Friday, July 12, 2013

Writing About Courts

If anywhere you're going to be writing about mystery or something else, you'll probably be going to run into a scene when you're wondering things like: "Would the police actually do something like this in this kind of situation?"

Of course, you probably want your book to be accurate. Sure, you probably want to skip over some of the more boring things so your readers don't need to read about filling in the boring paperwork, but you surely don't want to do something that will make people think 'This just can't happen.'

Even if what you're writing is a sort of fantasy or sci-fi novel, no matter what, every place has its own legal system. What do you think inter-planetary laws would look like? By pointing out a bit of this information at times, you can make a world seem more... real. Some terms you should keep in mind are:

Court Trial: A trial is basically an allegation that someone has done something wrong, either to a person or the state. The former is a civil case and the latter is a criminal case, and both are pursued differently in the U.S.

Prosecution: The side which alleges that something wrong has occurred. Called the plaintiff in civil cases.

The Defense: The other side which says that the defendant (the one accused) has not done anything wrong.

The Judge: In most countries, the judge pretty much keeps quiet and only intervenes when necessary.

But anyway, I wasn't going to post only about fictional law systems anyway. Here are a few things I found that are often misunderstood:

1. Retrial: Many people seem to believe that criminal trials usually take a whole lot of time and retrials. They say that usually how court scenes are shown on T.V. with a single case are wrong. Actually, the opposite is true.
Sure, retrials happen a lot, but you need a reason to re-appeal. You can't just do it because you didn't like the verdict. You have to either show that there's new evidence, or something was wrong with the earlier trial. You can apply to a higher court, but there is a tendency in higher courts to just 'rubber stamp' the verdicts from lower ones. It doesn't always happen, but that's the general trend.

2. The Jury: There are several things to keep in mind about a jury. In a criminal case, the judge can overturn a guilty verdict from the jury, but not the opposite. Once either of them hand in a 'not guilty' verdict, the defendant is free to go, and there's very little that can be done after that due to Double Jeopardy. If evidence is found later, they can be held on perjury charges, but the State rarely has the opportunity to appeal to a higher court.
Jury selection is a new process which involves the lawyers choosing jury members who they think are going to be sympathetic to their causes and removing those who may be sympathetic to the victim.

3. Evidence: In order to be convicted in a criminal trial, the jury members must be 99% sure that the person has done the crime. In a civil case this standard of evidence is dropped to over 50%. The two standards are known as 'beyond reasonable doubt' and 'preponderance of evidence' respectively. The standard of evidence 'beyond a shadow of a doubt' is impossible to achieve and is never used in legal terms. That's why sometimes people get off int he criminal trial but are convicted for wrongful death in civil trials, like O. J. Simpson.

4. Circumstantial Evidence: This kind of evidence can be used to convict, but neither direct or circumstantial evidence is more important than the other. Both are important so long as they prove a case.

All in all though, you might want to get crazy sometimes. The law is often odd, and lots of people said that the situation in 12 Angry Men could never happen, but, after all, it did.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Off The Beaten Track- Fanfiction

Some of you may wonder why I'm obsessed with Fanfiction, but the thing is that most of us teen writers do write it at some point or the other.

But the thing is though that sometimes while reading some stuff I just can't help but hold back a facepalm. Really, one of the problems with is that anyone can post anything. While that's great in a way, it also gets tiring after some point.

So, for today, I'd like to honour some of the great pieces that I've read. When I talk about that, I mean the pieces which really jump out at me and feel that my time shifting through all the other things was worth it. I suppose good fanfics might be a little hard to find, so here they are:

1. One Last Theft: This is a fanfic that's a crossover with Artemis Fowl and Yu-Gi-Oh! It pretty much stays true to anything that you might like in either. It doesn't have many reviews since, for some reason, crossovers don't get too many reviews.

2. Ready? Get Set, FLash!: This is a hilarious parody of the first Artemis Fowl book.

3. The Morrow Day Council: Another comedy piece, though if you haven't read The Keys to the Kingdom you probably won't understand it.

4. The Morrow Days vs The Casual Dining Industry: Something similar in genre to the one above.

5. Crookshanks: This is one of those Harry Potter fanfics, but this one is pretty short, though great.

For now, that's going to be it. I know the list is short, and really, sorry guys, I can't read every single fanfic out there, and these are just some of those that I remember the best.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Cornerstone of a Novel- The Idea

It's weird. I just finished what I had thought would be my final edit to my second novel, only to find out something: The storyline doesn't make sense. It probably isn't going to sell.

Of course it's odd to go through so many drafts and then finally stumble upon something that was so basic at the very end of things, but really, that is what happened. And for some reason, I find that no matter which place you tend to seek writing advice from, they always seem to give the style of writing more importance than the story itself. Just because your sentences sound nice and merge well together really means nothing if what you've written about is bad.

Of course, I think that I can use a bit of my manuscript. But I'll have to rewrite at least 60%. I'm not even so sure about the ending/storyline at this point. But at the very least, there's always that chance to try again.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Reading Your Manuscript Out Loud

One thing that you may want to consider while editing is reading your book out loud to yourself. True, I've already mentioned this once, but as I've just finished doing it, I thought that it worked really well.

For one, you get to see a whole lot of mistakes while speaking the story that you'd normally never catch normally. I know, it takes a whole lot of time to do a reading, and it will probably seem especially frustrating if you've spent a lot of time in edits before, but it will pay off. Also, since you're reading, you'll tend to notice and concentrate on every single line of your writing, something that you might not have been able to do while just reading. I know for a fact that I sometimes miss out on something while reading.

But the main thing that it helps you is deciding how to frame your sentences. Several times I noticed a sentence that just sounded 'off' or a word that would have been better if it was substituted with another. And it really shows a lot about your dialogue and if what a character is saying really fits.

You probably either want to read it to someone else, or have it read back to you. Microphones and voice-recording softwares are pretty easy to come by, so it is viable.

But even if you can't do either of those two, do read it out loud, even if it is just to yourself. It might seem tiring, but it is worthwhile in the end.

Of course, you may have to spread your sessions apart. My book was only around 45k but I felt my voice go sore a few times, so just watch out for that.

Monday, June 10, 2013

I Use Far Too Many Commas

As I'm editing my manuscript, one thing that I've noticed is that I have a tendency to overuse commas. I even use them when the sentence would make more sense without one. I think I've deleted at least two hundred in all of my revisions.

But then that's just me. I have a tendency to overuse commas. What about you? Have you ever noticed that there's something that you tend to overdo while editing, or a mistake that you repeat too often?

Well, it seems to help if you recognize it. That way, you can keep that in mind while reading through the rest of it.

That's all for now though, but once I'm done with my editing I'll be sure to be back with more.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Writing Fanfiction

This is a sort of sequel to my earlier post on However, this post isn't about the website, but it's rather about fanfiction in general, and some tips while writing them.

Fanfiction is fiction which isn't purely original, but instead takes the ideas/universe/characters of one or several different original works, meshes them together, and a new story is made. Fanfiction pieces are often abbreviated and called fanfics. Now, though this blog is mainly about publishing, since so many teen writers enjoy writing fanfics, I suppose that I might as well lay out the basics.

