Word Counts & POV

The word count is how long you want the finished manuscript. It’s always beneficial to have a rough guess of this, as it helps you outline and plan your story as a whole piece of work. Much of the time it ends up to the writer themselves and how long they envision the story being. However, there is a rough estimate for word count lengths of adult fiction stories:
Short story: 500 – 10,000 words.
Novella: 10,000 – 40,000 words
Novel: 40,000 – over
Adult Fiction (commercial and literary): 80,000 – 100,000 words
Science and Fantasy Fiction: 90,000 – 150,000 words
Romance: 50,000 – 100,000 words
Historical Fiction: 70,000 – 100,000 words
Crime/Mystery/Thriller/Horror Fiction: 70,000 – 90,000 words
Young Adult Fiction: 50,000 – 80,000
Non-Fiction: is different.

The Point Of View or POV is the view that your story comes from, and how you tell it. There are four main POV’s:
* First Person POV – This is a narration of one character’s view. Within the story, the text is not allowed to show anyone else’s thoughts or anything the narrator cannot see, hear, feel or smell. The narrator is always in every scene as they are telling the story. Things should always be told in the past tense.
* Second Person POV – This is instructions like; You say, “Blah, blah.” You have an idea of what the event is as you use your imagination by taking the instructions and feeling what it would be like if you, the reader were to do those things. It’s not good for long novels but is more suited to short stories.
* Third Person POV, limited – Third person limited point of view is a method of storytelling in which the storyteller or narrator knows only the thoughts, feelings and scenes of a single character, while other characters are presented externally. Third person limited presents a writer more independence than the first person, but less knowledge than third person omniscient.
* Third Person POV, omniscient – The third person omniscient point of view is a way of storytelling where the narrator knows the thoughts, feelings and senses of all of the characters in the story. This third person is not the same as the third-person limited, a point of voice that adheres strictly to one character’s perspective, it’s usually the protagonist.

What is your Story About?

Well, what is your story really about?
This is a question you need to ask yourself all the time when you type one word with another on its way to the last one. I’m not discussing the unique notion idea you pitch at parties where you say your novel is about a woman, from wherever, who does this, and that occurs when she’s not entirely paying attention. It’s about what your story is about on a theme level. What does it mean to you personally? What are you telling about the world with your fiction? What in the hell is it really about?
It’s that secret hard-drive, concealed deep in the sub-conscious that urges you to get up too early and stay up late hammering out the words at the laptop or computer. Some of us write due to anger, and some of us write because of our sadness.

The only way to establish what it is you are writing is to sit in that oh so familiar position of a pen in hand and write down a list:
Ten things that make you upset,
Ten things that make you sad…

Endings that Kick you in the Face

A great ending is just as important as a hook and exceptional opening chapter. The reader has been kind enough to buy your novel and read it to the final critical pages. It’s advisable to give them an ending that will kick them in their backside, and send them out to get the next novel in a series or just another stand-alone story of yours.
Excellent conclusions to the story give the reader what they want but not in the way they anticipated. It reads smoothly, but it’s not. Keep in mind of the ending of your novel’s three-act structure with twists and climaxes, reversals, impediments and new plans. When you’re novel is over, end it. That protagonist in the first act who had the excellent car and has said a few iambic pentameter memorable lines of dialogue; to the hell with them — we don’t care where he ended up.

As the ‘B’-movie master; Roger Corman once said, “When the monster is dead, the movie is over.”

It’s More Interesting to have a Murder in a Novel

If you’re writing a crime novel, then dark and awful things, sourced from the madness of your soul, need to happen. A crime novel without an offence isn’t a crime novel, and a straight-up murder isn’t going to cut it anymore. Give your culprits unique and differing reasons to be offenders. The crooked character in a story never knows they’re the antagonist. In their story, they’re the right guy. The protagonist is as active as the forces of antagonism they are opposing. Give them something to go up against, so they have a juicy match. As I said, ‘A murder or nine, is more interesting.’

*Note: Killers never kills someone because they’re mad, there is always an extra reason to pull the character out of complacency and into murder.

An exercise in this model would be to take the ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ story and re-write it in the first person POV from the wolf’s perspective. While in that mode I’m sure you will see that the wolf can think and do many things that are fine with him.

