Award Eligibility Posts, Monday Mornings When I Was Ten, and the Fascination of Word Counts.

Earth Star USA coverIt’s the time of year when author award eligibility posts appear, and there’s the odd argument about them. There are definitely some serious issues involved, but this year I’ve been having a lot of fun reading the posts for purely personal, nostalgic, and highly illogical reasons. When I was ten years old, my school teacher would write the same words on the board every Monday morning. ‘What I did at the weekend.’

The whole class then had to spend the next hour writing about this gripping subject. Looking back at it now, I think the teacher found Monday mornings a strain, and followed this weekly ritual to give herself an hour of relative peace. At the time, my mother complained bitterly about it, convinced the teacher was spying on her pupils’ home life, and presumably selling the information to whichever of the MI5, CIA, and the KGB would offer her the most money.

Earth Flight Cover it's time to risk it allMy classmates complained bitterly about it too. Most of us did the same things just about every weekend, so it got incredibly boring repeatedly writing about it. I solved this problem by focusing on the books I’d read. Every Saturday afternoon I went to the library. By Sunday evening, I’d usually read the three library books I was allowed to borrow, and had started reading the ones my father had borrowed as well. So each week I gave my school teacher a list of these books, some startlingly unsuitable for my age.

For me, reading award eligibility posts is like reading a variation of my old weekly essays. Where I was making a list of things I’d read at the weekend, authors are making lists of what they published last year. They often include an enthralling extra detail as well. Word counts!

Earth 2788-400x600When I’m writing the first draft of a novel, there’s a compulsion to check my word count each day. The inner child in me delights in checking my progress, asking if I’m nearly there yet, but the adult me knows that the word count is meaningless. I spend a lot of time coming up with ideas before I start writing a first draft. Once the first draft is finished, I will revise it multiple times, throwing away a lot of the words I’ve written. I find award eligibility posts fascinating because they contain the only really meaningful word count, which is the number of words that have reached your readership.

There are also some perfectly sensible reasons why I like reading these posts. They tell me of the existence of books or stories I’ve somehow managed to miss and would like to read. They remind me whether something belonged to January of last year, or December of the year before. They help me overcome the natural tendency to think of something read in November, ahead of something read in February. Mostly though, it’s the enjoyment of reading essays on ‘What I published last year.’

So I can’t resist reverting to ten years old and writing one myself, including word counts of course!

What I published in 2014


EARTH STAR, the second book in the Earth Girl trilogy, published in April in the USA by Pyr. 107,000 words.

EARTH FLIGHT, the final book in the Earth Girl trilogy, published in August worldwide excluding USA by Harper Voyager. (It will be published in the USA by Pyr on 8th September 2015.) 107,000 words.

Short stories and novelettes:-

I also posted the eight stories in the Earth 2788 collection on my website, the last one going up on December 31st. This is a set of prequel Earth Girl short stories, intended to give existing readers a glimpse into the varied backgrounds of the characters, while being suitable for readers new to the 28th century world of the Earth Girl books.

Incidentally, I thought that two of the short stories had turned out to be novelette length. I discover I was wrong. According to the lengths quoted on Scalzi’s web site, short stories are up to 7,500 words; novelettes are 7,501 to 17,500; novellas are 17,501 to 40,000; novels are 40k and above. That means Zeta Sector 2788 is just long enough to qualify as a novelette, while Kappa Sector 2788 was only a few words short of being a novella.

EARTH 2788 – The title short story featuring Jarra. 5000 words.

ALPHA SECTOR 2788 – Short story featuring Dalmora. 6000 words.

BETA SECTOR 2788 – Novelette featuring Lolia. 14,300 words.

GAMMA SECTOR 2788 – Short story featuring Krath. 4,000 words.

DELTA SECTOR 2788 – Short story featuring Fian. 5,500 words.

EPSILON SECTOR 2788 – Short story featuring Amalie. 5,800 words.

KAPPA SECTOR 2788 – Novelette featuring Colonel Riak Torrek. 17487 words.

ZETA SECTOR 2788 – Novelette featuring Major Drago Tell Dramis. 7527 words.


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