Novels and Numbers

I love:  novels.

Technically, a novel is a work of fiction that is longer than 40,000 words.  A novella is a short novel, like Stephen King’s The Mist or Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Novels can get pretty thick, topping 100- or even 200,000 words.   The typical commercial length mainstream novel is around 85,000 – 90,000.

This is my chosen form.  My stories have multiple protagonists, and they take longer to tell than a short story.  I love the challenge of keeping everything going and linking it together in the end.

I’m still learning.

Perhaps you’ve thought of writing a novel.  If you want to try it, there’s a thing every November called NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.  The challenge is to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days.

I haven’t done NaNoWriMo; the last few years, I was either editing or something stupid was going on.   I might try it this year.  I have a couple of ideas and it wouldn’t be too hard to get a first draft going with adequate preparation.

You don’t have to sign up to try it.  You can do it on your own if you like.  The goal is just to get you writing, and working every day establishes good habits.  No matter what you call yourself, in order to be a writer you must write.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.

If you Google “how to write a novel,” you’ll get 150,000,000 results.  Numerous people will tell you what to do.  They’ll talk to you about structure, protagonists, conflict, resolution, and other technical terms.  They’ll give you character worksheets—which may or may not help you.   Some will even charge you for the privilege of sharing this information, counting on you not to know that you can find it for free on the Internet.

My method is different from yours.  It’s different from Stephen King’s, J.K. Rowling’s, Elmore Leonard’s, and Audrey Niffenegger’s.  The only thing Audrey and I share is that we’re both writers and we both have red hair.  Ha!

I tend to skip around when I write.  For you, following a linear path might work better.   I have trouble getting started, so I follow the tip of starting in the middle.   I tend to save the end (or the really cool parts) for last, because I want to treat myself.   It makes editing a bit harder but I take copious notes and save all my cuts just in case.   Sometimes the middle of the story is the best place to begin.

——

I hate:  numbers.

In writing they’re no less annoying to me than they are as themselves!   It’s a generally accepted rule that any numbers over 100 are written as numerals; anything less is spelled out.   But not everyone follows that exactly.  Some people like numbers over ten to be written as numerals.

Whatever you use, be consistent within a sentence.   Otherwise it looks sloppy and can be confusing.

Bad:

 With his superior android speed, Data could sort through 1000 dilithium crystals to Geordi’s seventeen in just a half hour. 

 Okay:

 With his superior android speed, Data could sort through 1000 dilithium crystals to Geordi’s 17 in just a half hour. 

  Better:

 With his superior android speed, Data could sort through a thousand dilithium crystals to Geordi’s seventeen in just a half hour. 

 I like the last one better.  In prose, it looks better than writing out numbers, especially if they are only a word or two long.

With more lengthy or complicated ones, you might want to go ahead and use numerals.

 Captain Picard had been to the Teleron system many times, but he never failed to marvel at the galaxy’s light show of 75,645, 082 flickering stars. 

 You could round it up or down a bit also:

 Captain Picard had been to the Teleron system many times, but he never failed to marvel at the the galaxy’s light show of some 76,000, 000 flickering stars. 

 It’s perfectly acceptable in this case to mix words and numerals to make it easier to read, but only within the numbers.  And remember to stay consistent if there are any more.

 Captain Picard had been to the Teleron system many times, but he never failed to marvel at the the galaxy’s light show of some 76 million flickering stars. 

Outside of writing, numbers are not my friends, unless they’re on a paycheck.  I’m sure most of you will agree with that one.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Novels and Numbers

  1. I started last year’s NaNo but didn’t finish because I was too distracted by other things. Or maybe I wasn’t sure where to take the story. Then again, maybe I was going to have to be dealing with numbers and didn’t know what to do.

    Lee
    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out
    Try my networking experiment

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