JM Williams

A home for all things fantasy and sci-fi.

Throwback – “Clumsy Luck”

Jan
20

“Clumsy Luck” was one of the first stories I ever posted on my blog. Back then, I had yet to figure out what my blog was supposed to be, or what blogging was supposed to be. I had imagined it would be a space to market and develop the book I was working on at the time, my first. But the blog, and my writing adventures, quickly expanded beyond that.

This story was accepted for publication on The Story Shack, but I recently received notice that the site will be shutting down for some time, if not permanently. Along with the bad news, the editor said if he resumes work on the flash fiction site, he will publish those works already accepted. I have no urge to submit this story anywhere else, so if it gets published some day on The Story Shack, then that’s where it will end up.

I also wrote this story before I really understood flash fiction. That was something new to me when I started the blog, but proved to be a good fit for blogging. The combination of wanting to develop my book and to develop my flash skills, led to The Adventures of Iric, a 20-episode flash series. What’s striking about the story below is how well it works as flash fiction, despite having been written by a flash amateur.

I hope you enjoy it.

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CLUMSY LUCK

by JM Williams

CLANG!

Bjorn shuddered as the pan bounced off the floor. He rushed down to pick it up, forgetting about the long broom in his other hand, which pushed an opened carton of milk off the counter.

Bjorn stood in the white puddle, pouting. He berated himself for always making things more difficult. Now he had to wipe the floor, wash the pan, clean up the counter…cleaning the kitchen was taking him all day. He just wanted the house to be clean and neat by the time his mother came home from work. He wanted to give her a special birthday.

Bjorn hadn’t been able to buy her a present, having wasted his allowance on toys and candy. He had tried to make something, several somethings, but they all came out wrong. He had already ripped up a half dozen ugly pictures, and smashed a disfigured sculpture. The last thing he could do for her was to clean the house. But he knew she was the kind of person that would take such an act to heart.

After cleaning the kitchen, Bjorn’s next task was to water the garden and clean the bird feeders. He found the watering can in the backyard, along the back of the house and under the wide, wooden deck. The plastic can was large and orange, with a sunflower design on its tip. After filling it, Bjorn had to heft it with two hands, carrying it to the edge of the garden.

As he stumbled through the yard, he felt the ground squishing oddly under his feet. The water in the can swished, the weight of it throwing Bjorn’s small body from side to side. Suddenly, something caught his toes and Bjorn tumbled forward. He fell right on top of the plastic waterer. It shattered under his weight, splashing him with the  cold liquid. Bjorn’s head hit the ground and buried itself in a deep hole. Bjorn didn’t bother to get up; he just laid there and cried.

“What’s your problem?” came a gruff voice from deep down in the hole.

“Huh?” Bjorn mumbled.

“I said, what’s wrong with you kid?” Bjorn could start to make out a small figure silhouetted in the middle of a long tunnel.

“Everything is so wrong today. Everything is bad,” Bjorn cried.

“You look fine to me,” the little man said.

“But I broke my mother’s watering can and I spilled her milk and I dented her pan…and, and it’s her birthday! I just wanted to do something special for her.”

“Ah…I see,” the little man said.

“Who are you?” Bjorn asked.

“I’m Gim. I’m a garden gnome,” the little man said.

“A gnome? What’s that?” Bjorn asked.

“Kind of like a fairy, but one that lives in the ground. We help the plants grow. ” Gim smiled at the boy, then raised a finger excitedly. “Wait a moment, I have an idea.”

The little man disappeared down the tunnel. After several long minutes, he reemerged with something shiny in his hands. Bjorn pulled his head out of the hole, letting the light hit the tunnel in full. He saw what Gim carried. It was a brilliant, golden ring with a bright red gemstone cradled in its center.

“Wow,” Bjorn said, staring in wonder.

“Here, take this for your mother,” Gim said. “Birthdays are special things. She is lucky to have a son like you.”

Gim offered the ring to Bjorn with two hands. The boy giddily accepted the gift.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Bjorn said.

