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The Workshop - Tips, Tricks, and Theory

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Posts

  • HoukHouk Nipples The EchidnaRegistered User regular
    edited January 2008
    Razjml wrote: »
    Tip:
    Also, give yourself the gift of E.B. White and Strunk's Style Manual

    I don't mean to nitpick, but White & Strunk's has so many problems with it (worthless examples and nitpicks, contradictory information, White babbling about "style" at the end like a judge trying to define pornography) and is so outdated that I'm slightly appalled that people continually recommend it like it's the only book of its kind ever written. Instead of learning how to judiciously split infinitives or add a redundant possessive s to nouns that end in s (Thomas's), most people around here would be better served by a comprehensive reference book that has a strong focus on practical grammar. I really like The Everyday Writer by Lunsford, but there are dozens of them out there.
    There's no reason to make it an "instead" situation. White & Strunk has tons of useful info that a writer should know about, even if they disagree with it, and it can be read in a night. Certainly it's not the only source, but it's a very good one. There is literally no good reason for any aspiring reader not to read it. Aside from, you know, blindness and deafness or something.

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  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    Is there a proper manuscript/novel sort format, and is there a way to make openoffice write in that fashion? A plugin or something?

    Once you find the format, you can make a template. :P

    yes hello this is blog
  • Goose!Goose! Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    MKR wrote: »
    Is there a proper manuscript/novel sort format, and is there a way to make openoffice write in that fashion? A plugin or something?

    Once you find the format, you can make a template. :P

    Yes, but I am so lazy that I want to download the template instead. Great for an aspiring writer, yes?

  • OrikaeshigitaeOrikaeshigitae Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited January 2008
    Not really, Goose. Just start writing.

    once you're done, convert it into 12pt Courier New, double spaced. It's easy to edit, easy to read. While you're composing you can do whatever you want.

  • Goose!Goose! Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    Also, and I'm aware that length is no indicator of quality etc. etc., but how much would I want to type in 12 pt. courier new double spaced to get like...a normal chapter size? Like, figure, 20 pages in a book?

  • MunacraMunacra Registered User
    edited January 2008
    A chapter length is a matter of feel. Start when it starts and close it when it closes. Don't let word count arbitrarily dictate the length of your chapter.

    so what i'm trying to say is there is no right answer really.

  • bsjezzbsjezz Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    nah, munacra - there is a right answer, and it follows a simple formula:

    x = ( (i x 1,000) + (n x 100) ) / p

    where i is the genre index (roughly calculated by how distant in both years and lightyears the setting is from earth), n is the number of the chapter and p is the pretentiousness rating, a scale that goes all the way up to a million. with a pretentious enough book, chapters can consist of less than a single letter. i've seen it done.

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  • Goose!Goose! Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    I get where you're coming from, but a prologue of 3 pages double spaced seems too short.

  • MunacraMunacra Registered User
    edited January 2008
    bsjezz wrote: »
    nah, munacra - there is a right answer, and it follows a simple formula:

    x = ( (i x 1,000) + (n x 100) ) / p

    where i is the genre index (roughly calculated by how distant in both years and lightyears the setting is from earth), n is the number of the chapter and p is the pretentiousness rating, a scale that goes all the way up to a million. with a pretentious enough book, chapters can consist of less than a single letter. i've seen it done.

    excellent point proffesor jezz.

  • MunacraMunacra Registered User
    edited January 2008
    I get where you're coming from, but a prologue of 3 pages double spaced seems too short.

    Then make it longer.

  • RazjmlRazjml Registered User
    edited January 2008
    Houk wrote: »
    There's no reason to make it an "instead" situation. White & Strunk has tons of useful info that a writer should know about, even if they disagree with it, and it can be read in a night. Certainly it's not the only source, but it's a very good one. There is literally no good reason for any aspiring reader not to read it.
    Aside from, you know, blindness and deafness or something.

    Here's a good reason for an aspiring reader not to read it: information in it is contentious, contradicted by the authors themselves, and often flat out wrong.

