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I just finished up my first draft of the long-gestating Bardsworth novel! What a great feeling it is to finish a manuscript. It’s been a while!

I had to do a little research, however, after a debate that Katie and I had over the word count. To me, word count doesn’t mean much. As long as the story is engaging and complete, I’m happy with it. I know people who get very caught up in the word count stuff, and that just seems needlessly stressful to me.

Now, I was planning on stopping the book much earlier than I did, but Katie made some good points, not just about word count, but about it being a more complete story if I added a few more of my story lines from the comic in there. And she was right – I have no problem admitting that. But once I reached a point where I was 100% certain that the book was done, she brought up the word count thing again. So I looked at a handful of sources online.

Wikipedia isn’t much help, as there are only a few sources cited. Novelist Jane Smiley (someone I’ve never heard of) apparently claims that a novel is typically between 100,000 and 175,000 words. Then they go on to cite National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) as saying 50,000 words is novel length. Then they point out that the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America specifies (for it’s Nebula Award category) that a novel is over 40,000 words.

That’s kind of all over the place, isn’t it?

Moving on, I found a random site called Novel Writing Help that points out that the standard advice one will receive is that novel word count should be between 80,000 and 100,000 words, but then claims that a novel is anything over 50,000. That sounds legit, but the validity of the claim is a little suspect, as the author of the website is hardly an academic, just a shmoe like myself giving out free advice.

Finally, I found a column written by a literary agent named Bree Ogden. Someone wrote in asking about word count, and her answer was that a novel should be between 70,000 and 115,000, with the “sweet spot” being about 90,000.

So let’s review the numbers, shall we? 40,000. 50,000. 90,000. Between 100,000 and 175,000. Between 70,000 and 115,000. It’s enough to give you a headache, isn’t it?  I mean, I guess we could take the average of all those numbers and use that as our figure, but that’s math.  I’m a writer; I don’t do math.

But ultimately, this is what I realized – most of the word count stuff relates exclusively to people who are trying to be published traditionally. But being a self-published writer grants me the freedom to do whatever the heck I want. I can use the numbers as a guideline (whenever I decide which numbers to actually use), but I’m not beholden to a “rule” of the word count. I became a self-published writer so I could break rules. If I haven’t stated it before, I have a problem with authority.  I’m certainly never going to write a 20,000 word story and call it a novel, but if it feels like a novel to me, it’s a novel.

So, how long is the Bardsworth novel? Well, there’s no point in saying anything at this point. It’s the first draft – I’ll be adding and cutting things all over the place. And that’s another reason that I can’t be worried about the word count at this point, because it’s going to change. But as long as the story holds up and everything is structurally sound, in the end I don’t think that people are going to worry about the word count when they’re paying something like $2.99 for a digital download of the novel.

At least, I hope they won’t. Otherwise I might have to find a new audience.

(Just kidding, I love you guys.)

I don’t get to buy many books these days.  One reason is financial.  While we’re doing okay at the moment, books for a long time were on the list of things that we could only buy once in a while.  Yes, I know getting ebooks is cheap, but if you’ve read my previous posts, you know my feelings on ebooks (even though I publish them).  Another reason is that we have such a large collection of books already and no space to put them.  Most of them are in storage at the moment, since we don’t have a permanent residence just yet, but still, the thought of adding to a collection that will take up an entire room is enough to make one leery of buying just one more.  Lastly, finding time to read is tough to do these days, so spending money on a book that I may or may not get around to reading within five years of buying it is a bit of a deterrent.

However, when you receive gift cards, you can’t say no.

I’ve had a gift card to Barnes & Noble since Christmas, but I didn’t get around to using it until today.  I had to find a time when I could go by myself because, frankly, I take forever to decide.  Especially when there’s a monetary limit.  And today was no exception; I actually have no idea how much time I was in the store for, but I know it was at least an hour.