Now, first of all you'll need an account on There are some other sites like for Harry Potter fanfics, but they are only for a specific book/universe. Now, here are some abbreviations that you'll probably come across:

One-shot: A fanfic that lasts only one chapter.
AU: Alternate Universe, a fanfic that contains the same characters, only in a different universe/scenario.
A/N: Author's Note, something the Author is mentioning.
OC: Original character, a character that the fanfic writer has made up himself/herself.

Now, first of all you have to write a fanfic. Now, disclaimers (statements that you don't own the work) are not really necessary and you might as well omit them, or mention them only in the first chapter. No one wants to see that repeat. Also, you might want to put any words at the top before the story begins in bold.

Now, do you how you can search for fanfics? Well, the system basically lists the fanfics in the order that they have been updated. So, if you are writing a series one chapter at a time, every time that you update a chapter your work will go to the first page on the search list for that fanfic category. That's why you'll notice that most of your new readers will show up when you update.

Also, I would suggest that you don't take the number of reviews, favorites, or followers too personally. I've seem some fanfics garner a whole lot of them even though they're not that good, while some excellent ones get ignored. Just keep writing.

To promote your various pieces, at the beginning of a story you might want to list some other works that your readers might enjoy, like what you've written. Also, if you see something you like, you should give a review.

Aside from that, there's not much else I can mention. Just read and practice, and follow the normal things of writing. Good luck!

Friday, June 7, 2013


The word fillers, if I'm not mistaken, originates from Japanese comics (manga) and how they were turned into cartoons (anime).

You see, both manga and anime of a series would be released simultaneously, once a week. But the thing was that a fourteen page comic couldn't be turned into an entire episode. So, the anime would usually catch up to the manga very quickly.

To resolve this problem, the anime makers would insert segments that weren't related to the manga, but provided entertaining backstory for a few weeks or some other mini-story. This allowed the manga to remain ahead of the anime.

But when I'm talking about fillers, I'm talking about stuff you might insert into your novel for no reason. Really. Many initial manuscripts have the fault that they have too much useless content/side stories. A lot of things that some people do is introduce a character, and then fill the next few chapters with backstory. Backstory should always be sprinkled very gently over the course of a few chapters.

And sometimes there are these scenes which have no use at all, but serve just because you might think that they showcase good writing. Please. No one wants to read a scene just because you think that you worked very hard on it. Also, I do admit that inserting some humorous scenes/mini stories at times might be necessary to entertain the reader, but please do it with moderation.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Vary Your Vocabulary

A novel is usually at least more than 40,000 words. The average vocabulary of a person consists of around 4,000 words. Now the thing is, if you go around using the same words over and over in your book, well, it looks amateurish.

Of course, many words like said, his, her, is, etc. are always repeated, but the thing is that you have to make sure that the paragraphs that you're writing don't include the same words over and over. No, don't open up a thesaurus and start using hard words on purpose. The key is not to use hard words, but to use different words. You need to make sure that you aren't wording certain scenarios the same again and again.

Also, avoid using the same expression or description over and over unless of course you're going to try and repeat it on purpose for effect. It's amazing what you can think of when you really try. As a matter of fact, try going through a book you love and see how some of the scenes are described. It might amaze you.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Second Revision

This is a sort of sequel to the post on your first draft. If you read it, you'll know that in your first draft you want to concentrate mostly on the major details, the ones that make or break a book.

On the second revision however, which you probably want to do as it's hard for someone to get things perfect on the first draft. A third revision will probably be required as well, for the matter.

But anyway, as you probably have most of the plot kinks worked out on the first revision, and if you find that you're working on major plot points on your second revision, it means that your first one wasn't very effective, or you're going way too crazy with the revision thing.

So anyway, what you probably want to look for are typos, grammatical errors, and also some mistakes you might find in dialogue. (Not grammatical mistakes, mistakes that show a character talking as they usually wouldn't.) You might find a plot hole or two that needs filling, but otherwise you shouldn't be concentrating too much on the plot by that point. It should also be shorter than your first revision.

Now, after that, you might find that you want to do the following things as well:

1. Read the book to yourself. You might find quite a few mistakes when you read your book out loud. Most computers come with a microphone and voice recording programs, so you can also hear yourself reading your book. It'll definitely be long, but illuminating.

2. Read the book backwards. Read your book backwards sentence by sentence. This will help you focus on grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, because then you're not concentrating on plot details.

3. Get a beta reader. This is self-explanatory, and you want someone to read it. Even if it is someone you know, you need someone who will read it from a reader's angle.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

On Science Fiction

Most of the science fiction, or sci-fi, that I see in libraries tend to be spin-offs of the Star Wars series. There's no problem with that, and I'm a fan of the series, but the thing is that it is sort of odd that those books make up half of the available books and that not much else is left.

But anyway, this post is a general one on science fiction. Sci-fi, in essence, is a genre that asks questions usually related to technological advancements. Examples: What would happen if cloning became feasible? What would aliens look like? What if time travel was possible? What if society was ruled in a different way?

Sci-fi novels try to capture what society might look like in those sort of circumstances. Sometimes, a character manages to enter that society, and notices how they're different. Some common terms include:

1. Space opera: This is sort of different in the fact that in this kind of novel, the storyline is the major feature and no major question is asked. It has more entertainment value than being a sort of inquiry, an example would be Star Wars.

2. Utopia: A utopia is a perfect world. There are a whole lot of books written about these. Generally, a character from the outside will come to them and notice how things have changed.

3. Dystopia: In contrast, a dystopia is the opposite of a Utopia. Generally, a person from the outside doesn't visit, rather a character from the inside notices what is wrong around them and brings about change, kind of like in The Hunger Games.

4. Apocalyptic: This is a novel in which most of mankind is wiped out. They are a lot of them, including I am Legend.

But the great thing is that sci-fi is never rigidly characterized into these categories. Sci-fi novels, like fantasy, tend to be a bit longer, and there's no real limit on what you can question about society or write about.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Prophecy

Everyone's familiar with the Prophecy. You know, that trope that somehow manages to find its way into nearly every single fantasy book in some way or the other, and in a lot of other genres as well?

No, seriously, that's just how much the Prophecy is overused. And at most times, no prophecy is actually needed for any reason. One certain way to mess up your query letter is to talk about the plot for a paragraph, and then suddenly mention a prophecy at the end. (A whole lot more people do this than you might think.)

But keeping in touch with formality, let me define the Prophecy for you. A prophecy is usually a poem (though it may not rhyme) that says that such and such will happen, usually someone being born to kill someone. It will drive most of the plot as people try to escape the prophecy, and generally it comes true in the end. All types of visions, oracles, etc. also in part, can be considered a type of prophecy.

Most people seem to use them simply for the fact that there's nothing else to drive the storyline. So, we need conflict, right? And conflict needs a reason, so why not use a prophecy to fulfil that?

But the thing is that in most cases I've found that a prophecy is almost completely unnecessary. I can think up of a lot, but let's talk about the one in Harry Potter, because I'm sure that most of you will have read that prophecy in which it's said that one of Harry or Voldemort must kill each other.

I found that the whole thing wasted quite a few pages. For one, it was introduced in the fifth book, and it was completely unnecessary. I think we can all say that Voldemort had a good reason to kill Harry anyway without the prophecy, as his parents were members of the resistance, and he might have wanted to send a message to everyone. Also, it seems to drive the fact that Harry must kill Voldemort, but I think that's sort of blatantly obvious since Harry would want to avenge his parents, and after all that Voldemort did, he'd do it anyway. I'm also supposing that Voldemort would have wanted to kill Harry 'by his hand alone' since Harry was his biggest rival and they were connected.

