Great Post by Rachelle Gardner

Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent extraordinaire, had a great post on competition and standing out from the crowd. As she said in her post: “As the competition gets stiffer, the judges are looking at more nuanced details of performance—pitch, harmonizing, stage presence, uniqueness, overall appeal. And each performer is not just being evaluated on their own merits, but measured against everyone else’s.”

How so very, very true, especially in today’s writer’s market. There is so much talent out there but for me, it’s not the competition I fear. It is my own lack of confidence. Deep down inside, I know I have a great novel, the plots and themes so intricately woven, my characters believable and loveable, and yet…?

What if no one likes it but me? What if it’s not good enough? Even after countless beta readers, published authors and teens (my target audience) have said go for it – submit – they’d buy and recommend – I still find things I want to change and perfect. And yet I know it will never be perfect. Perfection is subjective, even to me, depending on full moon and hormones. No, I fear it is my own worst critic – me – who will keep me from succeeding, not the competition.

Geez, my muse and I must sit down and have a long talk. 🙂

As Rachelle asked in her post, does the idea of competition scare you, or inspire you to keep working hard, or… what?

Art, in all its forms, is a beautiful thing

I love the arts: writing, music, acting, sculpting, painting, costume design, cinematography, all of it. I love going to plays where the acting, sets, directing and musical scores all came together as one piece. I love museums and while I may not like some pieces personally, I can appreciate the artistry that went into making it. As a writer, I love it when scenes just come together, almost as if someone else had control of me while I wrote and the scene just flowed from me.

I also love it when I am at the right place at the right time and catch nature’s artistry in the making. This photo was taken at a local beach, Sand Key, on Feb. 19. I had to share it because it is just simply amazing. Art doesn’t get much better than this.


The Latest on Word Count for Fiction

I have had several writers, authors, aspiring authors, etc. ask me what the industry word count is for fiction these days. My response has always been: it depends on the genre and the publishing world at the time; however, I must say, the industry standards have been pretty stable for the last few years. But, just to make sure, I checked in with several agents’ sites to see what they had to say and have come up with the following guidelines. Keep in mind that these are only suggested word counts; rules get broken all the time but usually by published authors, not newbies, and books that are e-published usually don’t have to conform as much to the rules. With that said, here is what I found:

An average novel length is between 80k and 100k, again, depending upon the genre but this can be broken down even further.

middle grade fiction = Anywhere from 25k to 40k, with the average at 35k

YA fiction = For mainstream YA, anywhere from about 45k to 80k; paranormal YA or YA fantasy can occasionally run as high as 120k but editors would prefer to see them stay below 100k.

paranormal romance = 85k to 100k

romance = 85k to 100k

category romance= 55k to 75k

cozy mysteries = 65k to 90k

horror = 80k to 100k

western = 80k to 100k (Keep in mind that almost no editors are buying Westerns these days.)

mysteries, thrillers and crime fiction = A newer category of light paranormal mysteries and hobby mysteries clock in at about 75k to 90k. Historical mysteries and noir can be a bit shorter, at 80k to 100k. Most other mystery/thriller/crime fiction falls right around the 90k to 100k mark.

mainstream/commercial fiction/thrillers = chick lit runs anywhere from 80k word to 100k words; literary fiction can run as high as 120k but lately there’s been a trend toward more spare and elegant literary novels as short as 65k.

science fiction & fantasy = 100k words is the ideal manuscript size for good space opera or fantasy. For a truly spectacular epic fantasy, some editors will consider manuscripts over 120k but it would have to be something extraordinary. And regardless of the size, an editor will expect the author to be able to pare it down even further before publication.

Agents and editors cannot stress enough that there are always exceptions to every rule, especially in SciFi and Fantasy. However, debut novelists who are trying to catch the eye of an agent or editor for the first time should probably err on the side of caution with your word count.

Just finished writing death scene…

and let me tell you, it was one of the hardest scenes I’ve ever written. However, thanks to three re-writes and coaching from my super duper beta reader, I have written a scene that grips me and my reader to the point of tears, which is what I was going for.

So what held me up on this scene? Basically, I forgot to be the storyteller. I failed to get inside my characters’ heads. The basics were there, the movements were there but it lacked depth, persuasion. It lacked emotion. I mean, it was so close, but you know how sometimes you’re thinking of something and it’s right there on the tip of your tongue but you just can’t blurt it out? That’s how this scene was with me. It was right there. Right on the brink, but I kept missing the mark.

Until I listened to my beta reader, made myself uncomfortable and visited the spot where grief lives. I had to reach down deep inside of me and relive what I felt when people I loved died. What did I feel? What did I say to myself? What sort of bargains did I make? And then I had to transpose them onto a seventeen year old boy without sounding cheesy or overdone.

I can’t believe how many hours this scene took to perfect. Again, a big tip of the hat to my beta reader and her harsh, strong comments that forced me to dig up painful memories so I could make this scene shine.

