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The Truth About Word Counts

Finishing the first draft of my latest manuscript left me with mixed feelings.  I was happy the story was done, but it had turned out much, much shorter than I had anticipated, just a little over 46,000 words, according to the writing software’s word counter.  Leaving it too long to be called a novella, but too short to be marketable as a novel outside of e-publishing.  To confirm my apprehension over the length, I did a Google search on word counts.  One of the links that came up was this forum thread on manuscript formatting from Absolute Write, which listed the general guidelines for length as:

Short Short: Under 2,000 words
Short story: 2,000–7,500 words
Novelette (General Fiction): 7,500–15,000 words
Novelette (SF & Fantasy): 7,500–17,500 words
Novella (General Fiction): 15,000–30,000 words
Novella (SF & Fantasy): 17,500–40,000 words
Novel (General Fiction): Over 30,000 words
Novel (SF & Fantasy): Over 40,000 words

A further breakdown by genre/sub-genre can be found on Colleen Lindsay’s blog.

Though I have several shorter stories in various stages of completion, I’d had really big plans for this one.  I have one other full-length manuscript that I’m currently polishing, hoping to submit it to agents, and expected this one to be my second.  The shorter work, I always planned to direct submit to e-publishers, in part because of the genre.  This one didn’t quite fit that mold, however.   It was disappointing, to say the least.

But on that same forum thread, there is also a discussion of different ways to calculate word counts: word processor counts, the 250 words per page/ “white space” method, and something called the “random manual” method.  The “white space” method is the one traditionally used in publishing, but I rarely used it myself.  I wrote my first novel long-hand, in pen (if you ever tried to type anything on my mother’s old manual typewriter, you’d prefer writing by hand, too) and would also count my words by hand, until I finally switched over to writing on a computer.  Then, I became more dependent on the word processor method.

Out of curiosity, I decided to try the “white space” method on my latest manuscript.  208 pages = 52,000 words.  Better, but still a little short.  Fortunately, I realized that one of my antagonists did an unintentional disappearing act in the middle of the story, so when I work on that, it should definitely be a little longer, but it may still end up being too short for what I originally intended it to be.  Only time will tell.

Since there was a pretty good-sized difference between the two counts, I decided to do a quick calculation on my full-length novel, which, at 98,000 words, is very close to the 100,000 word upper limit of acceptability.  Turns out there are 458 pages — approximately 114, 500 words — and it’s not an “epic” fantasy, which is allowed a top count of approximately 110,000 words.

Looks like I’ve got a bit of cutting and tightening to do. 😦


I had to go in for a series of blood tests the other day.  Routine stuff, to check my cholesterol and for anemia and a few other things, but it  required fasting for 8 hours beforehand.  Also included was a glucose test, for diabetes.  Diabetes is what I consider the boogeyman hiding in my genetic history: my paternal grandfather had Type 2 Diabetes, and my father has it as well.  It’s a disease that scares me almost more than the family history of cancer.  Irrational, I know, but has everything to do with my equally irrational fear of needles.

The glucose test ensured that my time in the lab would be nearly 3 hours.  The initial blood draw itself seemed to take a really long time.  I don’t have the easiest veins for the techs to find, to begin with, and it seemed like a ridiculously large amount of blood was needed.  Four test tubes worth.  It took so long that the lab tech was able to discuss, in detail, unique aspects of the Georgia school system that I had never known, nor cared to know.  Talk about a captive audience!

Once the initial work was over, I had to consume that disgusting sugar drink to begin the glucose testing.  I’m not sure what flavor I was given, it tasted like pure sugar to me.  That was too much, even for my massive sweet tooth, to find very palatable.  Just glad that I didn’t get sick, as some people do.  While I waited out the 2 hours that needed to pass before I was to have more blood drawn, to check my body’s reaction to all of the sugar, the skies opened up in a heavy, constant downpour.  When I left the lab, I learned something interesting: Apparently, my phone’s navigation app doesn’t work in the rain.  It kept trying to say my location was in Malaysia, instead of Georgia, USA, and that therefore it couldn’t create a driving route to my destination. 😯

By the time I was finally able to go home, I was running on automatic pilot, with only a brief stop for fast food that didn’t quite seem to fill me up as much as it normally did.  I took care of my dog, refilled his water bowl, and headed back to bed.

Later that evening, when it was time for him to eat, I couldn’t find his food bowl.  Anywhere.  I noticed that his water dish was on the wrong side of the stand, but didn’t remember putting it there.

My husband and I searched the entire house, looking for his bowl.  Even ridiculous places, like the bathroom, and the refrigerator.  Still nothing.  We had a spare disposable aluminum tray, so that became the substitute food dish.  I wish I’d taken a photo of my dog’s face when I set it down in front of him.   The  improvised meal confused him.