I learned a sad truth, though, and in hindsight it was a pretty obvious one.  It was that bookstores are not as good as they used to be.  There were at least four occasions that I thought of something that I wanted to buy, but I was foiled at every turn when it turned out the store didn’t have those books.  I understand that the world of publishing has grown exponentially, and I’m happy to see so many more names on the shelves, but it makes it difficult to find older titles.  Things leave the shelves and don’t get restocked.  Plus, more and more room in the store is being dedicated to non-book stuff – the Starbucks cafe, the rows and rows of toys and games, the CD section, etc.  I remember the days when I could pop into a book store and find the exact book I was looking for.  Today, I couldn’t even find any books by Piers Anthony!  And he should have been taking up at least two whole shelves!  (Has he been banned from Barnes & Nobles stores or something?)

Anyway, observations aside, I finally decided on two books – Hard Magic by Larry Correia and Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay.  The former author was suggested to me by a friend, but in regards to another book, Monster Hunter International.  While I do plan on reading that one eventually, I had spotted Hard Magic years ago when I was still working on my Mystery, Murder, and Magic series and was curious about possible parallels since the overall themes – detectives and magic – were similar.  The latter purchase was simply because I really loved Dexter the TV series (specifically seasons one and two, which I understand were more closely tied to the books than later seasons).  Hopefully I’ll get to read them soon and post reviews, or at least my thoughts on them.

In the meantime, I guess it’ll be a while before I head back to the bookstore.  If that’s the case, I fear how much less I’ll be able to find in the wake of more to discover.

Well, I’ve made it to the big leagues. One of my books (that I know of) is being pirated. Arrrr.

About a month ago I was ego-surfing, because occasionally I find some interesting stuff. Unfortunately, this was one of those times. Buried quite a few pages into the search results, I came across a website (which I will not name here) that was offering a PDF copy of Fantasy Noir for download.

My first instinct was to contact the person in charge and ask them politely to remove it. Well, there was no contact information. So, seeing as though the file was being stored on Megaupload, I decided to contact them to see if they could remove the file from their server. Unfortunately, they required the actual file URL, which I couldn’t get because the offending site requires you to take one of several surveys in order to get to the file. I wasn’t prepared to give out my information and get possible adware on my laptop. So I did a WHOIS lookup to see if I could get the contact info from the domain registrar information. It was sketchy, almost certainly fake, but I used it to send a cease and desist letter anyway.

It is now seven days past the one month deadline that I gave to take down the file and it’s still up.

The next step is to email the registrar to see if this person has hosting through their service. If he does, there’s a chance that they can coerce him into taking it down. If he just has the domain name through them, then I’m stuck.

What I’ve been asking myself, though, is why do I care? I mean, beyond the principle of the thing, I electively choose not to use DRM on my ebooks. And I’ve always been a proponent of pushing free ebooks to gather interest in ebooks for purchase. And I think what it comes down to is that it’s one thing if I choose to offer something of mine for free and/or encourage people to spread it around, but it’s another to have that same something being given away behind my back.

In all honesty, I’m a hypocrite. I’ve downloaded music and applications, and even though I always have the intention of buying them outright when I have the money (and I have on many occasions), I’m still doing it. That doesn’t provide me much moral ground to stand on, or at the very least any ground that’s very solid. “Let he who who has not sinned cast the first stone” and all of that. So I guess all I can hope for at this point is that if someone downloads Fantasy Noir for free and likes it, that the person will either buy a legit copy of it or pay for one of my other books.

Otherwise, if you plan on reading any of my books, please pay for them. If for some reason you can’t afford a book you really want, or if you feel that the price point is unfair, contact me about it. I’m more than willing to listen to your arguments and possibly work something out. I’d rather you tell me to my face that you think $3.99 is highway robbery for what I’m offering than going behind my back and buying a “bootleg” version.

Then again, here’s a reality check for myself – how many people are actually downloading the illegally free version of Fantasy Noir? I’m gonna guess probably not enough to warrant this entire post. Wish I had thought of that before I typed it all out…

My First Creepypasta

I’ve had an on-and-off fascination with creepypasta for a few years.  I would frequent the /x/ board of 4chan specifically to read them.  Something about them has always, well, “creeped” me out more than a traditional horror story.  Maybe being on the internet gives it a more legitimate feel, as if there is a greater possibility of it being real.  I’ll be honest – I’ve actually gone to bed disturbed or scared after glutting myself on creepypastas at night.

