Monday, November 7, 2016

Word Count Does Not Designate Single Title Fiction

This has been an issue I have seen since I opened up the agency over 13 years ago. So many authors out there seem to believe that by adding words to their stories, the move into the single title category. Even now in 2016, those same trends are continuing. However, I am now seeing a twist to this. In all honesty, I am seeing 90,000 word "series" style stories. Plots, characters, themes and voice of a series/category novel stretched out to that single title length. This does not make a better story, but one that leaves the reader thinking, "this could have been finished pages ago."

Let me first say that word count IS involved with category and single title stories. Yes, category stories tend to be anywhere between 50-75 K in word count; however, it is not the word count that dictates the type of story. It is what the author does with the story.

Category (or series) stories tend to have an intense focus on the building of the relationship and leaving out a lot of the side stories and a ton of external layering. I have always said, think of this style of story in film making where the director has one camera. To tell the story, the director needs to focus in on the characters and eliminate a lot of the external world the characters live in. By having this focus, the story itself, inherently, becomes a smaller story. For single title stories, these "directors" have the luxury of a lot more camera angles. For these stories, that outside world comes into play.

When an author has a category style story and attempts to turn it into a single title story, the result is a repetitious story when it comes to plot and scenes that are full of a lot of unnecessary details. I read one just recently where the entire first chapter dealt with the meeting of the hero and heroine for the first time. This author went on for pages and pages filling the story with back story of the manor house and the family. As she walked to the door (because she had seen the carriage pull up from her upper bedroom window), she contemplated the family portraits, giving the reader information about people who are dead and have nothing to do with the story. She stopped at a mirror, brushing out her auburn hair and then began contemplating how she had really always admired her mother's hair and her sister's hair. Eventually, she got to the door, and as she opened it, the face before her was not the man she thought it would be, but the guy she had a crush on when she was younger.

Now, I am sure the author would justify that this is giving us a depth of knowing who the heroine was. In reality, it was just nothing more than words designed to beef up the word count of the story.

Single title stories (true single title I should add) are stories that have depth and layering to them. These are stories that have heroes and heroines, who are wrestling with both internal and external conflicts. There are secondary characters who do more than act as sounding board for the main characters. These are stories where the villains have a full life of their own and they are just as interesting as the main characters. These are stories where the world around the characters is a living character as well.

Before you decide you want to write single title or category, it is crucial that you take the time to study your plot and purpose for the story. This is what designates the type of story. As far as the word count, that will follow.

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