The next day, it was time to refill his water again.  When I picked up his water dish, I noticed it seemed unusually heavy.  The food dish was nested beneath it.  It had been there all the time.  😳

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that I was a full-time college student, making my way through classes on less than 3 hours of sleep and a handful of candy bars.  Not just surviving the day, but thriving.  I would often write my best papers during those times, especially for my philosophy class.

Now, I can’t function on little sleep and less food.  Or was it little food and less sleep?

I can’t be the only one who’s done crazy things while food or sleep-deprived.  Go ahead, tell me your best! Or would it be your worst?

Another writing prompt from Ermilla’s Picture it and Write.  This one was actually the prompt from May 26, and I’ve been stubbornly trying to plug away at it ever since.  It was more difficult for me than the last.  I’m now a few weeks behind on the prompts.  Haven’t decided yet it if I’m going to try to catch up on every one, or skip ahead to the current one, after this.

“There it is.  That’s where she was born.”  The ocean breezes carried away her voice, since there was no one else to hear.  As she  took a tentative step forward, the planks of the old bridge shivered from the unexpected burden.

She was glad to be alone, and even happier that the old house was empty.  No telling how a homeowner might have reacted to a complete stranger knocking on their door, especially in a place as isolated as this.  At  the very least, they might have laughed in her face when she said, “Hey, my grandmother was born here, a hundred years ago.  Mind if I look around?”

Funny how the woman who had raised her could be such a mystery after her death.  Grandmother had never spoken of her family.  No one had even known that she had a brother until he sent a memorial wreath to her funeral.  Father had never asked about her past, saying that he’d understood from a young age that it was too painful for her to talk about.  There were  rumors of abandonment, after her mother remarried, but nothing that could be confirmed by documents.  Even the identity of Grandmother’s parents was suspect.  On her birth certificate, her father’s occupation was listed as a candy maker.  In the census records from the same time, he was listed as a gardener.

She peered into the window, through one of the tiny spots of glass not covered by cobwebs or dead bugs.  Nothing.  It was too dark to see inside.  She tried the door, and the knob spun uselessly in its seat before falling off into her hands.  There was no way in, short of breaking it down.

Back to the window.  As she tapped on the filthy glass, the debris appeared to swirl before her eyes, coalescing into images from her past.  Memories of her grandmother.  Her unyielding honesty, even if it meant paying a little more.  The way she cooked without measuring a single ingredient, yet somehow managing to pass on her recipes to anyone who truly wanted to learn.  To the very last, she had been a force of energy.  Even when she was fighting the cancer that had weakened her bones, leaving her so fragile that a small fall had resulted in a broken arm.  Arm in sling, she had still been able to outrace her sons and her grandchildren up and down the stairs, as they chased her in a desperate attempt to make her slow down and take care of herself instead of everyone else.

She turned away from the window.  Away from the house.  She no longer needed to seek the truth by going into the old building.  Everything that was important about her grandmother was inside her.  In her memories.

What do those three have in common?  They’re all part of yet another spam e-mail I received the other day.

The Subject line said simply: Kotex (Have to wonder if the people who make up these e-mails know what the real company by that name sells.  Would be pretty funny if they didn’t.)

The e-mail claimed to be from Bank of America.  Didn’t realize that Bank of America used Yahoo e-mail addresses with the country suffix of .cn, which is the country code for China. 😉

According to the body of the message, I’m one of the heirs of Saddam Hussein.


That’s about as believable as the deposed African prince who desperately needs my help moving funds out of his former country.  What will these spammers think of next?

Interesting month overall, mainly in real life, not my writing life.  Here’s how May turned out:

Resolutions #1, 3, 5, &7: Keep this blog updated.

Progress report:  Blogged a total of 6 times in May.  Exactly the same as  I posted in April, but it could have been a lot more.  It was a continuation of what I struggled with in April, when work on my drafts became a much higher priority to me than blogging.  Perhaps its my old introvert nature rearing its ugly head again, trying to drive me back in the dark corners of the internet to resume the role of lurker rather than participant.

Resolution #2:  Finally finish editing my NaNoWriMo novel from 2008

Progress report:  Last additions completed, and just letting it sit for a while before I begin reading through it again.

Resolution #4:  Finish the first draft of my NaNoWriMo novel from 2011

Progress report: Nice progress here, finishing the month with 43, 676 words, an addition of over 6000 words since April.

Resolution #6: Receive one rejection slip (print or e-mail) every other month, for a total of 6 for the year.