“Just don’t tell anyone you saw me, okay?” Gim said. “It will be our secret.”

“Our secret,” Bjorn repeated.

Bjorn said goodbye to his new friend and carefully filled in the hole. He picked up the pieces of the broken water can and put them back in their place. He would apologize for that later. For now he jumped around, thinking how lucky it had been for him to be so clumsy.

THE END

Thanks for reading.

~JM

I will soon be sending out my next newsletter, in honor of the new year. It will include an exclusive video of myself, talking Iric and future projects, as well as the usual publication highlight and writing tips. If you’d like to see all that, and be part of the “cool” crowd, you can sign up to join the RABBLE on the right side of the page!

3 Tips for More Productive Writing

Jan
15

The past year and a half has given me a few insights about writing productivity that’s I’d like to share.

1) Wake up early and keep a regular schedule.

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I’ve had a lot of free time to write after quitting my full time job in 2016 (not having full-time employment has proved to not be the boon it’s cracked up to be). I work full days at different jobs from time to time, but many days I am just off for the whole day. I have found that waking up at a regular time, as if if it is a regular work day, sets me up for success later on. For me, this is around 7am. I think it has to do with creating the right mindset, expecting a day of work rather than a day of rest.

2) Put on pants.

I imagine this is much the same as the previous tip, setting the mood for work. It may be tempting to stay in sweats or PJs if you are going to be home all day, but putting on regular clothes tells your psyche that it’s time to get to busy. For me, that’s pants.

3) Note your ideas when they come, not when you think you have time.

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Even though I been blessed with a lot of time to write, I don’t always have time when I need it. In a similar way, I often get ideas at the absolute worst time–in bed, in the bath, in the car, etc. I’ve found that it is critical to take note of the idea once I have the slightest chance. If I am parked for a moment, waiting to pick someone up, I jot a note in my phone or record a voice note. If in bed, I often wake up to take a note then go back to sleep. If in the bath, I just mull it over until I get out. It has been shown that writing something down helps you remember.

Now, I have a couple dozen ideas in my notes and if I every find myself without something to write, I just have to look there. Also, reviewing my story notes from time to time often welcomes a spontaneous muse and helps me bring the story to fruition. This is precisely what happened with the most recent short story I wrote, which I submitted to the previous quarter of Writers of the Future.

In the end,

it’s about generating and maintaining the right state of mind. Any writer knows that if you don’t have the right mind, you can’t write well, even if you force it. And even if you wake up early and get dressed for success, it does not guarantee that the day’s writing will go off without a hitch. But it is an easy way to set the groundwork for a good day.

Hope these tips help! Good luck with your writing.

~JM

I will be sending out my next newsletter, in honor of the new year, which will include an exclusive video of myself, talking Iric and future projects, as well as the usual publication highlight and writing tips. If you’d like to see all that, and be part of the “cool” crowd, you can sign up to join the RABBLE on the right side of the page!

 

Thoughts on Classic Narrators

Jan
14

I’ve been working my way through H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, and was struck by a random thought. The narrative structure of the book is very similar to other contemporary works.

This is actually my first time with this particular work. I am also surprised by the shortness of it. I had been under the impression that The Time Machine was a novel, but it is in fact a novella. Only around 33,000 words depending on the source. Wells’s The War of the Worlds is only around 46,000 words. Both details have me thinking about the current demand of publishers of 80k or more words for fantasy and sci-fi books. Where does that come from? But that’s a question for another time.

For this post, I am thinking about the narrators used in The Time Machine and many of its contemporary works. The narrator takes the form of a side character who is witnessing the actions of the main character of the story. This is the same narrator used by Arthur Conan Doyle in the Sherlock Holmes stories, in the form of John Watson. Though I haven’t read it, I believe it is the same in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, accounts of the famous vampire conveyed by a third party. The same is true for Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, though you might not notice it as most of that novel is told in first-person. But this is a first-person account being heard and relayed by the narrator, who is not himself, the person who traveled back in time.