    Here's a snippet from an article highlighting how archaically persnickety it is (http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2005/10/23/frankenstrunk/):
    Scanning the recent editions, you sometimes wonder what could possibly have been cut, given the absurdity of what remains. Don't use claim to mean ''assert"? Mark Twain did it in 1869, the year Strunk was born. Don't contact anyone? It's a ''vague and self-important" verb-or so people said in the 1920s, when it was new. Don't use they to refer to ''a distributive subject" like everybody-unless you're E.B. White: ''But somebody taught you, didn't they?" says a character in ''Charlotte's Web."

    Do a site search of languagehat.org, a site frequented by linguists, if you aren't convinced.

    Despite this, my problem with it isn't its ridiculous assertions; rather, it's because it doesn't address what seems to really plague most writers today (myself included). If the workshops I attended in college and this forum are any indication, the biggest problem writers tend to have is a complete lack of any understanding of grammar. I've critiqued work, here and elsewhere, where I've had to dwell almost entirely on how the writer's grammar defeats any kind of meaning in their work, without even beginning to address larger concerns with it. It's a serious problem, and not in an archaic, ahistorical "these are the rules" kind of way, but in a "no one knows what the hell you're trying to say here" kind of way. It's like people playing jazz without knowing basic music theory. It doesn't work.

  • ruzkinruzkin Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    I get where you're coming from, but a prologue of 3 pages double spaced seems too short.

    Man, I wrote a prologue two paragraphs long. Write what needs to be in there and nothing more.

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  • Goose!Goose! Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    My grammar be good.

  • HoukHouk Nipples The EchidnaRegistered User regular
    edited January 2008
    Razjml wrote: »
    Houk wrote: »
    There's no reason to make it an "instead" situation. White & Strunk has tons of useful info that a writer should know about, even if they disagree with it, and it can be read in a night. Certainly it's not the only source, but it's a very good one. There is literally no good reason for any aspiring reader not to read it.
    Aside from, you know, blindness and deafness or something.

    Here's a good reason for an aspiring reader not to read it: information in it is contentious, contradicted by the authors themselves, and often flat out wrong.
    Actually, that's just a good reason for it not to be the only resource for an aspiring writer. Not even close to a good reason not to read it at all.
    Despite this, my problem with it isn't its ridiculous assertions; rather, it's because it doesn't address what seems to really plague most writers today (myself included). If the workshops I attended in college and this forum are any indication, the biggest problem writers tend to have is a complete lack of any understanding of grammar. I've critiqued work, here and elsewhere, where I've had to dwell almost entirely on how the writer's grammar defeats any kind of meaning in their work, without even beginning to address larger concerns with it. It's a serious problem, and not in an archaic, ahistorical "these are the rules" kind of way, but in a "no one knows what the hell you're trying to say here" kind of way. It's like people playing jazz without knowing basic music theory. It doesn't work.
    I don't know why you'd have a problem with a book not addressing basic grammar problems, if that's not what the book is trying to do. There's tons of books on writing that don't do that - are they all not worth reading?

    I totally agree that younger writers/people in general have horrible grammar, but the answer should really be to expand what they read, not limit it.

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  • RazjmlRazjml Registered User
    edited January 2008
    Houk wrote: »
    I don't know why you'd have a problem with a book not addressing basic grammar problems, if that's not what the book is trying to do. There's tons of books on writing that don't do that - are they all not worth reading?

    Like I said, my problem isn't the book itself, it's with the general discourse that all any writer needs is a copy of The Elements of Style. In nearly every university there are composition classes where the book is required reading - but not a basic grammar book. If a writer is going to by one reference book that will help them with their writing, any grammar book will be a tenfold more effective use of their money than Strunk's nearly century old text that White revised fifty years ago.

  • OrikaeshigitaeOrikaeshigitae Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited January 2008
    all the composition courses i've been in have included grammar as the first three weeks of the term, though not necessarily as a textbook.