Progress report: Beginning to think that novella may be a lost cause.  I’ve been toying with the idea of writing more short stories again, but haven’t made a decision just yet.  Also started another story that may become a novella, or may be long enough to be a novel.

Part of me hesitated to post this progress report, especially since one of my resolutions now appears to be a lost cause (#6), yet writing them help me keep more motivated than if I didn’t.  Something about being accountable, even if only to faceless strangers over the internet, has been a great boost to my productivity.

What about you? Do you feel like you need to be held accountable for your goals in order to achieve them? Or do you work best when you think no one is watching? 😉


I came across this writing prompt from Ermilla.  A photo is posted on their blog, and readers are encouraged to write a story or poem based on the image.  I thought it would be an interesting challenge.  This is going to be my first attempt at an online writing prompt, so hopefully I do this correctly.  I have to admit, I’m a little nervous to see what you think of my attempt below.


“Don’t.  Don’t bother.”  Tears slid down the bride’s face as she snapped her phone shut and stepped down from the pedestal, excess fabric tangling around her legs.  Trapping her in tulle.  “This doesn’t matter any more.”

The tape measure slipped from the seamstress’ fingers, coiling into useless loops on the showroom floor. She watched the bride disappear into the dressing room, only to emerge moments later.  Long thin red marks marred her arms, tracings left behind by the pins that had marked the first of many alterations.

She looked like an ordinary woman, out of the gown.  No longer the white lace entity that made up a little girl’s wedding dreams.  She held up the ring that had circled her finger, drew her arm back as though she meant to hurl it away.  Far away.  Then something in her face changed again, and she tucked it into the pocket of her jeans.  Her silent entourage followed her out of the shop: mother and sister and friends.

The seamstress turned to the dressing room, and found the discarded gown crumpled on the floor.  She placed it on a hanger, removed the pins, and smoothed away the creases.  She tucked it away, to be pressed and cleaned before being offered up to another bride, another dreamer.

It swayed on the rack.  Alone.

If I Were Paranoid…

I’d think the builder who sold us our house is out to get us! 😉 I can laugh about most of it now, but it’s been quite a crazy ride these last few weeks.

First, they decided to build houses on some of the empty lots in our development, including the one right next door to ours.  Which isn’t too bad, except our view from the front porch now includes this:

Who doesn’t love seeing a port-a-potty the moment you step outside your front door?

Then we found out that the builder advertised this identical house to ours, on an identical lot to ours, for $20, 000 less than what we paid them a little over a year ago.  They’ve since removed the fliers they had with that number on it — only to replace it with a giant sign outside the development, which now advertises houses starting at prices $40,000 less than what we paid.

I know, I know.  It could be much worse.  At least we have a house, and we’re not in the same situation as a good friend of mine, who has a condo in California that is worth less than half of the amount they paid for it a few years ago.  Or rather, I should say, the amount they took out as their mortgage.

Then, while digging out the culvert beneath the soon-to-be driveway, they cut our DSL line, and this was no shallow, barely covered line.  They had to dig really deep to do this.  That meant no internet.  For nearly a week.  My day job depends on internet access, so I spent a lot of time going out to places with free wi-fi in order to keep up with what I needed to get done.  It also means that I’ve fallen even further behind on blogging…

Oh, and our internet company still hasn’t buried our new DSL line.  It’s draped along the border of our front yard, and they actually threaded part of the line through our fence:

Not sure why they did it this way.  They’ll have to disconnect us when it comes time to finally bury the line again.  Not looking forward to that.

Finally, there were the nails.  Specifically, the roofing nails that they apparently dropped on the road.  The nails that ended up in the tire of our car.  It went flat, but fortunately, without causing an accident.  But it did make my husband miss an event he was supposed to attend for work.  Oh, and for all of those lovely motorists who were laughing at a soldier, in full dress uniform, struggling to repair a tire on his car? I have only one thing to say: Pffft! 🙄

All that being said, it hasn’t been too bad living next to a construction zone.  They’re certainly the quietest construction site I’ve ever encountered.  And all of the comings-and-goings of all the strangers around “his” territory has certainly kept our dog entertained!

That’s a Lot of Red Ink

A few random pages from the manuscript I’m revising.

For some strange reason, my husband has been bringing home a lot of red pens lately, and shedding them throughout the house.  I can almost mark the trail he takes through the rooms by following what he drops.  Considering how many pockets an Army uniform has, that can be quite a lot.

Normally, I do my revisions using ordinary black ink.  This time, with all of those red pens lying around, I decided to use them.  The effect is startling to say the least.  Makes all of the cutting I’ve done to this manuscript blatantly obvious.  It’s one thing to know that I’ve cut 3000 from the first 70 pages, it’s another thing entirely to see all those brilliant scarlet lines slashing through the words.

