All posts by Regina Bethory

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores, sushi restaurants, and small town cafes.

Camp NaNoWriMo April 2017 Pt. 1

9:00 AM

I had forgotten about Camp NaNoWriMo. I had no intention of participating. In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever finished a camp session. I’ve always done the traditional November NaNo but even then, I haven’t always finished strong. So why am I participating this time around? That’s a good question.

As I was reminded of the events two days prior to its starting, I received a sudden rush of excitement and thought, “This is exactly what I need!” As luck would have it, this year’s camp starts on a Saturday, I happen to not be working overtime, and my better half has Navy duty. Therefore, I have a free weekend all to myself. With an open schedule and a project that has stalled twice, I felt that this was exactly what I needed to get the gears going again.

Nano is always an adventure.

I crawled into bed last night with the intention of waking up at midnight, driving out to the local 24-hour Wawa, buying some Vienna roast coffee, and coming back home to bleed and sweat and cry over the keyboard for hours and hours on end. In the old days of NaNo, that would’ve happened. I used to stay up until midnight, waiting for the clock to strike twelve. Or I’d wake up at midnight after a short nap, and feverishly start typing at the keyboard.

However, at the age of 30, and with a full-time job that normally has me up at 5 AM, staying up until midnight is not the easiest thing to do. After a long week at work, it was better to sleep. By “sleeping in” I mean staying in bed until 6 AM. I did allow myself to relax and rolled out of bed closer to 7 AM.

Did I head straight to the computer?

No.

I spent the first two hours doing things that I should’ve done yesterday. I wiped down the kitchen counters, cleaned off the kitchen table, put laundry away, and took out the trash. Then I proceeded to Wawa and got my Vienna roast coffee. Driving back home, I sat in front of the monitor and contemplated what to do next.

The obvious answer would be to write.

But that’s easier said than done. I wasn’t sure whether I should work on my blog, or work on my book. I wasn’t sure whether or not I should include the word count for my blog posts during this month as part of my 50,000 words. The only thing I was sure about was that I needed a new headset because the earpieces on mine are disintegrating. Gross.

I wanted to go into this one head first. Something I haven’t done a long time… I planned to update my Twitter and Facebook accounts regularly as I added words to my story.

My Project of Choice…?

The World Beneath.

The World Beneath is a story that has stalled twice. Completely starting over for the third time wasn’t as crushing as predicted. The thing is, I didn’t like my main character. I didn’t care about him. I wasn’t invested in him. This can be a HUGE block to an author. If you’re not interested in the story, how can you expect readers to be?

Some previous scenes seemed wonderful and perfect. Others seemed too rushed and out of place. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s important to never publish something that you’re not happy with as a writer or an artist. Without further ado, I started my camp journey in a very non-camp atmosphere. My story, The World Beneath, takes place in a cold, northern town and starts out with the memory of a hockey game.

12:00 Noon

In the past three hours, I have reached over 2200 words. I could’ve written a lot more since I’m dictating with DragonNaturally Speaking. Some people say that’s cheating, but anything that gets words on the page counts, in my opinion. Within these last three hours, I’ve proved that the busier you are the more productive you can be- not to be confused with multitasking. Multitasking is counter-productive. Instead, I focused on one task at a time. I focused on my writing. Then, I took a break. I did other things that needed to be done around the house.

During those 2200 words, I cleaned out my car. I checked the gauge on the AC refrigerant, I changed the cabin air filter and I refilled the windshield wiper fluid. All in all, it’s been a productive day and I’m only halfway through!

During this next three-hour session, I’d like to more than double my word count. But taking breaks is important.

Writers (or at least those of us who participate in NaNo) need to take breaks. If we were to sit down at the computer all day for 10+ hours trying to churn out a novel, we’d be killing ourselves. It’s not healthy.

It’s good for the body to get up every once in a while, stretch, walk around. Doing something different is good for the mind. More importantly, it’s good for your writing. It helps to come back with a fresh perspective. Even if it’s a matter of minutes. If you focus wholly on one new task your mind leaves your story. Don’t be afraid to step away and take care of something else.