The Time Machine is similar to Twain’s work in that–at least what I have gone through so far–the narrator is not part of the actual story. He is simply a witness that relays this incredible story to us. It seems to me that classic fiction–for popular fiction for wide audiences emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries, as did the modern form of the novel–demanded very straight-forward, realistic narrators. That old writing question, that is now unnecessary but is often still asked, “How is this account delivered to the reader?,” is a critical component of classic novels. So you tend to find a lot of discovered letters, and third-party witness type stories.

We have grown a lot since that time. Now we feel no need to explain where a third-person account comes from, nor how the narrator knows what it knows. Though many would argue with me, I would even go as far to say that first-person narrators do not need to be accounted for. I have indeed written on the topic before.

It quite interesting to look back and see, what appears to be, much more rigidity than what we have in modern writing. There’s nothing wrong with having realistic narrators, especially if you’re writing historical fiction. I have even though of writing a “discovered letters” story myself. But it is not necessary. We have so many more narrative tools than they did back then.

I am having a lot of fun with The Time Machine, much more than with the last page of IT, which is becoming a major drag. Maybe I should get back to it, eh?

Thanks for reading.

~JM

I’m getting ready to send out my next newsletter, in honor of the new year. I will be including an exclusive video of myself, talking Iric and future projects, as well as the usual publication highlight and writing tips. If you’d like to see all that, and be part of the “cool” crowd, you can sign up to join the RABBLE on the right side of the page!

Aftermath of a Bad Decision

Jan
12
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photo by Hans Vivek

It was the worst mess Jared had ever encountered–nine years as a sanitation inspector could not have prepared him for the scene. Shredded paper was scattered all around; broken bottles were shattered on the floor, spilling their contents into a thick brown pool that smelled of urine; what were once ordered stacks of books and DVDs were now collected in a heap. The only thing that wound its way through his dumbfounded mind was the memory of a feminine voice saying, “Getting a cat will only be trouble, Jared.”

*Written as a response for the Three Line Tales Week 102 photo prompt.

I’m getting ready to send out my next newsletter, in honor of the new year. I will be including an exclusive video of myself, talking Iric and future projects, as well as the usual publication highlight and writing tips. If you’d like to see all that, and be part of the “cool” crowd, you can sign up to join the RABBLE on the right side of the page!

Thanks for reading!

~JM

My Experience with Book Covers and Artists

Jan
05

I recently had my third cover made. It was a couple months ago and was for my self-published flash collection The Adventures of Iric (which is available for purchase). That was my third time working with cover artist, as I do no feel capable of making marketable covers myself, each time being a totally different experience. The three experiences differed in many ways, from the amount of control I had as the author, to the level of contact I had with the artist themselves.

I feel I have learned a lot about getting covers made through these three experiences and wanted to share that information with all of you.

Let me begin with a short summary of the cover services you can find out there. There are generally two types of covers: stock art covers, and original art covers. Stock art refers to the pictures that are sold for use on sites like ShutterStock.com. Original art means an artist is (digitally) painting something totally new for you. Original art covers will likely set you back at least $500 as you are not only paying for design, you are paying for image creation. Artists generally get paid by time, so drawing something entirely new, then designing a cover, will take much more time than just arranging stock art. Also, you are paying for sole rights to new content, whereas stock art is available for purchase and use by many people.

Since my three experiences were all with stock art covers, I will limit my discussion to that side of the business.

On the stock art side of the cover market, there are more divergences. One such difference is the quality of the stock art used. Some artists only use free stock art sites like Pixabay. There will generally be a marked difference in quality between covers that use free stock art, and those that pay for stock images. This is because the best stock images are on paid sites like ShutterStock, and those sites also have a significantly larger library of images.

Another difference is whether the cover is premade or custom designed. Premade covers are ones that artists have already created. They simply put your name and book title on it. I am generally against premade covers since it is hard to find one that is a proper fit for the book. But it’s not impossible, and some artists do them very well.