Another thing is the Great Prophecy in Percy Jackson. I understand that that was probably necessary, since prophecies drive a huge part of Greek and Roman stories, but my problem here was that the last one was sort of thought up pretty sloppily and didn't make sense with what had been mentioned earlier. It contradicted what had been mentioned for a lot in the series. I won't mention all of them here, but that might make a good post for later on.

But in the end, I'd like to say that if you do wish to use the Prophecy, do note that it is overused, and also think about if you really need it. Otherwise, there are a whole lot more ways to generate tension and conflict.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Little Note Regarding This Blog

Let's be honest in the first line, this post isn't about writing. It's more about the nature of this blog itself. If you're looking for writing tips, please click on another link to a post that's relevant to that.

But anyway, if you still want to read this, this is a bit of an odd post, a bit different from what's been normally up on here. Now, I know for one that my blog is getting next to zero traffic. I'm not here to complain about that, I know that I'll need to touch at least one hundred blog posts after posting day by day to get some attention.

But the thing is that I'm not doing one-twentieth of what I could do to promote my blog. Why? Because I don't want to work on Search Engine Optimisation at this point of time.

Actually, in a way, this blog is a sort of experiment. I want to see if, by simply posting day by day, I can get some notice around here. If we want to notice a plant, we see that it starts growing steadily day by day bigger and bigger, until we finally actually see it. Can a page be like that? Can a page eventually grow so large on its own that search engines and others just have to see it?

That's what I want to see. And that's why I'm not going around posting on teen writing sites about my blog. It might be partly because this blog hasn't even started out properly yet, but it's more of this experimental reason than not.

So anyway, thanks for reading this.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Wait

It has three legs, a thousand eyes, breathes fire, and has a poisonous tail.

Okay, maybe that's just how I see it, but the wait really is monstrous. The wait is that period of time after submitting a manuscript to a publisher/agent and waiting for a reply.


                                              Maybe you see 'The Wait' as more like this.

Now, granted, the wait is actually not as bad as it used to be. Think about the times when they used horse post and simultaneous submissions were not allowed. You could wait a decade before getting a contract in those days.

But still, the wait is extraordinarily agonizing. Within a week, doubts will start plaguing your mind. As a matter of fact, my first rejections came within a few weeks.

Maybe it just has to do with the fact that there are so many writers these days, and it is just so easy to write and send a book using MS Word and e-mail. That's why there are hundreds of submissions, which make the waiting period just that much longer, and subsequently much harder to notice.

Of course, people do get published from the slush pile and do get agents, provided their work really is good. But the thing is, your mind will continue asking questions 'Was it good enough?' to you while you're waiting. And if all you get are rejections at the end, though that's perfectly normal, it certainly doesn't make you feel any better. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

How Much Do the Minute Details Count?

While editing my book recently, I found that I needed a line translated into Latin. The thing is that I spent quite a lot of time trying to get a translation. But the thing is that even though it is a pretty small detail, I spent a whole lot of energy trying to get it right.

Just how much do the really small things count? I mean, the big things like plot, dialogue, and characters are definitely important, but what do you guys think about getting small things like a character's hair color right throughout the book? I'd like to hear.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Grow A Thick Skin

While you're a writer, you're going to be under flak a whole lot of time, either while you're sending out for a publisher/agent and getting rejected, or just having your work reviewed.

Rejection pretty much is guaranteed to all writers. And even if you do get published, your editor will probably have a lot to say regarding your manuscript. And even if it does get published, there's no guarantee that it will sell up to even one-tenth of your expectation.

And even if it becomes a hit, critics will still want to demean your book. Some of them will do it just because your book is popular. There hasn't been a single book published ever that hasn't had some criticism.

Which is why it is absolutely necessary to develop hippo-like bulletproof skin. Don't let other's comments get you down, because the only thing you can do is write more, try again, and try better, not sulk somewhere about what other people are saying.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

From First Draft to Second Draft

Finishing that first draft may seem like you've accomplished everything, but like I've said before, you'll be glad that you didn't let anyone read it.

As a matter of fact, during the revision of your first draft, most of your time should be spent in rewriting a good part of the book. Yes, don't glare at me like that, it's true. What depends is how much you might have to rewrite.

If you thought up of your plot as you went along, there will be many plot holes, and you generally need to rewrite most of the book so that the plot makes sense. For my first novel that was true, and I ended up rewriting more than half of the book. For my second novel though, I planned out most of the storyline in detail, so I'm not spending too much time on the plot, but I'm still rewriting a lot of the scenes.

It's normal if your first draft is very bad. Don't get discouraged by it. Instead, start editing. And when you're editing for the first time, concentrate on the important things like dialogue, plot, character development, etc. If you see a typo, fix it, but correcting the grammatical mistakes can come in later. What you want to do first of all is make sure that the story makes sense and is engaging and interesting.

You'll probably end up spending a lot of time on that first revision. More than any other revision, but it will be worth it. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Your Publisher Can Make Your Book Look Thick

I bet you're thinking that I write way too many posts on book thickness. Well, the thing is that this seems to be a very important thing for a lot of writers, even if it shouldn't.

You see, I was, out of curiosity, comparing the thickness of Matilda with Lady Friday. It's not necessary to have read the books, because that's not what we're going to talk about here. The first book is filled with drawings, which would undoubtedly increase its length, while the latter is filled with only words. Still, if you were to measure their thickness with a ruler, they would come out almost the same, even though Matilda is around 240 pages in total while Lady Friday stretches to around 310.

Of course, I later found out that that shouldn't be surprising. After all, page thickness does contribute to how big your book will be. But the important point is: Both of the books looked equally thick. Yet one is actually larger.

The thing is that I know a lot of people with the mentality that they won't even open a very thin book, so they're scared if their book turns out to be too short. Well, that's the thing, don't worry about page count, and don't worry about thickness. You're publisher will decide that, and decide in the way they think is best for your book. Just focus on writing for now.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Beta Readers

Now, one thing you might want to think about are the people who are going to be reading your draft. You definitely want someone else's opinion, because you're the writer, and that will distort how you read and judge your book. You need someone from the outside, even if it is just your parent or a close friend, you do want to get someone to read it, though you should probably get someone who will judge honestly.

If you're one of those people who have lots of friends eager to read and review your book, well, I'm jealous. None of my friends went beyond the first few chapters. That might seem like they didn't like it, but usually it is just because they have other things to do.

You probably don't want someone reading your first draft. Trust me, when you'll get to editing it, you'll thank yourself for not letting someone else take a look at it. Now, I'd say it's when you don't start changing major things during your later revisions that you should get someone else to read it.

And one last thing, don't mention that someone liked your book in a query letter. It means nothing to an agent/publisher, and of course if you asked someone they're not about to say your book is horrible if it actually is. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Being Honest About How You See Your Book

Remember when I said that around 95% of submissions get rejected for simple reasons like grammar and syntax? Well, to be honest, a whole lot of you might be wondering why those people send in their works in the first place. I bet publishers are thinking the same thing.

The truth is that most of them think their works are great. That they're amazing. And if they've shown them to people they know, out of courtesy, they probably agree. Which is why it's very necessary to be true to yourself about your work.

