Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Word Count to Number of Pages

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

QUESTION: How do I convert my manuscript’s word count into a expected number of pages for a published novel?

THEORY-BASED ANSWER: Divide your word count by 250.

PRACTICE-BASED ANSWER: It depends on: the font type; font size; page size; paragraph format; margin; and medium.

Font type matters
Font type matters
Font type matters
Font type matters

font size matters
font size matters
font size matters
font size matters

Other than those obvious contextual elements, the indentation, margin size, and paragraph spacing can make a substantial different in the overall number of pages in a printed book.

I have two novels which are available not only in kindle format but also from Amazon via CreateSpace as printed books.

My first novel, THE DRAGONEERS was Amazon’s #1 top-rate Religious Fantasy for the first 279 days of 2012. Even though most of the 18,000 copies of it in circulation are eBooks there was a demand for some printed copies. The adventure is slightly over 100,000 words. Formatting it to a page size of 6 x 9 using an 11 point font produced 244 pages. Which computes to an average of 409 words per page–not the theoretical 250 words of the legacy formula. Of course some pages have fewer and some have more, we all know that’s what average means.

My second novel, THE LOST DRAGONEER is slightly over 123,000 words. Formatting it to a page size of 6 x 9 using a 12 point font produced 342 pages, computing to an average of 360 words per page.  Additionally, there is a large print edition formatted to a page size of 8.5 x 11 using 18 point font. That resulted in 428 pages for an average word per page of 287.

Did you know the techniques of your writing can drastically affect the number of pages? For example, if your novel has a lot of dialogue, there will be more “white space” on the page.

“How’s that?” you say.

“Dialogue usually requires a hard return,” says me. “Resulting in less words per line.”

“I don’t get it,” you say.

“You will.”

“When?”

“Soon.”

“Oh,” says you, glancing at the dialogue above. “I get it now.”

“Of course you do,” says me as I smiled.

The “divide by 250” formula might have actually worked when Courier was the only typeface and typewriters had dominion over manuscripts, not so much now.

Additionally, since eBooks are more common that tree books, the reader selects their desired font size based on their fixed-size viewing platform and their personal desires. Those platforms can vary from a 3.5” smart phone screen to a 36” or larger monitor on a PC or MAC, common logic suggests the actual page count is almost a non sequitur.

In this information age with a world of designer fonts and formats, myriad variables influence our final readers edition.

So in theory it’s fairly simple to estimate the number of pages of your future book. In practice, getting an accurate answer can be more challenging than simple math.

It just makes sense.

You can discover more about my books at my FaceBook Fan Page which I invite you to like, or my Amazon Author’s Page.
 

Antediluvian Steampunk

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, traditionally featuring steam-powered machinery–as in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen–but not always as in Back to the Future. The key element of Steampunk is anachronism.

Anachronism is an perceptional error in chronology, especially a misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other.

Still don’t get it?

That’s okay.

Not everyone of the 60 million watching understood Elvis when he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956.

Ed Sullivan said, “I can’t figure this darn thing out. He does this and everybody yells.”

Elvis didn’t invent Rock and Roll. As early as 1942, the term was used in Billboard magazine to describe Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s Rock Me recording. While some folks find that trivia interesting, you don’t have to know that to like Rock and Roll music.

Science fiction author, K.W. Jeter is credited with using “Steampunk” in the 1980s as a variant of cyberpunk (postmodern science fiction genre noted for its focus on high tech and low life). Since then, the Steampunk awareness folks have realized many classic anachronistic science fiction conveniently fit into this genre.

Like Rock and Roll, Steampunk is here to stay. You don’t have to like it, but pretending it doesn’t exist makes you look silly.

Classic Steampunk is set in the British Victorian era or the American “Wild West” with enhanced steam-power technologies seasoning the characters interaction within the plot. Examples include: Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Steampunk expanded beyond those classic works via speculative historical, fantasy and horror works.  Along with the explosion in literature, you see it in games, television and film.  Creative tribute is given to Jules Verne in Back to the Future Part III not only by the mention of the patriarch of Steampunk, but also by adapting the time-travel technology to a steam-powered train with protagonist Emmett Brown as the engineer.

With THE DRAGONEERS, yet another expansion of Steampunk’s web of influence arrived for interested readers.