These factors are going to affect the cost of your cover. A stock art cover can cost anywhere from $10-$500 depending on the artist, the stock art type, and the level of customization. You’re going to pay more for an artist that pays for stock art. You are going to pay more for a custom design, as it takes more time to complete. Typically, a good, original concept, paid stock art cover is going to cost you $100-200. But as I learned, you can find ways to save a bit if you’re willing to do some extra work.

Now let me talk about my three experiences with making covers.

The first was the cover for Call of the Guardian:

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This cover was paid for by the publisher, Fiction Vortex. I did not have much input in the process, other than suggesting I wanted a protagonist stand-in and a dragon on it, and a lot of fire. Boom! This is what I got. It felt a bit like playing the lottery, but I was not too disappointed. I was told by the Boss Man that if I wanted to get this artist to do something for a personal project of mine, it would likely be around $200.

The next cover was for The Nightingale (releasing in April!):

Nightingale - Front

This cover was also paid for by the publisher, Fantasia Divinty. Unlike with my first experience, this time I had more input on the design. However, I did not have direct contact with the artist; the publisher stepped in as a intermediary. There was a lot of back and forth through those channels. I suggested an initial concept, the artist sent something back, I suggested changes, and so forth.

At first it was a bit of a struggle, as I did not care for what the artist was suggesting. In particular, I didn’t care for the character models the artist was choosing. So I started digging around on stock photo sites offering suggestions. This was perhaps the biggest lesson I learned about making covers, which I will discuss in detail below.

To my surprise, though, my suggestions were rejected. It took some time for it to become clear that the artist was only using free stock art, and I was suggesting pictures from paid sites. Moreover, I eventually learned that the artist used only one specific site for their stock photos. But once this bit of information came to light, the process became much easier. I searched the site in question, and though I did not like the choices there as much as on the paid sites, I did find a few that might work. This took me several hours of digging, but I viewed this time as an investment towards having a good cover. Finally, we settled on the character model shown above.

I do not know how much the publisher paid for this cover.

These two experiences suggested to me that the most important thing for an author to do, when getting a cover made, is to be directly involved. Be involved as much as possible. I carried this insight with me when I began working with an artist for The Adventures of Iric.

I found the artist, E. Rachael Hardcastle on a Facebook group. She responded to my query about cover letters by sending me a sample and a quote. I was satisfied with what I saw, so we started working.

It took about a week to finish the cover. Much of this was due to our geographic separation and online correspondence. I gave her an idea of what I might be looking for, and she responded by tempering some of my expectations. But I knew right from the start how I wanted to work it. I asked her upfront what stock photo site she used. Then I started looking for things to use on the cover.

I sent her suggestions of art and design ideas, she either shot them down as not good or even doable, or worked the idea and sent back a concept. At first, I felt like things weren’t progressing, but she kept trying. She suggested photos to me, and I looked for more.

After a lot of back and forth, I stumbled on a paid site that gave out five free images by signing up. I don’t recall what site it was. I entered my credit card info, selected my five free images, then canceled the account. What I found delighted me. This was the image that I discovered:

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My first reaction was, “This looks just like Iric!” Having been somewhat disappointed with how the characters in the two previous covers reflected those in the books (and being told that this doesn’t really matter, as the cover is more of a concept than a honest view), I was delighted to have an image that reflected what I saw in the character. It was also proper for fantasy.

I sent the image to Rachael and she also had a strong reaction. She did her bit of tweaking and artsy magic, and delivered me this:

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In addition to adding the text, obviously, she also added a blue tint, shadows on the character’s face, darkened the hair, and many other things I would have never thought to do. It was mostly luck that the one image filled the page; usually the cover will be a composite of several images, as with the others shown above. But the end result was still a bit of a shock.

In the end, she spent hours on the project with me. She was ready to deliver a custom cover, on her own, had I not been so involved. She sent me at least four concepts before we settled on the one above. For that service I paid around $30.