I've experienced it several times. While editing, even though I knew that a scene wasn't working, I decided to leave it thinking that I could work on it later. Don't do things like that. Look at your work like a reader, and I'm sure you'll see most of the errors in it yourself, even if you might not want to admit that they're mistakes at first. You'll just end up having to fix them later on, and even if you don't, if it gets published like that, you'll still regret that you didn't change it.

It might be hard at first, but the key to editing is never thinking 'it's good enough' and hoping an editor will fix it. Do everything to the best of your ability. And trust me, I'm sure you know exactly where you're messing up.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

On Fanfiction and Fictionpress

If you are a teen writer, you've probably come across both Fictionpress and Fanfiction. But if you haven't had a first hand experience of either of them, well, this post is mainly about them.

First of all, the two sites are sisters. Fictionpress deals with original fiction while Fanfiction with, well, fan fiction. Both of the sites have pretty much the exact same layout and rules, and also an option for other users to review on your story.

What you've got to remember though is that there are no rules for posting anything. So, as a result, a lot of the stories posted are bad (more so on Fanfiction than not) and the sites are sort of dying right now. You don't get a whole lot of reviewers unless you post on the popular threads. For Fanfiction, almost all of the stories and traffic belong to the top, most popular franchises like Percy Jackson and the Olympians. If you write something else, you probably won't get that many readers.

And some of the stories are good, but a whole lot of them are too short, filled with cliches, and ridden with grammatical errors. Kind of like books from the self publishing industry where there's no one to regulate them.

You can also ask for Beta Readers, but do realize that many of them might simply not respond or be too busy to respond. You might want to try a short story or two, but do remember that most stories don't get too many reviews anyway.

Monday, May 20, 2013

On Writing Poetry

This was initially going to be a part of my scams to look out for series, but I decided that it sort of deserved its own post entirely.

So, the main thing you should know is that no agent will ever represent poetry. If you see anyone offering to represent poems, it is a scam. Poetry hardly makes anything these days. No agent could possibly earn a living through selling poetry.

I'm serious regarding that. Some people do manage to make a living entirely by writing novels and such (their numbers are few, but at the very least it is possible). Poetry never sells as much. People who submit their work to poetry publishing houses generally don't do it for money, but rather for reputation.

Another thing, poetry doesn't need to rhyme. There are a whole lot of people who think that even today, and it's just not true. Open any recently published poetry book and look. Of course, children's poetry is often expected to rhyme, so that's another thing.

So anyway, even if you do want your poems read, you'll probably have to become super famous. Either by writing, or something else entirely. And as people now-a-days don't read poems, even then the sales probably aren't going to skyrocket.

I would also advise you to watch out for poetry contests that promise to publish your work for a small fee. You might want to see if anyone actually reads the publication before putting any money on the table, and even then, you might want to really think about it.

Some Normal Guidelines While Writing YA

Now, the title of this post might be a bit misleading, because I'm just pointing out some tropes that seem to rule/govern YA writing and also posting about some books that totally break the guidelines. Remember that most great books do break the guidelines, but they generally have some reason to do so.

1. The main character should be a boy. Unless you're writing specifically for girls, this is something that you may have come across/read about somewhere. Girls will read books that have boys as main characters, but not the other way around so much. Of course, The Hunger Games disproves that to some extent, but most people seem to say that if you want to reach a large general audience, you should go for a male main character.

2. People always read up. Remember how old you were when you read a specific book. Generally, you probably don't read about people younger than you. It's generally reading about characters a few years older. While it's true that most people read up, it's not that they won't read down. I read books where the characters are younger than me sometimes. Sure, it doesn't happen usually, but it's not an impossibility.

The main thing to consider while determining your main character's age is that an older age will result in a different tone for the book. Also, people at different ages behave differently.

3. YA books are always thin. Most people would suggest you to that YA books should be between 40-50k words in length, but this rule gets broken so many times that it isn't even necessary for me to put too many exceptions. You'll probably hear of a lot of people who managed to get their books sold to an agent at around 75k words even. Concentrate on your story more than your word count.

Just remember that these are considered rules for a reason. If you have a good reason to, feel free to break them. But if you're trying to change the world of publishing, I would say that you should probably try to get published first, and then write something truly revolutionary. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Things You Shouldn't Do in Your Beginning

The beginning is a pretty important part of a novel, because most agents/publishers will leave your book at the first page if it doesn't really catch them. Some of them might be a bit more patient if your query letter looks promising, but you certainly can't count on that. And none of your readers will be reading a query letter, at most they'll take on a paragraph or two. So, here are some things that agents tend to hate in the first page, and look boring anyway:

1. The first line is a rhetorical question. This looks bad, and most readers will actually answer it with something negative in mind.

2. You introduce too many people in the first paragraph. We don't need to know all of your character's family members right off the bat.

3. Starting in the middle of an action scene which makes no sense. You might think that this will help 'hook' your reader, but it won't. What you need to do is introduce the main conflict almost right away.

4. If you want to put in a prologue, (you should ask yourself if you really need one) keep it very short. And it should be entertaining, not something that could be removed. (If you've read Eragon, you'll know that the whole prologue could have been excluded. As a matter of fact, a good fifth of the book could have been excluded, but let's not talk about that right now.)

5. Starting off with something that's cliche. If you've heard of something once, agents/publishers will have heard of it fifty times.

6. Having grammar errors or showing that you can't link paragraphs properly.

7. Starting off on some boring scene.

8. Building useless suspense regarding an object/person which isn't even important.

9. Introducing the story through some character's point of view who doesn't even have a major role for the rest of the novel.

10. Beginning by describing a scene. No one is interested if the roses sparkled with dew in the first line. Leave that kind of stuff for later.

Now, like everything with regards to writing, all of this advice should be taken with a grain of salt. The beginning is the hardest part of a book (the ending's no piece of cake either) and you'll see a whole lot of books that have been published and are successful, but break the norms. If there's a good reason for you to break one of these above rules, do it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Can't Write About Dragons

Okay, I know that I'm supposed to be working on The Codebreaker's Society, but I couldn't help but right about Tales of Ink Sorcery today. You see, one thing that I decided not to include in the book were dragons.

And do you know why? Not only are dragons the most overused trope in fantasy, I've read and heard so many different things about dragons that I can no longer think of an original idea for a dragon. Seriously, Christopher Paolini's idea of a dragon is still the one that's the freshest in my mind, but there are a whole lot of others. Some say that dragons feed on moonlight, others say that their fangs are poisonous, and I've been a fan of American Dragon: Jake Long for quite some time.

Same way for elves, leprechauns, dwarves, etc., so I decided that I would just leave all of that stuff. Due to so much exposure to different ideas, I just can't think of something that would be original as a dragon. Or something else.

Have you ever faced the same problem? Because this is one thing that's been bugging me for a long time.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


In addition to a query letter, agents/publishers will probably also ask you for a synopsis, so you might as well start on it after your first draft.

I won't bog you down with too many details on a good synopsis, because there's already so much info out there, and a lot of it conflicts with each other. I will only say this: A good synopsis should be short. (2-3 pages if it is double spaced and uses a twelve size font) Also, it should be entertaining. You shouldn't write it like a summary on Wikipedia.

If an agent likes your query letter enough to continue reading your synopsis or sample papers, then they probably won't leave your book due to the synopsis alone. But be careful, the synopsis is the only thing that tells your agent/publisher how the book will end, and please spoil the ending.

