And the 75,000th word is…

…”hand.”

In my not-so-spare time, I have been working on a novel.

I’ve been writing for 1-to-2 hours per night for months, after a nearly year-long hiatus on the project while the duties of my day job spun my life into a 24/7 tech support spiral. I originally stopped working on it in May of 2008. I picked it up again almost exactly a year later after finding a new job that required me to spend less of my spare time working.

I actually began writing this novel while on vacation at Myrtle Beach in the early summer of 2004. At first it was a mere 1,500 word introduction to an idea without a direction. Really, I didn’t even have any characters at that point. I started with a simple description of a scene in my head. From there, the story just kind of grew on its own.

Tonight, that simple scene has produced words that form sentences, sentences that form paragraphs, paragraphs that form pages, and pages that form chapters, and chapters that form…well, 75,000 words. It’s a magic number in the world of novel writing. Everywhere you look online, you’ll see that 75,000 words is often the delimiter that defines the difference between a novella and a novel. Once you hit the 75,000 mark, you are writing a full-on novel.

To put it in perspective, what I have written so far is almost 2,000 fewer words than Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

That said, I am not done. I have begun the concluding arc in this tale, but there is much more left to do. One thing I can say at this point, though, is that I now have an expectation of approximately how long the first draft manuscript will be when completed.

And, yes, the 75,000th word in my novel really is the word “hand.”

Are Self-Publishers Saps?

Bill Ruesch thinks not.

Today’s publishing reality is that approximately 4% of manuscripts submitted to publishers ever become books. If you have written a book you need to face the truth. The odds of getting your book published through traditional methods are slim to none.

Recently a self-publishing author of my acquaintance inked a deal with a major publishing company for some very large bucks, maybe the largest in history for a new author. How did he do it? I’ll tell you.

“Writer’s Digest” Devotes Issue to Self-Publishing

The March/April issue of Writer’s Digest contains an excellent series of articles under the featured header “Everything You Need to Know About Self-Publishing.” Everyone’s writing books these days, so the world of self-publishing has suddenly become a busier and more interesting place.

Writer’s Digest explores the pros and cons of self-publishing, as well as advice on using professional editing and design services to give your book a marketing edge.

Two Peas Gets Media Mentions

Two Peas Publishing was profiled in the Lifestyles section of the Columbia, Tenn. Daily Herald recently. We were on Page 5C of the Sunday, March 15, 2009 issue. Unfortunately, the article is not on the newspaper’s website. You can see a scan of it on Two Peas’ Facebook page.

Two Peas is also mentioned in the April issue of Her Nashville magazine. Check us out on the “Her Favorites” page.

Feeding Time

One of the most important steps in publishing is feedback, whether it’s from an editor or another trusted “expert” type source, which means it’s also important for an author to be able to graciously accept constructive criticism.

Sometimes that’s really difficult.

It’s natural for a writer to develop an emotional attachment to a creative work, and it’s hard to listen to anyone criticize your baby.

Still, in the end, the result is a better story. And that’s why I’m happy I have an honest person reading my own projects.

Seeing our work through the eyes of others is how we grow.

A Life of Their Own

If you’ve spent any time at all exploring the technique of creative writing, you’ve no doubt heard some writers say that they start out with a certain story in mind, and then, as characters are invented and fleshed out, the piece takes on a life of its own. The story that the author started out writing, in turn, potentially comes out as a different tale altogether.

There are others who say the “characters developing a life of their own” is foolishness, and that a “good writer” develops an outline for a piece long before sitting down at the keyboard to pound out the details.

I am not here to say who is right.

I will say, though, that I’m not very good at outlining a story before the story has unfolded in my word processor. Rather, I tend to write segments of a story, and then outline those segments on paper or index card. It’s mainly a process I use to keep up with what has happened to who so far (as well as the detail of my characters themselves). In short, I use outlines more for preventing inconsistencies than as a guide for developing my tale.

Is it the “right” way to write creatively?

Is there a right way?

I prefer to think there isn’t.

Teach Your Children Well

When I was a kid I went through a variety of creative “phases.”

I wrote short stories. I wrote poetry (yes, poetry, even before I was an angsty teen) and songs. I even drew a comic strip (“Bugland Bugs,” which was a simple black-and-white featuring a variety of bugs with strong personalities). 

Now, most people look at that type of imagination and creativity in childhood and simply see a kid at play, or a phase that the child will outgrow as he enters his teens and then on into adulthood. I daresay most people outside of my parents saw my written work, my comics, and my poetry as simple attempts to relieve my own childhood boredom and nothing more.

To me, though, those creations were important work. And I worked tirelessly on perfecting the funny in my comics, as well as the depth of the characters and their images on the page. On my stories and poetry, I wrote and wrote and wrote until my right wrist and my fingers on that hand ached so much I could write no more.

I was fortunate enough to have one adult besides my parents in my life at the time who encouraged such pasttimes, and who actually made an effort to help me see some fruits of my labor. One of my Fourth and Fifth Grade teachers actually submitted some of my work (written and comic) to the school newspaper, whereupon I received my first byline/credit ever in a mass-distributed work.

I won’t say those works won me any awards or accolades or friends. They didn’t. But they were a significant boost to my self-esteem and an encouragement to keep up my hard work.

The greatest encouragement I ever received, though, came not from my family, nor my friends, nor my teachers, nor any other individual with whom I can associate a face in my memory.

One day, out of the blue, I decided to submit “Bugland Bugs” to DC Comics for possible publication as… what? I didn’t really know. I was too young to commit to a complete monthly comic book, and I had no idea whether DC syndicated comic strips in newspapers. All I knew was that they published Superman, my personal comic book hero, and I thought that might make them a great place to submit my own comic.

I put my cover letter and a sample of my work in an envelope and shipped it off to the address printed in the front of a recent issue of Superman I had lying around. I was hopeful, but not really expecting a reply.
 Although I was an optimistic child, I knew full well that the world of comic book publishing was run by adults, and that kids weren’t typically hired on for anything beyond their own Lemonade stands or selling mail-order greeting cards and Grit.

I also submitted my work to EC Comics (then-owner of Mad Magazine) and Marvel, just to hedge my bets.

Lo and behold, a few weeks later I received in the mail what would become my very, very first (of many) rejection letter… from an editor at DC Comics.

I remember holding the envelope in my hands, gawking at the big DC logo on the front of it, and turning it over and over, both excited and trepiditious of its contents.

Finally, I ripped it open. On the back of the letter was an image of all my favorite DC characters, standing on each other’s shoulders from bottom of the page to top (Superman was at the very bottom, of course, supporting them all). On the front was a neatly typed letter from a DC editor whose name I do not remember, although I do remember most of his words: “Your characters aren’t yet developed enough for publication at DC,” he wrote. “But it’s a good start. Keep working at it.”

That letter made my day.

Sure, I got rejected, but my work had been noticed by someone at a powerhouse publication like DC Comics (and I was only about 10 years old). And that editor, whoever he was, was not required by any law or sense of decency to bother writing back to me. He could’ve just tossed “some kid’s” work in the trash and forgotten it, but he didn’t.

I was honored to be officially rejected by DC Comics, and I still am to this day.

I wish I had kept that letter, though. I do not know what happened to it.