April 08, 2009

Wanted: Questions Answered


It is interesting that last summer when I decided to write a book, I just started to write. I had read some books on writing novels, books on grammer, books on POV, etc., and then I just started writing. I did a basic outline, but basically just wrote whatever came out of my fingers.


I didn't focus on a publisher or type of book, though I did want to write a medieval romance. I wanted to write a clean romance, but with some romantic tension I thought wouldn't be acceptable in CBA. So, I just wrote.


As I wrote, I noticed my faith creeping in and began to allow it, thinking maybe God is directing my writing. I started visiting blogs, meeting other aspiring authors, quickly learning that I have no idea what I am doing.


And now I have questions. These questions would have been helpful before I started my WIP, but it doesn't matter now. I am viewing this book as my "learning tool" and I want it to be something I can be proud of at some point. So let me ask you.....


What is a category book? What is a single title? How do you know the guidelines for each? Are there other types of books? Are there websites that tell you what is what?


Here's some more questions for you writers out there. How do you plan your book to come out a certain length? How many pages are supposed to be in a chapter? How many chapters are supposed to be in a book? Does THAT vary according to the type of book?


You see, knowing this kind of stuff would have been helpful BEFORE starting, don't you think?


17 comments:

  1. Hi, Sherrinda, Thank you for your lovely words, too. I guess we both do romantic tension well. Yah for us!

    Category: I believe that refers to lines that release monthly like Harlequin, Steeple Hill, and Heartsong is another one. Within those publishers, they'll have defined lines. Steeple Hill for instance publishes 4 now, soon to be 6, Love Inspireds a month, as well as 4, soon to be 6, Love Inspired Suspense novels a month, along with other lines under that publishing house title. To find out their requirements google the line (Steeple Hill) and read their sites. They all have writer information with guidelines for submission and requirements.

    As for chapter length and number of --it's totally at the author's discretion with any house that I've studied. It's a part of the author's style. You decide based on how you write and what works for you. I've seen chapters that are less than a page long, to ones that run 30 pages in length. Whatever works, goes.

    Word count. That's trickier. I read so many LI's that my writing just automatically tends to create a story in 50,000 to 65,000 words and then I tweak it to fit the standard requirement at the time. When I first started writing I believe LI's were looking for 60,000 to 65,000 length novels. Now they ask for 55,000 to 60,000 the last time I checked. So you have to keep checking back.

    Hope that helps.

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  2. LOL Sherrinda! They are helpful before but I think most of us discover them after.
    Category books are pubbed by Harlequin. The Christian imprint of Harlequin is Steeple Hill which has Love Inpired Suspense, Contemporaries, and Historicals. There's also Barbour which publishes Heartsongs. Categories have a limited shelf life and come out in bunches, usually out only for a month before the next batch comes out. A single title is out for however long someone keeps ordering it. Categories are shorter, usually less than 65K. Single titles are usually between 70 and 100 K. Sometimes longer, depending on genre. :-)
    harlequin.com will tell you what each of their imprints guidelines are. Look at the publisher of books you like, then go to their website and they'll usually have some sort of info for what they want to see.
    There are no strict rules for lengths of chapters or chapters in the book. You have to do what works for you. However, it does seem that suspenses/thrillers have shorter chapters to make the pace faster. Also, look at how the chapters are set up in books similar to yours. It doesn't hurt to model you manuscript after any patterns you may notice.
    I heartily recommend joining Romance Writers of America or American Christian Fiction Writers. They both have awesome resources for writers.
    I saw your excerpt on the Seekers and loved it! Really. The language was great too.

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  3. The other comments covered the category/single title questions phenomenally.

    I'll add a few other things. Publishers have writer's guidelines on their sites. Obviously you're a Christian writer, so you might want to take a few hours and check out the various Christian publisher's guidelines. You'll get an idea of what they're looking for.

    Also, most mainstream publishers will not look at work by authors without agents.I really don't know about the Christian publishers.
    However, Harlequin/Silhouette/Steeple Hill (the category romance lines) accept submissions by unagented authors.