If your book is funny, enrich your manuscript with humour. Reading it should feel exciting, not like reading some sort of school report. But like I've said with a query letter, don't sweat too much over it. Yes, you should write several drafts, but don't just go bonkers on getting every single thing right.

Monday, May 13, 2013

After Your First Draft

I know how great it feels to finish a first draft, particularly if this is your first novel. Congratulations, but the truth is that there's a whole lot more of work to do. Now, you probably don't want to jump into editing right away. That's because it's in human nature to think 'It's all good,' if you try looking over your manuscript immediately.

Take at least two weeks before you start. But that doesn't mean that those two weeks should be unproductive. You can start by writing something else, your blog, jot down notes for a second book, or maybe work on some short story. You might then want to start on the summary and query letters, along with the character profiles. They don't need to be finished, I'm just saying that you should start on them, because it makes it all the more easier during editing. Trust me.

But do remember to do something and forget about your project for a while. Otherwise, you'll just end up bored by your own book. And that's never a good thing.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

When to Quit Working on Your Query Letter

I won't try to give advice on how to write a query letter. There's already much more than enough on that out there. But, the thing is that I see a lot of people who get far too much worked up over a query letter. Now, sure, a query letter is very important, but your project is way more important than that. If you find yourself spending more time on your query than on editing, then you know you've got a problem.

Nowadays, most agents also ask for the first three chapters or something along those lines in addition to a query, so they'll also be seeing that. Provided of course, your query letter isn't absolute trash.

I would say that once you finish your first draft, you should leave it aside for around two weeks. For a few days, do something and don't even think regarding the project. Then, start writing the synopsis. Write a one line synopsis, and then a full page one. Then move on to your query letter. You'll probably need to do a few drafts to get it right, usually around four, but the effort is well worth it. If you end up making ten drafts, then you're probably putting way too much thought into it. It's not necessary to have the query finished before you go to editing, but you should have a rough idea of how it is.

And, though what makes a good query varies from agent to agent, the following guidelines are things that you should definitely follow:

1. The query letter should tell you everything important about the book, genre, word count, title, etc. in the very first paragraph. Start with an interesting line (most people would advise against using a question in the first line) and explain your book in one or two lines, and then continue and give all the information above. Don't bury in in the last paragraph like it's some sort of secret.

2. Research your agent. I can't stress this fact enough. Remember, agents receive around one hundred queries a day, and for starters, get the salutation right. If your letter begins with 'Dear Agent' they might not even read it and go to the other 99 emails that they've received. And make sure that the font of the entire letter matches so it doesn't look like you've copied and pasted everything into it.
Also, make sure that you put at least one line (not more than two) about the agent. Mention a book that's similar to the one that you're pitching that the agent has represented, and how it is similar. If no books match your book, then that agent is not worth querying. If you've met the agent before, you might want to mention it, but don't go overboard with this. One or two lines and getting the salutation right are all that you need.

3. Make sure that your query is interesting. Sure, it is a business letter, but check to see if your mini-synopsis sounds interesting. It should sound like the blurb that you see at the back of a book. If your query is just average and very engaging, then some agents might pass it off and not bother with reading the sample that you've sent.

There are a whole lot more rules, but they're sometimes broken. But these three things are what your query letter should have, no matter what. And like I've said before, don't sweat over your query letter too much. Make it good, and take some time to let some other people proofread it, but don't go overboard with it.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Is Nothing Original?

You might remember my post on copyrights (it's mainly regarding laws in the United States, but from what I've seen from digging up on other countries, most have similar laws).

But a rather interesting thing is the notion among some writers that nothing can be original. A lot of writers have found that some of their lines that they've written are strikingly similar to books that they've never read.

There are a lot of explanations for this. Some people say that while we're reading, we're subconsciously picking up on various things, and by accident we might be including them in our writing without even realizing it. An example is a rather famous book and you can read about it here on Wikipedia.

But at the same time, what about passages which are strikingly similar between books that you've never read, or even heard of before? Well, think about all of the millions of books, films, television shows, comics, etc. that are out there. Chances are that no matter how much you try to make an original idea, by pure chance, there will be several things out there that will have the similar idea, or an idea that you can relate to your book.

Well, the thing is that accidental plagiarism still counts as plagiarism, and all publishing houses make sure that you sign a contract which makes you state that the work is all yours. The book I mentioned earlier won a movie deal and a half million dollar advance, but it could never sell since the whole incident. And for some reason, ever since that book has been accused of plagiarism, even more authors have found similarities between their works.

But a whole lot of those things might just be tropes and archetypes that everyone uses, right? After all, almost all writers try to do something different, but also want to do something that sticks with the genre. No one can really be sure.

So, if it ever happens that you find a line in your book is similar to one in another's, don't overly panic. It happens sometimes, and your best bet is to to change it.

About Copyrights

I'm sure this must have happened to you at least once: You were scared that someone might take your work and sell it for profit.

First of all, regarding copyright laws in the United States, everything that you create is considered your intellectual property. The current law says that it is yours for your whole lifetime and seventy years after. You don't need to do anything except be the original owner, and you don't even need to include a copyright symbol anywhere in your manuscript. (Don't do it by the way, it looks amateurish.)

Also, your publishing company will apply for a formal copyright later on. There's no need for you to bother. Now, some of you may still be sceptical about this, so let's consider two scenarios.

The first is that you think that you sold your work to a con artist and then you think the guy's going to sell it somewhere as original work. Not going to happen. I mean, for the con to be successful, the person would have to invite a large number of writers for one to be good. (By the way, most con agents/publishers don't read your work anyway.) How is that person supposed to realize that your book is good among a thousand submissions, when not even real publishers get it right sometimes? That's right, he or she won't. A con artist makes a living off of scamming writers, not actually publishing something.

Furthermore, remember, if your work was so good that someone wanted to steal it, then it'll probably become super famous. And you'd find out eventually.

Now, suppose the other thing you're worried about is a real publisher taking off with your work. Also the craziest thing in the world.

For one, there's no way that anyone can guarantee that your work will sell enough to bother stealing it. Two, if they steal your work, they would be alienating you and any other future books that you might right, and so they would lose a lot of money. Three, the moment they'd be caught doing this, no one would ever submit to them again.

And also, do remember that there's no reason at all for someone to take your work. After all, they do have to include an author's name, and if they have a group of pet authors who they keep attributing stolen work to, then they'd be caught. If a publisher out there was infringing on countless copyrights, they would do it again and again, and they would be caught.

But I suppose that won't convince the more paranoid of you people. I can understand that because the above argument didn't totally convince me, as I kept thinking, "But what if it does happen, even if the odds are less than 0.001%?"

Well, don't bother applying for a formal copyright. (I have to note here that if you want to sue someone for copyright infringement, you'll need to formally register.) It will cost a small fee, but writers don't make much anyway, and it will also come out as amateurish if a publisher finds out. And they will find out eventually, since they will know when they try to apply for a copyright themselves.

What I would suggest would be keeping enough evidence so that, if need be, you can prove that your book is yours. Some examples are:

1. Get someone you trust to read it, and they can testify if need be that they saw your work before it hit shelves. You'll do this because you want someone to critique your work anyway.

2. Keep a sort of development diary on your manuscript. This is great for editing and ideas anyway, but as it shows the process of how the book was developed, no one can say that it wasn't yours.

3. Keep the e-mails and other devices in which you save some earlier copies of your work. You can send e-mails to yourself, and the dates on them are more than enough. You'll do this because you want backup copies of your manuscript.

