How Many Words to Make a Book?

The other day I wrote a post about perhaps not finishing a book I’d started. Multiple people told me about what they do when they don’t finish reading books they start.

One person said if she makes it to page 200 and still doesn’t like it, then she won’t force herself to continue. Which is fine, no one says you have to finish every book you start. But she proceeded to say that her reasoning behind writing a review for the book she didn’t finish and also including it in her list of read titles is because 200 pages equals 50k words, what she called the “rule of thumb for the length of a novel”.

UH NO.

Before the advent of NaNoWriMo no one would actually believe 50k words is the magic number in which your words and chapters become a novel. And just because people say it doesn’t make it so.

There’s a site I once discovered (I can’t remember it now) that would tell you the word counts of books. I played around with it for a bit and found just about every title I entered was well over 100k words. What if your favorite authors actually believed this. “Oh, I hit 50k words. ALL DONE!” It’s laughable that people believe this nonsense.

I just read an article on Writer’s Digest about word counts and the author of the article identified a good word count range for lower Middle Grade as 20k-55k words, but said anything written for a 12-year-old or older should be higher. Every other genre should have significantly higher word counts, in his opinion. Some well over 100k words.

Do you think 50k words is the “rule of thumb for the length of a novel”? I definitely do not. And have never heard an author or publishing professional identify it as such. But what do I know, right?

November is Over

No, this isn’t my monthly recap post. It’s a little different. November being over also signifies the end of NaNo. Finally.

Now most of the people who rave about the “community” will see how they’ve got it all wrong. Sure some might stay interested in your project, but it likely won’t be too many. Because why would they? They’re going to self-publish soon. Or continue working on their own project. Or they won’t be “writing” much more for the time being. So why would they stay interested in your project when it’s no longer cool? They won’t.

And so many of the NaNo participants will finally shut up about how great NaNo is until Camp NaNo in whichever month. Thank goodness.

A High School Teacher has Students Participate in NaNo

Wait, what?

I just read that a teacher in Virginia at a Catholic school had his students participate in NaNo this month. Their goal was 30,000 words rather than the 50,000 most aim for.

I understand that private schools don’t have to necessarily cover all the same topics as public schools, but I find this to be a bit much. Class time has likely been used for it. And it’s impossible for him to give any kind of substantive feedback with the time crunch.

Obviously he figured this would help them improve their writing skills, but I disagree. Why not instead focus on writing throughout the month? Poetry. Short stories. Maybe a short nonfiction essay? I just don’t think this is the best way to really help high school students improve their writing. And I don’t think it’s a good use of the time he has with them.

What do you think?

A NaNo Alternative

During November there is a lot of writing going on. Some good, some bad, and some writing is so terrible that the author’s mom wouldn’t even like it. But still people rush to participate in NaNo every year.

The only alternative that I’ve seen gain any traction online is people blogging each day of the month. Even though the two really have nothing to do with each other. I have a better idea. Why not study the craft and see how much you can learn about writing? Instead of spending the month working on something that is most likely years away from being ready for the eyes of an agent or self publishing, why not just try to become a little tiny bit better?

Read some writing books. See if you can learn about the writing process of some of your favorite authors. Heck, even taking James Patterson’s class on becoming a bestseller would probably give you a good amount of information. NaNo doesn’t.

People talk about it like it’s some great community. Or like it’s something to get better. But no. No one actually gives a damn about your writing. Why would they? They have no stake in it. And NaNo surely isn’t a means to improve your writing. Still just a gimmick.

What do you think about using the month to study the craft a bit and perhaps just gain a little knowledge rather than trying to get as many words written as possible?

On Writing Sprints

Do you know what these are? Quick explanation. The clock hits 12:30. You start writing and don’t stop until 1:00. Something like that. They’re just another tool that people use to force themselves to write. Which I think is stupid.

I’ve never participated in one of these, but when I used to follow some writers on Twitter I’d always see them on my TL. But I unfollowed those people long ago. Thankfully. Writing sprints remind me a little of NaNo. You know, that month in which people try writing 50,000 words of crap? These are just on a lower level.

I’ve said this more times than I can possibly remember, but I don’t understand why everyone is in such a rush. One guy told me before that he rushed to write and publish his book because he was already in his 70s. Okay. There’s someone with a valid reason, but all these other people have none. Yet they still take part in NaNo every year and probably do these stupid writing sprints every Friday. All while writing a below average book.

What’s your take on writing sprints?

