IN THIS ISSUE
- From the Editor’s Desk: The misery of “1,000 words a day”
- The Wordling Resource: 1,500+ literary agents (with links to recent sales)
- News & Views: The slim novel is finally in vogue
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
Happy Thursday, writer friends!
Since we just hit the halfway mark for the year, I thought I’d run some numbers to see how I’m faring on my goals.
In addition to income goals, my main focus area for the year has been to write more and be more prolific. To that end, I’ve been tracking my daily word count and, in the first half of 2023, I wrote 169,926 words, that is, an average of 939 words per day.
I didn’t write every day, however. Of the 181 days, I only wrote for 108. Which means, that on the days I did write, I averaged 1,500+ words.
I have, for a long time, shifted away from the 1,000-words-a-day standard that keeps being perpetuated in our industry. “You must write 1000 words today” is, I believe, the reason there are so many miserable writers in this world. It’s not because 1,000 words is a high number or an unachievable target. It’s because a word count goal such as this sets you up for failure. I have averaged almost a thousand words a day in the last six months, but I would have felt like a failure for 73 of those days if I had insisted that I must hit that target every day.
1,000 words a day is a fantastic way for new writers to build discipline, but it’s not the best way to build a writing career.
I love my work. I enjoy the process of writing. I can write several hours a day, every day, if I choose to. But I often don’t. “You will write 1,000 words today” sounds like punishment, and I’m not a fan of turning things I love into processes I have to endure. It has taken me twenty years to fully embrace the idea that my way is the best way and the goal is not only achievement, but happiness.
It’s why I’ve stepped away from the idea of traditional publishing for now. I no longer believe that the publishing model serves writers long term. Regular, recurring income from books in traditional publishing is an even bigger lottery win than a million-dollar book deal. Indie publishing, on the other hand, makes it very possible, as I have already seen with my own non-fiction titles.
I finished writing a new book in June and I’m hoping to wrap another one up in July/August. I feel pretty relaxed about the publishing side of things, since I’ve decided that I won’t be releasing anything until I’ve built my email list to a certain number of subscribers. So, while I implement the business and audience building, I’m also dedicating my energy to writing. Creativity. Experimenting with new genres and styles. When the time is right, I will put all my focus and energy on publishing, but for now, I’m focusing on finishing.
My goal is to write 500,000 words by the end of the year, which is 2,000 words per day on average for the rest of the year. I’m excited for the challenge.
Enjoy the issue!
Natasha Khullar Relph
Editor, The Wordling
THE WORDLING RESOURCE
A comprehensive list of 1,500+ US and UK literary agents, organized by agency, and with links to their recent sales.
NEWS & VIEWS:
Is 2023 the year of the slim novel?
Whether it’s because prices of commercial hardcovers are going through the roof or readers are looking for shorter works so they can hit their Goodreads reading challenges faster, one thing is for sure: Short novels, novellas, and standalone short stories are having their moment.
What’s the big deal?
While Asian and European storytelling have often embraced the slim novel, American publishing has rejected shorter works as not being marketable. “The novella has long been a favorite form of writers. For many of us, it’s the perfect balance between a short story’s punchiness and a novel’s weight,” writes author Lincoln Michel. “But trying to publish a standalone novella in America used to be nearly impossible. It was thought readers would never buy them.”
“Dwindling attention spans, less leisure time, and price hikes across paperbacks and hardcovers,” according to Esquire.
Challenges and opportunities
While the popularity of short books may be a recent development in fiction, nonfiction has been seeing the decline in number of pages for over a decade. In Issue #28 of The Wordling, I wrote about the “shrinking bestseller” and how research showed that the average length of the nonfiction bestseller had gone from 467 pages to 273.
What does this mean for authors?
1. Conventional wisdom says authors must stick to the word count guidelines for specific genres. For example, between 80,000 and 100,000 words is considered a suitable length for a commercial women’s fiction novel. This is now changing.
2. Episodic TV viewing became incredibly popular because humans like the feeling of completion. People will often end up bingeing on TV shows because they’re shorter than movies, even if they end up spending more time watching. It’s the psychology of the finish combined with shorter attention spans that makes series (either TV or books) so popular.
3. The market for shorter works will continue to grow. Annie Ernaux, whose best-known works are all under 200 pages, won the Nobel Prize for Literature last year, leading one colleague to call 2023 “the year of the slim volume.” Publishers are reacting to this trend. If you enjoy writing shorter works, you should, too.
In other news, USA Today has brought back its bestseller list, though this time it seems they’re leaving indie authors off the rankings. National Geographic has laid off all its staff writers. Half of Penguin Random House employees who were eligible for voluntary buyouts have taken up the offer. A couple of authors are suing OpenAI.
And oh, TikTok started a publishing company.
CANADA: “Google has announced that it will make good on its threat to remove news links from search results and its other products in Canada once a law that requires tech firms to negotiate deals to pay news publishers for their content goes into effect.”
ITALY: “With the death of Silvio Berlusconi on Monday, June 12, at the age of 86, the future of his media and communications empire is hanging in the balance. The death of the politician and businessman, the glue that held the family clan together, could cause dissension and weaken the company, which is now run by his children. “Mediaset must remain in Italian hands,” warned Alfredo Messina, former manager of Fininvest, a few hours after the patriarch’s death, as if to emphasize that the future of the media empire built by Berlusconi was under threat.”
PAKISTAN: “Between 2002 and 2022, 90 journalists were killed in the country, including five last year alone, according to a UNESCO observatory report. A culture of fear and self-censorship has become entrenched as a result, limiting coverage of critical issues such as human rights violations, corruption and political repression. The poor state of press freedom in Pakistan presents an urgent need for action to protect and promote the work of journalists and civil society activists. Here’s what Pakistani journalists have to say about the risks they face.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”
– Octavia E. Butler
SHARE THE WORDLING
Because if you’re reading, you love it, right?