No, we didn’t call it Steampunk at first. In all honesty, I was quite ignorant of the term. I’d merely written the story inside of me, and it just came out that way.

Before it was published, it placed well in a few contests under the misguided genre of “historical fiction” then “young adult fiction” then “Fantasy,” all of which didn’t properly describe the novel.

I should have figured it out when Publishers Weekly said, “This novel defies conventional classification…”

When it showed up for public consumption, THE DRAGONEERS was listed under Epic/Religious Fantasy at Amazon back in late November 2011. A fan of The Dragoneers Facebook page commented it was a new genre. While I was deep into writing the sequel, I let the idea percolate for a while. Looking at it now, I agree Antediluvian Steampunk fits better than anything else.

Antediluvian refers to the novel’s setting. THE DRAGONEERS opens eighty years prior to the flood described in the seventh chapter of Genesis. Just about everybody is familiar with the old story of Noah building the ark and the forty days of rain, but when we look in Genesis to get all the details, we’re left hanging, relying on our imagination, or that of the Church Lady, to fill in all the grey area between the black and white on the page.

Exactly what THE DRAGONEERS and THE LOST DRAGONEER go about doing–that is filling in the grey area. After you read these books, you might revisit some of those Sunday School lessons you’re familiar with and rethink them. For instance, why does the image of Noah seem to be one that would fit in with the New Testament times? Are we really supposed to believe God created a nearly-perfect race of humans but they couldn’t figure out anything new for the first several thousand years? And what’s with those pyramids? How did they built those things anyway? Then somehow–they forgot how to build them! What’s up with that?

The Chronicles of Susah series is fiction, but after you read it, you can’t help but wondering if some parts of it is more reasonable than the image painted on the nursery walls at your local church daycare.

Got you thinking yet?

Well, that’s what puts the “punk” in Steampunk. Stepping out of “acceptable” thought and looking at things with a different point of view.

Why should you have to accept somebody else’s interpretation of the way things were, especially when they don’t have any evidence to support it? Let them prove your interpretation wrong, if they can. No more free rides from folks who got it wrong.

Don’t worry, these novels don’t try to redefine God. God is real–we’re not disputing Him or His power at all. We’re not even disputing the smallest dot or tittle in the Bible.

But when it comes to Antediluvian Steampunk, the rest of it is up for grabs. We’ll proudly hide behind the “fiction” deflector-shield as we take you on an adventure of epic proportions in the antediluvian world. That world has forever been lost to us due to catastrophic events beyond our control.

After you’ve tasted THE DRAGONEERS and especially the sequel, THE LOST DRAGONEER (available on Kindle in time for a Christmas read), you’ll find yourself wondering if that amazing world where they had technologies as good as, or in some ways even better than ours, is really that far off the mark. Even if our version is wrong, there has to be more of the story.

It just makes sense.

Reading for Fun

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

“Do you do any recreational reading?” said I to two teenage girls, one the granddaughter of my step-brother and the other her close friend.  They both shook their heads, looking at me as if I had asked them if they like liver.
Since the advent of social media and texting, today’s teenagers read all the time.  Literacy is common place in 21st century America, but I wasn’t asking if they could read, I was asking if they read for entertainment.  The answer to that question was an unequivocal, “No.”

As an author, especially of a novel that comfortably fits into the Young Adult (YA) category, I feel something much like a cross between disappointment and guilt when I meet teenagers who don’t read for fun.  Disappointment because naturally I believe my literature would not only entertain them but would also teach them something about the world outside of the book’s cover, which would not only make them smarter but also happier as they grow into adults.  Guilt because of my selfish feelings of disappointment and also that I am one of the myriad authors who have failed to convince the upcoming generation about the joy of reading.

I looked at two copies of THE DRAGONEERS, which I held in my hands.  Just minutes prior, one of the girls’ grandmother had told me they didn’t have time to read as school kept them plenty busy.  They already had too much to read and they’d never be interested in reading for entertainment.  Those are cold, biting words, challenging words, to an author.