  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    C&P from my thread hijack (it's advice on getting in to editing):
    MKR wrote: »
    She's booked until March and a little busy, but forwarded this e-mail to me. It has some links and advice.
    Hi,


    I'm glad to hear from you, and yes, I hope that in future years, [redacted] will be well remembered for breaking the barrier of that sub-sub-genre of Christian fiction. :) It was an honor to help her with the polishing of that book too -- it's always easier to enjoy editing a work that one also enjoys reading. ;)

    Next, please forgive the slowness of my reply. As you might have already learned, the book editor's workflow is somewhat feast or famine. And at the moment, I'm definitely having a feast. A couple of months from now, I'll be twiddling my thumbs again, likely. Be warned. :)

    Since time is short, I regret that I won't be able to do my usual pontificating about the wonders and pitfalls of the business. (Ha!) However, if you have specific questions, I'll do my best to answer as time permits. In the meantime, here are a couple of excellent links to websites that will probably answer your question of how to get work, give you a rundown of the basics of getting started, and much more. A good primer in both.

    http://thedabblingmum.com/writing/writerniche/freelanceeditor.htm

    http://www.kokedit.com/library.shtml

    Actually, getting work was very difficult for me the first few years, since most of my early work came to me only by word of mouth, and I didn't have any contacts from past work for a publishing house. Yet, to find success, it's vital that a freelance editor be more than good at editing; they must also be doggedly persistent in marketing themselves. Some editors stay busy just doing marketing on their own, but I didn't find that true for me. Since I joined a couple of editing networks, it's been much easier, but these are very difficult to get into -- for one thing, my particular network's coordinator only opens the network for applicants once or twice a year. Although certainly, it won't hurt to check out the network's main page:

    www.book-editing.com

    If you see a link somewhere on that page that says something like "Looking for fiction editor" or "Accepting applications," that means it's okay to contact her and ask to apply. But be sure to read the FAQ first, because the requirements for each type of editing will differ.

    Also, I do get some work through my professional association, www.the-efa.org. Might be worth considering membership -- they have a pretty active job board, although it's an added cost over and above the membership fee. Even if you don't get many leads through the job board, the group also have a very active mailing list, which is a great place to ask questions, get information fed to you about a wide variety of subjects, and to just plain connect with others.

    edit: Tak, hope you don't mind us borrowing your thread for a moment. I think I'll go post this in the workshop thread. :P

    yes hello this is blog
  • DiggDigg Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    Hey,
    Does anyone have any tips for organizing timelines for stories? The plot I'm working on at the moment is a little convoluted, and takes place over several years and there are multiple intertwining stories, so I'm trying to get the ordering and placement of events fixed.

    I wrote down a lot of the key events on flash cards and laid them out on a table. It seemed like a good way to get the order straight and it helped me recognize a serious problem with fitting two of the stories together (which I hope I've solved).

    My idea of a timeline is just, for example,

    1914 WWI begins
    (4 years)
    1918 WWI ends
    and so on.

    Quite straightforward, and maybe that'll be fine. But if anyone has other suggestions for better organization I'd like to hear them. Thanks!

  • Goose!Goose! Registered User regular
    edited March 2008
    I don't have a clue if this has been posted or anything, but I was perusing the webs for some screenplay writing tips/formatting/software/whatever I could get my hands on and I found this site, made for a seminar in Virginia Commonwealth University, but it seems like an excellent resource to me:

    http://www.vcu.edu/arts/playwriting/seminar.html

    Also, I have an interesting request. How do you guys get ideas/what helps inspire you? What is your muse? Or how can I find mine? Seriously. And please don't refer me to marijuana or any other recreational drugs, thanks.

  • spcmnspffspcmnspff Registered User regular
    edited March 2008
    Houk wrote: »
    There's no reason to make it an "instead" situation. White & Strunk has tons of useful info that a writer should know about, even if they disagree with it, and it can be read in a night. Certainly it's not the only source, but it's a very good one. There is literally no good reason for any aspiring reader not to read it. Aside from, you know, blindness and deafness or something.

    i agree. it's a great little reference book that builds on the fundamentals. and it's one of the few books of this kind that i actually find pleasurable to read.

  • DirtyDirtyVagrantDirtyDirtyVagrant Registered User regular
    edited March 2008
    When describing something like a setting or a character, how much is too much? I've been trying to get a hold of this for a while but after looking through certain books to see what -those- authors did in the same situation, I can only come to the conclusion that they're playing it by ear.

