Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Nutcracker Ballet


My word, what a dirty-minded lot we are.
But, bejasus, isn't it fun.
In spite of heart-wrenching pleas from Sandra for more semi-erotica, I don't think I'll put out the ball-squeezing episode - just yet.
And the guys can stop that involuntary sideways defensive thigh-shift.
You know you love it.
John did, anyway.
It wasn't mangle and mash, you see.
None o' that "kicked him so hard he achieved a new bow tie" sort of thing.
I though to find a market for that short.
Which brings us to length and size.
Guess what?
12,650 words is too long for magazine and way too short for print novellas and even e-publisher quickies.
This is not a whine.
Just a recognition that I seem to be out-of-step and out-to-lunch regarding industry standards: writing cross-genre, violating conventions, all sorts of non-comformist tickers which preclude the natural Borg market.
Nothing to be proud of either.
It means I just haven't got it yet.
I'm not one to bitch and moan about industry rules or think they should be adjusted for me, just because I'm the new girl in the whorehouse.
The industry will survive just fine without my deathless prose. The requirements are there for a reason, and the reason is not writer's convenience.
Something every writer should remember - and that there's a line-up that stretches 3 and 1/2 times around the globe.
Which brings me to the delicate subject, like the girl with the concave bra, to padding.
Perhaps it's not fair to call it that.
Shall we say expansion? Further description, observation, comment?
Possible exploration and depth?
Seems to me there's just as many writers who write bare as there are those who produce 300,000 word sagas.
One's tits are in the wringer in either case.
Dear me, my language has become so...so...lately.
It's sometimes easier to strap-on than put on a white coat, pick up a scalpel and liposuck.
Have you ever fallen "short" in the act and what did you do about it?
How did you manage to come up to standard and improve your performance?
Please delete naughty thoughts here.
I'm talking about writing, of course.
How could you ever have thought otherwise?

32 comments:

Tsavo Leone said...

Perhaps the issue here is neither one of length nor girth...

With Real TV I found that the story (to work as a whole) required a framing device in order for it to make more sense, and also to allow me to use the ending I had decided upon. Doing so allows me to pursue a few different avenues...

12,650 isn't too long for a magazine in my opinion. If you're willing to prostitute yourself ever so slightly, might you not be able to sell the story as a two-parter (even going so far as to accept payment as if it were a single issue deal)? Does your story have that in-built 'to be continued...' possibility?

Do the characters and/or situations lend themselves to further tales? An anthology approach might work, inter-relating stories based around either the characters or the situation. Might it be that you also have another story or two (already written) which could be tinkered with, or that already fit the bill?

Oh... BTW, Samhain accept 12,000 words.

Carla said...

Samhain Publishing say they are 'quite happy to publish shorter works with word counts of no less than 12,000', so 12,650 would seem to fit their requirements.
As to your question of have I ever had to expand something to meet a word count requirement (at least I think that's what the question was?), the answer is no. I always find stories grow in the telling and if anything I get the opposite problem.

James Goodman said...

Yes, I usually have the other problem, my works are loner than necessary. I often have to break out the pruning shears to bring the beast under control.

When all else fails. Swap work with a friend whose opinion you trust. Not only will you gain their insight, but the break and diving into their work will do wonders to detach you from your own.

Bernita said...

Yes, Tsavo,Carla, it's the Damie and John story and yes, I've been working on a continuation, got about 1000 words into another - and then I noticed this morning that Carla has Igeld's Daughter up so that blows any writing for a while to indulge in sheer pleasure.
Then you wonder if you have really just begun chapters of book three, instead of short adventures.
Looks like Samhain is about the only one that takes stuff this short, which means hard decisions about which route to go.
Most seem to prefer the 15,000 range.
I think I have to do some serious market research, but the genre thing is pushing me toward the e-print markets.

kmfrontain said...

Serialization. If the longer piece is well written, and also has a good place for cutting in half or in thirds, you might want to market with serialization in mind. That's assuming that you go for ezines. Otherwise it's padding. Anyone who can write over 12,000 words can pad a bit.

You might want to check out the ERWF forum, link on my blog, because they have a market forum that includes mention of Samhain and many others. And new posts about new publishing houses go on regularly.

Bernita said...

Surprised to hear that, James. As you know, I've always been impressed by the way you plot your action and how you handle the suspense generated thereby.
I am always very reluctant to fling my work on another busy writer, always feeling they would immediately regret their generosity, given in a moment of enthusiasm.
And then take forever to get back to me, while I fuss like an idiot, paralized until feedback.
That's really my problem. Paralysis until feedback.
Not a pretty thing.

Bernita said...

Thank you, KM.
Thought serialization was a thing of the past.
I hadn't noticed those links - too busy enjoying your snippits.

Carla said...

Re critique swops, I've only done a few but in all cases both I and the other person have agreed a time when we'd get back to each other (usually within the week, depending on other commitments) and either stuck to it or exceeded it. I guess that's because everyone hates the paralysis of waiting and obsessively checking the email, so most people don't inflict it on others. Or maybe I was just dead lucky?