3:00 PM

I’m proud to say that I have reached over 7000 words (7890). But just like before, I told myself I wouldn’t sit in front of the computer for all three hours. I actually took a shower (for those of you who are familiar with NaNoWriMo, you know bathing is usually a feat to accomplish every day…along with eating.) Don’t worry. I fed myself.

When I sat down yesterday to make a schedule of writing goals based on my calendar for the month, I told myself that I would write 20,000 words today. At first, I didn’t think I could do it. Now I’m starting to second-guess myself. Maybe it wasn’t such an unrealistic goal? At this point in time, I’ll be happy if I reach 10,000 tonight. That means that one-fifth of the monthly goal will be met and I would’ve proved to myself that I can write 10,000 words in a day.

For those of you who don’t write, 10,000 words a day is a lot.

Stephen King is quoted as saying that he writes 2,000 words a day. Granted, I’ve been cheating a little. Like I said earlier, I’m using dictation. Some writers are firmly against it. They say it isn’t real writing. However, I think it’s important to grow with technology. I bet when typewriters first came out, there were people against it. Hell, I still know writers who prefer handwriting. I don’t get it. You have to get it on a computer if you want to publish it. To each his own.

Dictation takes practice. Now that I’m familiar with it, I can see it is a very useful tool for writing rough drafts especially. There are ways to use it for editing but I prefer to take my time and go through things line by line for that. Dictation gets words on the page much faster. Normally, I type about 1500 to 2000 words an hour. With dictation, I can type closer to 5000 words an hour. That more than doubles my productivity.

Using dictation has allowed me to get away from the desk. It also helps with my oral communication. I’m decent with written communication but sometimes I still stutter and stammer or trip over my words, slur my words, run them together, or talk too fast. Using dictation is a great way to clear up your speech. If you don’t speak clearly, the computer will type incorrectly.

As the evening ticks by, I know that days like today will be rare. Even with dictation, I know that days with no plans are rarities anymore. This could be the only day like this, this month. I have no clue. I’m trying to take full advantage of it but at the same time, I’m trying to prepare a reasonable schedule for the month ahead. As long as you get ahead on the slow days, you won’t have to write so much on the busier ones. That is the key to being successful during NaNo. Get ahead at the start.

I want to keep trucking along and try to hit 10,000 words by 6 PM and 15,000 words by 9 PM. See you then!

6:00 PM

Let’s see. I have vacuumed, cleaned the bathroom, and reached over 10,000 words (10,311). I think it’s safe to say that if I keep going I will reach 15,000 words by 9 PM. But then comes the question, should I quit while I’m ahead? Or should I keep on rolling while it’s flowing?

When I logged into my Camp NaNoWriMo account and went to the “My Projects” page, I noticed that this is the thirteenth camp that I’ve signed up for. Only six of those previous camps did I even have a project in mind. Of those six, only two of them I wrote words for. But out of all thirteen, I never finished one with 50,000 words or more. That’s a depressing success rate.

I am bound and determined not to let that happen anymore.

NaNoWriMo is such a great resource for writers. Granted, you should be writing every day but life gets hectic. I understand that. I tell myself every NaNo, “if I can stick with this and write a novel or two every camp, I would have four to eight rough drafts a year that I could edit in between NaNo months.”

For the first time in a long time, NaNo is fun. Granted, it’s only day one but I’m having fun dictating my novel. I’m having fun writing. I don’t know where the switch happened. For years, it felt like a drag. My passion had turned into a chore.

This has been one of the most productive days I have ever had in the history of my writing life. I’ve never written this much in a day. Last November, I verified my project’s word count on the last day instead of updating through the month. That made it look like I had written 80,000 words in one day but I hadn’t. I’ll never wait that long to update my word count again. There is something very satisfying about seeing that status bar go up when you update your word count.

