Most people measure books by chapters, which is a curious way to deem a book worthy of reading. There's some kind of cosmic expectation that the more chapters, the better the book.
The second most common question I'm asked is how many chapters are in my current work? To which I answer . . . uh . . . blink, blink . . . I don't know. Not because I'm a drooling idiot who can't count past ten because that's how many fingers and toes I own. The thing is that X amount of chapters is not my goal. There is no magic number of chapters that makes a book great.
Because chapters are subjective.
Some are short. Others enormous. It all has to do with the cadence of the story. Each chapter needs to launch the plot forward and is kind of like a story within a story. However many words it takes to do that is the sweet spot. Once that launching purpose is served the chapter needs to be cut off.
A better way to measure the length of the book is by word count. 90k is the goal I shoot for, regardless of how that breaks down into chapters. That's roughly around 350 pages.
So let's stop the judgmental attitudes out there about the perfect book being 30 chapters. I know haters gotta hate, but honestly, let's put that hatred onto things worth hating, like sauerkraut for example.
Oh yeah. I suppose you're wondering what the number one question is that I'm usually asked. It's how much money do I make at writing. Why do people feel the need to ask that? Is it because they secretly yearn to quit their day job and write stories in their jammies?
As I was walking my devil dog through the neighborhood today, I saw several leftover pumpkins, weeping their carcasses over the edge of a porch. Looked like a slow suicide. What a way to go. I semi-wished I had a notebook to scratch down a few thoughts about such a death -- only semi because I would've frostbit my fingertips, and then who would do all the Christmas baking?
Disclaimer: this is one dilly of a meandering segue so don't strain too hard because I won't be held responsible for pulled muscles.
Back to the notebook thingee . . . the idea yanked something out of my trashcan (Griep talk for a forgotten memory). Way back when I was a young reader, I devoured the book Harriet the Spy, so much so that I toodled around the neighborhood taking notes while eating a tomato sandwich just to be like the main character . . . which didn't work out so well because I almost threw up and the only thing even mildly interesting in the neighborhood was the corner house because it smelled like an open can of tuna.
All that to say (and BTW, I'm very proud of you for hanging with me around those tight curves) some books are much more than entertainment. They can be life changing in tangible ways. More examples:
Little House on the Prairie
The phrase "and Laura thought this great fun" got me through the first few lessons of downhill skiing. I repeated them over and over as I somersaulted down the slopes.
The teenage hero takes the heroine to a Chinese restaurant and encourages her to try new foods even though they were foreign to her. You wouldn't believe the weird things I've put into my mouth at a Chinese restaurant since.
And those are just a few. What books have you read that have altered your behavior in some way?
Nobody's perfect. There's not a writer on this planet who doesn't have any wiggle room left for growth. The best writers realize that and work hard to tweak their craft. What's that? You want to be one of the best? Then work on acquiring these traits . . .
Every writer has a big invisible zipper on their soul that opens wide when they put out a story, allowing the world to read their collection of words. It takes guts to do that. Writing with wild abandon even when you're afraid to do so creates fresh prose.
Rotten reviews. Sales that tank. A papercut right where the fingernail meets flesh. These roadblocks don't stop a true writer. In fact, writing in the midst of adversity makes for a story and characters with more depth.
What are you writing for? Creation? Fame? Fortune? To stand on a soapbox and deliver a message? Pinpointing your mission statement as an author will hone your writing to a sharp edge. Great writers know why they write, even if it's something as simple as they'll die if they don't.
Finish what you start. Don't get caught in the crazy spin cycle of editing and re-working and second-guessing your plot. Just finish the dang thing. Then you can go back and tidy up the messy bits.
Words are a writer's business. Know what's out there on the market. Learn and be inspired by other writers. We don't live in a vacuum. Glean what you can from the best of the best.
I went to Julie Klassen's book signing at LifeWay books this weekend. She's pretty much a rockstar of historical fiction and I am but a plebian, but she let me stand next to her table while she signed, kind of like a pathetic little puppy. But hey, I never claimed to have any shame whatsoever and I managed enough self-control to not pee on her shoes.
Here's the super cool thing...see that picture? Check it out, dudes and dudettes. That's little ol' moi's poster right smack next to el rockstar. Somebody slap me because I think I may be dreaming. Or I might be living in an alternate universe, not sure which. At any rate, I'm thrilled to pieces.
While I was worshipping at church later that evening--hang with me here because it really does tie in--I got to thinking about attending Julie's book signing. It was super easy for me to attract possible customers over to her table, telling them about how great her books are and what a sweet deal they'd get by buying a copy right then. But, if I'd been the one signing, I'd never call people over to my table. What's up with that? Why is it so easy for me to draw attention to someone else? To "sing the praises" of one of my favorite authors?
Because we were created for worship. No, not of authors. Sheesh. My theology isn't that far off center, and yes, this is a lame analogy. But the point I'm making is that it's natural to draw others to something that's beautiful, whether in a small way like sharing about a great book, or in an eternal way like sharing about Jesus. And what better time of year than Christmas to spread the great news of God coming down to Earth?
Okay, so I may be a little late getting to this party, but wowzer! Slap a lampshade on my head and twirl me around. BookBub is the hip-hop happening place where every book lover should shake their booty. In plain English: it's a daily email that notifies you about free or deeply discounted ebooks. Here's how it works . . .
Type in your email address.
Choose which genres you love. I ticked off the Christian fiction box.
Sit back and wait for a notice in your inbox that tells you what books are currently free or uber-freaking cheap.
Download the book(s) you want, but you have to act quickly. Most are only free/cheap for a limited number of days.
That's it. That easy. You can even select authors you like to follow and when one of their books comes up for a deal, you'll be sure to know about it.
I hear voices. Loud. Incessant. And very real. Which basically gives me
two options: choke back massive amounts of Prozac or write fiction. I chose the
latter. Way cheaper. I've been writing since I discovered blank wall space and
Crayolas. I seek to glorify God in all that I write...except for that graffiti
phase I went through as a teenager. Oops. Did I say that out loud?