I was talking to a new writer the other other day and he was asking me all the questions I asked as a new writer. The answers to these questions are now things that I take for granted that everyone knows. But the truth is that I didn’t know the answers until I asked the questions. Some of these questions can be big stumbling blocks for new writers and they don’t need to be.
So here it is, FAQ’s for new writers:
Q: Aren’t you afraid to show people/agents/editors/critique groups your writing because they might steal your work?
A: This question was one my husband asked me when I first started writing and I had to do some research to reassure him. We automatically have the copyright on anything we write. These days our word processing programs have time and date stamps on what we write making it easy to prove when we first wrote something. But if you are still worried about it, there are a couple of things you can do. You can email it to yourself, which creates another date/time stamp, or you can print up your manuscript and mail it to yourself through the post office. The postal service is a government agency and if you don’t open the package, the date stamp can act as legal proof that you wrote the story first. But honestly, most seasoned writers don’t worry about this.
Q: How many pages does a book/chapter need to be?
A: In the writing world we measure the length of our writing projects by word count. The target word count of a book greatly depends on the genre. Here’s a link to a blog post about it with more charts like the one above with minimum, maximum, and average word counts for most genres. Chapter length is a little more fluid but can still depend on the genre of your book as well. If you write middle grade books for children who are around 10 years old, your chapters will be shorter than if you were writing a book for adults. For example, a middle grade chapter may only be 1000 words or so long, YA may be between 2000-3000 words, and adult fiction may be around 3000-4000 words. I actually keep my romance chapters between 2000-3000 words. But the length of each chapter may also depend on the scene you are writing. A chapter needs to break at a point that feels natural to the reader. You can’t just suddenly stop in the middle of a big scene or sentence because you went over 3000 words in that chapter. There really isn’t a rule for the length of chapters so just use your instincts as a reader to know when to stop one chapter and begin another.
Q: Won’t people steal my ideas if I tell them what I’m writing?
A: For writers, ideas are the easy part. It’s the execution that makes a story. You can give a classroom of 30 people the same writing prompt/idea and you will ALWAYS get 30 different stories because we are all different. We have different life experiences that give unique flavors to our writing. Don’t worry about someone stealing your ideas, trust that no one can write the story like you can. Trust in your individuality to make your idea into something that no one else can duplicate.
Q: What does WIP and MS mean on writing blogs and articles?
A: WIP stands for Work In Progress. It’s referring to whatever you are currently writing at the moment. MS is an abbreviation for manuscript.
Here’s some other things a new writer may want to know:
- When writing a manuscript (MS) it is generally double spaced in Times New Roman 12pt font. This isn’t as big of a deal as it used to be in the typewriter days. Also, despite what you learned in your school typewriting/keyboarding class, you only need to put one space after a period instead of two. It saves paper in the publishing world. Call it going green if you want!
- A term you may hear in the writing world is Nanowrimo or Nano for short. This stands for National Novel Writing Month. It happens ever November and it’s basically a challenge to writers to write 50,000 words or more in 30 days or less. Check out the Nanowrimo site here to learn more and you could earn an awesome widget like the one above declaring you a winner!!
- Some more terms you may have heard on writing blogs/articles are “outliners” and “pantsers”. Outliners just refers to people who like to outline their stories. Pansters refers to people who don’t outline but prefer to fly by the seat of their pants. I’ve also heard these two things referred to as architects-people who like to use blueprints for their stories and gardeners-people who like to plant little seeds and let their stories grow naturally. Either way, they are just terms to describe different processes that writers use.