9:00 PM

I have 122 unread Camp NaNoWriMo emails dating back to 2014. That’s nine pages of camp email! And that doesn’t include the 70 unread emails I have on my regular NaNo account. I would hate to delete them because they are usually filled with great advice that I may need it in the days to come. Not every day is a good writing day. Not every day is like today.

Once I passed the 10,000-word threshold, I stopped. I figured I’d spend the rest of the evening relaxing and preparing for tomorrow’s writing day.

One week from today, I will post another blog in a similar format to this one since the weekends will be my most productive days.

Happy Camping!

I’m Writing a Novella, Damn It!

I’ve had it with people telling me to write a novel instead of a novella. Why do I put up with writing advice from people who aren’t writers?

I’ve spent my writing career trying to stretch my stories into something that they’re not… Going against my own rule. Often, I tell others, “A story is a story. You shouldn’t worry about length. If it’s meant to be a short story, it will be. If it’s meant to be a novel, it will be. Don’t stretch it into something it’s not, and don’t cut it short when there needs to be more.”

But here I’ve been, going against my own mantra, trying to stretch my own novellas into full-length novels. A lot of the guys I know at work (who don’t even read books, mind you, let alone write them), constantly ask me, “Why don’t you just add ten thousand words?” As if it’s the easiest thing in the world…

OR

“Just add stuff. You’re a writer. Make something up! It’s what you do, isn’t it? Make stuff up?” Easier said than done. Sure, I may have a myriad of ideas but that doesn’t mean that any of them belong together. “Why can’t you just make it longer? Why?

OR

And this is my personal favorite…drum roll, please. “What is a novella?” As if that question doesn’t get old…

What is a novella!? Are you kidding me? Have you not graduated high school English? A novella… you know, like those books you read in school…  The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, Animal Farm by George Orwell, The Time Machine by HG Wells, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (F@#$!ng hate that book), Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury… any of these ring a f@#$!ng bell? All of them are novellas! I don’t actually say this to their faces but I’m thinking it in my head while I’m explaining to them what a novella is.

The other night, I took a good hard look at the projects I have in the works. Most of them would make good novellas and with the new platform of being able to self-publish, novellas are making a comeback.


Check out my first novella, Laszlo: The Chronicles of Noelle 1. Don’t have a Kindle and don’t want the paperback version? No sweat! It’s also available on other digital platforms such as the Barnes and Noble Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Scribd and more.


The short novel faded out of popularity for a while. It wasn’t that readers didn’t like them but rather, publishers didn’t like them. They cost too much to make and didn’t earn a high profit. Publishers would much rather print a book and charge $20 than print a novella and only charge $10. A novella makes a profit but it didn’t make as much profit so Publishers stopped taking them. However, now CreateSpace, Amazon and other online publishers run the literary world.

Is there a market out there for novellas? I have no idea. The internet tells me there is, so I’m inclined to believe it is so (but please don’t believe everything you read on the internet!).

I’m writing novellas because it’s what I want to write.

In the hectic 21st century, a lot of people don’t have time to read the big doorstop books. Even I, who am grown fond of reading, don’t like those big ass books. I don’t have time to read a novel that’s going to take me 5 months to get through. And I’m a fast reader. I want something that I can get through in a month or less. Sometimes I read a book and it only takes a day. Sometimes I read a book and it takes two weeks. That’s my kind of pace.

So that’s it. No more negotiating. No more arguing with myself or my friends and co-workers, who know nothing about writing. I’m going to write novellas. I’m going to write a ton of them. And I’m going to be happy about it. One day, when the world gets around to it and realizes that the novella is back, I will have published 20 of them. People will say, “Oh my gosh! Where the hell did this chick come from? She’s got a ton of novellas! And she was publishing them back when it was uncool.”

If I come across a story that wants to be a novel, fine. I have a few that are going to be a series, so in the end, when the series is complete, I may combine them all into one large door-stopping tome. This way the nitpicky readers who need a book that takes five years to read can have it their way.

