It’s time for another Open Tuesday while our blogmate, Kathryn Lilley, is on medical hiatus. Bring us your questions, comments and discussions. If you have a question about writing, publishing or any other related topic, ask away in our comments section. We’ll do our best to get you an answer.
And don’t forget you can download a copy of FRESH KILLS, Tales from the Kill Zone to your Kindle or PC today.
I hope Kathryn’s recovering nicely and reading lots of great books.
My question’s a bit technical, but one that had me stumped for hours yesterday.
Many editors accept e-mail queries with several pages of text pasted into the e-mail. I’ve tried to paste, but the formatting gets crazy and worse, the line spacing becomes super narrow. Short of putting a document into html, is there a solution to this copy-and-paste mayhem?
Anon 7:42, unlike submitting a physical copy of a partial or complete manuscript, most agents/editors will be forgiving if you paste a sample of your writing into the body of an email. I think everyone understands that because there are so many email programs, not to mention having to choose between text and HTML formats, your sample shouldn’t have to abide by the same strict rules as a hard copy printout. There’s a real good chance that no matter how you format the body of the email, it will change by the time the editor opens it. What’s more important is the content and professionalism of your email. Good luck.
What are your thoughts on writing contests (managed by reputable organizations)?
Hope Kathryn’s feeling better soon.
I don’t have a specific genre or age in mind, but are there common characteristics we can identify when someone writes a book that targets men as their market? Do they look for something different than women, who are always touted as the book buyers?
BK, I think the classic “men’s book” is one with an emphasis on action and machinery, and less on relationships. Tom Clancy comes to mind, although I thought he did pretty good characters. Like any stereotype, that pigeon-holing of the market does a disservice to the people who are pigeon holed. I personally think it’s a mistake to a thriller that specifically targets men or women. I’m in favor of writing the best book you can, and then letting the marketing mavens figure out how to package it.
JaxPop, I feel badly having your question just hang out there, but I have no answer for you, because I’ve never competed in a writing contest. Shooting from the him, I guess that anything that raises a writer’s profile and gives him more confidence is an inherently good thing.
You guys brought it up in the first Open Tuesday and I was curious then so I’ll ask now, what’s the difference in the industry between a short story, a novelette, a novella and a book?
My snide answer would be that only one of them is marketable, but that’s really not what you’re looing for.
Here’s how I break it down:
A novel tells a story over the course of 80,000-130,000 words, complete with indepth characterization, backstory and subplots.
A novella does the same thing in less than, say, 70,000 words. (These are all soft numbers.) For the perfect example of novellas, pick up a copy of Stephen King’s book DIFFERENT SEASONS, which, interestingly enough, is the source material for what became two of my favorite movies, THE BODY (“Stand By Me”) and RITA HAYWORTH AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION.
I’m not familiar with the term, novelette, so I’ll skip that one.
A short story is to me an entirely different art form than its longer form cousins–as different as painting landscapes or painting portraits. Writing one does not do much to prepare you for writing the other. The short story is more of a fully-developed slice of life than a novel or novella, and the best ones have a single focus, with few if any subplots. One of the great short story writers in the thriller genre is Jeffery Deaver.
Jarrett, the most obvious answer is the number of words. In general, here are the lengths for each: a short story is usually between 1k-7500 words. A novelette is 7500-20k words. A novella usually comes in between 20k-50k words. And a contemporary, commercial novel is around 110k words. Beyond 110k words is usually considered an epic. There are always exceptions, and equally obvious is that the structure requirements of each can vary greatly. Hope this helps.
Jaxpop – on the writing contest issue I think they are very useful for getting a foot in the door with an agent. If you have won or placed in a legitimate competition then this should definitely be included in your query letter/email. I think the difficulty is that there are so many competitions around I’m not sure which have any real influence…other KZoners, any thoughts?
I second what my fellow blogmates have said so far. As far as writing contests go, I’d mainly focus on entering the ones that could end up earning a publishing contract- I know that the MWA sponsors one with St Martin’s every year, as does the RWA. Smaller contests, I’m not really sure if it would be beneficial or not.
Novellas are notoriously tough to sell unless you’re already an established author.
Thanks everyone. That’s the info I was hoping to get. Very helpful. I appreciate it.
I just coughed so hard I thought I my eyeballs would pop out. A piece of phlegm with the atomic density of osmium flew out of my oral cavity and blew a whole right through the report I was editing.
I am now trying to word that eloquently to include in my next novel.
Dang cottonwood season