I wonder if anyone else has written a death scene and if they had as much trouble to get it right? If so, what did you pull from for inspiration?

As a side note: there are three novels that come to mind with great, gut-wrenching death scenes that just turned me into a bawling baby: The Order of the Phoenix when Sirius Black dies, The Hunger Games when Rue dies and an old classic, The Miracle of the Bells when Olga Treskovna dies.

What are some of your favorite death scenes in fiction and what emotion(s) did they stir in you?

Which part of a novel or story do you find hardest to write?

For me it is the end where I have to wrap everything up, tie everything together, and bring the story to a close while leaving an opening for the next book to follow in the series. I re-wrote the ending of In the Shadow of the Dragon King about 4 times before I got it to where I was happy with it.

Too bad we can’t keep ‘re-writing’ real life until we get the ending right, eh? 🙂

An odd twist to all of this, though, is that I wrote the ending to the third and final book in the Chronicles of Fallhollow series before I ever wrote a word on the 1st book, and I refuse to change it. I think I am happy with this ending because it is truly ‘the end’. With the 1st two books, there is no real ‘end’, only a continuation, and it takes that perfect ending to make readers’ want to wait a year or more to read on. I hope I have accomplished this with my first novel.

So, what is the hardest part of your novel or story to write, and why?

Have you ever tired of reading your own novel?

My answer to that question is ‘yes’! I’ve absolutely gotten tired of reading my own novel. After about the 3 thousandth edit I started wondering if my characters have always been so two-dimensional or the plot lines so predictable. Sometimes I am certain that I’ve spent many years on 90k words of drivel and not a single word is worthwhile.

That is until I hear from beta readers who tell me they can’t stop thinking about my novel, even when they aren’t trying to think about it. Yes, there are some minor tweaks that need to be done but overall, the story is compelling and impossible to put down.

Wow! What a compliment! Comments like this make me so happy. But if they make me happy, why do I feel like heaving the entire manuscript into the shredder? Oh, trust me I won’t do that because I believe in my novel. Could it be a sign meant to convince me my work is done and it’s time to move on? I have moved on by the way. Book 2 is about half done and I will soon seek beta readers for it. Maybe by the time I’ve finished book 2, book 1 will regain its appeal, at least for me.

What about you? Do you ever tire of reading your own writing?

Cast of Characters

I wish I could sketch my characters so others could see them the way I do, but alas, I can’t, so I did the next best thing. I scoured the internet for pictures that come close to what I envision my characters to look like. What follows are pictures of dream actors I would love to see play the main parts when my novel is made into a movie!!!!! 🙂 Hey, don’t laugh. It WILL happen. I have no doubt.


Nicholas Haut as David

Vanessa Hudgins as Charlotte

Scarlet Johannson as Lily

Megan Fox as Slavandria

Cameron Bright as Eric

Jeremy Sumpter as Sestian

Craig Parker as King Gildore

Roselyn Sanchez as Queen Mysterie

David Wenham as Trog

Paul Rudd as Seyekrad

OMG! My Whole Life Has Been a Lie!

What would you do after finding out your whole life has been a lie? That’s exactly what the hero of my novel, In the Shadow of the Dragon King, must decide.

At the age of fifteen, David Heiland discovers what he believes to be concrete evidence his parents’ deaths were staged and they are really still alive. On top of that, his godmother – his caregiver and the only adult he’s really trusted his entire life – has been in on the deception. The situation becomes worse when he confronts her with the ‘truth’ and she refuses to discuss the matter with him. And yet he still loves her, and something inside of him wants to believe she does really love him and there is a reason for the deception. But what?

I had a person ask me the other day where I came up with this idea and I have to say it came somewhat from my own life story. No, my parents didn’t stage their own deaths. I was adopted.

I knew from a very early age about being adopted. My ‘parents’ (not my biological parents) felt it was best to be honest from day one. I think this was the best thing they could have ever done. Sure there were times I wondered what my ‘real’ mom and dad looked like, who did I take after, but that’s all cosmetic. My adoptive parents are my real parents. They are the ones who took care of me, clothed me, nursed my boo boo’s, instilled me with morals, a sense of right and wrong, and made me the person I am today.

But how would I feel if I was lied to? How would I feel if I was fifteen years old and then discovered everything I thought to be real was a lie, and the person(s) I trusted and believed in had also lied to me? The anger and sense of betrayal would be overwhelming.

So would finding out you’d been lied to all your life about your parents being dead.

So, put yourself in my young hero’s mind. What would you think if you discovered your dead parents weren’t really dead (or, for similarity’s sake, if you found out you were adopted later on in life)? What thoughts would go through your mind? And how would you feel if no one would be honest and tell the truth? What steps would you take to discover the truth?

I would love to see your answers. Don’t be shy.