Dear Author Enabler,
I’ve been writing my entire life as far back as I can remember. Now I am making an attempt at my first book. I lost my father at an early age, and I decided to write a satirical adventure about a boy growing up not having learned those basic lessons that fathers teach their sons and how he must learn those lessons himself (i.e., learning to shave, understand girls, basic manly traits, etc.).
The problem is that now I believe I’ve told the story and I’m only at 31,000 words. While I realize that is too short for a proper novel, I know of books that are that length. I’m torn. Do you have any advice on where to go from here?
John Earnhart
Fairview Heights, Illinois

There is a saying that “less is more.” While this is not true in all cases, it is certainly not good writing to add content solely to increase the word count. It’s possible that your book is complete as is. The term for a piece of fiction this length is “novella.” Basically a novella is too short to be considered a novel and too long to be considered a short story. At 31,000 words, your piece definitely qualifies as a novella. Often writers publish books of novel length that contain a novella and a number of short stories. Perhaps you should consider writing some short stories to complement your longer piece.

Dear Author Enabler,
As a retired journalist I now spend a lot of time reading novels—about three or four a week. Recently I’ve noticed that in every book I read, at some point, someone tucks a lock of hair behind the ear of another character. Sometimes men tuck hair for women, sometimes moms and dads tuck hair of children, sometimes women friends tuck each other. What is going on? Is there now some kind of rule that EVERY novel has to have a hair-tucking scene? Is there some super-hair-tucking-editor somewhere who checks to make sure it’s there? It’s driving me crazy.
Kathleen Winkler
Pewaukee, Wisconsin

I am so glad you brought this crisis to my attention. You are the Paul Revere of American readers, riding through the countryside warning us of an invasion of hair-tucking in fiction. And you are not alone in your concern: On May 25, Cyndi Tefft tweeted, “Almost every romance novel I’ve read has the guy tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear, yet men rarely ever do this.” There is an epidemic of hair-tucking going on in American novels, and it is up to us, the readers, to call attention to this imminent danger. I invite other readers to send in examples of hair tucking and other silly clichés so that we can shed light on this assault on the English language.

Dear Author Enabler,
I am writing again for the first time in six years. I am not working so I don’t have a lot of money to put into the book. Can I do my own research or would it be better to find a way to hire a fact searcher for the book? Also, is it possible to have someone you know proofread your work, or should I find someone else?
Donna Smith
Dewitt, Virginia

I think you should save your money and do your own research. Research is half the fun of the writing process and it is frequently a great source of inspiration and ideas. And there is nothing wrong with having someone close to you proofread your work, so long as they are qualified to do so and are willing to give your work an honest critique.

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