    A good rule of thumb for single title books is to keep the word count under 100,000 words (unless you're writing fantasy!). More than that is costly for them to publish and they're less likely to take a chance on an epic book by a new author.

    I've noticed the trend seems to be going toward shorter chapters. I wouldn't get too hung up on chapter length, though. Do what works best for you.

    Have fun!

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  4. thanks for the post. i learned a lot, too! :)

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  5. Hi Sherrinda,
    Since your novel is heading toward 90,000 or 100,000 then you would gear it toward a publisher like Zondervan or Tyndale or someplace like that (who all require agents). If however, you decide to cut out a lot, you could aim it for Steeple Hill Historical Line which is a shorter category romance.

    My novels are the 90,000 to 100,000Tyndale-type. That's why I'm agent-shopping. It's pretty unlikely that I would ever be able to submit directly to an editors.

    There are a lot more "rules" for the category romances (Steeple Hill). I think with the long titles the rules are being pushed to the limits, hence the new "edgy" fiction titles.

    I think you're right on track! I think you should keep on working to finish your book, edit it, and then see how it turns out. If you decide its one of those "learning curve" books, then you can shelve it. I think I've got about five of those! But if you polish it up to a sparkling shine and its good to go, then you will have to start shopping for an agent!

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  6. Jody, at conferences you may get the opportunity to send directly to editors. One of my crit partners received an offer for her 100,000 word novel that way. With an offer on the table, getting an agent becomes much easier. She then got an agent who shopped her novel, but in the end they decided to stick with the original publisher, I believe.

    That's why attending conferences is so important when you're ready to pitch, especially!

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  7. Great questions! What I've learned as I write - is that I'm always learning things AFTER the fact. And I always think to myself - my next book is going to be so much easier because I know what to do to prepare myself. But then, of course, I learn something new while in the midst of writing and I think the same thing. It's such a learning curve, isn't it?

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  8. Great post and questions! I'm not sure I'm qualified to answer any of them, but I'll try and answer book length one.

    I plan the length of my novel to be no more than 100k since I write adult genre. That said, I plan about 40 chapters for 2k to 3k each.

    Do what works for YOUR novel. :D

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  9. Eileen, Thanks Eileen for such a detailed response. I kept hearing about category vs. single title that I thought I just needed to ask. :) I projected my book to be 60,000 but when I got near that mark, I realized I didn't have a category on my hands. (Though after Jody gets through with it, I may!!) ;)

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  10. Thanks Jessica, for your helpful advice. Some books I read have LONG chapters and some short. I tend to like the shorters ones for some reason...don't know why.

    And oooo...loved your excerpt on Seekerville. Ooo-la-la! Very nice, indeed!

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  11. Thnaks Jill! I knew you ladies would have some immediate help for me, though I guess I do need to spend some time and do my homework. Shopping for agents does NOT sound like fun.

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  12. Jeannie! You're still learning???? ;) From what I gather, there is no end to the learning curve in this business. I loved, loved, loved, you excerpt on Seekerville! sigh....it sounded like something from my daydreams. DWTS....love it!!!

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  13. Jody, Of course, I didn't start this book to be a learning book, but after I am learning what I am learning, I am seeing so many problems in mine. I hope that doesn't make you cringe as you start to edit mine! ;) You've got your work cut out for you, girl!

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  14. Katie, (sigh) I was hoping to hear you confirm that each book got easier! I guess that is not the case, huh? Well, I guess, like life, we keep learning, keep pushing and growing, hoping that our books/lives produce some fruit!

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  15. Lady Glamis, Thanks for the example of what you do. I love to hear how others do things. Not that it is what I have to do, but it helps in putting things in perspective and gives me ideas to feed on.

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  16. Happy Easter and good luck with your book.

    Best wishes,

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  17. Thanks Anne! We are going to Granbury, TX (about an hour away) to spend the day with my parents. I know it will be a glorious day, despite the storms forcasted! I hopw yours is just as wonderful.

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