Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Milestones and Goals

468230_30211180 Every writer or blogger has goals. But on the road to achieving those goals we pass something else by: milestones.

I like to think of milestones as micro-goals. They're not bona fide goals unto themselves, but they are accomplishments of a sort.

Make no mistake: milestones are a good thing. Sometimes, trying to achieve a full-fledged goal can be overwhelming. Take writing a novel, for example. How many people never start (let alone finish) such a thing simply because of the daunting nature of it?

I'll tell you what helps: milestones.

Merriam-Webster defines a milestone as "a significant point in development". Reaching a milestone is not the end, but it's a significant step in that direction.

For me, a milestone is a chapter written. The chapter by itself is kind of meaningless—you can't sell it, and it probably doesn't tell a whole story. But rack up enough of those milestones and the next thing you know, you've got a complete manuscript.

There's something else about setting goals or working towards a milestone: they have to be realistic or attainable.

Overshooting, or setting unrealistic goals, is a recipe for failure. Not reaching your goals can be discouraging. Hit on too many disappointments, next thing you know you're out of the game before you even had a chance.

The lesson in all of this: baby steps. Keep it simple. Reach for the attainable, knowing that each smaller step is a signpost on the longer road to completion.

Writing Update #15

Last week I reported that I had finished the first edit of my WIP and that I was now moving on to the second edit.

Briefly, I continue editing on the computer until I feel all the pieces are in place, that the obvious snafus have been fixed, sentences all makes sense, and scenes play out as I had envisioned them. While editing my previous book, I did this as many times as it took to get all of these things right—about 3-4 times, as I recall. After that, I go to paper, printing out each chapter in order where I basically start the editing process over again. Of course, it all gets easier and easier as all the pieces fall into place, or at least that's the idea.

Enough about the future; let's take a look at my current progress.

I reset everything, so I'm back on page 1. Or, I was, until I put some work in this past week, editing 16 pages out of a current total of 380. Here's a bar chart:

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Not much to look at right now.

Percentage complete is a bit more interesting:

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OK. Still not really that interesting. I'm 4.21% complete with the second edit. Still a long ways to go.

Last, I like to look at my ongoing total word count:

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It's come down a bit; it's going to continue to fluctuate at least through this edit as I still need to fill some holes in here and there and add or remove pieces as needed to get everything to flow. Some of that flow was disrupted, for example, when, across the board, I removed one of the characters from the story.

Going into winter, with the days shorter and there being less light for outdoor activities, I intend to have more time to write. But, of course, we've got Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, both of which have a whole host of obligations to go along with them. Such is life, though, right?

Till next time.

Writing Update #14

First edit of the rough draft of my fantasy adventure novel: done.

I actually finished about mid-week last week, at which time I took a few days off to concentrate on my reading of Bujold's Sharing Knife series (of which I committed to reviewing for EOS Books). I've finished books one and two, by the way. But this blog entry isn't about my reading progress, it's about my writing progress, so…

Here's what 100% done looks like:

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and,

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Here's how total word count wound up finishing:

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That's it. First edit done. It's a step towards completion.

Total word count stands at 112,737. Page count at 382.

Now, I reset the graphs and start over. My second edit will still be done exclusively on the computer. I don't waste paper until I feel I've done most of the editing, or at least until I have something wholly coherent that flows from start to finish. I'm not there yet.

I expect to continue these updates each Monday (this one is coming a day early b/c I won't have my laptop with me tomorrow), if not for your benefit, than certainly for mine. I've found they've been a useful tool for accountability as well just a way for me to gauge my progress.

Until next time.

Writing Update #13

I'm almost done with the first edit of my fantasy novel, The Five Elements.

I'm on page 381 of 385, which gives me a completion percentage of 98.96%.

A bit of explaining: Last week I'd related how I had to essentially axed the last chapter, so instead of editing I've really been engaged in new writing. At that time I also came up with a guesstimate on the total page count, pegging it at 388. Now that I'm a little closer, I dropped that down to the magic number of 385. Bottom line: 4 more pages to go.

I probably would have had that last bit done if I hadn't been without my laptop all weekend. In any case, there's a definite end to this road in sight.

Weekly progress is this: up to page 381 from page 372, pages remaining dropped from 16 to 4, and total word count (see graph at bottom) rose from 110,885 to 112,386.

Here's the graphs:

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Percentage complete (almost 100%!):

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Last, I've got a new one that shows Total Word Count. It's kind of interesting to see the beginning total of about 125,000 shrink as I edited along, chopping out unneeded words and, in some cases, entire sections. All part of the editing process.

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Thoughts from Brandon Sanderson

image I was going through my usual blog reading routine this morning and came across a link to some thoughts from Brandon Sanderson on his history as a writer. Brandon Sanderson was tagged to write the final volumes in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, the first of which is The Gathering Storm. Jordan passed away before he could finish the series. The details of Sanderson's post are significant enough that I thought I would share.

Sanderson's Mistborn was a Tor Free E-book Giveaway back in July. He's also the guy tasked with completing Jordan's final Wheel of Time book after that author's death. There's also a recent video interview with the author that I came across.

The most profound thing I took away from Sanderson's post is that I (and I imagine many writers) found myself empathizing with many of his feelings and thoughts. I saw in his words some of the same questions I ask myself, such as "is this good enough?", "will this stand up to reader scrutiny?", "is anyone going to even want to read this let alone publish it?". It's, in an odd way, comforting.

At one point, Sanderson says this:

Here I was, having written twelve novels, and I seemed to be getting WORSE with each one. I wasn't selling, I was out of school working a wage job graveyard shift, and my social life consisted pretty much of my friends taking pity on me and coming to hang out at the hotel once in a while.

Sounds rather dismal. The thing that really blew me away was his statement that he'd written twelve novels (twelve!) without a publishing credit to his name. That's disheartening and inspiring at the same time. The latter because of his fortitude and perseverance, both obviously of heroic proportions.

Later, he says this:

I was NEVER AGAIN going to write toward the market.

After some initial failures, Sanderson changed tactics, trying to write what he thought publishers wanted. The results were sub-standard work simply because his heart was not in the material. The above statement marks a turning point, whereupon he decides to write for himself. He finds success not too long after that.

On that last point, I've seen it go the other way, too. I know of one writer in particular who also faced some small amount of defeat in getting published before he also decided to change tactics—study the market, see what publishers were buying (and what people were reading)—then take that information and write. The result was his first sale of many.

In light of that, it would seem there's no foolproof approach. What works for some may not work for others. It's both inspiring and sobering to read such posts as Sanderson's, though. Go check it out.