I wrote this blog post because I realized that this is one of my blocks. This is one of those (or several of those) voices in my head that shout and jeer along with my inner editor (the bastard!) and tell me, “You can’t do this writing thing!” I would say that all writers have that voice but really, all human beings have that voice. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying and for some reason ashamed to admit it.

At first, I thought it was the people I worked around or the area I lived in but as it turns out, there are writers across the globe who receive that kind of unhelpful advice from non-writers. It’s advice that wasn’t even asked for. Even if you’re not artsy in the slightest, we’ve all received that unsolicited advice.

Keep in mind that while it’s important to have a readership and an audience, there is one person you have to write for above all others- one person you truly need to please to find peace- and that person is yourself. If you have no passion for what you’re writing, or you’ve lost the passion, take a step back and a good look at why. For me, this was it. Writing had gone from fun and play to grueling, unsatisfying work. Don’t get me wrong, writing IS hard work! But I had reached a point where I was forcing my projects down holes they weren’t meant to go. Enforcement caused me to lose passion and I had to take a step back.

Think a novella might be right up your alley but not sure where to get started?

There are plenty of books out there on how to structure novels or how to pace a short story but not too many focus on the novella format. However, much like a short story, you CAN write a novella in one day. Yes, I said it. It bears repeating. It is possible to write a novella in as little as a day. Granted, it may take more time to edit. If you’d like guidance, I highly recommend Andrew Mayne’s book How to Write a Novella in 24 Hours: And other questionable & possibly insane advice on creativity for writers. I find that reading about writing and hearing another author’s advice to be uplifting, motivational and inspiring. I hope that you will as well! Otherwise, why are you reading this post?

Lastly, if you enjoy writing, if you have a passion for your story, it makes the craft easier. Don’t let others tell you what your story should or should not be. You, the writer, know best. It may sound contradictory to now add that one should always be open to growth and constructive criticism. Always remember, writing is a craft that no one masters. Language is ever-evolving. Never stop learning.

Happy Writing!

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How to Price Your Fiction E-book

Let’s talk about this ongoing game of e-book pricing. It can be tricky. Whether you’re new to the scene or you’ve been publishing for a while, pricing your book is not easy especially when you’re a self-published author. If people have never heard of you, chances are they’re not going to spend $15 on work they’re not sure they’re going to like. However, making your book free or setting it at a very low price undermines your work. Honestly, as a reader, when I see something for $0.99 or for free, I think, “Well this person has no faith in their writing and it’s probably of poor quality.”

This may not always be the case. Some people set a book’s price for free to get reviews. Some make their books cheap as part of an Amazon Promotional Deal like a Free Book Promo or the Amazon Kindle Countdown Deal.

If you are self-published and you haven’t found a good price point yet I suggest mixing it up. Keep length in mind. I’m not going to sell a short story for $5. I tend to keep my short stories at $0.99. This way if someone wants to sample my work, all they have to do is pay a dollar. If it isn’t for them or they think my writing sucks then they won’t be terribly upset over spending $0.99.

I also keep my short stories enrolled in the exclusive Amazon Kindle program called KDP Select. This is because with short stories that only make $0.35 per sale at a $0.99 markup aren’t going to bring in major money so I don’t see the value of putting them on other platforms. I’m still learning and scouting the field myself in this ever-changing economy. A few years from now, I may decide else wise.


A Word on Exclusivity

As far as exclusivity goes, I think it’s important to not put all of your eggs in one basket. If you only sell your books through Amazon Kindle and suddenly the shit hits the fan with Amazon, then where does that leave you? For my longer works (novellas and novels)- I make them available through other venues.

Check out my first novella, Laszlo: The Chronicles of Noelle 1 on iBooks, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Scribd, Kobo and more!

My debut novel, In Articulo Mortis (Mortis Volume 1), will be available in 2019 across all platforms!


You will find tons of blogs and forums and articles online with other authors giving you suggestions on how to price your book. Keep in mind that just like this post, they are merely suggestions. Keep an open mind, try new things and mess around with the prices to see what works best for you. If you’re self-published, you have the freedom to change the price at will. I recommend giving your price points at least six months of sales before you change them.