The Reader has to be Hooked by your Story

The reader has to be hooked on the first page, and you must not release them for the whole novel.
In any literature, the opening sentences, paragraph, page or chapter can be critical, and crime writing is no different. Start your story off with some significant event, or a narrative that is profound.
Here are a couple of opening types that have worked:

  • The start of the novel with the protagonist in some physical or emotional danger.
  • A flashback opening can start with a time of high intensity from somewhere later in the story and then flashback to the circumstances leading up to the actual beginning.
  • The first day on the job opening: An excellent way to propose the world to the reader is to see it through the eyes of the protagonist, or the antagonist. Sometimes the Antagonist is the first person narrator; this is very rare.
  • The everyday hero opening is when your protagonist is going about their ordinary life, and some event has them careening off to another way.
  • Outside action is the external action event which could be a robbery, or a murder, or any problem that doesn’t involve the hero.
  • Never begin with a summary of the weather. In a crime novel, if you open with a report of the weather it will make people assume the weather killed somebody.

Do Not Be Tedious or Boring

The worst offence a writer can perform is to be dull or boring. It is a very woeful offence to be boring. The reader will stop reading and move on to another book while keeping in mind the author is not to be seen again. If a crime novel becomes boring, there’s a very high chance it is because the writer was fatigued while composing the words. The worst bit of guidance I have ever been told, and it’s slung around like a rule that must be followed is; ‘Write what you know.’ It’s not entirely honest, as you should ‘Write what excites you.’ With research into what is exciting to you, so you then understand what you write, and that excitement will come across on the page and excite the reader.

Likeable Characters are Bad

Nobody admires likeable characters. They probably think they do and may believe they do, but they don’t. Going back a few decades, Fawlty Towers star John Cleese, playing Basil Fawlty was an excellent protagonist because he was not likeable. What he did was try very hard to be the worst hotel manager in the world. This nastiness is why everyone likes him even though he is evil. What readers admire are characters that make mistakes, characters that think fast and think wrongly flawed characters, but likeable characters. Likeable is very boring. A lot of crime novels are scattered with bitches, erratic men, doubtful women and double-crossing scoundrels. Given the problematic nature of the characters that populate a crime novel, the question is how do you captivate the hearts of the reader and keep them interested to the end of the book?
The answer is empathy.
Here are a couple of ways to create empathy:
1. Make the protagonist have a funny side.
2. Make the protagonist a victim of something personal.
3. Show the protagonist in a quandary about something central.
4. Show the protagonist being highly skilful at what they do.
5. Show the protagonist being selfless and putting their client first.

Manuscript Format on Submission

1. The manuscript you submit should be printed on standard, 8 ½” x 11” 20 lb paper on one side of the page only. (This is standard American paper, evidently, in the UK an A4 size page will suffice, but be sure to ask the publisher or agent. )

2. Remember to double-space your manuscript, just like a PhD thesis or journal paper, and indent the paragraphs or when dialogue five spaces. (This is the most important rule. The double spacing is easier to read and also adds room for critique notes.)

3. Use a 12 point font Courier or Times Roman, but always check the publisher or agent’s guidelines before your submission.

4. Be sure to only use white paper for your manuscript and proper business stationery for the cover letter. Don’t send work in pretty envelopes with art or images from your website on them. The publisher or agent will not care about your smart associations because they will not read the story.

5. Mark each page with a page number and include a header with your last name, a word from the title, and page number. A busy editor may drop a pile of manuscripts on the floor; you want it to be quickly reassembled in order.

6. Don’t send your query letters out without fully researching the agency or publisher. RESEARCH THIS CAREFULLY. The top reason for rejection is the manuscript doesn’t fit for the publishing house or agency. So make sure that the publisher or agent handles the genre of books you are submitting. Consult a market guide, but also try to dig a little deeper than that. Don’t worry; it will pay off.

7. Get names. Do not send your letter to ‘ Dear Sir,’ so take a minute and phone the agent or publisher, if you must, to find out to whom you are to address your submission. In the end, always read the submission guidelines.

8. If in any doubt, always query first. This is particularly true if you are looking for an agent. If they are curious about your project, they will then request more materials.

9. Only send what is requested. Don’t send any gifts, bribes or promotional supplies with your package. Don’t submit summaries for the manuscripts that you may have in the drawer when they’ve only asked to see one document.

10. Spend the same time and energy on the submission package as you did on your manuscript. Be sure to make it as sharp as possible. This submission is your sales tool. Also, have the help of critique partners and writer friends in making it perfect.

Help with Writing a Mystery

The first action is to pick a unique and unusual location. For a strange and unique mystery. This goes back to keeping things simple. Allow the wonder and confusion to stem from one part or the other of your story. Too much can create chaos in your reader.
Limit yourself to five or fewer suspects. Not only does this make your story more tight and concise, but it also makes it easier for your reader to keep track of the clues and hints.
Create subtle connections to each character to create cohesion. Your supporting characters are suspects by design. Each one should connect to each other in subtle ways. This will tie your story together in ways that will leave your reader reeling, but in a genuine way.

Eventually, it all stems down to; The intensity of your mystery will arise either from the characters or the intricacy of the crime. It is best to stick to one or the other, and you should have success.