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March 4th, 2007, 07:21 PM
Okay, so I am undertaking my first writing experiment. I have been an avid reader of fantasy forever and figured I would try my hand at it; putting all the jumbled thoughts of mine down on paper (digital or whatever). My question is this -

As a first time writer who would like to write a story and get published; what would be the best course of action as far as story length for publication purposes? How would a short story be published? In a collection of other stories? How about a Novella? A novel seems like the first time home run which isn't as feasible as me writing a 30, 50 or even 100 page story to get my feet wet. Do many fantasy authors start out by writing short stories and novellas to graduate to novels; or do most people just "go big" and write a novel the first time out?

Your thoughts and experiences will be appreciated.


March 4th, 2007, 08:52 PM
Just write, man. Make a daily habit out of writing. That's the best advice for any writer. Some ideas will develop into stories and these may be short or they may be epic, who knows. But just write.

Of course, the first million words are just practice. Don't know who said that, but it's quite true.

March 4th, 2007, 09:17 PM
Can't agree more Ghost. When you write you begin to get the idea about what you're good at. So, also, try everything, from super short to epic novel, from first person to third person omni, etc etc.

As far as sales, maybe try short stories.


March 4th, 2007, 10:29 PM
Short stories are the easiest to see published, and have the most markets. Shooting for less than 5 or 4k maximizes their usuability is many markets.

Here is a great market resource page: http://ralan.com/

And here is a page that shows proper manuscript format: http://www.shunn.net/format/story.html

Onlien critique groups are also helpful, like this: http://www.critters.org/

Ghost and MrBF are right that you should not be afraid to sit down and write, and not worry so much about publication. As a first time writer, learn first to write for yourself, because not everything you write will be publishable. However, having a goal is what motivates successful writers to improve, and don't be afraid to embrace that goal and figure out what you need to focus on to get it.

When you have some feel for writing (hint: the process is probably not what you expect before you start) and you decide to get serious, investigate your markets. If you like shorts and want to see them published, READ shorts, lots of them, and analyze what works. Shorts are a different discipline from longer works, and inevitabley people that just dive into one end of a short story expecting to just pop out the other without exercising a certain discipline and concision end up with a mess. I used to see a lot of these when I was a novella-length editor for a small press: stories that should be shorts written by authors that didn't start with a plan, ending up as meandering and bloated novellas. You'll learn to identify a short story length idea, and a longer length idea as you learn to write (shorts don't have room for 'b' plots for the most part, or much if any digression).

But that's in the future, for now just write for yourself, and don't let your expectations out-pace reality. Writing is like the tortoise and the hare, and you want to be the tortoise.

March 4th, 2007, 11:19 PM
I agree with the above posters.

Practice, practice, and practice some more. Then have an idea of what you can do well.

The best chances at getting published are with short stories with print or online magazines, but that's not saying it will ever be easy.

I know I can't really write short stories, partly because I don't really like reading short stories--never have been fond of them. The same goes for poetry for me.

What I have found myself to be almost decent at is writing serialized fiction-novel length stories told in bite sized parts that I post a couple of times a week.

Writing a novel and getting it published is difficult, but not impossible. You won't really know what you are best at, until you start getting your stories down on paper, revising and editing, and seeking honest critique from friends, family and places like this and the critters site noted above.

So, write what comes to mind. Even if it doesn't come out the way you want to, save it for possible revision and consideration later. As you get better at the craft of writing, you may come back to some of your earlier, failed ideas with new insights and new abilities to make it come out the way you want it to.

Writing well is a skill. Skills can only improve with practice, persistence, and more practice!

Good luck

aka Agent Rusty Bones

James Carmack
March 4th, 2007, 11:28 PM
Short stories are a great way to get started. They don't take that long to write and the length necessarily forces you to restrict the size of the cast, the number of plot threads, etc. Aim for about two thousand words.

Ghost has already given you the best advice out there: "Just write." The second best advice is "Read," as Ward has pointed out.

To get my "million words" out of the way (although I didn't realize that was what I was doing) I spent years writing scenes from my various stories and then deleting them as soon as I was done. The practice was great for me. By the time I finally started writing "for real," I had come a long way. Something like that might be a good exercise for you, too. The only difference I would recommend is that you save your work for future reference (and to provide a barometer for your progress).

I recommended you start with short stories because they have a good balance of giving you room to develop your plot whie still being short enough for you to crank 'em out quickly. Short stories are a very different kind of beast from novels. Shorter works teach you the value of what they call "word economy." In other words, you have to make every word count.

If you really want to master word economy, though, you'll have to try flash fiction (also known as short shorts). Short shorts force you to tell your story in less than 500 words (sometimes less than 200). I don't advise you try that as a beginner, but it's worth your while once you think you've hit the intermediate level.

Anyway, for now, just write. Be the tortoise. And feel free to ask the friendly posters here for a crtique once you get something put together. We're all in this together, yes? ^_^

Tony Williams
March 5th, 2007, 03:06 AM
I agree with the advice given so far, with one addition. If all you do is write for practice, without any feedback, you may never learn whether what you're writing is any good or not. So it's a good idea to show bits of your work to readers who you can trust to give an honest assessment, so you can find out what you're doing well and what you need to work on.

James Carmack
March 5th, 2007, 03:20 AM
Very good point about the feedback. Just remember this: You don't have to agree with it and you don't have to follow the suggestions you get. However, you are obliged to listen to and pay serious thought to what your critics have to say (otherwise there's not much point in getting the feedback in the first place, now is there?).

Sometimes, even when the feedback isn't particularly helpful, it nevertheless gets me thinking and my work benefits for it. So, yes, feedback's a beautiful thing.

March 5th, 2007, 08:23 AM
Fantastic advice; thank you very much. Just while we are talking about it - what amount of words would put a story into each class? Seems that 2k words would be a short story? 2k-10k maybe? Over 10k might be a novella?

March 5th, 2007, 10:37 AM
Fantastic advice; thank you very much. Just while we are talking about it - what amount of words would put a story into each class? Seems that 2k words would be a short story? 2k-10k maybe? Over 10k might be a novella?

I can't remember the amounts off hand, but I know we've talked about this before. Click above to do a thread search--it should be easy to find.