My Pricing Guidelines
Short Stories

My short stories range from 2,500-10,000 words. Because they are so small, I always set the price point at $0.99. In my opinion, making them free is insulting. While they may be small stories, they still took time and effort to create. You’ll come across many people who are only interested in your work when they can get it for free. Those are called shitty people. Some of them are likely to rub the “starving artist” stereotype in your face. To them, a writer is either a millionaire who hits it big or someone who pinches pennies and struggles. Heaven forbid there be a realistic middle ground.

Novellas

You’d be surprised at the number of people who don’t know what a novella is. Mine range from 15,000-40,000 words. I keep the price point for these at $2.99-$3.99. This is the lowest price point at which you can receive a 70% royalty on Amazon. I also don’t keep these exclusive to Amazon. My novellas are additionally published through Smashwords and CreateSpace Distributors. This way they are available to other markets across the world. Amazon is only popular in certain countries like America and Canada. Being exclusive to Amazon can limit your audience. Keep that in mind.

Some of you may think, “$2.99! Gosh, that seems really low.” I’m still a very new author as I’ve only been publishing for two years.

Novels

For novels, I can’t see myself going over $4.99, at least not for the digital versions. I’d suggest keeping novels under $5 when first starting. People don’t know you and they’re not going to spend $20 if they don’t know who you are and if they’re going to like you. With all of the competition out there, it’s important to keep your price reasonable but don’t underestimate your worth.


Another Note on Free Stuff

So many people in this day and age expect something for free.

Writing is a job.

If you want to make money off of it, you’re going to have to get used to asking people to pay for your product. It’s a common annoyance amongst artists of all types when people ask if they can have their work for free. The same thing goes for painters and musicians. Art requires dedication, patience, time and, believe it or not, skill.

Creative writing is not easy- if it were, everyone would do it. While it may seem like everyone is, everyone’s not. I know a lot of people online who are writers but I don’t know hardly anyone in real life who is a writer. Maybe two people off of the top of my head. You know why this is? Because it’s not easy.

Some people fall into this “get rich quick” fantasy but that’s not the writer’s life. Most experienced writers will tell you that writing is a long, solitary road. Yes, you can hit it right. Yes, you can make a living from it. Please don’t mistake this post as some sort of effort to discourage you from writing. If you feel like you have something to deliver, please deliver it. Don’t let anyone stop you. But at the same time, don’t let anyone undermine your work. Writing is hard.

In short, play around with your prices. Be fair, but don’t be unfair to yourself. You worked hard on this. You probably paid for someone to make the cover art and edit your work and so if anything charge at least $0.99. Good luck to all of you out there! I wish you all the best. Happy writing.

Photo Art: © Alain Lacroix | Dreamstime.com

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9 Ways to Increase Productivity as a Writer

If you know me at all, I’m always looking for ways to be more productive. When I have down time at work, I’m running through my list of things to do in my head and determining the most efficient way to get them done. And I love lists! Here are some of the things I do to stay on target and up to par. Do I stick to them like a religion? No. I’m always trying new things but I do hope to one day become a creature of habit. A lean, mean to-do list knocking out machine! So without much further ado, here are my top 9 ways (sorry I don’t have a top 10…deal with it) to increase productivity and stay productive!

1. Have a Plan

In general, having a mode of attack is a good idea. Have a plan. Be organized and take notes. It is so important to know what you’re doing before you start doing it. I get it. Sometimes it’s nice to just get in the car and drive wherever the road takes you but nine times out of ten, you’ve got a destination in mind or a route planned.

A lot of us are pantsers and if you’re like me you’re kind of in between a pantser and a plotter. But when I sit down to write I always have an idea in mind as to what I’m going to write about. This makes my writing so much easier and less painful. On days when I have no plan and I just sit in front of the computer staring at an empty space (or an empty MS Word document) it’s very heartbreaking.