Ric said...

A very long time ago, I sent a query off to hot shot agent for a 40,000 word suspense novel. Got a nice note back, saying it had to be 60,000 words. So I padded it - lightly, I thought - sent it along.
Got a note back saying I padded it too much and it lost the suspense in the middle - probably from me adding to it.

They also said they could probably sell it to St. Martins Press, but it wouldn't be worth their time...

Like I said, it was a long time ago.

Moral here is write the best story you can - it will come in the right length.

December Quinn said...

Doesn't Chippewa take shorter stuff too?

I'm always falling short. I add to the beginning-usually more scenes of the H/h getting to know each other, etc. This is especially good for me, I think, because once the book is done (or almost done) I can find ways to foreshadow their later revelations. I rarely to the middle.
I'm also bad at description initially, so I can go back and add more scene-setting.

Rick said...

Like Carla, I have the opposite problem. My original version of Catherine of Lyonesse ran 300,000 words; I had to liposuction my girl down to a svelte 135,000. In the sequel I just crossed the 75,000 word mark, right on target for another 135K, but damn, I feel like I'm leaving a lot of stuff out that I want to have in there.

I expect I can shoehorn it in during revision, but I do feel bad for writers whose natural strength is in lengths for which there is little or no market.

Bernita said...

Wise for an agreed time, Carla. Possibly most people omit that thinking expeditious is obvious, even in families and then have to nag and fear to offend by doing so.

Now I've seen vague runours that shorter is the future wave, Ric - but not yet. Maybe we're just cursed with poor timing.

One of my worries, December, is that my promotion base is Canada. Not sure how popular e-books are in this country or even if it matters.
I could certainly expand La Belle but at the sacrifice, probably,of its tight pace.

Think that's part of the territory with a true historical,Rick. One assumes readers want the entire scene, the motivations,the landscape and it's damned difficult to know how much is too much.

I know I'm being tediously Librian about all this balancing, and I apologize.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Well, I guess I'll have to write some more semi erotic posts. Haven't really tried my hand at it since I did the Christmas poem about John and Stuart (The Night Before Christmas).

Spinetingler will consider any length. Actually, we're doing a special Canadian issue and taking submissions until mid-Feb.

We only put length suggestions on because we found some people though the words shaping pages were art and they weren't telling a story. My friend James Oswald routinely writes 30+page stories that keep me hooked to the end.

And we're also thinking of a designated "new writer" feature each issue, because of the volume of submissions from very experienced writers and authors. We want to maintain part of our emphasis on the "emerging" crowd - not just the established.

And we're non-genre specific. Um, hard-core erotica is the only thing we don't publish.

Carla said...

I suppose one could say that e-books mean your promotion base needn't be Canada - it can be anywhere in the world with web access? Look how often Gabriele says she has trouble getting books in Germany - no problem like that with e-books.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Sandra.
It's a lovely, clear site and very professional.
No surprise there.
I'm not eligible of course,for the present thingy, having published a couple of hundred words of it on my blog.

Was thinking of the traditional methods, Carla, like going to book stores and making nice to the order people.

Rick said...

As e-pubbing takes hold as a market option (it's beginning to, but still at an early stage yet), that will be a huge help to writers who fall in that dreaded zone of too long for a magazine and too short for a book. That zone is purely a byproduct of print technology and distribution, nothing inherent in the nature of the work itself.

I probably wouldn't read much in that zone, for the same reason that I write long - I like to visit worlds for a fairly extended stay. But there's surely a readership that would prefer novelettes and novellas, if only they were readily available.

Janna of Canada said...

I'm having heart palpitations reading about Rick having to shrink his book from 300K to 135K. I could so easily write a book that pushes 300K (and most likely will with my WIP, quite unwittingly I might add, although I'm now starting to envision it as two books instead of just one). Long is my natural bent, both with writing and reading.

Wrt your short, are there any subplots your could introduce, perhaps ones that aren't completely resolved if you hope to go the serialization route? I tend to agree with you that e-books aren't overly popular in Canada yet, however if you truly believe in and support that format, perhaps you could have a hand in making it more mainstream even while you're promoting your own work.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Bernita, a couple hundred words out of 12000 is not a problem. It's the people who say they published the whole story elsewhere - then why should we pay you to put it here?

Really, that's not a problem. It's only been our experience that you have to talk tougher in guidelines because wherever we gave an inch initially, we found people taking a mile. One person sold their story to us (signed the release that it hadn't been published) and put it out somewhere else first. We found out afterwards, the other publisher wasn't happy with us initially, until they found out we had a signed release that was obviously a lie.

Neither publication will touch that writer again. Any time someone earns me a threat of lawsuit, their name goes on a little list...

Dennie McDonald said...

the "print" standards are changing so who knows - traditonal publishers in my market are shortning lengths of books. The max for regulare writers (not the top ten NY types - they can pretty much do what they want due to the established fan base) used to be around 100,000 now publishers are asking for 90-95,000.

Transversly - my novella w/ Samhain won't see print unless it gets put w/ another book in an anthology of sorts and published together (I am working on it, I SWEAR!)