So, being a writer, I naturally had to take a stab at it myself.  One of the “genres” of creepypasta that I like most is video games.  A few of my favorite stories are BEN Drowned, Polybius, and The Theater.  So I pulled a little bit of experience from something in my past (playing the very first Alone in the Dark computer game late at night, in the dark) and put together my very first creepypasta.  Enjoy!

Continue Reading »

My Moldy Collection

Even though I write primarily for electronic formats, I’m still somewhat of a purist when it comes to my own reading habits. I grew up with physical copies of books. There’s nothing I love more than being able to feel the texture of paper as I turn a page, to be able to study the illustration on the cover, to smell either new book smell or vintage book smell. Sure, they take up a lot of room in mass quantities and have disadvantages that their electronic counterparts don’t have. But I’ll take ‘em any day.

One of my bad habits (and I say that in a tongue-in-cheek way) is collecting old pulp science fiction novels. While fantasy is primarily the world I lived in while growing up, I always did have a spot for sci-fi in my heart, and that has grown over the years. Yes, I enjoy the big name stuff, the award-winning stuff, and the stuff that has been turned into movies. But more often, I enjoy the authors that not many people know about, the ones that thrived even in obscurity. Philip Jose Farmer is one of my favorites, and while he’s fairly well-known (especially for his Riverworld series), most sci-fi readers I talk to have never heard of him. Farmer’s stuff is sometimes way out there, sometimes downright absurd, but that’s what I love about the genre. When the sci-fi stuff gets too science oriented, I tend to lose interest. I’m more interested in the big picture themes, in the world that the characters live in, in how the characters behave.

I bring this up because I went a long time without adding to my collection, and this past weekend I picked up a couple of books and realized how much I love seeking them out and how much I love diving into a book I’ve never heard of by an author I’ve never heard of. My finds included a book of short stories, The Planet on the Table, by Kim Stanley Robinson. My limited research showed that he is a fairly well-known sci-fi author (famous for his Mars trilogy), and after reading the first story in the collection, I’m hungry for more. The other book was more a fantasy/alternate history book called Too Many Magicians by Randall Garrett. The book sounded intriguing, and my research on the author was entertaining (I won’t say anything – visit his Wikipedia page and read for yourself).

Anyway, one of my dreams is that once I have a house to live in and we have a library (because we will have a library in our house), I will have a section primarily dedicated to my old pulp sci-fi books, regardless of how we have our books organized. I don’t collect many things as a hobby, so this being my one big thing I’d like to see them all in one spot. And then someday my kids can look at me and go, “Dad, why do you have all those moldy pieces of paper hanging around?” And I’ll shrug and they’ll return to their digital media.

I thought it might be fun to let you guys in on the writing process I use for Bardsworth, my webcomic. I typically talk about writing in the sense of traditional fiction writing, but they way I write for a four-panel comic strip is a bit different than how I write my books. My webcomic is long form, though, which means that it follows a continuous story. So in that respect, it’s like a novel, and because of that, some of the techniques I use can be employed in traditional writing.

I guess the easiest way to do this is to break it down into steps.

1.) Daydreaming. The way my webcomic works is that there is an overall plot, and within that plot are individual storylines that may or may not link with the plot (if they don’t, they typically have some link to character development). Most of my storylines start off with a question or a premise. “What if someone found a doorway to another world in the back of their closet?” “What happened to this character to make him like that?” “Let’s see what happens if I team these two characters up together.” Once I have that initial core idea, I let it float around in my head for a while to build up smaller ideas around it.

2.) Planning. This is sort of an optional step for me. Sometimes I can roll with an idea and just start writing. Other times, like recently, I have to sit and list out all the possible directions that the story can take. Some I’ll use, some I’ll toss – it’s just a general brainstorming session.