  • ZsetrekZsetrek Registered User regular
    edited March 2008
    When describing something like a setting or a character, how much is too much? I've been trying to get a hold of this for a while but after looking through certain books to see what -those- authors did in the same situation, I can only come to the conclusion that they're playing it by ear.

    As a general rule - as little description as possible. Your reader is more than capable of imagining a person or a room. It's better to concentrate on the stuff that they can't imagine, like compelling drama.

    That said, you're going to need to describe some stuff. Try and do it as economically as possible. It's better to create a mood than write a word-picture. Focus on how you want the reader to feel - the most important things they should take from the character/setting. Don't forget that written communication is a two-way act, and that your reader is capable of filling in the blanks on their own.

    But really, it all depends on context.

  • DirtyDirtyVagrantDirtyDirtyVagrant Registered User regular
    edited March 2008
    That seems to make sense. But what about for scenes where atypical things are present? Like for instance the image of a futuristic machine or a person with an odd feature (Oddly colored or extraordinarily long hair, a tattoo (sp), horns, etc)

    Are you saying that I should focus on the direction and let the characters and setting describe themselves gradually?

  • ZsetrekZsetrek Registered User regular
    edited March 2008
    Obviously, you need to describe unusual things. If Geoff is a middle-aged, slightly balding man with a stoop, you should be questioning yourself if the reader really needs to know what he looks like, given that he's probably quite unremarkable. However, if Geoff is a six-foot tall mutant with green skin you'll probably have to describe him - but even then you could probably get away with contextual and gradual description, as opposed to slapping down a whole paragraph of exposition that kills the flow. After all, does it really matter if the reader can't see him in their mind exactly as you imagine him?

  • EdcrabEdcrab Registered User regular
    edited March 2008
    Seconding what Zsetrek recommends. One thing to remember is that if there's a disproportionate amount of description for one character/location as opposed to another, it implies a strange sort of favouritism on the author's part.

    If you go into detail over Bob's clothing and every single mannerism and facial tic in one lump sum (not that I'm saying that's wise), it'll be jarring when future people/encounters don't have as much time dedicated to them, and the reader might even cotton on that these characters or moments are a lot less significant to the plot.

    As a wannabe science-fiction author I went through my overly-wordy phase, and gradually realised that my readers don't care that the Plot Device drive is a hulking chrome monstrosity with a selection of cables sprouting from each corner in a madcap fashion with the engine room's lights glinting off its angular surfaces in an eerie manner- if in the story they just need to know the damn thing is big, I just tell them it's big.

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  • ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
    edited March 2008
    Of course, there are exceptions to this too, such as The Land Ironclads by H. G. Wells.

    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    The rest of you, I fucking hate you for the fact that I now have a blue dot on this god awful thread.
  • AegeriAegeri Plateau of LengRegistered User regular
    edited March 2008
    I always write with a specific structure to the story (plot progression) and specific way that a chapter unfolds. For example, the story I am writing at the moment always starts with factual statements and descriptive prose: either about things that are relevant to the main character or that shed some sort of light on the thought processes going through said characters mind.

    Each chapter has the goal of describing a character so you know more about them, describing their activities so you can figure out what they're trying to accomplish and then lead into the more narrative parts. This style firmly grounds each chapter and the mood of what actions will then take place within it.
    Zsetrek wrote:
    As a general rule - as little description as possible.

    I entirely disagree. It should vary on what point you're trying to make. I give Derrick an amazing amount of description because it's the small things later that start to indicate how he falls to pieces, bit by bit. He needs this description so that when the little things start to go 'twang' in his brain as he slides down the slope, it gives a clear metaphor for how his physical state is reflecting his mental state. Without this description and detail (especially concerning personal habits) none of this means anything.

    The Roleplayer's Guild: My blog for roleplaying games, advice and adventuring.
  • EdcrabEdcrab Registered User regular
    edited March 2008
    I think you're missing the "as possible" in Zsetrek's advice, which is what makes it a perfectly recommenable general rule. What you just described there is functional description- if it's integral to the reader's perception of Derrick as a character, it's required.