Most of this is stuff you probably do anyway for various reasons. But, I'd just say to forget about the idea of someone stealing your work and get writing.

On a final note, some may point out that there have been lawsuits filed against some major publishing houses. Well, the thing is, once your book gets famous, there are going to be a lot of people who are going to have eyes on all the money and fame that you've earned. I haven't seen all the cases, but I'd say that most of them are just from jealous writers who see a few points of similarities in their work and the stuff that gets published. Go figure.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

How Thick Will My Book Be?

Another thing that I often see on forums, and is generally misunderstood is just how thick people expect their books to be. A lot of people have the idea that a thick book is generally better and they won't even open up a book unless it is at least half an inch thick, while a smaller minority prefer the opposite.

But like I've been saying on my posts on word count, you really shouldn't bother with this. Get the story done first, and then you can cut out anything you think might be unnecessary.

But to give you a really rough idea, well, if your book has x number of pages in standard manuscript format, then that's a good approximation of how big your book will be.

So, a book of 50,000 words should have around 200 pages. But for YA it's usually much longer. For one, a book's page is much smaller than that of a standard MS word page, but double spacing is also removed. The size of the text is also kept larger in YA books so the average words per page is a bit shorter, usually in the 200-240 range. This can make a 50k book around 250 pages.

But the thing is that you shouldn't dismiss your book because you think it's short, and don't worry about how thick it is. Your publisher will decide all that. And, another thing, books are generally much longer than you think they would be. A 40k book might seem short, but it can actually take a lot of time even for a fast reader (I consider myself a fast reader, so I think I know what I'm talking about) and you shouldn't burden yourself with unnecessary worries about length.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Standard Manuscript Format

Today we're going to talk about something that almost all writers despise: formatting your manuscript. Yes, that's right, it's not just enough to write out a whole book, when you send it to an editor, you have to format it as well.

Now, what really drives me crazy is that all kinds of different publishers have all kinds of different formatting rules. For that, you'll just have to check their guidelines. But, a lot of them still ask for 'standard format', so that's what we'll be covering here. To convert a manuscript to standard format, the following should be noted.

1. Make all of the margins one inch.

2. Make the font 'Courier' or 'Courier New' and make the size 12. Also, select all of your text, right click, go to paragraph, and make line spacing double.

3. Indent the paragraphs half an inch using the indent tool on top of the page.

4. Make sure new chapters start on a new page.

5. Remove any special text except for italics.

6. What you should put on your first page varies from publisher to publisher. Most will agree that you should put the title at the top ( all of the things in this sentence should be centered), below it the genre and the expected word count. Then, change the alignment to left and type in your name, pseudonym if any, and any relevant contact details. If your publisher demands a summary or query letter as part of the manuscript, make sure that they start on different pages and you should be fine.

Most of this is with reference to Microsoft Word, the most commonly asked for format by publishers. If they ask for a pdf, you can just follow the above procedures and convert it later on.

Monday, May 6, 2013

About Passion

Right now, I'm waiting for my second novel to cool down a little since I only just finished the first draft. Once it's simmered, I'll get back to editing it. Until then though, I have several ideas that I wanted to share with you guys.

Defining passions is so difficult that I won't even get into it. But I remember this line from one of Roald Dahl's stories that seemed to sum it up pretty good: No one knows exactly what passion is, but one thing is clear. It can turn even the most boring novel into a bestseller, and can also do the exact opposite. (One, I'm not sure that that's the exact line, more of how I remember it. Two, I enjoy quoting Roald Dahl when talking about becoming a writer. You should really see what he has to say about it.)

But coming to the point, even though that definition seems to help very little in giving any new writer information regarding what passion is and how it should be used in a novel.

I won't go on this for very long, because I have very little to say. What I really wanted were your opinions on this. What is passion to you? Is it just liking your story or believing it's the best? Or is it about completely losing yourself to your story, to think about it as if it really happened?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Some Scams to Look Out For- Part 2

This is a continuation from part one.

4. Sites that are geared towards writers, not readers

The most important person in the publishing industry is the reader. Everything the publisher does is to satisfy the reader.

However, if you find a site that is geared towards writers, then there is a problem. What I mean by this is that real publishers' sites will list the books they've published on the front page, and they'll actively distribute information about their authors. The submission information is usually in a tiny corner somewhere.

But if you see a site that showcases submission information and seems to encourage writers to submit, then you've got a problem. That means that the publisher is probably making money off of its writers, not its readers. And that is very bad for your book.

5. Publishers with way too many books published

If you see a publisher which is just one year old, and yet its gotten 120 books out, that means it is what we sometimes call an 'author mill'. Such publishers don't make money by selling thousands of copies of one book, they make money by selling one hundred copies of hundreds of books. Needless to say, as an author, you don't want to go with these kinds of guys.

Remember to always check what people are saying about the books a publisher publishes. Check out the prices, sales records, check out a preview (if there's no preview available then this is another red signal), etc.

6. People who ask you to buy copies of your own book

A lot of publishers, the ones who are scams, make money by asking their writers to buy their own book copies. No real publisher will ask you to do this, or pay any upfront fee.

As a matter of fact, a real publisher will give you a small number of author copies of your book for free. Aside from that, you don't need to get any copies of your own book. And you shouldn't have to, because a publisher who asks authors to buy their own books will not bother selling out your work to actual readers.

Finally Finished My Second Book

Sorry for the very small number of updates lately, but I was busy writing The Codebreaker's Society, my second novel. Amazingly, I managed to finish it in under three weeks, though my first one took around a year and a half. I'd attribute that to the following:

1. Length: This book is around 48k words as a first draft. It might go up a little, but not beyond 55k. My first novel was around 110k in length. Shorter book obviously means less time to write it. But the thing is that I thought that both of my books stood good at those lengths. My longer book needed more length to tell the story, the shorter one had a story of just that length.

2. Planning: I didn't really plan Tales of Ink Sorcery. But I had spent a whole three weeks planning this book, writing down stuff about the characters, plotting scenes, etc. I knew the entire book before I wrote it. I made a few small additions, but the overall plot remained the same. For my first book I actually had to stop and think for hours regarding the plot as I had made it up as I went along. And I also had to rewrite almost half of it as well, because it wasn't too good. Not that my first draft of this is fantastic, but I think it's solid plot wise. There are still several changes and additions I think I need to work on, but on that later.

3. I've Gotten Better: Maybe this isn't as important as the first two. But this is the second time I'm writing a novel. Maybe I just got better.

For now though, I'll keep updating. I'm taking a break from my novel for a while, but I'll start editing it in around fifteen days. I hope the editing process will be shorter and simpler than that for my first novel, which had taken around five months in total. But I did get to learn a lot about revision from it, and hopefully this one will sell.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Inserting Humour Into Your Story

Roald Dahl once said "You can write about anything for children as long as you've got humour."

This might be bit off the point, but I never found his books to be especially funny. Sure, they were all great, but there wasn't even a single moment in them in which I even giggled a little. Still, they were the best.

But coming to the point though, you're probably going to find a touch of humor in all YA books, and in some adult books as well. Unless what you're writing is a very serious story, (even in very serious stories humour can find its place once in a while) you'll probably want to insert some jokes or funny moments to engage your readers.