Since THE DRAGONEERS had passed the 10,000 copies sold mark, I’ve become comfortable calling myself an author.  Previously the novel had placed increasingly well three years in a row in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest.  Of course the book didn’t win, or it would have been published by Penguin, which was the grand prize.  Getting close in a writing contest is a two-edged sword, an ordeal which often come with a small whisper saying, “Nice try, your book is okay, but face it, you’re just not that good.”  Many a promising author allowed that devil’s breath to invade their muse, eat away at them, eventually to bury their hopes in a shallow grave of despair.  In order to resurrect themselves, authors need to edit that foul whisper, like so:  “Nice try, your book is okay, but face it, you’re just not that good yet

One word makes all the difference.

The author’s journey requires you to collect those critiques then educate yourself as required so you can filter them, and return to the page with elixir.  Out of the ashes of a nice try and an okay start, a great story can arise.  This is pretty much what happened with my debut novel, THE DRAGONEERS.

Published by Narrow Way Press in November 2011, it rapidly rose to the top of the charts with customer reviews.  Currently it is the #1 top-rated Epic Fantasy book and the #1 top-rated Religious Science Fiction book at Amazon.  The novel has a Facebook fan page with over 214 followers and almost 100 reviews at Amazon, the vast majority of them are the highest rating, giving it an over 4.8 out of 5 stars.  The few initial reviewers, as with most books, were from people who either knew the author, me, or knew someone who knew me, but after several weeks, more than a score of people I’d never heard of were also saying how much they enjoyed reading THE DRAGONEERS.  Eventually the book collected a few negative comments, which I understand now as the normal course of book reviews.  Search at Amazon for any book you believe to be a great book, even the best book ever, and you’re sure to find a small percentage of people who hated it.  That’s just the way it goes.

In the marketing of THE DRAGONEERS, four trailers were developed and posted on YouTube and on the Facebook Fan page.  Hundreds of people have viewed the trailers and many people have told me how much they enjoy them and the book.  I’m convinced THE DRAGONEERS is a good book, yet I know it’s not perfect.  If I were writing it today, I’d do somethings differently, as I’m continuing learning better ways to write–perfecting my craft.  I’m putting that knowledge to work in Book Two.  Anyone who enjoyed THE DRAGONEERS, Book One of the Chronicles of Susah, is going to be very pleased with Book Two.

But my challenge was to interest two young girls in Book One.

I said, “I’ll like you to help me with an experiment, then I’ll leave you alone.”  They nodded in agreement, anything to get rid of the old guy talking about reading for fun.

“Please read the first sentence of this book.  When you get to the end of the first sentence you can stop.”  I handed the open book to them and they huddled around it.  Their eyes fell to the page and they read.

Pain, gnawing emptiness, hunger so loud it dominated all thoughts, not mine—even though I could feel it—it came from them.

They whispered something to each other and I took the book back.

“What do you think?”

One of them said, “Well, we’d kinda like to know what happens next.”  The other sheepishly nodded in tacit agreement.

“Well, if you want to–if you’d like to read it–I’ll give you each a copy.  I’m not forcing this on you, but it you want it, you can have it.”

They both smiled and eagerly nodded their heads.  I left them each with their own copy of THE DRAGONEERS and returned to the adult filled room next door.

While we adults talked politics, finance, guns, and religion in the dining room, I kept wondering if the teenagers had just patronized me, you know, took the books to get rid of me.  It’s not a crime.  Had they argued with me, I would have been able to counter and parry, but with passive acceptance, there was nothing left for me to do. Wondering if they laughed at my sincerity after I’d left them, I hoped they would someday read the story.  After all, I was certain they could find something in there to relate to, something they would like.

While the title sounds like just another dragon-book, it is really a coming of age story about Susah, a talented young woman, who refuses to join her three brothers in helping her father advance the family business. She wants to do something exciting with her life. While this story could have been set in any time, the fantastical world she lives in amplifies each step nearly beyond the bounds of imagination.

Against her parents’ wishes, Susah leaves home on a quest to become one of the dragoneers—an elite fraternity of warriors sworn to defend the ancient garden of Eden against all trespassers.

Meanwhile, deep in a lair inside of Sethopolis’ roughest neighborhood, an evil giantess dreams of seizing the secrets of immortality and other powers, which she believes are hidden within the walls of the forbidden garden. Realizing she can’t achieve her dream with just her own resources, she joins forces with a fallen angel, nearly as old as time itself.

Seemingly unaware of the dangers awaiting her, Susah faces the greatest of all challenges. With the fate of the human race depending on their performance, will the dragoneers succeed in defending the garden of Eden against the forces of evil? And even if they succeed, will Susah survive the pivotal battle of good verses evil?