Now I am guessing the lowness of that price is partially due to the effort I put in to help design the cover. When I asked her whether she appreciated my help, she told me “I think having the authors input helped. It’s their cover and they’ll all have a vision of what they want. Finding ideal images and keeping in touch with their own ideas makes my job easier and means I can design something suitable.”

That seems to me to be the hidden truth of cover creation. I could have simply rejected the concepts and asked her to do more, without any further input. But the easier you can make the artist’s job, the more willing they are going to be to go the extra mile. Also, they might charge you less if they have to work less, just like how premade covers are cheaper than custom ones.

So the advice I have for you, as I have learned over this past year, is to be involved with your cover design. Find the stock art that fits what you want and then let the artist turn it into something that will sell.

I certainly think I will be using E. Rachael Hardcastle’s services again if I self-publish another collection. But that is something to think about later. I have too many projects, and real work, to do right now.

I hope this helps you when you are deciding about covers and artists.

~JM

2017 in the Rear-View, 2018 Under the Tires

Jan
01
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2017 was mostly for my cats. I expect 2018 to be the same.

A PRODUCTIVE YEAR

2017 has been quite a busy year for me. I’ve done a lot of writing, and reading, more than I expected. While I wasn’t as successful as I had hoped, I did get a lot done.

Though I’m not exactly clear on the 2016/2017 divide, I think I wrote something like 40 short and flash stories this year, and received around 30 acceptances just in 2017. I finished the final draft of my novel In the Valley of Magic, started querying agents and publishers, though I haven’t received any positive replies. I finished a novella which will be published by Fantasia Divinity, though the release has been pushed back to April because the Editor-in-Chief has been going through some rough health issues. I’ve completed five draft episodes of Call of the Guardian, my epic fantasy series with Fiction Vortex, though we’ve also had to push back the release on that because our StoryVerse lost an author so the rest of the team has to cover the slack. Edits have started on my first and second episode, so hopefully we will go live in the next month or two. And of course I self-published my first book, The Adventures of Iric, though it has yet to sell. I need to get a few good reviews on Amazon, then things should pick up.

If I had to say where my center of gravity was this year, it was with short stories. Due to delays with my core projects, I spent a lot of time writing short stories, especially flash fiction.

If I had to choose my favorite, it would probably be “The Sorcerer”. This was one of the few stories I have written in first-person. I have written before how I think first-person should be a special case, not a default, and this story proved the perfect example. Unfortunatly, you can only read it by buying the anthology, The Great Tome of Magicians, Necromancers, and Mystics.

If I had to pick a favorite story that is available to read online, I would have to pick “The Performance of a Lifetime”. I really love this story, probably more than I should. I was disspirited that it didn’t make it into a higher-tier publication, but satisfied that I sold it for real money.

Which brings me to my biggest disappointment of 2017–no pro-rate, or even semi-pro sale. I thought for sure I would make a decent sale this year. Was it too much to expect to make it in a year? I’d love honest feedback from you guys on that question because I really don’t know how to feel about it.

I’ve got a few new stories I am wrapping up now. I think they are some of the best I have ever written. So maybe I can achieve my goal in 2018.

Which brings me to…

A FEW GOALS FOR THE NEW YEAR

There are many things I could set as goals for myself in 2018, way too many realistically accomplish. I think I will limit myself to five:

