Tag Archives: novels

Publishing may be a numbers game, but writing isn’t

I have never checked Text Stats nor do I want to, but this article (The Secret Lives of Novellas by Daniel Torday) caught my interest for several reasons. One, because it referenced a couple of my favourite books, Annie John and The Great Gatsby: books which may not have met the standard for novel length but which are fulfilling and complete reads nonetheless, never mind what early critics and Fitzgerald himself may have thought of Gatsby in particular.

Two, because I find there’s a bit of an obsession over word length by authors-in-progress – i.e. I did x number of words today or how many words blah blah blah…. I never know the answers to these questions because I’m not in the business of numbers, the tool of my art is words and words count for me in so much as they matter to the story. So how many words are in the book, as much (or as little) as it takes to tell the story completely.

Three, because I’ve had to contemplate the novel/novella classification in marketing my newest book Oh Gad! It is my third book of fiction and based on the distinction drawn along numerical lines, my first full length novel. I don’t consider it my first fully told story however and know of at least one friend and colleague who is critical of what she sees as the dismissal of my earlier work by referring to Oh Gad! as my first novel. But, to be clear, I do not reject either The Boy from Willow Bend or Dancing Nude in the Moonlight – and if you haven’t read them already, I hope you will after reading this. Because for me they are stories fully told as much as Oh Gad! is. But the writing of Oh Gad! did feel like a marathon in a way that they didn’t for many reasons. The length of it is one, sure. But it’s more than that. The sheer number of characters, comparatively speaking; the wandering into, for me, unfamiliar territory; the struggle to understand the characters, something that was not as much a struggle with my earlier work; the number of parallel plots, again comparatively speaking. It was just a lot more to keep track of and realize, and the realizing of it is a significant milestone for me as a writer. So it is third, but it is also a first for me, again not just because of the number of words (which I don’t know) or the weight of it (which I also don’t know). Though I have to admit the size disparity between it and Dancing struck me the night of the launch as they sat side by side ready to be signed. The next story may take a different form and represent another first in my growth as a writer – because I consider myself ever to be a student of this craft. But suffice it to say that on the subject of novel/novella, this is a case of size does not matter for me, but what’s contained in the package and I hope that readers will find in each of these books something of value.

So, the point of all this; when writing, tell the story, I’d say…numbers and classifications and all that is less about the art and craft of writing than the business of publishing. In order to fully immerse myself in the world of my characters and tell their story authentically, I have to keep these two things separate. I think the writer of the referenced piece kind of found that to be the case as well.

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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I love bananas, too

Interesting bit of trivia, at least to me; according to site
stats, the all time top 5 search terms (as of August 2011) that most often lead
people to Wadadli Pen are, in descending order, most to least searched:

  1.       Legend of banana

My reaction: No wonder Chatrisse Beazer’s 2011 prize winning Wadadli Pen entry The Legend of Banana Boy is so often lately among our top posts…how much do I love that one of the products of this Wadadli Pen project, a story by
one of our young authors, is in such demand?…They are searching for the
story, right, and not some mythical legend about bananas?

2.       West Indian literature

My reaction: No surprise here; John R. Lee’s bibliography on Discovering West Indian Literature in English  has (consistently) attracted a lot of traffic to

That's Lee far left with In the Castle of My Skin author George Lamming centre, and poet and BIM editor Esther Phillips far right.

the site since it was initially posted and until the rise of the banana owned the top spot. I’m happy for this as I do want the site to be seen as sort of a resource on not just Antiguan lit and Wadadli Pen but…well, writing in general and West Indian Literature in particular.

3.       Wadadli pen

My reaction:The site’s purpose for being is Wadadli Pen,
so, guess I should count it as a win that we’re in the top three. We’re coming
for you bananas!

4.       Caribbean novels 1960  

My reaction: This is odd, not the “Caribbean novels” part but the “1960”; is this a college course or something? If not, why are so many searching for this particular year of Caribbean novels? Sure the ’50s and ‘60s was a banner period for the emerging Caribbean novel, but why 1960 in particular? Hm. Almost as much of a mystery as the legend of the banana.

5.       The Legend of Banana

My reaction: …speaking of which…

After that, you have people looking for particular authors
and poets – Esther Phillips to Althea Prince to Jamaica Kincaid – or for
groupings like “Antiguan poets”; and, given my ambitions for the site, that
thrills me no end, even as it challenges me to step up my game to make sure
that you don’t come here in vain.

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