    If you can read a passage and recognise elements that you could cut out without impacting the story- and that applies to all forms of narrative, not just infodumps or descriptive monlogues- then they're dead weight. You could've easily waffled on about Derrick for five times longer than necessary, for example.

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  • ZsetrekZsetrek Registered User regular
    edited March 2008
    Aegeri wrote: »
    Zsetrek wrote:
    As a general rule - as little description as possible.

    I entirely disagree. It should vary on what point you're trying to make. I give Derrick an amazing amount of description because it's the small things later that start to indicate how he falls to pieces, bit by bit. He needs this description so that when the little things start to go 'twang' in his brain as he slides down the slope, it gives a clear metaphor for how his physical state is reflecting his mental state. Without this description and detail (especially concerning personal habits) none of this means anything.

    "As a general rule..." and "...as possible".

    "I opened the fridge door," is much clearer, simpler and more digestible than "I opened the flat, white, fridge door." Doubtless, there are situations where the second is a better idea. But as a rule of thumb, it's important to be as economical with language as you're able.

    Furthermore, character details of the type you're talking about are rarely delivered in difficult chunks - I assume you mention a loosened tie, torn buttons, etc over the course of the narative. If the transfer of information is gradual and calculated, I don't think anyone would have a problem with that. Doing it that way is tacit acknowledgement that the author has a mandate to control when the reader imagines things, but not necessarily how.

    It's just important to understand - especially if you're just starting out writing - that saying too much isn't just as bad as saying too little, it's worse.

    EDIT: Ed put it brilliantly.

  • DirtyDirtyVagrantDirtyDirtyVagrant Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    I'm trying to find a local writer's group and I'm having a hard time doing so. I live in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. Coffee shops and hippy hangouts as far as the eye can see. People here wear berets. Can anyone at starbucks, the local coffee shops, the bookstores, or the library tell me anything about a writer's group? Nope. They don't even know what the hell I'm talking about. And google isn't much better:

    "What's that you're looking for? Writer's groups in des moines? Oh! Well, we dont have that, but we can give you a group in upstate fucking new york that has a member who used to be a columnist for the des moines paper. Is that good enough?"

    No google. No it fucking isn't.

  • nemesis92nemesis92 Registered User
    edited May 2008
    haha.
    just try and find people of like mind to chill with.
    start your own writer's group.

  • ruzkinruzkin Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Yeah. Make up a poster and stick it up in all the local bookshops and libraries. Instant writing group.

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  • BasilBasil Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    This was a thread worth reading! While I'm left vaguely intimidated by the verbal fencing, the writing links came in handy.


    I've got an odd sort of question. I'm curious about what scenes look or feel like to you folks while you're writing them, and how you go about fleshing them out.

    Er, that's a little vague. I'll try first.

    I tend to start with a blank field of black or white with a few talking heads sprinkled here and there to mark points in the narrative. To complete it I try to place just enough information around the dialogue to trick the blank space into growing to match. If I've decided that my victims are going to have a chat at the boulder strewn base of a cliff, I don't really think too much about the exact look I'm trying to convey. I just muddle around until I find the right suggestion. In my mind a working scene is one that I can look at and see a hundred pictures that all fall under one theme, while a complete scene offers me a much smaller but more interesting range.

    The difficulty I find is that what I see when I write and what pops up when I read are entirely different. Images tend to flow very easily when I'm chewing someone else's work, but in writing that empty world is a chore to escape.


    I think of writing as if I'm dropping a sketch book or a pile of lego blocks inside someone else's head. I never know wether they're working in pencil or crayon or even what colors the blocks might be, but I can at least give them a really nifty shape to play with. What do you do?

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  • DirtyDirtyVagrantDirtyDirtyVagrant Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Also, how does a word document translate into book pages?

    If I had ten pages in word - 10-12 point font, single spaced, would it be roughly a page for a page? 2:1?

    I suppose it depends on the size the book would be. Basically what I'm trying to do is figure out how much I've actually written. Figure that the book is roughly the size of your average paperback fantasy novel, I suppose.

  • Grid SystemGrid System Registered User
    edited May 2008
    I've heard somewhere in the neighbourhood of 300 words/page is average for a mass-market paperback.

