Writing Stats Spreadsheet v1

Now available is the spreadsheet that I’ve been using to record my statistics for The Rebel Queen. (It’s free, which means use at your own risk, no liability accepted. Always back up your files :-)). Writing Stats Spreadsheet v1

While it’s highly probable that I’ll make improvements to it later, I don’t envision doing any work on it for the foreseeable future. The spreadsheet is designed to keep track of word count in both draft and revision versions of a story. The Excel spreadsheet contains the following worksheets:

Settings

There’s really not much to see here. You can enter the name of your writing project, and it checks that all of your scenes have a point-of-view character assigned.

Stats

As the name would suggest, it shows some basic stats about the writing project. One of the cool things that I’ve recently added is the concept of an “estimated reading time”.

While the estimated reading time is of less value here (whole book), the value comes out in the per-chapter analysis. My new-found opinion is that I want chapters ideally to be 15-20 minutes long, ideal length for a commute. (Though it strikes me as I write this; commutes vary).

Basic Stats

While the table on this worksheet could be deemed ‘information overload’, it is important to be able to monitor word count reduction at a scene-by-scene level. Also on the stats page is a way-too-small chart which shows chapter and scene comparisons between revision and draft.

Chapter Summaries

A more useful by-chapter view of the world: scene count, word count, estimated reading time and percentage change between revision and draft.

by-chapter.PNG

Draft Scene Info and Revision1 Scene Info

These two worksheets are near identical. They both possess a table where you specify chapter number, scene number, a scene name, a point of view and the word count.

revision

(Ignore the bad scene names; I don’t want this to be a spoiler for The Rebel Queen). The scene names for the same scene must be the same in both draft and revision worksheets, but they can be in a different order (different chapter or scene numbers). Also, the revision worksheet can contain new scenes or absent scenes. (That’s what revision is all about). Filling out the Point of View is easy, with a drop-down list.

Characters

This worksheet contains a list, and summary of the characters who get a point of view in your story. (Non point-of-view characters aren’t included).

pov.PNG

Characters POV

This worksheet is also a recent addition, which also has the benefit of being aesthetically pleasing. I discussed this in a recent post on character balance.

Draft General Pkar POV

If you have any questions or problems using the spreadsheet, please add a comment below.

 

 

Sentence Length

The more you know, the more you know you don’t know. 

When I’m reading with a critical eye the only thing I’ve been looking for in sentence structure is crazy-long sentences. That’s all I knew to look for, until now. 

Five Word Sentence Quote by Gary Provost
This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

More Q&A

(These are my notes and thoughts in relation to the Writing Excuses podcast Season 1, episodes 20 ‘More Q&A’. I will also disseminate this information to the topical sections of my resource section).

Question: How necessary are plot twists?

  • Don’t over-inflate the term ‘plot twist’ to always be the dramatic reveal which changes everything. This is not required in every book and if you’re not good at doing them then don’t do it. Small things going wrong are also plot twists.
  • There must be conflict and challenge for the protagonists; these are more required and important than dramatic reveals.

This is freeing, and correlates with my thoughts I wrote about in relation to the last episode plot twists. It isn’t always necessary.

  • The requirement for plot twists depends upon the genre: romance novels don’t really have plot twists because the reader doesn’t want it; science fiction it is more important; mysteries there must be multiple plot twists.

Question: How is the market changing with electronic media?

  • Speculation that the majority of future readers will want commute-friendly length chapters. The number quoted is 2500-3000 words long.

As someone who regularly reads on a 20 minute commute to work, I agree with this. It is much more satisfying to finish a chapter than to have to stop part way through a chapter.

I know that I am reading a great book when I consider stopping for a coffee (and a bit more reading) on the short walk to work. As an aspiring author I want to write books that completely mess up people’s schedules 🙂

  • Note the increase in the number and spread of audio books; becoming more mainstream.

I’ve never actually listened to an audio book. Maybe it’s because of my disability: I literally can’t walk and think about things at the same time. Sure, I can do some low-level thinking, but walking really does take up a large part of my active concentration. Some thoughts can distract me enough that I fall over. So multi-tasking is not something I do well… listening to a novel via audio book would make me feel as though I’m missing bits.

  • With the advent of the internet, e-books etc authors can now sell direct to readers. (The example is given that a $2 short story sold direct-to-reader gives the author more money than 2 sales of an $8 paperbacks, and the author doesn’t have to wait for 9-15 months for the publisher to send the $0.80).
  • Copy editing / editor can become contract services to individuals.

This is incredibly disruptive. As they describe in more detail in the podcast, this partially breaks the traditional publishing model.

The benefit with the traditional publisher is that they have experts in the fields of editing, marketing etc. You can do it all yourself, as many have successfully done, but it is an additional burden upon the author.

  • Could we see the return of the weekly serial?

I like the romanticism involved in this idea. I love the idea of the weekly radio broadcast where they tell a riveting story… I suspect though our attention span is not good enough these days. We are a binge-watching society, used to getting what we want exactly when we want it, on-demand. I think this would negate our ability to enjoy a weekly-released (or even daily-released) serial; we would find the wait too frustrating.

Yes, audiences tune into popular TV series season after season, grumpily enduring the between season periods… but that is entertainment that comes with visual and audio candy and multi-million dollar budgets. Broad-appeal literary serials: it would have to be exceptional material to work.

Question: How do you make your protagonists as interesting as your villains?

  • Blur the line between hero and villain.
  • Villains are more interesting because they often have better conflicts. Ensure your heroes have good/deep/interesting conflicts or they will be weak characters.
  • Protagonist should be competent but not overly-so.
  • Villains are more active, heroes are reactive. Try and make your heroes active. David Gerrold says that for the first half of the story the antagonist is driving, but for the second half the protagonist should be driving. (In the first half the monster chases the hero, in the second half the hero chases the monster).

Question: How much to sell a story for?

(This is obviously going to be the US-version of the answer, so factor in exchange rates and probably, differing markets).

  • Short stories – about $0.05 per word.
  • Novel – about $5000 advance for a first novelist is a good amount; at least $1000.

Additional Wisdom

 

  • Recommended way to break writer’s block: take the last line of dialog and make it the inverse…which then forces you to explain why they say that.
  • Ralan.com – resource.
  • The importance of networking (i.e. at conventions).