Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: July 2012

Welcome to the monthly meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group.  This group was started by the always awesome Alex J. Cavanaugh, and it offers support to all of us who need a little reassurance now and then.

I've seen so many rules about writing that it's enough to nearly make my head spin. There are rules on word count, all of which I've broken.  The first novel I actually completed and was reasonably pleased with came in at a little less than 125,000 words.  According to the rules, 120,000 is the maximum for a science fiction novel. Any more than that, and it's too big of a risk for a publisher to take on an unpublished writer.  I'm editing it and hoping I can whittle it down.

This book is part of a series.  There's no way around that.  It's too large of a story arc to fit into one book.  I've read plenty of advice discouraging first time authors from trying to write the next big series.  There are plenty of authors who have succeeded in starting out with a huge series success, such as J.K. Rowling.  However, most of the time, the grandness of such an endeavor is too much for the budding writer to harness effectively.  Well, dang it.  It's too late for me to benefit from that advice.  I'm committed.  I love this story and these characters too much to toss them aside.  So what am I to do?

I also wrote it with a prologue initially.  In the world of sci-fi and fantasy, this isn't uncommon.  Yet everywhere I look, everyone is saying that prologues will instantly lose the reader, or that most readers skip them anyway.  I never skipped them. Maybe they weren't the most engrossing part of the novels I read, but I read them all the same.  They often included important world-building elements.  Now that my novel is written, how do I weave the details from my prologue into my narrative?  Will it still feel like info dump once I weave those details into the first chapters?  Is it really necessary to get rid of them in every instance?

Which rules do I follow?  Which ones do I break?


Okay.  Meltdown over.  I've already decided that I'm writing my series anyway, even if people say it's a bad idea.  What can I say?  It's a passion of mine.  I'll try to adhere to word count standards by tightening up my writing.  It needs it anyway.  

The prologue is the only part that's making me pull my hair out right now.  I'll try getting rid of it, but I can't guarantee anything.  This video from Agent Kristin of the Nelson Literary Agency is what made me decide once and for all to try eliminating my prologue.  Anyone who wants to keep abreast of what's going on in the publishing world should follow her on Pub Rants.  It's great stuff.

Good luck to all the insecure writers everywhere.  Thanks for letting me vent all over you.


  1. My first novel has a prologue too. I'm keeping it because I believe it is necessary to the story, whether I call it prologue or chapter one.

    Word counts can be tricky, but I'm sure you can tighten up the story and it'll be all the better for it.

    I understand the reasoning behind writing the sequel. If the first one doesn't sell, then the sequel won't. But if you want to write the series out, then go for it.

    The thing about these rules is that they are more guidelines really.

  2. I can only imagine frustration of editing a prologue - I am yet to finish my WIP. I have heard that revisions are the hardest part of writing but it can make huge differences in the final work. You sound committed to fixing the prologue so good luck with it. It sounds interesting too. Cheers!

  3. My first novel had a prologue and it was at my publisher's request. So don't worry about that rule. And if you have a series planned, then you are way ahead of me. (I wrote one book and then was asked to make it a trilogy. Crap!) Just makes sure the first book stands on its own and you'll be fine. As for the length... Sorry, I have yet to crank out anything over 75,000 words, so can't help you there.
    Thanks for posting for the IWSG!

  4. Gaaaaaah... seriously! Rules, rules, "rules." You know your story, and you know what it needs. My last project had a prologue, because something significant needed to happen, but I knew that I didn't want the story to start there. You know what's right deep down, and you go with it! :D

  5. You do have to trust your instincts. Many novels break the word-count rule, and I've read novels with prologues that really work. Wicked Lovely comes to mind. But I would use them sparingly and make sure they don't fall in one of Kristin's categories. On series, my first novel was stand alone, but readers asked for a sequel, so I'm writing one. Like Alex said, just make sure the first book stands on its own and you'll be fine. :)

  6. Prologues are perfectly fine if they serve a function for the story. I never skip reading them and don't know anybody who actually does. Make your prologue such that, if skipped, the reader will have to go back and read it just to make sense of the story. Their bad if they DO skip it in the first place.

  7. As long as the prologue serves the story, I say it's fine.

    As far as the word count is concerned, I suppose the biggest thing to look at is can it be broken into 2 or even 3 smaller novels? If this is the first in a series, maybe break off part of it, (where it naturally breaks, of course. If it naturally breaks) and save it for the next book? I don't know. I haven't seen it and I'm not a professional anything, but that may be a way around the word limit that publisher's may have for untested authors.

  8. I may not be a writer, but as an avid bookworm, I find a prologue generally helpful, especially if the author is taking me to a world pretty unlike our own. I feel like it's a little taste of the excitement to come and I feel like I need more after that. HOWEVER, as a reader, I feel like a prologue isn't needed if the points trying to be put across will be placed pretty well and clear throughout the book without getting me "lost". I know you'll make the right decision in the end! Of what I've read, your series is AMAZING.

  9. I can relate as my book turned into a sequel then a trilogy. It happens and you just have to go with it and me proud of your work! So go ahead, and vent all over us.

  10. Good post and questions.

    I honestly believe that most of those who skip reading prologues are agents, not readers. It is true that many prologues don't need to be there, but like anything else, it depends on the prologue's purpose and presentation. My first book in my planned series contains a prologue. The second book doesn't and I don't expect any of the subsequent ones will either.

    Deep down, you know if it's needed and "works" or not. Just be honest enough with yourself to look at it objectively. If it works then don't be too quick to cut it. And if it's a *true* prologue, don't title it chapter one. :)

  11. Word count wise I am sure you'll tighten that up those few k! I find this prologue debate interesting. Didn't hurt a lot of successful books I can probably mention ;)

    My first IWSG, good to be part of this group and meet fellow interesting writers.

  12. I love her blog. :)
    I have the opposite problem with word count, I tend to come in too low. Good luck with the prologue question.

  13. Go for it...and my mystery opens with a flashback in the prologue. LOL!