  • Read more. I didn’t finish as many books in 2017 as I would have liked. Part of the problem, at least in the past couple months, was slogging through Stephen King’s IT, which, despite being decent and despite my love of the story, just doesn’t keep me as engaged as other works. But I’ve told myself I need to finish it, so I will. Next in line will probably be The Lies of Locke Lamora, which I hope will read faster.
  • Finish Call of the Guardian Season 1. So technically, I only have a contract for the first season, but the StoryVerse head and I have already discussed a second, and my series is plotted for two seasons, so I fully expect a new contract with the current one is done. I can also already think of a few spin offs if this thing keeps going. What I’d like to see most is my book physically on the shelves at major bookstores. That is what Fiction Vortex does when the seasons are complete, and I’ve seen a fellow writer find his book at Barnes and Noble. That would be my first big release.
  • Write a Second Novella. I really enjoyed writing my first novella, The Nightingale, for Fantasia Divinity. It felt more reasonable than the novel, an easier beast to handle. I think I finished it in less than a month. It didn’t hurt that I was riding a muse the whole time. I already have a couple ideas for novellas tucked away. I think it will be better to try writing one of those than another novel, especially if I am working full time and also working on Call of the Guardian. However, I think I will shop any new novella around before settling on a publisher.
  • Get a Pro-rate Sale. One sale of a SF/F work at a rate of 6c/word or better is considered a pro-rate sale by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA). One sale makes you eligible for Associate Membership, which opens up a lot of resources and also can be put on your CV and submissions. This is still my main writing goal, and probably will be until I achieve it. On the positive end, I have a couple new stories that I think have a decent chance of making it.
  • Take More Time for MyselfThe past year was a bit hectic. When I wasn’t working, I spent most of my free time doing the blog or writing. That left little time for me. I didn’t take any trips this year besides a quit trip home that was long overdue and necessitated due to my parents’ ailing health. It wasn’t a personal trip. Even another hop over to Japan would be nice. Heck, even a road trip across Korea would be fun. Haven’t done that in a couple years either. Writing is important, but I think I need to realize that this is going to take a lot more time that I expected. I am not going to become a household name overnight, so there’s no need to write myself into an early grave with stress and disappointment. I need a better rhythm. I need to take it slow.

A FEW PARTING WORDS

I’ve read a lot of the New Year’s messages from the blogger’s I follow. It seems everyone has had some successes in the past year, to varying degrees. It is nice to know there are other people out there working hard like me, and finding a win here and there.

For anyone who has engaged or debated me here, or on the Facebook page, thank you. It has been great talking with all of you! I think next year is going to be a good one. I, for one, am going to hit the ground running.

I am wishing you guys all the best in the Year of the Justifiably Defensive Lobster!

~JM

REBLOG: The Adventures of Iric Review

Dec
30

Thank you, Victorique, for the great review. I am surprised I got off so well. For those who don’t know, she is usually very hard on books! A 4 of 5 is a great score from her.

I really like this anthology. It doesn’t need you to constantly change characters, but each chapter is indeed a story. Resembles a serial in its own way but very much is still made up of pieces that all together work. Each one telling a little more about Iric as he begins to experience life. From […]

via Adventures Of Iric — Dreamingmtthoughts

REBLOG: Man vs. Self – A Guide to Writing Internal Conflict — R. Morgan Stories

Dec
28

Here’s a great rundown of psychological struggles for you characters that I couldn’t help but share. R. Morgan does a great job distilling concepts like gestalt down into digestible bits. Some of you might recognize the must vs. need conflict, which I think is very similar or the same as the “truth and lie” concept in character arcs. All in all, a good post that might be a”good starting point for a character who seems to have no or very little development.”

~J.M.

A psychological point of view to writing internal struggles

via Man vs. Self – A Guide to Writing Internal Conflict — R. Morgan Stories

The Color of Kings — 3LineTales

Dec
23
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photo by Emily Morter

The dark lord just did not appreciate good aesthetics–color and light in particular–no matter how hard Ur-Benu tried to convince her. Why must the sky always be a gloomy shade of gray or black, when purple was the color of kings? The orc concluded that his services would be better used elsewhere, and one day, left the dark tower for good.

*Written as a response to the Three Line Tales Week 99 photo prompt.

