Writers’ Toolbox: e-books

Any writer, but especially amateur writers, can learn from other, more established, writers. By studying the books of other authors we can learn what works, what doesn’t work, how to work it, and what’s been done so many times that, if you decide to do it yourself you should either ensure a new spin or work it as a satire.

In addition to simply making reading easier and more convenient, by allowing us to carry dozens of books and instantly call up the last page we were reading while standing in line at the bus stop, e-books are more convenient than paper for the budding writer to use in their analyses.

Any serious writer knows that pacing is crucially important to telling a riveting story. When, where, and how much of the back story to reveal at any point is vitally important to consider as a writer. Much of this will come instinctively to those who read lots, however, a ‘numerical analysis’ of a story is often helpful for learning how an author has successfully (or unsuccessfully) dealt with certain challenges.

As writers, we deal in word count for our final product. Certain types of novels require certain word counts in order to interest agents and publishers (of course,  quality it always the top priority). This final word count must contain all the details of the story, all the reveals, all the climaxes and lows, all the dramatic chase sequences or passionate romantic interludes. But for the amateur writer, it can sometimes be challenging to know how and where to fit certain things effectively, which is where e-books help.

Anyone who reads e-books regularly knows that, instead of page count, which is largely irrelevant for an e-book as screen sizes will vary dramatically, the reader kindly tells you the percentage of the book you’ve read (most also, conveniently, allow you to easily bookmark areas). Since most adult novels clock in at approximately 100,000 words (in a paperback: ca. 365 pages) 1% is 1000 words. So if the aspiring writer finds an interesting character development, reveal, or plot twist at 23%, for example, they can instantly know that it’s at 23,000 words. They can use this to estimate its place in the storyline and where it falls in relation to other aspects of the story.

Of course, the latter is the important consideration. That is, what the budding writer is trying to do is put together a mental database of the general strategies of how successful writers construct stories. Where x falls, in the story, in relation to y. When do we learn the heroes dramatic backstory and how does it affect her assault on the castle. Why has the author chosen to reveal it at 16,000 words instead of 56,000?

While I’m not claiming e-books are the magic box for instantly improving your writing, they are a pleasant and useful addition to the writers’ toolbox.

Insight and longevity.



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