The Fiction Book
The Holly Grail of Fiction Writers

But - What is it, exactly and - How do you write one of those?

A "fiction book" is merely a book-length fictional story. (See the definition of story)

It should be noted: contrary to popular use, the word "story" is the exclusive province of fiction. Although the word "story" is used in conjunction with non-fiction books and publications such as newspapers and magazines, this is an incorrect use of the word "story".

fiction book
The articles that are published in newspapers and magazines by journalists are not technically "stories" because they lack two critical elements that define the word "story". They lack "finality" and they most certainly lack "significance" or meaning. fiction book

By definition journalists are restricted from assigning meaning to the incidents they write about (they are supposed to be "objective observers"). And they never conclude their narration. Their "stories" are always left open-ended. In the world of journalism, "stories" never end. The subject of the article might be forgotten for a day, week or a year. But the story doesn't end - there is no conclusion.

Therefore, it is not a "story" but only a narration of an incident.

In the parlance of writing these are called "articles" and articles are by definition non-fiction just as "stories" are fictional. fiction book

The journalistic form of narration is very different from that required by a fiction book -- or fiction of any length, for that matter. Which might help explain why so few reporters manage the transition from journalist to novelist.

The novelist (as a storyteller rather than a journalist) must accomplish the two very things that the journalist is bared from doing.

  1. Conclude the narrative
  2. Make a point with the narration

And the point of the narration is made, in the conclusion. The ending then is more important than the opening because the ending is where the reader goes, "Oh, now I see." Or the reader fails to "get-it"; in which case the storyteller has failed, because he/she failed to make their point with the story. Which is the purpose in telling a story and the only reason the audience listens to a story, in the first place.

The purpose of the journalistic article, on the other hand, is to get us to read the paper - in the hopes that we will see the advertisements. They attempt to capture our attention with an intriguing or outrageous headline and then capsulate the major facts in a paragraph or two. Then given the amount of space available; they follow with succeeding paragraphs that go down into layer after layer of detail until the reporter has used up his/her allotted space. But these details are just "facts".

There is no "interpretation" or statement as to the meaning of these "facts".

The storyteller, on the other hand, is narrating a linear sequence of incidents that must add up to illustrate a specific point. In fact the incidents are created and shaped, so that they do add up to mean something. Otherwise it fails as a "story" and the audience is left wondering, "What was that all about?"

For a discussion of the structure of long fiction and short fiction see (short_fiction_stories)

Reporters are taught to write the way they do, so that their editor can cut off the end of any article, at almost any paragraph, and it still works. Because their purpose is to fill a specific section of space in the paper rather than to make a point. The available space fluctuates constantly so their articles must be written such that they can easily be chopped down to fit the space available at press-time.

The fiction book writer is taught (or should be) to write the way they do so that their narration adds up to mean something in the end. fiction book

Which brings up the subject of Publishing in general and "Self-Publishing" in particular.

If the writer doesn't know what a story is, what it's supposed to do or how it goes about accomplishing that bit of magic then conventional publishers wont want it and Self Publishing wont accomplish anything either.

But for those determined to self publish then at least get some facts under your belt before you charge in.

Fiction and non-fiction are different narrative forms and have a different purpose, product, and audience; and are therefore very different writing styles.

Writing style - will be addressed in greater detail on it's own page.

For a complete understanding, one needs to carefully study the word "story", including the gradient scale from "Happen" to "Event". fiction book

A fiction book is a book length story.

Such books today are usually around 80,000 words and are broadly referred to as "novels". The present English (and Spanish) word derives from the Italian novella for "new", "news", or "short story of something new", and from the Latin novella, which also means "new".

All of which dates back to the 18 century, when a longer form of storytelling came on the scene with the introduction of the book-length fiction story; lacking a better word for describing this new form, people just called it "new" or "novel". And that's how the word "novel", meaning new and different, entered the English language.

Page length for a fiction book can be very deceiving because publishers are able to pad a short manuscript through a range of paper thicknesses and typesetting tricks to make it as thick or thin as they want. Publishers use several techniques to control the page count and the thickness of a book including; the thickness of the paper, font size, type, and page margins. fiction book

One can estimate the word count of any book by counting the number of words on 3-4 pages and then simply multiplying by the number of pages (not counting the front and back matter).

This can be rather revelatory as, believe it or not, publishers prefer manuscripts in a particular range of words - so it is very important to understand the number of words you're going for.

The reasons are simple. The public prefers a fiction book of a certain thickness. Thickness equates (in the mind of the buying public) with value. Too thin and it doesn’t seem worth $20. But too thick and it costs the publisher too much to print, and ship -- thus cutting into his profit.

These two factors are important to consider even if going the selfpublishing route. Because even if you selfpublish, you will be impacted by the same factors of cost per book vs. sales price as a conventional publisher. So, the computation remains the same; sales price - manufacturing cost = profit. And there must be enough profit to pay the bills and make it all worthwhile or you won't be able to stick at it long enough to "make it".

It all comes down to, "How do we get the highest price at the smallest cost of manufacturing?"

fiction book

So, from the publisher’s viewpoint the ideal manuscript would be just long enough to create a fiction book of satisfactory thickness -- but thin enough to allow a good profit between the printing/shipping cost and what people will pay for the book. fiction book
The above is particularly true with first-time authors, where the risks are higher for the publisher to make his investment back -- particularly on a fiction book.

All of which brings up an interesting and important point which you will see often repeated throughout this site.

To be successful, the aspiring author must be able to control every aspect of his craft.

Which includes, but is not limited to, word and page count, which translates to "book length" for the fiction book.

All of which applies whether the author is intending to self-publish or go through a conventional publisher. fiction book

Write on...

Richard A. McCullough

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© copyright 2010 - Richard A McCullough is the creator & editor of the Fiction Writers source for Writing Better Fiction Faster and Selling More of What You Write.

Copyright - you may freely republish this article, provided the text, author credit, active links and this copyright notice remain intact.

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