3.) Writing. The meat of the process, which I’ll break up into sub-steps. When I first started Bardsworth, I would try to write within the context of the four panels. What I got from doing that was stilted, oftentimes forced, dialogue and jokes. Years later, I started using a combination of free writing and heavy-handed editing, and that’s what I do today.

a.) Free writing.  I’ll write as if I’m writing a movie or TV script, and I won’t worry about panel constrictions. If a conversation takes a long time, so be it. If jokes take longer set-up time, so be it. I don’t worry about it at that point, I just write.  Whatever I think of goes on the page.

b.) Editing.  When I’ve got a good chunk of the story written (or better yet, the whole thing), I go back and start breaking it up into smaller pieces that work within four panels. This often means I have to hack dialogue, remove actions, and add bits and pieces to make things work. If things still aren’t perfect, I don’t sweat it just yet. There’s still time to tweak things before the strip goes live.

4.) Sketching. I work digitally, but before I do anything on my computer, I do a rough draft with pencil and paper. This gives me an opportunity to see the story visually played out. It helps show whether or not the dialogue meshes with drawing, and if not, I can tweak one or the other.

5.) Drawing. This is the last chance I have to change dialogue. I’d say maybe ninety percent of the time I don’t have to change anything (except maybe a word or two). The other ten percent of the time is usually because the writing wasn’t polished enough following step 3. Very rarely have I ever had to publish a strip with dialogue that I wasn’t happy with. Most of the time I can rescue it at the last minute. But the bottom line is that the writing process doesn’t end when I pick up the pen (or stylus).

I think that it’s important that I shared this because many people think that doing a comic is drawing pretty pictures or scribbling funny gags. And sometimes it is. But for a comic like mine, and for many people I know, it’s mired deep in the writing process. The art, though important enough in its own right, is secondary.

bardsworth

David_Eddings_portrait

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Today is the birthday of one of one of my favorite authors, the late David Eddings. Born in 1931, he passed away in 2009 after a successful (in my opinion) life as writer of fantasy. He penned the famous series The Belgariad and its sequel series The Mallorean, as well as several other series and stand-alone books.

When I say I’m a fan of his, you have to understand that I don’t mean that I’ve read every single one of his books. As a reader, I’ve always wanted to read a diverse number of things, even when there are authors that I love. This means I tend to jump around from author to author and from series to series.  I think this has helped me in my own writing because I’ve been exposed to a number of styles and ideas. But I digress.

While I haven’t read everything Eddings put out, I have read The Belgariad numerous times. In fact, I would make it a point to read the entire series once a year in order to inspire me and put me in the right frame of mind for writing (haven’t in a while, though, because my copies have been packed up due to multiple moves from place to place). That series has been one of the single largest inspirations to me, most especially in terms of dialogue. Eddings’ dialogue was brilliant; it was fun, it was to the point, and it was simple. It made the characters seem real and made you care about them more. When I write dialogue for my own characters, I do my best to channel what I learned from Eddings.

In addition, I admired his world-building skills. He took real cultures and ways of life, and adapted them into fictional ones, giving his fantasy world a feeling of believability. I would have loved to have seen his notes on said fictional cultures, because I’ll guarantee that there were things that he never actually put into the stories.

I regret never contacting him to thank him for being an inspiration to me. In fact, I didn’t know he had passed away until a year or so after the fact. I was pretty devastated by that and ashamed that I hadn’t known. But he still lives on for me in his books and my own writing. I feel, a little sheepishly maybe, that Blood of the Mother was almost my “thank you” letter to him. The first draft of a letter, anyway. I have many more to write.


 

Other books worth checking out by David Eddings:

Polgara the Sorceress and Belgarath the Sorcerer – Two tie-in books that take a more in-depth look at two crucial characters to the world started in The Belgariad.

The Redemption of Althalus – a stand-alone novel centered around a jovial thief name Althalus who become entangled in affairs of the gods. (Note: The book echoes many aspects of The Belgariad, and has received mixed reviews to that end, but I’m a big fan of it).

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