The adventure builds on the little we know about the antediluvian world and overlays it with a blend of technology, supernatural powers, fire-and-ice-breathing, flying dragons, giants, and martial arts to begin Susah’s adventure to discover herself.

THE DRAGONEERS is advertised as a 100,000 word, Genesis-based epic fantasy, which will attract those interested in speculative fiction, especially about the antediluvian world, and will also appeal to readers of contemporary fantasy as well as military fiction.

But what about young people who haven’t developed a love for reading?  Even the terms “speculative fiction” and “antediluvian” may be foreign to them.  Accustomed to reading only school-assigned books, often followed by a test and a grade, which could easily be interpreted as work or even punishment–how do they even know what they’ll like?

I tried to introduce them to the wonderful world of fiction by convincing them to read the first sentence, but would that be enough?  Time would tell.

As the social event came to a close, and it was time to rally young and old alike from throughout the house, I stood against a wall near the kitchen watching as the two young girls filed out of the living room, headed to the car.  As they walked, their eyes scanned slightly left to right and their noses were buried into roughly the first quarter of THE DRAGONEERS.  I smiled.

That was a good day.

Reading can be fun, but you have to try it before you realize it.

It just makes sense.

The Dragoneers now available in print.

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

The printed version of The Dragoneers is now available on line here.

You can find a limited time discount code on the books facebook page here.

B-52 veterans will find some of the novel … familiar, so to speak.

A 19 Second, second trailer, for the novel.

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

ABNA 2010 Quarter Finals

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

The Dragoneers advanced to the 5% round on 23 March.  Even though my novel is much better than it has ever been, advancement is based on individual judges’ expertise and the strength of the overall field of entries.  The next round of eliminations will be between March 24 and April 27, which will reduce the field to 1%.

Amazon has made all the 250 quarter-finalists’ excerpts available online for no charge.  You can access the download page for a Kindle Edition of The Dragoneers excerpt here.  If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download free software in the same location for your PC to read Kindle books.

While you’re there, you can read whatever reviews have been posted and you can even post your own comments.  Most excerpts were given two reviews from the Amazon Reviewers, but for some unknown reason, The Dragoneers only received one, and if you read it, it’ll leave you wondering how the novel made it to the quarter-finals. At least it ended with some encouragement for me to keep trying to get better at writing and then recommended I read some books on writing.

The review may foreshadow what will happen to The Dragoneers as the quarter-finals come to an end.  Or maybe, not.

Either way, The Dragoneers will receive an updated Publishers Weekly review.  When I get it, I’ll share it here.

Publishers Weekly Reviews The Dragoneers

Friday, April 24th, 2009

This novel defies conventional classification: is it science fiction? biblical fiction? thriller? The story describes a world where flying two-headed dragons and ogres exist, characters with telepathic gifts communicate with both animals and people, a man named Noah builds an Ark in his backyard, and a six-fingered giant named Lilith wants to take over the world. While this collage may have been implausible in lesser hands, the author makes it work, artfully drawing readers into Sethopolis (the “center of the last human-dominated nation on Earth”) and constructing an adventure with attention-grabbing plot twists. 

At the center of it all is 18-year old Susah, a feisty heroine with the ability to communicate telepathically. Sheltered by her father, Noah, from the evils of the world, Susah’s life takes an unexpected turn when her aunt and uncle are killed by a violent street gang. Mesmerized by the soldier who rescues her and the flying dragon under his control, she decides to join the Dragon Corps, defenders of the Eden zone, and become a dragoneer. Lilith, aware of Susah’s gifts, wants to have her killed. As Susah trains to become a skilled dragoneer, she embarks on a collision course with Lilith’s army of giants and ogres as they march toward the Eden zone for the ultimate battle between good and evil. The author has crafted a compelling story…

Wow.  That was beautiful.  You’ve just read 91.8% of the professional review of my full-manuscript submitted to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest.  I feel like a winner, but alas–The Dragoneers was eliminated from the competition as the field was narrowed to the top 1% of the submitted manuscripts.  The top competitor will win a publishing contract with Penguin Books, which includes a $25,000 advance.  The PW review constitutes second prize.