It’s discouraging. It’s depressing. I think that’s part of what gets a lot of writers down. I’ve read that the key to being prolific and producing more in a smaller amount of time, you’re going to need to have some idea- some game plan- laid out. I’m still working on the prolific part myself, don’t worry! We’ll get there one day.

You don’t have to know all the details but it definitely helps.

2. Take Breaks

This may sound counterproductive but it’s true. Take breaks. Sitting for 8 hours in front of a computer without any breaks is like suicide. It can put a strain on your eyes (think of the amount of time the average human being spends looking at a screen every day in 2017), and it’s not ergonomically smart. Use the bathroom, get a snack, get fresh air, stretch… do anything just don’t start playing a video game because then a 10-minute break will turn into the rest of the day and you won’t get any work done.

3. Write by Timer

Simple. Set a timer. This really helps for me. There are many different ways in which you can implement this one.

There’s a program called Write or Die where you set a timer and a punishment. Yes, you read that correctly. The punishment maybe an annoying sound or your words may get deleted if you stop writing. It’s actually pretty cool. I highly recommend Write or Die (know known as Write or Die 2). It’s free and you can also use “reward” mode or “stimulus” mode now, instead of setting punishments. There is a desktop version available for $20. You can find it here.

There are also sites like Write Monkey or Written? Kitten!

Written? Kitten! will show you a picture of a kitten when you reach your word goal and Write Monkey takes away all distractions so all you have is a screen to write on.

Lastly, there’s the Pomodoro method. This is one of my personal favorites. It’s called “Pomodoro” because the man who came up with this method had a kitchen timer that was in the shape of a tomato and Pomodoro means “tomato” in Italian. The man would set the timer for 20 minutes and do whatever he had to do. Then you can set the timer for ten minutes and take a break. Once the buzzer goes off again you know it’s time to get back to work for another 15 or 20 minutes. This is especially useful is you’re participating in the NaNo Word Sprints during November, April or July. It’s a great way to boost your word count during the write-a-thons.

4. Get Some Sleep

It’s very important if you want to be in your best mental and creative state, to get a good night’s sleep. Don’t deprive yourself of your health just to get your book done. Yes, there will be sacrifices. You may have to give up a social life but don’t sacrifice your health.

5. Exercise

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. If I’m exercising, I can’t be writing. How is that productive? But it’s true. Exercise is a form of meditation. It can help clear your mind and get all of that excess and mental clutter out of the way. Have you ever worked out and found that an issue you were thinking about all day long suddenly became clear- a problem suddenly had a solution and everything seemed easy? That’s what exercise and meditation does and I highly recommend it.

6. Get Rid of Distractions

I wrote a whole post on this and I’ll provide a link to it here. Don’t set yourself up for failure by creating a workspace that has a ton of distractions. Set yourself up for success by limiting the things that can take up your time when you’re supposed to be writing. Point in fact, this is why I became a minimalist. I was spending valuable writing time cleaning and organizing. When I simply owned less stuff, I had more time and less distractions. Win.

Check out my blog post on Staying Focused and Eliminating Distractions.

7. Tell Other People

Tell other people. Now if you’re anything like me, you hate talking about your writing. I don’t like talking about whether I think it’s good or not. I don’t know why. I love my writing. I love my stories and characters but I hate talking about it. My man and I have had heated discussions and yes, even fights over my writing. However, he holds me highly accountable and promises me things like trips to London…

Also, sharing on social media that I’m writing a novel or editing a novel or writing a short story creates accountability. Depending on how many friends or followers you have, that many people are going to hold you accountable.

8. Get Up Early

I know, I know. I just told you to exercise and now I’m telling you to wake up earlier…after I told you to get sleep which means going to bed sooner. Did I mention that writing requires sacrifice? I’m not a morning person either. But I will say that lately I have found myself waking up earlier and earlier, inspired to get to work and be productive.

They say that there is a huge difference in the mental states of a rich person and a poor person. Wealthy and successful people wake up 3 hours before work starts. Oh my goodness! Right now I’m working from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. so I’m already having trouble rolling out of bed early. Waking up at 3 in the morning just seems ludicrous.

