Friday, January 01, 2010

Short Stories & Novels - My Take

It’s great following John each week since he usually comes up with brilliant blogging ideas that I can simply expand/weigh in on, and this week is no exception. So, if you haven’t already, skip below and read John’s post and the learned responses.

I write for a living. My novels bring in some spending money, but my main income is from my work as a copywriter at an ad agency. You can argue that it’s not the same thing, that there’s a spiritual difference between writing what I want to write and writing what others have hired me to say for them, but the fact is I get paid for putting words on paper. I have been paid to write 85K word novels and I have been paid to come up with 3-word taglines. I’ve been paid to write fiction, non-fiction, fact-ion, speeches, TV & radio spots, appeal letters, billboards, essays, editorials, advertorials, brochures, websites, scripts, plays, auction guides, history texts, survey questions, lyrics for jingles and slogans for protest causes. And if I want to get paid, I had better be good at all of it. I can specialize, yes, but I have to be able to write what is needed, how it’s needed, when it’s needed or I won’t be employed for long.

Since few authors get by on what they make from their endeavors—novels, short stories, plays or poems—we can afford to choose which we want to specialize in. If tomorrow the publishing world announced that it was only interested in manuscripts of under 50,000 words, I doubt that any of us would say, “well that’s it for me—I need at least a hundred thousand to tell my story.”*

There’s nothing magical about a publisher-imposed word count and, other than preference, there’s should be no difference between a short story writer and a novelist.


*The reverse, however, may be true. If they only wanted Diana Gabaldon-length manuscripts, I think many of us would drop out, not because we couldn’t do it but because the sheer size of the task might scare us away. It would me.


Ann Elle Altman said...

Great post. Writing is writing but I would be rather writing fiction I want than what others want me to write. But, that's just me.


Charles said...

Me too, but I've grown fond of things like eating.

r. k. said...

a four year old boy discovers his dead brother's 18 mo old body floating face down in the bathtub. was it a murder? please consider the true novel Euclid Avenue, Our scars mean something. amazon, barnes & noble, books & co, books-a-million, borders and select hallmark book stores. now international in the UK, New Zealand, Australia and India.

Rick Blechta said...

Hey, R.K!

Your post is far better than good old Anonymous's were. Yours is in English. But it's still spam as far as I'm concerned.

If you'd like to advertise your work on our blog, it might have been in better taste to ask us first.


r. k. said...

thanks for the note. not attempting spam, just letting people know about pain and recovery. let me know how things are suppose to work.

Vicki Delany said...

If you are a respectable author/editor/publisher/reader or otherwise connected to the world of books, you should write to one of the Typists, mention that you like our blog, love our books, and ask if you can be a guest blogger. We have a lot of people wanting to be guests, and don't have room for everyone, but always appreciate being asked.