Writing on a Schedule

Okay guys, there’s this NaNoWriMo thing coming up next month and I’ve already begun seeing the posts about people prepping and planning for their month of writing. I am not one of those people and I’ve made my stance about NaNo very clear. I hate it. I wrote a post about it earlier this year. So the timing of this post couldn’t be any better.

Okay. Not talking specifically about next month, I am still very much against writing on a schedule. I mean, the whole thing about it getting your creative juices flowing or that it helps you get words down that can be edited later or whatever reason people try to come up with is flat out annoying. Who came up with the notion that ALL writers must write using the same philosophy? Who decided upon some of the other “rules” of writing? Cause I don’t have a handbook here and I’m not paying any union fees for collective bargaining on my behalf.

You’re probably reading this as me hating people who write on a schedule. That isn’t true. What I do hate is when someone who writes well on a schedule seems to think that their particular writing philosophy should be followed by every serious writer out there. If you decide to write 1,000 or 3,000 words a day for a set period of time, be my guest, but don’t sit there and say that because you think it works for you that it absolutely positively must work for me too. ┬áCause no. Why don’t you let me figure that out.

I’ve tried it in the past and it doesn’t help me accomplish much of anything because instead of writing a story I find myself writing words that have no business being written. So if writing on a schedule works for you, great, but don’t tell me that it should work for me too.

Why I Think NaNo Anything is Dumb

NaNoWriMo-NoMo-logo

Photo Credit: NaNoWriMo No Mo (read this article!)

I think there are going to be a lot of people yelling at me after they start reading this. But that’s okay. Bring on the yelling, well, after you read this. Don’t just go make a dumb comment without reading.

So, this month is Camp NaNoWriMo, right? Which means that instead of the 50,000 word goal that arrives every November, this month is your own goal. Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into a rant.

Okay. So besides these two months of the year that are basically meant to force you to sit down and get some writing done, I believe there is also a month for poetry and also one for short stories. I think. I’m definitely not taking the time to Google any of these things. So we have four months out of the year that are dedicated to getting writers of all things creative to sit their butt in a chair and write. Sounds great on the surface, right? Not really.

During National Poetry Month I read a rant of a poem by one of the well known poets on WordPress. I don’t read her poems anymore because they simply lost their zing, but she was basically calling out every person who was participating in the poem a day challenge. It was her opinion that you shouldn’t need some specified month to get you writing poetry. Now I’m not going to focus specifically on poetry, but our thoughts are essentially the same.

You’re supposed to be a writer, right? Then why the heck do you need some specific month to get writing? I know plenty of people work with word count goals and others just try to get something written out each day and yet others have specified times during the day in which they write. Okay to all of that, but the calendar is moving along just as it does each and every year and suddenly during July and November you decide to get focused? I know you must be seeing how stupid this whole thing sounds. Cause this is basically what you’re telling me, yourself, and everyone else who knows you’re participating in Camp NaNo or NaNoWriMo: “I’m a writer. I work on different writing projects throughout the year, but I get most of my writing done during July and November.” My response to you would be this, “How come you get most of your writing done during those two months?” You’d look at me awkwardly and then say NaNoWriMo. Then I’d proceed to laugh and walk away because I’d like for you to think about your favorite author. Or maybe a few of them. Then find their website and see if they do most of their writing during the months of July and November. I think we both know you wouldn’t find any such information. Cause it’s flat out ridiculous. Period.

One more thing before I just punch someone in the face. You all likely know by now that I started my blog in June of last year so that I could talk about writing my first book (written between June & August) for all of you wondering and no, I had no idea what Camp NaNo was. But last November was the first I’d heard of NaNoWriMo. So I’m like, “Hey I just finished my first book. Maybe I can get started writing my second in this novel writing month thing. I went on to the website and realized what a joke the whole thing is. 50,000 words in 30 days. Why? Because that’s what they say. Even though any serious writer knows 50,000 words is hardly a novel. But that’s besides the point.

Then I took a look at what I think were the past year’s “winners.” They’d written the 50,000 words during the month. And what do you know, almost every single one of the books listed was self-published. I’m not avidly against self-publishing, I’ve done it, but is this really your ultimate goal as a writer? To write a ton during a single month or two only to realize that your writing was shit. The whole “Oh I can edit it later” mindset is about as ridiculous as writing a book in a month for no reason whatsoever. There’s a reason these books are very rarely picked up by traditional publishers. And you and I both know that it has a little something to do with the quality of the writing. They should change the name to National CreateSpace Novel Writing Month because that’s where most of the titles written are headed.

And cue your outrage.