What’s the Secret Formula?

On Fridays we go live. Visit my Facebook page to join us and ask me some questions while I read a few pages from one of the G&B books.

The third question I get asked, and not nearly as often as the first two, is if I have a formula. The answer to that one is yes, I certainly do. It is my secret to finishing a novel. My first consideration is word count. Eighty-five thousand words makes for a nice novel that fits well into the industry standards. It seems a lot of aspiring novelists think they are just going to start writing and it will start where it starts and end where it ends. But the reality is that a novel that is too short is a novelette, or essentially a long short story. The opposite is a novel that is too long. At a point, around 90,000 words, the novel starts to get expensive to print. If you write a 150,000-word epic, the book is going to be expensive to print, ship and publish. While our novels are a labor of love for us writers, books are a matter of overhead and profit for publishers. Eighty to 85,000 words will result in a book that is big enough to look like a book and cheap enough to publish that it can be sold at a price where people will buy it and there will be enough left for the author to realize some royalty. Remember while you are writing, the printer, the publisher, the shipper and the distributer are all going to get their shares before you are. Keeping costs down is always a consideration. That’s just a fact of life for writing and bears consideration.

So, what is the secret formula? Thirty 2,700-word chapters are going to give you an 81,000-word novel. Adjust accordingly: fewer chapters with more words each, or more chapters with fewer words each. When I hit 55,000 words, I start working toward the ending. By then I usually have chapter notes to the end anyway, so it is a straight shot. That’s a pretty simple formula to work off of.

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