Now, there's one thing though: How to make your book funny? While there are no set rules, you can learn a lot by reading books that are funny (like Artemis Fowl for example). Some ideas are:

1. Use a comic relief character. While it's probably going to look overly cliche if you have someone who just exists to make things look funny, you can insert that as a trait in one of your characters.

2. Have one of your characters, maybe even the main one, have some sort of interesting quirk. Even the most serious of people have their own oddities.

3. Maybe you don't want to make any of your characters funny. Then you can turn some of the situations they get into downright bizarre.

4. Another thing you might want to try is describing people in an odd way. (The Artemis Fowl books are a good example of this. If you've read them, you probably know how Eoin Colfer describes a whole lot of things.)

But do remember one thing: Humour is a very subjective thing. It varies from person to person. What you may think is laugh-out-loud funny may just get an odd look from someone else. This is true about writing in general too, what one reader might find interesting, would be annoying to another. (But there are some things that in general, all readers will enjoy. Experiment. That's the only way you'll find out.)

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Word Counts of Some Popular YA Novels

We often go around thinking that fat, thick books with huge word counts are the best. But the thing is, that thick book that you see in a bookstore may actually contain fewer words than you think. For example, Twilight is around 120,000 words. I won't mention the Harry Potter or Inheritance series, because Harry Potter breaks the rules as it's so popular and hence word count doesn't matter, and Christopher Paolini could shave off 200 or 300 pages off of any of his Inheritance books and they'd still tell the same basic story.

But anyone, here, I'm going to go to a page in various YA books, count the number of words on one page full of text, and then multiply it with the number of pages. The result will probably be higher than the actual number, because I'm not considering the fact that pages that end when a chapter ends and begin with the beginning of a chapter have less words since the chapter name is usually spelt out, but still, as estimated word count is higher anyway, and that's what we're calculating, so these are a bit higher than normal.

1. Goosebumps: Escape From Horrorland- I know this book isn't technically YA and more qualifies as middle age, but I decided that I'd mention it anyway. But, as you're probably thinking, the Goosebumps books are usually pretty thin anyway.
Words per page: 120
Number of pages: 132
Approximate Word Count:  15,840
And another thing, R. L. Stine writes over hundreds of books in a series, so a low word count is actually acceptable.

2. Animorphs: The Revelation- Another book that's pretty thin, and it's part of a series of over fifty books, and each book was written in under a month anyway.
Words per page: 193
Number of pages: 136
Approximate Word Count: 26,248

But let's get on to some of those thicker books that you might see.

3. Sir Thursday, Fourth Book in the Keys to the Kingdom Series- Now, this book is actually the second largest of the series, with only Drowned Wednesday being thicker, but if you've seen it in your local bookstore, you'll notice that it's one of those books that make you think, 'Wow. What a big book.' Well, let's see exactly how many words it seems to have.
Words per page: Around 240 on the pages with large amounts of text.
Number of pages: 343
Approximate Word Count: 82,320
Do note that this is probably higher than what it actually is. Also note that this book is the fourth in a series by a well-established writer, and also that it is a fantasy novel, which generally adds around 14-20,000 words to any story anyway.

4. Gregor the Overlander, First Book in the Underland Chronicles: Some of you may know this book's author a bit better than the book: Suzanne Collins, the same person who wrote The Hunger Games trilogy.
This is book is also pretty large, though not as much as Sir Thursday.
Words per page: 200
Number of pages: 310
Approximate Word Count: 62,000
This is a debut novel, so something that you might want tot keep in mind.

So that's that for now. Please don't take any of the above values too literally. The point of this blog is to show that not necessarily all YA books you see have larger than life word counts. The fact is that an average of 55-65,000 words is probably a good choice. Of course, there are always exceptions, and if you think your longer novel is worth it with each word being important, than, well go for it. Unless a publisher tells you to trim it down so it can be published. In that case, cut it until it matches their standards.

The thing is, don't write a long novel just for the sake of writing a longer novel. That's the thing that you want to avoid, which is what this post is about.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Scams to Look Out For- Part One

Now we're going to be covering some general scams that you may find on your trawls as you search for a publisher/agent. With the advent of the internet and new tools available for publishing, there are a lot of con artists out there. Here are some signs that you need to look out for.

1. People who advertise in any form or come to you

Remember, real agents and editors have to fight back clients. They don't need any more. Only con artists/vanity publishers put any kinds of ads anywhere, magazines, on Google ads, or something like that. And if your publisher's is geared towards writers instead of readers, which means that it seems like they really want people to submit, than this is also a sure sign that something's wrong.

Also, no editor will ever come to you. If anyone e-mails you asking for a manuscript whom you haven't submitted to, 99.9% chances are that it's a scam.

2. People about who there are no records

Now, I suppose you're probably going to check up on any agent/publisher who offers you a contract. What if you don't find anything bad, but you find nothing?

That's another sure sign that's something is wrong. Real agents and editors get talked about. They have records. If someone doesn't, it probably means a scam of some kind.

3. Seeing your books in stores

A lot of publishers will mention that if your book gets published by them, it will be available in stores all over the country. What they generally mean is that if someone walks up to the store and orders your book, then they'll deliver it to that store.

Now, think about it. In your long years as a reader, how many times have you walked into a store and asked specifically for a book to be ordered to you? Let me guess, zero. Almost all readers only browse what's right in front of them in a book store.

Check your publisher's name. Go into a store like Barnes & Noble and ask if they have any books by that publisher. If you don't see any, well, then yours probably won't be there too. Remember, everything you see in a book store is a result of a publisher. Your publisher negotiates for a spot on the shelves, the number of copies the book store will hold, etc. Besides begging on your knees for them to take in your book, there's not much that you can do to get your book into a store.

Difference Between Children's, Middle-Grade and Young Adult

Because you're a teen writer, I'm going to assume that you're probably not going to write for adults. So, you need to know your categories, and this is what this page is about. Remember, all word counts mentioned are estimated word counts.
So, the first category is Children's. These involve mainly picture books and the word count doesn't go over three thousand. I can't give you much advice on these, because your reputation and luck are a bit more important than your writing skills.
Middle grade is for kids up to the age of 10 or 11. The word counts usually falls in the range 20-30 thousand.
Finally, we have young adult novels. This is the category that I'm going to be covering in detail, because if you're a teen writer, I'm guessing that you're writing a novel for teens. (Most probably.) This is also the most general category and the one which is a bit confusing with word count.
Technically, this category involves people in the ages group 12 to 17, so as you can expect, there's a lot of variety on what to write and how long.
Generally, the word count is suggested to be between 50,000-65,000. But the thing is that that's very general. There are lots of exceptions, and I've seen young adult (often abbreviated to YA) novels sell that have word counts up to 80,000. Some of the sci-fi and fantasy ones even go to the 100,000 word range.
There are a lot of diverse opinions on this issue. What I'm going to say is that it probably depends on your target age group. If your book is targeted more towards 12-14 year olds, then you can expect the word count to be a bit lower than one targeted towards 15-16 year olds. Generally, you can add around 15,000 to the expected word count for any target audience if the theme is science fiction or fantasy, because they involve intensive world building.
I'd say that you should first try to write down your whole book. If you're getting a word count of over 100k, you might want to revise it a little bit. Unfortunately (or fortunately), there's no very strict range that you should tailor your book to. It's kind of something that you'll just have to go with your gut on. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Word Count is Important

As the title suggests, today's post is going to be about a very important topic: word count.