Author’s Note: I’ve been playing a lot of Middle-earth: Shadow of War these days. It’s a game where you recruit orc followers into your army. Here’s one of the warriors I captured, the inspiration for the tale:

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There’s something about his name, and the way the deep-voiced, melodramatic narrator says “UR-BENU!” every time I click on him. Sure, he looks scary with his size, and all the fire, but he’s just a softy at heart. A fiery machine destroyer…of expectations. He is terrified of Ghuls because they threaten his kittens. Lots of kittens. He is an EPIC kitten-cuddler, his little precious-es. You really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you know.

Hope you enjoyed the story. Happy Holidays!

~J.M.

An Ambitious Work

Dec
22

I hope that my comments yesterday on Stephen King’s IT did not come off as hyper-critical. I know I tend to rant when the passion gets in me.

I could have easily continued rambling on about what is wrong with the book (one thing that really bugs me is the over-reliance on pop culture references, which I find to be a very lazy sort of writing…but I’ll have to save that for a future post).

In all honesty, I am enjoying the book. It is a story I have always enjoyed, since I first saw the TV miniseries in 1990. I enjoy this book much in the same way I have enjoyed the last two Star Wars films–having fun on the ride, but acknowledging the many bumps along the way.

Many critics, including VOX, have described the book as “one of King’s most ambitious works.” Is it?

 

It is all too common to associate ambition with length. The phrase “ambitious work” is often directly tied to, or at least associated with, the work’s length. This is the case with the VOX article, where the length of the book is given in the same sentence where it is described as ambitious.

But is length all that matters when considering a work ambitious?

My answer is no. In fact, I would argue the most ambitious novel you could write today would be 40,000 words. That’s the standard length given for the cutoff between novel and novella. I mean exactly 40,000 words, not one word more or less. To put things in perspective, IT is 444,414 words, more than ten times the length I am suggesting. And the book needs to be a complete, deep, and fulfilling novel in its own right.

Anyone can tick off all the boxes on the novel-writing checklist with enough pages. The test of a really good writer is doing more with less, efficiency and brevity. All the more difficult it is to hit an exact word count without either filler or holes.

But as I mentioned in the last post, we have a tendency to equate length with quality. Longer works are “ambitious” while shorter works are generic. It really bothers me how many speculative fiction publishers have minimum word count requirements of 75,000 words or more when the cutoff for a novel is 40. They often state outright “we will not even look at anything below this.” Why not? You cannot know what you will find unless you look.

The first fantasy book I wrote, In the Valley of Magic, clocked in at 66,000 words. This was after several revisions that added to the length. But the work itself, structurally, is really unlike anything else out right now that I have seen or heard of. That’s why I started with that project, thinking that a unique and novel approach to the fantasy novel (pun intended) would be an easy sell. It’s disheartening to see that it has been rejected several times without consideration just because it didn’t meet some arbitrary length requirement.

On a side note, Fiction Vortex, who is publishing my fantasy series Call of the Guardian, will be picking In the Valley of Magic up later in 2018, after they get their app (Fictionite) and core stories rolling. Good thing about this is that their contracts are dope. Bad part is the waiting, after already waiting an eternity (okay, only since March, but it feels like forever).

All this is because science fiction and fantasy readers have been led to believe that length is quality. Well, sorry it be the bearer of bad news, but length is more often indicative of weak, lazy, bloated writing. You get length when you refuse to cut what needs to be cut, when you do not take care with every word choice. And of course, there is that sentiment that with a longer work you are getting more product for your money. But in the arts, that is not necessarily the case.

This is why I enjoy writing flash and microfiction. These forms force you to consider the efficiency of your words. They train you to be a better writer.

IT is too long for it’s own good, having many sections and even full chapters that should have been cut in the editing process. I don’t find that ambitious at all.

All that being said, I still enjoy the story and find Pennywise to be a disturbing and compelling manifestation of evil. Speaking of which, I’d better get back to it. I’m almost to the “apocalyptic rock fight.”

Here’s an important question, since if you are following this blog you probably read some sci-fi and fantasy: Would you be turned off of a fantasy book if it was “too short”? Would you open it to look at the writing, or just pass on sight alone?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments

~J.M.