Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Writing Update #22

A weekly progress report as I work through the (second pass) editing of my current fantasy novel.

Another good week. Before I jump into the numbers, some reflection: I find myself cutting a lot of "junk". By that I mean passages that are nothing more than info dumps or scenes where a character is thinking, introspectively, mayhap trying to rationalize something out, but I'm finding those paragraphs kind of tedious to read. I can only assume if I find them so, how's a reader going to feel? That's an excellent warning sign of something that probably needs to go. In fact, if you take nothing else from this post, take that. If you find yourself losing interest while reading your own writing, chances are your readers are going to feel the same way. No point in keeping such baggage around.

Now, on to the progress…

Like I started to say: it was a good week, especially considering half of it was spent at various xmas functions. Overall, I advanced my current page editing to 140, up from last week's 125. Total pages dropped (again) from 361 to 354. That gave me 22 pages for the week.

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Percent complete jumped to 39.5% from last week's 34.6%:

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Total word count proved interesting once more, decreasing by 1,864 to a total of 104,006. It's amazing how much that keeps going down as I cut and slash and tighten my prose. It will be interesting indeed to see where it lands when all is said and done.

That's it for now. Back to writing for me.

Writing Update #21

A weekly progress report as I work through the (second pass) editing of my current fantasy novel.

This was a good week. Much better than last, anyway. I managed to edit through 28 pages total, only 2 of which came from page reduction. That puts me at a current page of 125, up from last week's 99, out of 361 pages total, down from last week's 363.

Here's the first graph:

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Percentage complete, now at 34.63% (I'm 1/3rd of the way there!):

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Last, total word count, which now stands at 105,870 compared to last week's 106,591:

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So, I dropped about 700 words, which more or less continues my downward trend as shown directly above. Still, I only reduced the total page count by 2 this time; most of the progress came from pushing forward.

I've been shooting for roughly 20 pages/week. From a full-time writer's perspective that probably isn't very good, but I don't think that's a fair outlook on things. You have to look at it from the perspective of someone who does this in his spare time after going to work every day. Anyway, the moral of this story is to write, however and whenever you can.

Hope to have some good progress to report next week as well. I've got one more day at work, then I'm off the remainder of the year, so I sure hope I'm able to make good use of the time.

Jane Lindskold on Book Covers

Information about Jane Lindskold is becoming a regular fixture around here. Over on Tor.com, Lindskold has been writing a series of articles on book covers—how they're chosen, who does the deciding, etc. I found the articles interesting reads, so thought I'd share.

There's three four articles so far in all. Here they are:

  1. Look at What They’ve Wrapped Around My Baby!
  2. When Right is Completely Wrong
  3. Series Doesn’t Equal Set
  4. Second Look: Good Idea?

Passage by Lois McMaster Bujold

Last month, I received all four of Bujold's Sharing Knife books from EOS. Their original call for advanced readers was for book four in the series, Horizon, due out January 27, 2009. But they sweetened the offer by throwing in books one through three. I jumped on it, promising to review not just Horizon, but all four books. As promised, here is the third of those reviews.

Passage is the third book in Bujold's Sharing Knife series. It is a continuation of the story begun in Beguilement and Legacy. In Legacy, Dag and Fawn come face-to-face with the bigotry of Dag's Lakewalker clan. Near driven out, Dag chooses to leave instead. But he does so with a mission in mind: to heal the rift between Lakewalker and farmer.

On one level this mission of Dag's is a personal one: acceptance of each of the peoples amongst the other would grant his marriage a greater acceptance. On another level it is a matter of long term survival for all. Because there is little communication between Lakewalker and farmer, the scourge of their land, called malices, could potentially run rampant someday because farmers remain ignorant of the early warning signs. It is with the intention of educating farmers of the malice danger that Dag sets out from his home with his wife, Fawn.

They hire themselves out to a flatboat boss, Berry, and Dag begins his journey of farmer healing and enlightenment. They are joined by two other Lakewalkers and a motley lot of farmers/riverboat-types who are drawn to Dag and Fawn's mission in their own individual ways. Much of the story focuses on this personal quest of Dag's and how, in the process, he also develops his 'ground' (magic) to a level not hereto seen in the world.

That bears some explanation: in Lakewalker society an individual is chosen early on for a specific vocation based upon the promise of their ground. Such vocations include patroller, medicine-maker, ground-setter. The principal responsibility of the Lakewalkers is patrolling the lands in search of malice; most Lakewalkers are selected as patrollers. But some others who demonstrate a greater degree of 'groundsense' may become medicine-makers or, even further, ground-setters, able to manipulate almost any material. Dag has already spent most of his life as a patroller by the time we meet him in Beguilement. In Passage, he begins to experiment with his groundsense and, aided by Fawn's knack for seeing things from her own unique perspective, finds that he has the ability to bridge the gap between patroller, medicine-maker, and ground-setter.

Passage is a good book. It's well-written, flows evenly, and possesses a myriad of interesting yet believable characters. But it also stumbles a bit in its singular purpose. Dag's quest is fun to follow, but it becomes too much of the story or, really, the entire story. Not until the end, when Dag must face a renegade Lakewalker and the mayhem he's caused, does the storyline break away into new territory. In short, I felt Passage would have benefited from a bit more going on. There is some mystery in the form of Boatboss Berry, whose family has disappeared somewhere downriver, but it's not enough.

In summary, Bujold doesn't disappoint in once again delivering a folksy tale with plenty of interesting and intriguing characters and magic. In the end, though, Passage could have used an injection of something more. Regardless, I'm looking forward to the conclusion of Dag and Fawn's journey in book four, Horizon.

Writing Update #20

A weekly progress report as I work through the editing of my current fantasy novel.

This one is out a day late only because we lost Internet access last night due to some icy weather and, as I type this, it still hasn't come back on. (Update: It just back on a little while ago, so about 24 hours w/out connectivity.)  "Frozen junction boxes" they tell me. In any case, here's this week's writing update.

Overall, I'm up 19 pages for the week. Not quite the 20 pages I like to get, but close enough. 14 of those came from forward progress, 5 from a reduction in page count. It's all part of the editing process. That puts me at a total page count of 363 (down from last week's 368) and a current page of 99 (up from last week's 85).

Here's the pages edited vs. pages remaining graph:

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Percent complete is up from 23.1% to 27.3%:

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Word count, which I continue to think is the most interesting statistic, went down again, from last week's 107,872 to 106,591:

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I'm well below the 110,000 words I wanted to get under at this point. Even with the additional material I plan to add back in (to give one character in particular a bit more of the story) I don't think I'll go much over that word count. Also, if this trend continues, I might even approach 100,000 words by the time I'm done. I kind of hope not. Originally, this novel stood at 135,000 words. I can't help but feel I wasted a lot of time chugging out that 20,000 or so words only to have it cut. I think about 5-6,000 of that reduction came about simply because I chopped out one whole character from the narrative. But the rest was plain and simple editing: killing darlings and tightening up the prose. I suppose it's an inevitable part of the writing process. You can plan, but you can't plan every word, sentence, or paragraph.

Until next week.