Stephen King has been known to say it should take no more than three months to write the first draft of a novel. “A season,” he calls it, and that from a man who is said to write ten pages a day. If you do the math, and if 10 pages X 250 words per page (the average word count), that’s 225,000 words in three months. Seeing the average novel is about 300 pages, or roughly 80,000 words (it’s not an exact science), that’s two novels plus a three quarters of a third. Not being Stephen King, I’m not the recipient of a million plus advance and able to write full time. But we all know the size of the novels that King usually produces one novel (maybe two) a year. But neither am I Nora Roberts, the prolific romance novelist, who reportedly writes an average of twenty-five (that’s 25) novels a year. Do I want to do either? I don’t think so.
I have finished a first draft of my next novel. Now, I could spend a week or two editing for continuity, plot holes, grammar, and needless words, or I can take a month or two and turn it into something that will have a longer shelf life than the average three months of a paperback. Helen Hooven Santmyer, author of …And the Ladies of the Club spent over twenty years writing the novel, finally submitting to Ohio University Press eleven boxes containing bookkeeping ledgers, her manuscript of Ladies written in longhand. It took awhile, but her book became a literary sensation, the paperback selling over 2 million copies between June and September 1985. By this time Ms. Santmyer was feeble and elderly and living in a nursing home, but she was featured on the cover of The New York Times book review. The example is a bit extreme, but good things do come to those who persevere.
Do I want to toil that long? Well, no, but neither do I want to pump out product, either. The answer for me I suppose lies somewhere in between. I guess I just want to write something that will last, and that the readers will ask for more. That’s what I want to do. What do you?
The Book Fair will be held on Saturday, March 30th from 4:30 TO 6:30 pm at the Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel located at 515 US Highway 1 South Iselin, NJ 08830.
The Book Fair is open to the general public in addition to all conference attendees.
**GPS ALERT** ENTER THIS ADDRESS for directions to the hotel: 401 Gill Lane, Iselin, NJ 08830.
If you’re a college professor like me, chances are March Madness has absolutely nothing to do with basketball, but everything to do with the point you’ve reached in the semester. I’m talking about when your grading brain’s been set to high-sizzle and you’d give your next two incremental raises for a week without whiteboards, lectures, mandatory offices hours, and anything coming close to a five-to-seven page essay. I’m not even going to touch midterms. Anyway, if you made what I make you’d totally know I’d have to be losing it to suggest the above. It’s bad, I tell you. One more day of looking like the above then it’s off to someplace warm. Cancun? Ft. Lauderdale? Hell no. My bed until noon, baby oh yeah!
See ya in two!
Jacqueline Cutler: Jacqueline Cutler’s work in journalism began as a police reporter in Manhattan. Over the years, she has covered politics and government (local and a state capitol), education, worked on rewrite desks and investigated corruption. About 25 years ago, she switched from news to features and has covered television, theater and books for many print and online sites. She began as a book critic when her oldest daughter was 2 and had been warned she would never read a full book again. She prefers reading to just about anything else and has been known to read at baseball games, while walking, in planes, trains and cars and her proudest achievement as a mom is raising two serious readers. Married for decades to a film critic, she takes in rescue dogs, has an affinity for dead languages, the Yankees and will sing along to Ethel Merman if anyone asks. No one ever does.
Sonali Dev: Award winning author, Sonali Dev, writes Bollywood-style love stories that let her explore issues faced by women around the world while still indulging her faith in a happily ever after. Her books have been on Library Journal, NPR, Washington Post, and Kirkus Best Books of the year lists. Shelf Awareness calls her “Not only one of the best but also one of the bravest romance novelists working today.” Sonali lives in Chicago with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog. Find more at sonalidev.com.
Deb Werksman: Deb Werksman has been at Sourcebooks for the past twenty years, before which she had her own publishing company. She is the editorial director of romance fiction and acquires single title romance in all subgenres. Sourcebooks publishes 6-8 romance titles per month, in print and ebook formats simultaneously. We are the country’s largest woman-owned independent publishing house. We’re known for our sales and marketing, as well as our focus on building authors’ careers.
It’s not easy being a fiction writer. You walk around all day with the story in your head, imagining scenarios and the wittiest dialogue, crafting perfect snippets of prose and the most dramatic of plot twists, only to have them poof like steam from a boiling pot the second you drop the lid–or open your laptop. I must admit I’ve been struggling with an edit, rewriting scenes to perfection, only to discover that now I’ve totally screwed everything that comes after. When that happens I fall into a funk, as Ihave to rework or trash all what I thought used to work so well. Damn, damn, damn!