I’ll share the last 20 words of the review with you in a moment–they made all the difference.  If the review had ended as it did above, I’m certain my manuscript would still be in the competition, however, with little chance of actually winning.  To complicate matters, once I finally lost–I wouldn’t really know why.  As it is now–I’ve been given a prize of great value.

Okay, here’s the last few words:

… yet the sudden disappearance of some characters and subplots leaves readers feeling frustrated with the disjointed gaps in the storyline.

Yep.  That doesn’t sound so great on the surface.  But I’m very impressed with that professional analysis.  To explain why I’m happy, I have to tell you about my journey towards getting this far.
After I retired from the Air Force, I dedicated myself to writing the novel that had been boiling inside of me.  Within three months, I completed a 300-page manuscript that covered the 80 years leading up to the great flood.

My oldest daughter, a brilliant young lady who loves to read, became my alpha-reader.  After working her way through it, she carefully commented, “It’s good, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that didn’t use commas.”

I was steeped in Air Force writing techniques.  While having written scores of performance reports, technical manuals, doctrine documents, lesson plans, and even war plans–I was too streamlined in my tactical-level skills to write an adequate novel.  Yes, the Air Force has always discouraged commas.  We use them when we talk, but not in our writing.  But it wasn’t just the comma–it was many other things.
I quickly came to the conclusion that while I was an experienced bomber pilot and a doctrine expert–I was still jut a novice writer. So I went back to school, investing a lot of self-study time in The Chicago Manual of Style and the much thinner The Elements of Style wondering how I’d missed so much of the basics.  In addition, I went back to reading the books I’ve enjoyed in the past, but this time to examine they tactical skills and to learn from them.

And I rewrote–over and over.

With each rewrite my precious daughter would mark up the document–so I could rewrite again.  And we had some great discussions.  She would ask me things about the story, “Why is that character doing those things?”

I would explain all the background logic associated with the conflict and action.  She would listen and nod her head, then finally say, “Oh that makes it perfectly clear now … that has to be in the book.”
Yes, the reader needs to understand the background and the behind the scenes activity–even the stuff that the protagonist’s doesn’t know–in order to enjoy and understand the story.

So I added it.  Then I rewrote the mark-ups, and explained more things about why certain things were happening, only to hear it over and over, “That has to be in the book.”  With time, the manuscript swelled to nearly 700 pages.

At long last, it came time to call on more opinions.

It’s difficult to explain to regular people what you’d like from a beta-reader.  Especially if you’re a novice writer–cause you don’t know.  Bless their hearts, most of them pushed through an epic story that was still rushed and so rough in several areas only to tell me that they liked it.

Then I began the initial submission phase only to collect multiple rejections from publishers and agents–something I’d been told was part of becoming a real author, so I didn’t worry about it.  Then while trying to refine the synopsis, I came to the conclusion that I had more than one novel in my manuscript.  And since everybody loves a trilogy–I figured that was what I had.  After dividing the manuscript into three logical books–I proceeded to focus only on the first one.

Then I stumbled across the 2008 ABNA contest.  Eagerly I entered and made it to the top 17% only to be eliminated when they cut the field to 2%.  The PW review I collected that year said that the story was disorienting and hard to follow.  I needed more help.

Marian Poe, a wonderful lady in the Centenary Writers Group, told me about a night class being taught at a local college.  It was there that I found the novel-writing operational secrets I needed.  Well, they’re really techniques and not secrets–unless you don’t know them.  Connie Cox of Taking Flight, gave me the boost I was seeking but could not find by myself.  Then after extensive rewriting, the manuscript–you’ve just read the PW review of–was complete.

But since I was eliminated–doesn’t that mean I lost?

No.  I didn’t lose anything–I’ve gained much.  Remember how I said that I’d divided my novel?  I cut the story too early.  All those subplots and characters the PW reviewer was talking about get wrapped up in the adventure that follows where I had ended the book.  I’m probably 150 pages away from repairing every negative mentioned in the review.  I made a mistake–there weren’t three books in there–only two.  But don’t fret, I’ve plenty more plots to follow those two.

I’m stoked–fully inspired–and coming back stronger than ever.  Once I’ve made the changes, The Dragoneers will be stronger than ever.  Certainly if I do that, I’ll find the publisher that is willing to make it available on the shelves of a book store near you.

It just makes sense.