It’s eliminating redundancy and a  lot of writing in the passive voice.  This particular manuscript was originally a NaNoWriMo project, so there are many unnecessary words.  Something about trying to cram out 50,000 words in 30 days really bloats my language.

Surprisingly, these cuts haven’t been nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  I’ve even cut quite a few lines that I used to be very proud of, but they just were not moving the story forward.  There’s still a long way to go before I feel comfortable showing this manuscript to anyone, however.

That’s why the photo is blurry 😉



One of my very best and oldest friends is pregnant.  Due in September.  I must admit, it feels a little odd to me.   She and I were the last of all of my close friends to remain childless, even though both of us have been married for some time.  She was the one I could talk to without worrying that she would suddenly break into the strange language of play-dates and toddler-speak.

Not anymore.

Though she’s not due until September, I’m already having a hard time understanding some of her conversations.  Oh, it’s not the medical side of her pregnancy that’s a problem.  As the daughter of a nurse who spent several years working for a OB-GYN, then another several years working in a high-risk pregnancy ward in a hospital, I probably know more about pregnancy and childbirth than anyone who hasn’t experienced either of those things should know.

It’s when she starts talking about the new things she’s buying/thinking of buying for the baby — that’s where I get lost.  For example, the  other day, her Facebook status talked about her husband’s first foray into parenthood: mastering the Travel Boppy.

Huh? What in the world is a Travel Boppy? A little searching on Google brought this explanation: It’s a “Feeding and Infant Support Pillow” that is made for traveling.  Now, why couldn’t they just call it a pillow in the first place? 😉

If I’m this lost now, I’m scared to see how lost I’ll be after she actually has the baby.  Unless I’m finally lucky enough to join her in impending parenthood before then.

By the way, for anyone who is curious about what a Travel Boppy looks like, here’s the video posted on the company’s YouTube channel:

Spammer vs. Spammer

There has been another deluge of spam and phishing e-mails being sent to my work e-mail lately.  At one point, I received fifteen of them in one hour! Some of them have actually been so kind as to actually include “Spam” in their subject lines, which made it easy to delete, but the others, with vague or no subject, unfortunately have to be waded through to make sure that I don’t miss anything that is actually important — such as an e-mail from a potential customer.

One e-mail particularly caught my attention the other day.  The subject line read, in all caps, no less: Stop Contacting Those B*******! Since this is a business e-mail account, I don’t usually get anything that has even the mildest of swear words in it, so this was definitely different.  The message turned out to be:

Good day,

I am Mrs. Tasha Raymond; I am a USA citizen, 45 years Old. I reside here in WASHINGTON.

My residential address is as follows: – (Address deleted.  Don’t know if it’s real or not but I didn’t want to post it in case it’s someone’s real address) United States, i will soon relocate since I have collected my compensation money.

I am one of those that took part in the Compensation in Nigeria and West Africa many years ago and they refused to pay me, I had paid over $10,000 while in the USA, trying to get my payment all to no avail.

So, I decided to travel down to Nigeria west Africa with all my compensation documents, And I was directed to meet Mr. Larry Longman, who is a member of the UN Compensation Committee, and I contacted him and he explained everything to me, He said whoever is contacting us through emails are fake.

He took me to the paying bank for the claim of my Compensation payment. Right now I am one of the most happiest women on earth because I have received my Compensation funds of $800,000.00 Moreover,  Mr. Larry Longman showed me the Full information of those that are yet to receive their payments and I saw your Email address as one of the beneficiaries, that is why I decided to email you to Stop dealing with anybody, they are not with your compensation money, They are only making money out of you. I will advise you to contact Mr.Larry Longman.

You have to contact him directly on this information below.

. Mr. Larry Longman
De-factor Chief Compensation Officer

You really have to stop dealing with those people that are contacting you and Telling you that your funds are with them, it is not in any way with them, they are Only taking advantage of you and they will dry you up until you have nothing.

The only money I paid after I met  Mr. Larry Longman was just $110 for the paper Works, take note of that.

Once again stop contacting those people, I will advise you to contact  Mr. Larry Longmanso that he can help you to deliver your funds instead of dealing With those liars that will be turning you around asking for different kind of Money to complete your transaction.

Thank you and be blessed as you contact him today.

Mrs. Tasha Raymond.


Is the world of e-mail scams so competitive now that they have to resort to bashing each other? Or is this some twisted attempt to make themselves look more “legitimate,” now that the pool of gullible victims must be dwindling?

Interesting times…