James Floyd Kelly

Writer and Swashbuckler-for-Hire

Who keeps shooting at me???

So I wrapped up Ch13 today with an additional 3 pages that set the stage for a few very key chapters – ch14 and ch15 will be almost non-stop action with no rest for the hero, so I had to make sure to close a few situations and get people and thing in place… that’s the great thing about fiction.

As it stands, the novel is almost 27,000 words right now, and I’m shooting for around 75,000 to 80,000 which is typical for a Young Adult fiction novel.  About 1/3 done, so if things continue as they are, the book will end up with about 40 chapters.

Someone who has been lurking finally emailed me to ask a few questions – some about the story and some about the process.  I can’t really answer the questions about the story, sorry.  But I can tell you a bit about the process.  It’s no super secret and something that’s touched on in creative writing classes here and there.  I really didn’t enjoy my creative writing classes in college but now wish I’d paid more attention… I was too interested in my Tech Writing and Research classes.  Oh, well.  But if you can find a creative writing class in your area, sign up and you’ll likely get some info beyond what I can provide here.  (And I hope this next bit answers some of your questions, B.)

The 80,000 word thing is fairly easy to figure out.  Books like the Writer’s Market or any of the “Writing for Kids” type books will tell you the general pagecount/wordcount expectations for different levels of reader.  I’m writing for the 8 to 14 age group (some use 9 to 15, some use 7 to 16… confusing) that’s often labeled Young Adult.  At 80,000 words, you’re looking at a 300-350 page book.  Pick up any recent YA novels (I’ll use “Billionaire’s Curse” by Richard Newsome because it’s fairly new and I actually enjoyed reading it) and do an inventory.  This book is 344 pages, with about 40 of them actually half pages – a half page is where the text starts or ends at a point where there’s a big blank section… you’ll see this with chapter #s or chapters that end with one or two paragraphs.  Don’t count those as full pages.

Next, the average YA book page has about 250 words per page.  You’ll never get this exact, so pick a few pages in a book and count the number of words.  Using Billionaire’s Curse, I found that of four random pages I selected (select full pages, not half) the values were 252, 236, 240, and 238.  So you’re seeing a pattern.  Most pages are 230 words or more.  This book also has 22 chapters.  Divide 344 pages by 22 chapters and you get about 15-16 pages per chapter.

More math:  Assume a wordcount per page of 250… take the 344 pages and subtract the 40 half pages.  Now you multiply 304 x 250 and add the 40 (half pages) x 125 (words per page divided by 2).  Calculate it all out and you’ll get a value of (76,000 + 5000) = 81,000 words.  There you go.

Now understanding that you need 80,000 words, give or take, is one thing… plotting a story in such a way that the beginning, middle and end all fit into that 80,000 count… that’s the trick and way beyond what I could explain here.  Suffice to say, it involves a little bit more analysis of existing books – reading each chapter and determining if a chapter falls into start, middle, or end… as well as character introduction, plot development timing, and suitable timing of action and rest scenes.  (No, I’m not doing this from memory – I’ve had to consult some of my writing books that I’ve collected over the years.)  What I’m trying to say is that knowing a YA book is 80,000 words (on average) and actually plotting out and writing a YA book are two different things.  And this process is WAY more challenging than non-fiction writing…

I’m not trying to discourage you, B… just letting you know that the “I have this idea for a story” will require a lot more planning than just knowing who the main character is and what conflict he/she will encounter.  I think I wrote about this earlier on the blog, but definitely check out “You Can Write a Novel” by James Smith (not the kit, but the actual book).  Hope that helps… I think it’s an outstanding book, but there are lots more out there… (one day I’ll try to list some of my favorites, but I’ll need to dig them out first.)

And regarding the iPad book – last Thursday I got a phone call from my editor telling me that they wanted the book proposal restructured… I had a conference call with two folks who gave me very detailed examples of what they wanted each chapter’s format to follow.  So I spent parts of Friday, Sat, Sun, and Monday working and re-working the proposal, thinking to myself that this was it – if this doesn’t get approved, I’ll drop the project or send it out to another publisher.  Got word this morning (via email) that both editors loved the new proposal and are now prepared to send it upstairs for final approval. (They didn’t send the previous one as I thought they had… they were not unhappy with it but were thinking something else that, fortunately, they were able to explain to me.  Now the waiting begins again, but at least I know the proposal is being seriously considered.

Anyway, today’s scorecard is below… tomorrow I get started on Chapter 14:

Word’s today: 779
Words total: 26986
Current Chapter: ch13 finished
Pages written today: 3
Pages total: 115
Chapters completed: 13

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June 1, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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