General Q & A Session For The Authors

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Kilana2, Sep 3, 2021.

  1. hbquikcomjamesl

    hbquikcomjamesl Commodore Commodore

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    Likewise, it's not exactly something I'm all that interested in reading. Or, with few exceptions (M*A*S*H [either the TV series or the stage play; I've never seen the movie or read the book], Saving Private Ryan [once was enough, I think, though], and the SW franchise), watching. Which is why I found the Dominion War arc of DS9, and the Xindi War arc of ENT both so tiresome.
     
  2. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Often, and ideally, it's not so much a matter of turning down a project as having to choose Project A over Project B.

    And, although this isn't always the sole consideration, money can be a factor here. If, all other things being equal, Project A pays significantly more than Project B, common sense dictates that I'll probably go with the former.

    Which doesn't mean, of course, that I won't occasionally squeeze in a lower-paying job just because it's something I really want to write . . . .
     
  3. JonnyQuest037

    JonnyQuest037 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The movie's definitely worth seeing, but it's very different from the TV show. Much darker and more cynical. It follows the basic plotline of the book, with a few differences. Both are very episodic.
     
  4. DS9forever

    DS9forever Commodore Commodore

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    Dominion War related maybe?
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I couldn't say. I don't remember the timing.
     
  6. DrBeverly

    DrBeverly Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    When writing Star Trek tie-in fiction, are you generally asked to write to a specific word count/page count?
     
  7. hbquikcomjamesl

    hbquikcomjamesl Commodore Commodore

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    I'm not a professional writer, and neither do I play one on television, but based on the gist of what the pros on TrekBBS have said in other threads, I get the general impression that with any commissioned fiction (fiction or nonfiction, tie-in or otherwise, work-for-hire or author-owned), the contract calls for a certain word-count.

    Which of course directly contradicts the old saw about "long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to be interesting." And leads, unfortunately, to far too many fascinating 150 page books getting stretched out into 350-page snoozers.

    When writing, or when trying to get people to cough up content for the newsletter for which I am "acting editor" (mainly because nobody else in the group wants to be editor), I flat-out refuse to deal in word-counts. I think, rather, in terms of page-count, or in terms of column-inches. And I've learned (from hard experience), when begging for content, never to assume the potential content supplier instinctively understands what a column-inch is (for the record, it is the amount of text that will fill one inch of a single column, at the given publication's standard column width), or that he/she will ask, if the meaning isn't clear.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2022
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Yes, we're generally given a range to aim for in the contract, e.g. 80-85,000 or 100-125,000. We're allowed to go short or long within reasonable limits.
     
  9. James Swallow

    James Swallow Writer Captain

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    Page count isn't usually a thing, because the actual number of words on a page is a function of font size and layout, which authors generally don't have any involvement in.

    We're given a word count, with a bit of wiggle room either side of the target; I remember I ran about 23% long on my first Trek novel, and my editor Marco Palmieri told me "That's fine, but we're not going to pay you any more for the extra." :lol:
     
  10. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Exactly. Both inside and outside Trek, the word counts specified in contracts are more of a general guideline. As a rule, nobody is going to raise a fuss if a contracted book comes in a little over or under the target. It only becomes an issue, for the publisher, if the big, meaty book you were expecting turns out to be only 50K words instead. Or, conversely, if the author unexpectedly delivers a massive doorstop that's going to run nearly a thousand pages in hardcover . . ...

    Too big or too small can be issues, depending on the expectations, but only at the extremes. Plus or minus 5K words isn't really going to be an issue.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2022
  11. DrBeverly

    DrBeverly Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Have those guideline word counts changed over time? It feels like the newer trade paperback novels are longer than the older (i.e. 90s) books I've been reading, but it's hard to tell, since the font size is also bigger!
     
  12. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Rear Admiral

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    Yes. In the 1990s, Star Trek novels tended to run between 65k words on the low end and 85k words on the high end. Bigger books than that were often marketed as "Giant Novels". These days, most Star Trek novels commissioned for trade paperback publication are contracted at 100k–120k words.
     
  13. hbquikcomjamesl

    hbquikcomjamesl Commodore Commodore

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    Of course, when I'm putting the aforementioned newsletter together (sample PDF here), typography (and my own "From the Press Room" column) is about all I do have control of. But of course, every member knows what it looks like, even if they don't know the face (Softmaker URW Garamond, modified for non-lining digits) and the point size (11, if I remember right).

    And when I'm working on my novel, I can pull the text into Xerox Ventura Publisher (yes, I really do still use Ventura) at any time, adjusting chapter lengths as needed.
     
  14. James Swallow

    James Swallow Writer Captain

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    I once had to cut down a manuscript (not on a Trek book) because the length would have pushed the page count up to the next price point level, which would have made the book harder to sell into stores. In the end, it was better for the edits!
     
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  15. 100Pic

    100Pic Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Do you guys think longer novels are more in fashion now? (In general, not just Treklit/tie-in).

    I feel like I barely see a novel published below 100k words these days.
     
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  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I think that's been the trend for generations. Novels in the '50s and '60s were typically around 50-60,000 words. Trek novels in the '70s tended to be around 70K, and by the '80s they grew to 80-85K...

    Hold on, I think I see a pattern...
     
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  17. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Does this imply novels in this decade should be~120000 words?
     
  18. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I think that as the prices increases, there's a perception that you need to offer readers more bang for their buck.

    When paperback novels were only 60 cents apiece, people wouldn't mind if the book was only 175 pages long, but consumers might balk at paying, say, $6.99 for only 175 pages.
     
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  19. hbquikcomjamesl

    hbquikcomjamesl Commodore Commodore

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    Hmm. In David Gerrold's book on how "The Trouble with Tribbles" came to be produced, he related how one of his draft scripts for the episode, when it got retyped for mimeo, ran way too long. It seems his new typewriter was 12-pitch, and script page counts were based on 10-pitch. And so he had to cut it ruthlessly.

    And he, too, declared that "Tribbles" ended up a better, tighter story because of the cuts.

    Personally, I'd rather read a 175-page novel, as a 175-page novel, than read a 175-page novel that had been stretched to 375 pages.
     
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  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Stephen King's guideline, IIRC, is to always try to cut your first draft by 10 percent. I've rarely been able to cut that much, but I think I cut about 12% from Only Superhuman before I sold it.