So How Long Should a Chapter Be?

magicbook
Photo by CanStockPhoto.com

When I write my novels, I think of each chapter as an episode, or a little story within the bigger story, and a specific event occurs in each chapter. Let’s say your protagonist plans to meet up with another character, but then something unexpected happens. Maybe she has an accident on her way to the meeting and she’s rushed to the hospital. That would certainly be a little story within the bigger story. And since I like to have a strong ending to my chapters, I might end with the man she was supposed to meet thinking he’s been stood up. The next chapter would be a new episode about what he does next.

So, how long should a chapter be? Simple. It’s as long as it needs to be to tell the story. I’ve written chapters as short as a page and a half, and as long as ten pages. There really is no hard and fast rule for chapter length, at least not one that I’m aware of. So don’t worry about the page count; just concentrate on telling your story.

Happy writing.

GM

 

Why Having the Cloud or Other Off-Site Storage is a Must

clouds 2
Photo by Gayle Martin

It’s happened to me twice now. That oh so sickening feeling I get when I go to open up a file, and either half of it’s gone, or I get an error message telling me it’s missing off my hard drive altogether. Computers are mysterious creatures. I jokingly tell people they’re all black magic and voodoo, and sometimes I wonder if there could actually be some truth to this. Both times this happened was after I had saved the files and shut down my computer properly, which proves that files can still be lost or hopelessly corrupted, even when you’ve done nothing wrong. This is why I have off site storage, and why I so highly recommend having it to others, whether or not you’re a writer.

Off site storage, sometimes called, the cloud, is just that. Your files are backed up to a third party server, and, heaven forbid, your computer gets lost or stolen, or an important file gets lost or damaged, you can easily download a backup. Some people may worry about privacy, and that’s a legitimate concern. However, any reliable off site storage company will encrypt your files. You’re far more likely to lose an important document then you are to have a hacker steal your work.

I use Carbonite, but there are other off site back up services available, such as iCloud. It costs me a little over $50 per year, and it’s money well spent. It automatically backs up my files, and whenever I’ve had to use it I found it was very easy to locate and download the needed files. The first time I used it was to recover a Word file, and I got all but the last two paragraphs back. More recently, I had to recover an Adobe InDesign file that mysteriously disappeared off my hard drive, and Carbonite downloaded it completely intact. The only problem I have with Carbonite is that it’s unable to back up my external hard drive as I’m on a Mac. This means I cannot store archived files on my external disk, but I’m otherwise a very satisfied customer.

Some people tell me they don’t need off site storage as they back up their files to a flash drive. That works as long as you remember to do it on a daily basis. And, Murphy’s Laws being what they are, rest assured the day a file corrupts or disappears completely will be the same day you didn’t do a back up.

Stuff happens, and it can happen to you. Carbonite has saved my rear-end not once, but twice, and I’m now a customer for life.

 

GM

 

And Now for The End of Our Story

The EndEvery story ever written has two things in common–a beginning and an ending, and it’s at the end of the story where we, as storytellers, deliver the punch lines that impact our readers.

Regardless of your genre, most readers want, and expect, a happy ending. One that ties up all of the loose ends and leaves them satisfied. And, most often, that’s what they get. In my genre, romance, it’s pretty simple. Boy meets girl. They fall in love, but there are conflicts and obstacles to be overcome, and once they’re resolved everyone lives happily ever after. THE END. But then again, some of the most well-loved and compelling romance stories ever written didn’t end with the couple living happily ever after. Who could forget Gone with the Wind? After thinking she was in love with Ashley Wilkes for all those years, Scarlett suddenly realizes she’s been in love with Rhett the whole time, but when she finally tells him his response is, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” He walks away and slams the door behind him, leaving her to ponder her next move. This ending left us wanting more, and I believe this is way, after more than seventy years, the book and the movie still have a following.

By the way, I don’t know if this is actual fact or urban legend, but I recall hearing somewhere that Margaret Mitchell wrote the ending first, and then went back to write the rest of the story. Some authors do write their endings first, and it’s perfectly okay to do so.

Another famous ending comes from the movie, Casa Blanca, which was actually wasn’t based on a novel, but on a play called, Everyone Comes to Rick’s. It too is a love story with a twist. Boy meets girl. Girl ditches boy. Boy meets girl a second time, only now she’s brought her husband along. So, along with some unforgettable dialog, (“Of all the gin joints in all the places in the world, she had to walk into mine.”), we all root for Rick to get Ilsa back. Instead the story ends with him putting her on the plane, along with her husband, and sending them away for good. Then the final scene ends with Rick walking away with Louis Renualt and saying, “You know, Louie, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”

Once again, I’ve heard rumor that there were two endings shot for Casa Blanca. In the alternate ending Ilsa stays behind with Rick, but it was decided that the other ending would have a stronger impact on the audience. They were right. Seventy years later, Casa Blanca remains one of the best-loved films of all time. 

Sometimes stories aren’t about happy endings. Sometimes they’re about doing the right thing, even when doing the right thing isn’t so easy to do. The same can be said of real life.

GM

 

Are You Including Photos in Your Book?

Photo Shoot Set
Photo by Gayle Martin

When one of my authors sent me the photos he wanted to include in his memoir, I noticed several of them were family portraits, taken by professional portrait studios. Many of you may not be aware that when you have a portrait done, the photographer, or the studio, owns the rights, even though the images may be of you, or members of your family. This means the photos cannot be used in a book without written permission of the copyright holders. My author was unaware of this, but, fortunately, was able to obtain release forms for the photos in question.

I’m not a copyright attorney, so the following isn’t meant to be taken as legal advice. It is, however, common knowledge and accepted business practices by publishers.

Prior to 1978, a copyright was good for twenty-eight years from the date of registration. Once it expired, it could be renewed for another twenty-eight years. After that the work was considered public domain. Then, in 1978, the law changed. Now a copyright lasts for the lifetime of the copyright holder, plus another seventy years after his or her death. This includes works of visual art, such as drawings, paintings, and photographs. So if you’re including photos, graphics, drawings or other works of art, either for your book cover, or inside your book, and they weren’t created by you, then you will need to get permission from the person who created the work before you can publish it.

So what about work you’ve commissioned for your book, such as a photo or illustration for your cover? Typically, there will be verbiage in the contract between you and the artist transferring certain rights over to you. Most often these rights are for the use of their work for the intended purpose, such as your book cover. Now let’s say you wanted to use their image for something else. For example, let’s say you published a cookbook, and you hired a photographer to take a photo of one of your dishes for your book cover. Then, later on, you decide to open a restaurant, and you want to include that same photograph on your menu. Never assume that just because you paid him for the photo, you’re free to use it any way that you wish. Putting his photo on your menu, without his knowledge or consent, might land you in some legal hot water. You need to go back to the photographer and get his permission to use his photo for your menu. Chances are, he’ll allow you to use it in exchange for a royalty. But he says no, then you cannot use it. Period.

For more information about copyrights, or to discuss a specific case, please consult a copyright attorney.

GM