Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tip of the Day - Guest Post (Part 1 of 8)

This evening marks the kick-off of "Writers Tip of the Day" - a bit of advice on how to improve your writing craft or get published. More than that, it's a reason for you to get out of bed in the morning.

Stephanie Osborn couldn't come up with one tip. She sent me a week's worth. Here's Installment 1 of
Things They Don’t Tell You In Author’s School.

I’m a fairly decent writer, with a good half-dozen popular books to my credit. (Not bad for a couple years in the business.) And long before I submitted a novel manuscript for publication, I did my homework. I knew about query letters, slush piles, and house formats. I knew some publishing houses don’t take unagented submissions and some do. I knew how to find the correct name and address for a submission, and to address the query letter TO that person. I knew how to make my query letter POP.

But once I got into the industry (translated – once I had a novel under contract), I discovered there are some little details they don’t tell you in author’s school.

Sub-thing: Everybody knows not to trust spelling and grammar checkers, right? They don’t know there from they’re from their… (finish the statement on your own). Good. ‘Nuff said. On to the serious stuff.

Thing One (with apologies to Dr. Seuss): Different publishers have different definitions of what constitutes novel length. For some, it’s anything over forty thousand words. For others, it’s sixty, and for most in my genre (science fiction slash mystery) it’s around one hundred thousand. This is a rough rule of thumb, and generally the bigger the number, the more leeway you have, plus or minus, in your word count. But make sure you know what the definition is for your genre, and MAKE IT LONG ENOUGH, or you could run into problems.

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