Even so, I know I’ll go back tomorrow. I know I’ll get up at the crack of dawn and find my way somehow to the keyboard. For what? I should ask myself. Why do this over and over and over, only perfecting the definition of futile? I guess the answer is what else can I do? I’m a writer–I didn’t choose this profession. The profession chose me. And with practice comes perfection, and too bad I have so much of one and so little of another.
Ah well, back to work. There’s darlings to be sacrificed.
I believe this is the third State of Emergency that my state of New Jersey has had this winter. Why? It’s snowing. In inches. Not feet. As I look outside my window at a little past 1:00 PM, there’s barely an inch on the ground, and the snowmageddon was called before eleven. Seriously, why not wait until there’s at least a foot on the ground, but then that’s not even going to happen. We’re supposed to get between two-and-four inches, and then it’s going to turn to rain. Tomorrow the high’s supposed to be fifty-six. Sheesh. What’s happening to my state. Talk about a bunch of snowflakes.
So you’ve written this incredibly wonderful novel and you’re desperate to get it before and agent or editor. You’ve tried to query, you’re tried to do the face-to-face thing at writers’ conferences, you’ve tried EVERYTHING! But alas, nothing’s worked so far. So howabout a new avenue of angst for you? It’s called #pitmad, and it’s a Twitter hashtag sponsored by the website Pitch Wars, a writer mentoring program that vows to “get into the publishing trenches with you.” But here’s a bit more on #pitmad, directly from their site:
#PitMad is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. Agents and editors make requests by liking/favoriting the tweeted pitch.
Every unagented writer is welcome to pitch. All genres/categories are welcomed.
#PitMad occurs quarterly. Upcoming dates are:
- March 7, 2019 (8AM – 8PM EDT)
- June 6, 2019 (8AM – 8PM EDT)
- September 5, 2019 (8AM – 8PM EDT)
- December 5, 2019 (8AM – 8PM EST)
Don’t favorite friends’ tweets. The agents will be requesting by favoriting tweets, and more favorites can make it hard for those with requests to see all of their faves/likes. RT or Quote-RT to show your support. Do NOT use the hashtag when quote RTing – Keep the hashtag clean so agents can navigate it easily.
Be respectful and courteous to each other, and especially to the industry professionals. If you do see abuse, please report it to Twitter or notify one of the hosts of the event.
For more info, go to #pitmad, and happy pitching!
When I went to my 1:30 class this afternoon, it was bright and sunny and about 34 degrees, a slight breeze, and just a smattering of puffy clouds low on the horizon. When I got out about an hour and a half later, it was gray with the wind picking up, a snowflake here and there appearing. Fifteen minutes later a snow squall hit with blinding force, the visibility virtually zero, the temperature dropping fourteen degrees in five minutes. Another fifteen minutes later it was all but over, and now, two hours later, with the sun setting, the thermometer is expected to drop like a rock. The forecast in my part of New Jersey is for five above. Which makes me happy as if I were in Wisconsin, that’d be a day at the beach. The temps there when you apply the windchill factor rival the Arctic. In fact, I think it was warmer in Antarctica today.
Can you think of a better time to stay inside and write? Of course not!
One thing that you should know if you’re just starting out in this business is that no one will ever tell you how much they got for a publishing advance. This was one thing that startled me, because I thought I wouldn’t have to ask. That it would just be out there listed as an expected range, like looking up salaries on Glass Door. (Of course, you can’t really go by them either. I went to Glass Door and looked the average base pay for Adjunct Professor and got $42,451 and almost fell off my chair laughing.) Like Penguin/RH paid the best, followed by HarperCollins, etc., but that was ridiculous because no one ever advertised this stuff. The closest I got to real figures was a survey author Brenda Hiatt used to compile called “Show Me the Money,” but I don’t think she’s updated it in a long time. So where do you go to find if this writing life is even worth it?
Er…in case you haven’t found it out yet, it’s like that old saying: if you have to ask, you can’t afford it. In other words, if you’re looking to make a mint out of writing fiction, well here’s a piece of advice–don’t quit you’re day job. On the other hand, if you’re willing to occasionally starve, absorb a lot of criticism, and spend hour after hour behind a keyboard, you may have a future in the literary life. If you do that, you may eventually sell, and when you do, you’re likely to get an advance with your book contract. (If you don’t, that means you’re may be getting on a higher percentage royalty-only contract, but that’s a whole other post.) And when you do sell, your agent will post the sale on Publisher’s Marketplace, using only these vague descriptors to outline compensation:
“Nice” – $1.00 – 49.00
“Very Nice” – $50.00 – 99k
“Good” – $100k – 250k
“Significant” – $251k – 499k
“Major” – $500k and up
So there you go, publishers’ advances decoded! Don’t you feel much better now?