5.  Finished a complete edit/read of the entire novel.  Eliminated about 11 unnecessary Points of View.

1.   Jury’s still out on cutting that scene with the King and Magellan.

2.  I didn’t cut the Matton meets the mercenary scenes.  This is about 2,500 words of the 4,500 I wanted to cut this week.  I’m going too, though… as much as I don’t want to.

1.  Do two blog posts on cutting Points of View (Gold Mine Manuscript tips)

2.  Re-write one of the dream sequences to richen the character of Darkness slightly

3.  Re-write the scene where Matt gets his memory back.  This is one of those huge-decision-things.  I will probably be reverting back to my original draft.  The current idea seems to be confusing, and too information-intense.  This will probably cut quite a few words, too.

3.  At least start the beta read I’ve been sitting on.  (I promise I will start it this week, J)

Happy ROWing!

Jennifer Eaton

Finish Your Story Already!

At a recent NJ Author’s talk on “Getting Published” (Click here to read my post from that night), I got a great piece of advice from best-selling author Jonathan  Maberry.

With all this NANO buzz going around, I am reading multiple blogs that say many of you are writing “really fast” just to get your word count in, and then going back and editing it so it sounds better, and then you plow forward again to make your word count (now even more stressed because you took up your writing time editing).  REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT.

Jon’s advice was not to re-write too soon.  He said to write your first draft all the way through. Once you are done, then you can go back and revise.  This is what he calls the “art of writing”.  He said that your first draft will concentrate on the substance… This is where the best part of the story comes out on the paper (or screen).

Don’t worry if it’s perfect… just get it all down and out of your head.  Once you have your idea all down in front of you, then you can concentrate on the “craft”.

Now is the time to add setting and character description if you missed  them the first draft.  Look at your punctuation, and watch for writing crutches and clichés.  Cut out scenes that don’t fit.  Re-write what’s just plain bad.  All this is part of the “craft” of writing.

So, if you’re NANOing, or just out there writing a great story at your own pace…  Don’t stress over it.  Enjoy the art of writing.  This is the best part for an author… having your vision materialize for others to read.

Worry about making it sound good later.  You will have plenty of time to edit when you’re all done.

Jennifer Eaton

Row 80 Check-in 11-06-11

I really don’t feel accomplished this week as far as writing goes.  There was just too much going on.  Soccer season is winding down, but Dog Training is starting, and my two youngest sons signed up for Wrestling…. There goes three hours on Tuesday, Three hours on Thursday, and an hour and a half on Wednesdays.  Saturdays are still shot with Soccer until Thanksgiving, and my oldest might be showing Chloe in a dog show in January, too, which means Show Training on top of basics.  Ugh.

I really want to finish HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT by the end of the year, but unless I take off from work to do it (which I might—I have the time) I’m not sure I will make it.

What I did get done, though, is decent… I just didn’t get to it all.

I went to the NJ Writers Q & A.  Check out my Blog post for Wednesday if you want to hear about it.  That was GREAT.  I was also pleased that a few of the authors stopped by my blog and posted. I also got a few personal emails from them.  Very nice.

I cut 1,687 words from my novel, and noted another 4,372 that I can cut – some inspired by my talks with the authors on Tuesday, and their emails afterwards.

For those of you who have done a beta-read… the scenes being cut are the two scenes in Harris’s mother’s POV (Mommy meltdowns).  Matt meeting the mercenary, and the whole cutting his hair scene (he will have short hair from the beginning, now) and Harris talking to Daniel Hyelven after he hurts the girl in the alley.  I am on page 300, so there are 100 pages to go in this sweep.  This will get me down to 113,000, but I might add words when I re-write a chapter that started with a conversation about Matt’s hair.  (That sounds really silly taken out of context.)

I did not start that beta read I have been sitting on (sorry again, “J”)

I did not exercise – unless you want to count Trick or Treating, which was an hour of walking

I did not keep to my blog schedule

I’m not sure if I am going to be able to keep posting ROW 80 twice a week.
It think it’s too much, and detracts from the point of my blog.  I don’t think  a Wednesday check-in is really all that helpful for me.  So… Sundays I will give my results, and my goals for the next week.  This way, I can get back on my twice a week blog schedule, plus a Sunday ROW80, and I won’t be under as much pressure.

1.    Two regular blog posts (a Manuscript Red-line post, and maybe a writer’s advice post from the Q&A session)

2.    Cut 4,372 words from my novel

3.    Insert the new “Stuck in a Closet” beginning (which I just remembered has more words than the current beginning.  UGH!)

4.    Decide whether or not to cut the scene where Magellan gets
tutored by the King.

Happy ROWing!

Jennifer Eaton

Lesson Twelve from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: How Are Your Characters Feeling Today?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

“Magellan walked back from the library slowly, feeling exhausted from studying all day.”

Sorry, Gellan.  You’re not allowed to “feel exhausted”.  I have totally failed you as a mother author.  (Don’t you feel like their parents sometimes?)  Anyway… .

According to this publisher, Feeling, Felt, and Feel are very telling words.  They are right up there with “look” for setting off the “no-no” meter.  Instead of using these words, we should be showing our readers how our characters feel instead.  Give us actions that show us that he’s tired without telling us that he is.

Errghhh. Okay…

“Magellan dragged his feet as he walked home from the library.  He could barely keep his eyes open after studying all day.”

Okay, they are forgiven.  Point taken.  The second one is better.  The word count does suffer a little in this example, but I could probably have done better if I gave it a little more thought. (They might even consider “barely keep his eyes open” as tell. too.  I could have probably done better there, as well.)

Another bad telly sentence that I would have been guilty of before seeing the Gold Mine Manuscript was something like:

“Magellan was exhausted.  He dragged his feet all the way home”
There is no reason to say “Magellan was exhausted” and SHOW that he is exhausted right afterwards.  Just delete that first part, and stick with the showing part and it will sound much better.

This tip, will definitely help make your manuscript stand out from the others.  I still have to stop myself from doing this.  For some reason, I naturally “tell” First, and then I show.  I don’t know why.  I’m starting to catch myself, but sometimes it’s tough.

Hope this one helps.

If you don’t get it, please drop me a line, and I will discuss in more depth. I think this is a really good point that a lot of people seem to be stumbling with (me included).  I saw it a lot critiquing a recent 250 word contest.  Set yourself apart by trying to avoid it.

Jennifer Eaton

250 Word Entry Submitted!

Thanks to everyone who read and commented on my first 250 words. I just submitted, with 15 minutes to spare (my time — I could have taken two more hours with the time-zone thing)

The great thing about these contests is not the prizes, or winning or losing. It’s getting out there and reading other people’s work. It’s seeing what ELSE is in the pipeline.

Also, if you are lucky, you get people to read and critique your work who’ve never seen it before. That’s worth more than any prize they could give me.

A few people said they were confused, and didn’t get the flame reflection. Jenny didn’t even blink, because she’s read my novel like five times now. She just wanted me to expand.

This told me I needed to get a little more into that flame scene, because readers who don’t know what the flame represents need a little more of a push to “get” that there is something supernatural going on here. The trick is, to do that, and still get Magellan out the door within 250 words. In the original draft, I had him actually out the door, down the hall and stepping into the auditorium at 250. Now he is just stepping out the door.

The scene is richer though, and I think I’ve filled in the blanks that I needed to fill in. For me, that was the goal of the contest. It pushed me to really work on that ever so important first page, and I also got some brand new critiques.

I’ve already won.