Savannah Jordan said...

Yup, I have often fallen short; isn't anything new to me. I tend to disappoint. Keeps expectations low... :)

My vignettes are hot, but super short. So what's an erotica writer to do?? Well, I am masticating the misery out of at least two of them and splicing them into one HOT longer piece, the necessary 15K that Aphrodite's Apples wants. While Samhain will happily accept shorter works, I'm already spoken for (so to speak).

As to padding? Only in writing! I prefer 'fleshing out' or 'fluffing.' And yes, I have plied those tools when applicable.

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, I have some stories of Unsuitable Length in my files as well. Richt now none of them is in a publishable shape anyway, but I really don't know whether to polish them and
- post them on my website
- try to find someone who publishes hist fic of the wrong length
- serialise that SF thingie and try to get into Baen's new magazine
- add some sex to one of them and sell it as paranormal erotica (where those weird wordcounts stand a chance)
- wait until I get famous and a publisher will be happy to make a scrapbook out of the lot. :)

Or just leave them where they are.

Gabriele C. said...

Oh, and my novels are too long as well. But I don't worry about that, long manuscripts may have more problems to get accepted but they still do get accepted. It's not so much a problem of categorizing but of costs and risks. There are publishers willing to take risks.

Bernita said...

I find that is a solution, Janna, simply cutting the work in two.
Regarding La Belle - it contains the main plot elements of the series - just a further development of them.

Sorry, I"m a little fuzzy headed.
Was reading Carla's book and found myself galloping to the end to find out what happened to them - so many twists, turns, disasters,so absolutely heart-stopping I had to cheat.
Carla should have sent it to DAW or Baen.

Gabriele, hard decisions, like me.

Boggles me, that you should have trouble fleshing, Savannah.

No resting on laurels, Dennie.

Sandra, thank you for explaining that.
~ imaginging shame of being turned down by a fellow blogger~

Thank you all very much very much for this imput. It all helps.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Bernita, I don't read submissions from people I know. I let the readers evaluate and if there is a strong difference of opinion, then Kevin or I make the call.

It's just the ethics thing.

But we also try to always provide feedback even when a story is rejected, and we've invited several people to re-submit their work if they make a few changes. Usually this is grammar problems, or the story doesn't make sense in a significant way.

Truly, it's beyond hard for me now when the submissions come in because I know so many people in the industry. I tend to stick to doing the line edits for stories we're publishing.

And by the end of the year I expect to stop writing reviews, for similar reasons. Can anyone take me seriously writing a review of the latest Stuart MacBride or Simon Kernick or Mark Billingham? About 80% of the authors I read, I know in some capacity. It's beyond complicated for me, though I hate writing reviews anyway.

Like I have the right to judge...

Rick said...

Janna - it was tough wielding the surgeon's knife! The upside is that revision holds no more fears for me; I never previously would have set out to sprint through a "bad" first draft, as I'm doing now with the sequel.

Dennie - one possible factor in change of lengths that publishers are asking for is the general shift from word counts estimated at 250 words/page (for double-spaced Courier) to the word counts generated by MS word. Apparently the old estimating rule produced a longer count.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

"Which brings us to length and size."

Bernita...I spit out my coffee...missed the monitor, but got my desk top!!

I probably should write shorts because I could easily put like the novel I'm working on now, down to 12,000 words. I write really succient and then have to pad.

But that's how I read to...it's like....get to the point...get to the action...yada, yada!

Bernita said...

You should try it , Bonnie, thought 15,000 is probably better.
~ waves from cell across the hall~

Holy crow, I can see that, Sandra.
Still, your solution works.

Janna of Canada said...

The upside is that revision holds no more fears for me...

Rick, after cutting 300K down to 135K, I don't think the Grim Reaper himself would hold any fear for me!

Your novel sounds interesting, btw; definitely something I would buy.

Shesawriter said...

In those situations I have a tendency to dig deeper into the characters. Once I do that, I can mine more conflict to add.

Rick said...

Janna - music to my ears! :)

For The Trees said...

I'm lucky. I'm still searching for my voice, for my genre, for my preferred length, and so far I've written three stories that all have about the same length to them, right around 80K. That just seems to be the right length for me - so far. Now I'm going back and rewriting the first one from a different POV, and who knows how many words it'll be then???

I'm fully aware that the Industry has its guidelines. But then, so did radio, before TV came in big time. And then TV had guidelines, before Cable came in big time. And who knows what the next incarnation is in printing? eZines, ePublishing, POD, online excerpts and chapters, it's ALL up in the air. And will be for a while, until someone figures out where the money is. Once THAT roadblock is bypassed and there's money to be made, there won't be a door for Katie to bar.

I'm writing for myself. If it gets published, great. If not, great. Either way I'm okay. I have this funny feeling that I **WILL** get published. So, that means things will change somewhere.

Thanks for an EXCELLENT post. I really enjoyed it, and got a lot of thought out of it too.

Bernita said...

From scanning guidelines, Forrest, seems your natural length is right where it should be.
Happy if this post/comments help in some way.