Explaining the No

Back in June, we opened submissions for the upcoming Weird West anthology, Lawless Lands, from Falstaff Books. We’ve had a lot of stories roll in, some of them great, some of them okay, and some of them pretty terrible. Yeah, I said ‘terrible’. Despite all the advice we here on Magical Words (as well as lots of other writing sites all over the net) have offered over the years, there are some writers who are just NOT. GETTING. IT. And that breaks my heart. As an editor, what I hope to find every time I open a story file is that incredible story, the one that makes me race through to the end and then read it again because it was that good. The one that leaves me in tears because it touched me so deeply. THAT story. But sometimes writers send in pieces that make me stare at the […]

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Word Count, Time, Intent, and Metrics

That’s a lot of stuff, right? A lot of oddball, different stuff that normal people don’t even think about, especially word count. But as writers, especially new and new-ish writers, we pay a lot of attention to our daily word count, the number of new words we get down on the page every day. And as someone starting out, learning the craft and just trying to figure out where stories go, looking at the word counts of some people can be downright terrifying. So if you want to be successful in this business, what’s the magic number? How many words should you write every day to be considered a professional writer?

It doesn’t matter.

You knew it was a trick question, right? You knew I was either going to say zero or ten thousand, so why bother answering? Sorry, it’s the way I roll. Hyperbolic-Socratic, that’s my personal teaching style.


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On Cutting

Well, as Sam says on his return from the Grey Havens, I’m back. My hiatus is done and I’m ready to deal with some magical words, though today I want to talk about getting rid of a few.

It’s a familiar problem, particularly for those of us who never met a word, phrase or paragraph they didn’t like. An editor (or friend, or beta reader, or the voice in your head that you generally manage to ignore) says something along the lines of “this is great, but it needs to be 10,000 words shorter.”

For the last few weeks I’ve been wrestling with an edit memo concerning my current WIP which required me to cut at least 5,000 and preferably closer to 8,000 words. “4,000 words?” I said. “Why do you want me to cut 2,000 words?”

Didn’t work.

Partly the issue was pacing, but the bottom line was that […]

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Back to Basics, part V: Writing to a Certain Length

Baseball season has begun, and, as always happens this time of year, I am reminded of my favorite baseball movies, of which there are many. At or near the top of my list is the somewhat raunchy but hilariously funny Bull Durham. At one point, as the Durham Bulls are in the midst of prolonged slump, their manager gives one of the great speeches in the history of baseball movies. It comes right after he calls his players “lollygaggers.” (“You lollygag the ball around the infield, you lollygag your way down to first, you lollygag inand out of the dugout! You know what that makes you? . . . Lollygaggers!”) He says, “This is a simple game. You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball.”

What I love about this is that anyone who knows anything about baseball knows that the simplicity of the game belies […]

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Bolstering Your Word Count

Today’s post comes courtesy of an exchange of emails with Faith.

We have written about book length and word count before (here’s one of my posts on the subject), and usually those posts take the form of “How can we reach our target word count?” or “How do we go about cutting our novels down to an acceptable length?” or even “How do we get over the intimidating prospect of beginning a project that we expect will be over 100,000 words long?” Today’s question is a little different.

What do we do when we realize with absolute certainty that our book is going to come in too short?


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The Economics of Word Count

The question of appropriate word count for various genres has come up time and again in my recent talks and on my blog, so I thought I’d use it to start off my very first post here at Magical Words. First of all, if you’re J.K. Rowling or George R.R. Martin, you can get away with the kind of books that keep chiropractors in business, the big fat fantasies. If not, here are some things to think about…. […]

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