I’m so used to waking up early during the week that my weekends tend to start no later than 6 a.m. and that makes for at least two productive days if I slipped up during the week.

9. Don’t Multitask!

I have so many writing ideas. I don’t mean to brag. Some writers struggle with where to find ideas but I have so many that I want to write about- so many that I’m in love with. The problem? I tried to divide my energy and focus across all of the projects and that slows me down. (Sometimes I am still guilty of this!)

You want to set one specific goal and stick to it. Put all of your energy and focus on that goal because when your energy is divided and scattered you’re not on top of your game. So if you’re trying to work on five books, or three books and a short story and a novella… STOP. At times, it’s preferable when you get tired of one project, to have the option of spending some time with another one. This I can stand behind but please save yourself the struggle and don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Having 5+ projects going on at one time can be a huge mistake. It doesn’t work for me at all because I lose sight of focus, storyline, theme, and character motivation. Everything becomes jumbled and it makes the editing process more grueling.

For further reading, I highly recommend David Allen’s book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. There are hundreds of books out there on productivity. I’ve read quite a few but nothing got to me quite like David’s. If you read anything on productivity, please give this one a try!

I hope this helped at least one person and if you have any questions, comments or suggestions,  please leave them in the comment box below. Happy writing.

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The Story Determines Its Own Length

Some writers will tear their hair out over story length. I was sitting in my One-Act Play class during junior year of college discussing the instructions on writing a paper with my classmates. I don’t recall what the paper was about but I remember our professor telling us it needed to be double-spaced, 12 pt font, Times News Roman, and all that jazz. She also told us about all of the points we needed to cover but one thing she didn’t address was the length of the paper.

Normally, teachers and professors will tell you that your paper needs to be one page, or three to five paragraphs, or fourteen pages single-spaced. They always dictate some sort of length. I wasn’t alone. Everyone else in the class was a little perplexed because we’re so used to being told how long something needs to be. So we asked the professor how long she wanted our essays to be?

She said, “Just answer the questions.”

Our minds were blown. Just answer the questions? That had never been told to us before. Even though I did not particularly care for this professor, she taught me a very valuable lesson in that moment. When it comes to writing stories and trying to write novels, so many people are bound and determined to reach that 60,000-word goal or that 80,000-word goal and certain stories aren’t meant to be that long.

When I wrote Laszlo, it ended up being about 40,000 words. I felt like that length allowed me to tell the story. But often people who don’t write ask me, “why didn’t you throw in an extra 10,000 words?” “You came this far. Just make it a novel!” “Why don’t you beef it up?” They are very annoying questions to answer. Non-writers don’t understand and no amount of explaining seems to help them.

Certain stories have a certain length. That’s just the way it is.

If a story was only meant to be 2,000 words, then beefing it up to be a 50,000-word novel (by putting a bunch of random crap in there) weakens it. “More” doesn’t always mean “better.” Turning a short story into a novel could turn a brilliant tale into a pile of drivel. On the other hand, taking a story that should be fleshed out to 100,000 words and only writing 30,000 doesn’t let the story really express itself. I know that to non-writers that sounds like a stupid statement. But it’s true. The only thing a story really has to do it tell

The only thing a story really has to do it tell its tale. Period. It doesn’t have to make you laugh. It doesn’t have to make you cry. And it doesn’t have to make you think, feel or care. In some cases, stories don’t even make sense. I’ve read short stories that ended abruptly and seemed to have no point. I’ve watched long movies that ended on odd notes and left me confused and unsatisfied. Perhaps it wasn’t as long as it should have been? Or perhaps it would have been stronger if it were more concise? Forcing a story into a mold that it doesn’t fit only makes matters worse. Let the story determine it’s own length. You’ll know when to stop adding brush strokes to the painting.

So the bottom line is, don’t fret if that story that you wanted to be 20,000 words ends up being 60,000 words or if the story you wanted to be 50,000 words ends up being 10,000. Never fear.

Happy Writing!

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