  • ZsetrekZsetrek Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Basil wrote: »
    This was a thread worth reading! While I'm left vaguely intimidated by the verbal fencing, the writing links came in handy.


    I've got an odd sort of question. I'm curious about what scenes look or feel like to you folks while you're writing them, and how you go about fleshing them out.

    Er, that's a little vague. I'll try first.

    I tend to start with a blank field of black or white with a few talking heads sprinkled here and there to mark points in the narrative. To complete it I try to place just enough information around the dialogue to trick the blank space into growing to match. If I've decided that my victims are going to have a chat at the boulder strewn base of a cliff, I don't really think too much about the exact look I'm trying to convey. I just muddle around until I find the right suggestion. In my mind a working scene is one that I can look at and see a hundred pictures that all fall under one theme, while a complete scene offers me a much smaller but more interesting range.

    The difficulty I find is that what I see when I write and what pops up when I read are entirely different. Images tend to flow very easily when I'm chewing someone else's work, but in writing that empty world is a chore to escape.


    I think of writing as if I'm dropping a sketch book or a pile of lego blocks inside someone else's head. I never know wether they're working in pencil or crayon or even what colors the blocks might be, but I can at least give them a really nifty shape to play with. What do you do?

    For all of my carping on in previous posts about how people should do exactly what you do, I tend to not think about that stuff at all when I'm writing. Experience has taught me how much description I need to put down, so I can imagine a scene in-depth and write about it fairly concisely.

    It's all an issue of voice, in some ways: Do the paragraphs feel balanced? Is there a good flow? Is the narrator believable?

  • FawstFawst The road to awe.Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Apologies in advance if this has been posted in this thread already. Unfortunately, the words "it's" and "its" are too short for the search feature. This is one of my biggest pet peeves on the interweb, and I can guarantee that I've been guilty of messing it up.

    It's vs. Its

    It's one of the worst maulings of the English language out there. Its misuse is legendary. It's more annoying than l33t 5p34k, and its abuse is stupefying.

    It's = It is.

    Its = Possession.

    Learn it, live it, love it. In fact, I think the article I linked to should be a pre-requisite to being able to post ANYTHING on the 'net.

    Similarly, there / their / they're.

    A simple way to understand these was taught to me in 2nd grade.

    There: Defines a location. "Where are you? Here, or there?" It's "here" with a "t." Simple.
    Their: Possession again. "Heir" with a "t." Also simple.
    They're: Yes, they are indeed.

    I'm sure the majority of you readers understood these already, but I felt I had to post to get it off my chest. And again, if they have already been brought up, well... my bad.

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  • SilvoculousSilvoculous Registered User
    edited May 2008
    Also, how does a word document translate into book pages?

    If I had ten pages in word - 10-12 point font, single spaced, would it be roughly a page for a page? 2:1?

    I suppose it depends on the size the book would be. Basically what I'm trying to do is figure out how much I've actually written. Figure that the book is roughly the size of your average paperback fantasy novel, I suppose.

    I can sometimes get something of an idea of the magnitude of a work by going into Page Setup and, under the Pages subheading, changing "Multiple Pages" to Book Fold. It looks like it'll about double your amount of pages.

  • The_ScarabThe_Scarab Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Also, how does a word document translate into book pages?

    If I had ten pages in word - 10-12 point font, single spaced, would it be roughly a page for a page? 2:1?

    I suppose it depends on the size the book would be. Basically what I'm trying to do is figure out how much I've actually written. Figure that the book is roughly the size of your average paperback fantasy novel, I suppose.

    I can sometimes get something of an idea of the magnitude of a work by going into Page Setup and, under the Pages subheading, changing "Multiple Pages" to Book Fold. It looks like it'll about double your amount of pages.

    I find working out how much you have written as a physical amount is very motivating for a writer.

    In word changing your zoom to something like 3% and having the screen display all of the pages is immensely satisfying.

    scarab you have mental problems
  • zenpotatozenpotato Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    You might want to get used to thinking of your work in word count, since that's how anyone who is interested in publishing your work will look at it.

    Short story: 8000
    Novel: 70,000-120,000 depending genre
    Anything longer: masturbation or a wildly successful fantasy novel (the same thing really)

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