A Short Story In Print

This week I received two contributor copies for my short story, “The World’s Best Coffee,” that appears in The MacGuffin (Fall 2009). This is my second published short story but the first one I have seen in print. (My first published short story, “The Uninvited Spook,” appeared in The Storyteller that paid a 1/4-cent USD per word and no contributor copy.) I mailed one copy to my Dad since the idea of me being a writer has always been an intangible concept to him and my family.

When we got together for my birthday in August, and my brother asked what I do to keep myself occupied since being laid off on Friday the 13th in February 2009, my Dad said “ceramics” before I could say anything. Ceramics was something my family could immediately grasp, and, at the time, I was working on a big pot. When I mentioned that I had finished writing the 700-page rough draft of my first novel a few months earlier, the room went silent.

Writing to them is intangible until it appears in print in the local bookstores, on the New York Times best seller list, and lavished with praise by the Oprah Book Club on TV. Even when I gave my Dad a copy of my short story collection in a binder, he was more interested in keeping the binder and tossing out the pages. Maybe the new issue of The MacGuffin with my story on pages 68-70 and bio on pages 158-159 will convince him that I’m serious about being a writer.

Then again, maybe not.

This week has also been good for revising the rough draft of my first novel, a coming of age ghost story. I started frequenting the Editors Unleashed website, posted a question in the forum about the manuscript being too long, and a suggestion was made that I split my novel into two volumes. The ideal length for a first time novel should be about 80,000 to 100,000 words. Anything longer or shorter may be a difficult sell. From revising about 1/3 of my novel over the last month, it became obvious that keeping the manuscript under 100,000 words was going to be a difficult task even after cutting out 35,000 words. I still got three notebooks of ideas that never made it into the rough draft.

After careful consideration and a late night of revising the novel structure on paper, I decided to split my novel into two 80,000-word volumes. That fixes a big problem in the rough draft where the halfway point happens at the two-third mark, something that would be painful to fix if the word count was less than 100,000 words. The first volume is strong and complete. The second volume is weak and underdeveloped. The overall structure is now clearer since I have room to run with the story.

Would selling two books be any easier than selling a single long book?

I’m not sure, and, to a certain extent, I really don’t care while revising my work. Something I’ll worry about next year when I start shopping the first volume and polishing the second volume. However, since my novel will fit into the Urban Fantasy market niche, a two-book set shouldn’t be a problem. Ultimately, I think an agent and/or an editor will have to decide how many volumes my novel should be.

NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.