Creative Writing and Memoir Writing: Class 1 Notes

We’re off! The room was full and the excitement palpable.

I will try to post relevant notes from each week’s class here, so you don’t have to try to get them copied during class. I am also going to give the url for the sites where I found the information. If I use material from other resources I will pass that on.

And, yes you can begin a sentence with and, if you cannot come to the class, you might find the resources we used helpful. I know it is not the same as coming to class, but you may follow along with us. I do invite you to visit class if you are in the area.

Writer's Digest magazine October 2019

I talked about the Writer’s Digest magazine and recommended that students consider subscribing or at least checking it out at a good bookstore. It is a great textbook for aspiring writers and I will be using it in class from time to time.

One of the things we talked about this week was the word counts editors and publishers are looking for as they evaluate submissions. I used two resources here, but if you want to submit to a particular publisher, you must check their guidelines. REMEMBER, if you don’t follow their guidelines, they will not look at your work.

Word Counts from

Micro-fiction or micro-flash is generally under 500 words. Note that there are many contests or special features that call for much smaller word counts.

Flash fiction is under 1000 words (occasionally the upper word count is as high as 1200 or even 1500, and sometimes it is as low as 750).

Short stories range from lower word counts of 1000 or 1500 words up to around 7,500 words or occasionally as high as 10,000, with higher word counts typically called novelettes, and short novels called novellas. 

Novelettes are longer short stories, generally between 7,500 words and 17,500 to 20,000 words, or up to about 100 pages. These stories sometimes read more like a short story and sometimes more like a novel.

novel is anything over about 40,000 words, though some definitions stretch novella up as high as 60,000 words or so.

The following information came from Writer’s Digest, see the above url

There are general guidelines for each literary category:

Short stories range anywhere from 1,500 to 30,000 words;

Novellas run from 30,000 to 50,000;

Novels range from 55,000 to 300,000 words, but I wouldn’t recommend aiming for the high end, as books the length of War & Peace aren’t exactly the easiest to sell. 

Agent Lori Perkins of the L. Perkins Agency in New York says it’s much easier to market a first-time novelist’s book if the word count falls between 80,000 and 100,000 words, or roughly 300 double-spaced, typed pages—the average novel length.

“One-third of the novels that come into the agency are rejected because they’re too long or short,” Perkins says. “The cost greatly increases on books larger than 100,000 words, so agents and publishers are less likely to gamble on a manuscript the size of a dictionary.”

When you’re writing though, don’t impose word limits on yourself. Let the story flow without interruption. Wait until you finish the first draft to go back and tighten it to a reasonable length. Save every scene you cut, though. It may lead you to another story.

… The following information came from this url:

As far as length, popular memoirs range quite a bit from about 60,000 words to 120,000 or more. If you’re a new author, I’d recommend staying on the shorter side, perhaps around the 75,000 word mark. The important thing is that your length fits your book. Write as much as it takes to tell the story, and no more.

I do recommend finishing the manuscript before you query. Like with a first novel, you are going to discover so much in the writing process. I believe your book will morph and evolve throughout the writing, and so those first few chapters, though written, will not actually be complete until you’ve finished the book. A memoir is a work of art much more than the typical non-fiction book.

We spent some time listening to a couple of poems and talking about them and about the writing of poems.

You may find this url useful as a way to get started writing your first poem:

Remember, your goal is to communicate emotion as you paint with words. Consider whether your reader can sense what you are trying to communicate as they read your work.

AND, note that today there are few markets, apart from greeting cards, for poetry that rhymes. So don’t kill yourself trying to make all of your end words follow some rhyme pattern. If you discover that you love poetry, you will find lots of helpful resources on line. In class this week, our goal was to notice words, the basic building blocks of everything we write. We want to choose the kinds of words that show clearly what we see, smell, hear, feel and maybe even taste.

So, if you are going to join us next week, we encourage you to try your hand at writing a short poem – eight lines at least.

If you are already writing and want to bring other work, we welcome you to do so. Do read out loud your work before you come. Listen to yourself as your read, and note what you might do to clear up any “hiccups.” Note that since our goal is to have each student read his or her work, and give the class time to comment, we will be limiting your reading time to five minutes each for the moment.

The point of our class is to help each other grow as writers so be prepared to comment. We use the Oreo Cookie method: a comment about something you liked, a constructive comment on something that might be improved, and a final encouraging comment.

If, when it is your turn to comment, you don’t have anything new to add to the discussion, just say that. BUT PLEASE, don’t be the second or third person to comment and say you have nothing to add. IF that is the case, may I suggest that you listen with pen in hand, so you can be both helped and help.

The comment time in our class is meant not just to help the person whose work is being read, but you will find that you are learning as well in this process.

Well, enough for this week!

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