Now, the first thing that you need to know is that the word count that publishers and agents ask for isn't the one that you see that's calculated by your word processor. To find out your 'estimated' word count, take the following steps:

1. Select all of your text using ctrl+a.

2. Change the font to Courier or Courier New, and the font size to twelve.

3. Indent the paragraphs by half an inch using the indent tool on top of the page.

4. Right click on your text. An option will come 'Paragraph'. Click on that, and change line spacing to double spaced. Make the indentation 1".

5. Make sure your new chapters start on a new page. Basically, all of this is part of a standard manuscript format.

6. Multiply the page number by 250.

That's your word count. Here's some data from me comparing real/estimated word count:

1. Real: 7,474
Estimated: 8,000
Difference: 600 words

2. Real: 11,987
Estimated: 13,000
Difference: 1,000 words

3. Real: 98,310
Estimated: 110,500
Difference: 12,000

The difference is only an estimate. From the above data, we can conclude two things. First, your estimated word count is always higher than the real word count. Second, the larger your real word count, the greater the difference. See how for the last thing when my word count was 98k, it was actually 110k. That's a huge difference, especially in publishing, where a difference of only around 5k is unacceptable.

Now, you might be wondering why publishers do this. The thing is, that this gives a much better idea of how much space your novel is going to take up, and consequently how much paper and ink they're going to need to publish it, as well as how much time it will take to edit it. Word count that your word processor gives out isn't a very good estimate of this, because it doesn't take into fact that new paragraphs start on new lines, if there's a lot of dialogue, if you're words are very long, etc. That's why estimated word count is.

Another thing, don't think that a longer book is better. The average novel is only around 80,000 estimated words. It's around ten thousand words higher for science fiction/fantasy, but otherwise, if you're first novel is very long, it's usually a sign that you have a lot of excess words that you can delete in it. If you're e-publishing though, word count isn't exactly that much important.

The rule of thumb is that a shorter novel is better. Sure, it shouldn't be too short, but it being a few words short is better than it being a few words to long. There are always exceptions to this, especially if your long novel is very engaging throughout, but usually a high word count tends to scare off publishers. Of course, writers with a lot of clout might be able to write longer things, but otherwise, not really.

Here's a general guide to see if you've formatted your manuscript right:

150,000 words would be around 600 pages.

100,000 words would be around 400 pages.

80,000 words would be around 320 pages.

If your results don't match this, then you're doing something wrong.

On a final note, remember, if you're aiming for 80k words, write around 74k in real word count. Aim slightly lower in real word count while you're writing, and then find out the estimated one when you're finished. Don't bother with this word count thing while you're working on your first draft. Just set up a rough idea of how much you have to write, but otherwise, worry about it after you've written the very best that you can.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Giving Up on Tales of Ink Sorcery

Yesterday, I got the final rejection slip for my book. That's that, and now I don't have any publishers/agents left to send it to. As a matter of fact, no one even asked for the full manuscript after I had sent my query letters, so I guess there's some fault with them.
But no matter. I've decided to write another novel, and I have an idea for a third as well. I'll try to do things better this time, and I hope my luck will turn out better as well.
Not that I've totally given up on my first manuscript. Maybe, someday, when I do get published, I'll take another good look at it and give it another polish. Until then.
Thanks guys for reading.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What Got You to Start Writing?

My fourth grade teacher was always enthusiastic in trying to teach us to write. He’d give us loads of tips that I continue to hear from other people today. Too bad I really didn’t pay attention to them. Back then, my writing was horrible, and I really didn’t try to change that. I finished fourth grade and then, he was no longer my teacher.

For some reason though, when I was in the fifth grade I decided that I wanted to improve. I applied something that I had been taught, and for the first time I got praise for my writing. I wanted to do it again. I continued practicing. I didn’t churn out masterpieces all of the time, but I did get better. I remember winning second place in an essay writing competition. True, it was second place, but my fourth grade self probably wouldn’t have even tried. I wrote almost everything, poems, short stories, essays, and articles.

All through that time, while I did get new advice regarding writing, I could link it all with what my fourth grade teacher taught me so long ago. Ironic, I never really listened to the man while he was teaching me, and then I pretty much regarded his words as dogma once he had completely vanished from my life. It's strange how you only realize how much your teachers did for you only when they stop doing it.

What about you though? Who inspired you to start writing? Was it your parents, your teacher, or some other incident entirely?

Why You Shouldn't Let the Statistics Get You Down

I see a lot of websites running stats on the chances of getting published. They are generally thought of to be abysmal, and the websites claim there are better chances of getting struck by lightning than landing a deal with an actual publisher. I have to say that I disagree with most of them.

                                       Did someone say they want to be struck by lightning?

For one, not every book has the same chance of getting published. Even though most publishing houses may get around 10,000 submissions per month, but 90-95% of them are just not publishable for reasons as simple as bad grammar, or maybe they don’t match with what the publisher publishes. (The number will be higher for more famous publishers.) And anyway, of the rest of the books aren’t necessarily very good. After all, publishers don’t want okay books, they want great books.

But leaving that aside, I’m going to give you some statistics on why you can get published.  My stats may not be totally accurate, true, but I still hope they give a rough idea of the situation out there.

 To run through my own statistics, let’s first take the population of America over 18. Not to belittle my fellow teenage writers, but I know very well that not all of the adult population will be capable of writing a book, so it really evens out. I would guess, though this is an overestimate, that around 240,000,000 people would be able to write a book.  (I’m getting data from the U.S. Census. Approximately.)

Well, how many people who want to write a book actually sit down to write one? Though I know a lot of people who think of writing one (mainly so that they can say that they’ve written a book in their lifetime), I know very well that actually sitting down to write it is something different. The number is actually quite low, in my opinion around 95% of those people will never start or get pass page thirty.

Even harder is actually finishing the novel. Lots of people will lose inspiration, give up, or think that they don’t have the time to write a book. I think 98% of people will never finish their novel.

So how much competition do we have now? One- thousandth of the original, or 240,000. Not exactly very good odds. Still, finishing a novel is hardly the end of the story. 

How many of those writers won’t just delete the manuscript after it is done? How many will revise and edit tirelessly until the book is perfected? How many will look for the right publisher or agent? How many will use effective queries and target the right publishers? How many will cope with rejection and not lose heart through this process? After all, let’s remember that a lot (around nine-tenths) of the submissions publishers receive are rejected for some very basic problems (the book is boring; the plot doesn’t make sense, etc.)
Let’s say it is 1%. I bet it’s actually lower, but better to overestimate. That leaves our competition at 2,400. Take the fact that 40% will be nonfiction, 1440 is left. A bit more manageable number.

I’ll stop right there, and won’t reduce it further by pointing out that you’re competing with people in a particular genre among with other things. I also haven't considered other countries as well. I’m also guessing my numbers looking a bit too good to be true, but that’s not what I want to say.

What I want to say is that the stats don’t matter. Ignore the stats. There are a hundred factors like perseverance, talent, etc. that numbers can simply not capture.

I wrote all of that to give you a feel of how the numbers are actually in your favor if you’re serious. But seriously, ignore even them. Write. Work hard, and don’t even bother with the numbers, because the statistics mean absolutely nothing. The moment you give up, your chances of being published become 0%. I repeat: Never let the statistics get you down. And as this guy would say,


As a matter of fact, don't even bother looking up any more stats pages. Come on, get writing! You can start by leaving your comments below this page.