Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Writing Update #2

As promised, I'm going to report my writing progress each and every Monday.

Last week, my current novel-in-progress stood at 421 pages or 125,037 words. Also, I was editing page 261.

As of today, I'm at 419 pages and 124,227 words. Currently I'm editing page 279. Here's that in graphical format: 

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I'm currently mired in a first pass, which means I'm paying attention to flow, grammatical mistakes, and general sentence revisions. Basically anything that's out of place or inconsistent gets whacked or fixed. I'm leaving behind "markers" in places where I know I need to go back and add more or new content. I do that simply so I can focus on getting to the end of this first pass. Subsequent passes are inevitable, but I want to be able to look at the "big picture" and not waste time refining details just yet. Who knows if this or that detail will actually make the final cut; I don't want to spend time working something that's just going to get tossed. So, just like pushing onward with trying to complete the novel is important, so is pushing forward with the completion of each revision.

Now, as far as progress goes, I'm 18 pages closer to the end (279 – 261 = 18 pages). I suspect the total page count will continue to decline; my goal is to get it down under 120,000 words. It's tough determining what stays and what goes, but it has to be done. Total word count is an important factor for new writers. It's a topic I've been meaning to address with a separate blog post.

That's it for this past week's progress. Next report in a week.

Writing Update #1

1020206_fastest_writer_on_the_world A lot of writers blog about their writing progress. I used to do this on my previous blog; going back over those posts I can't but feel a little bored. Yeah, bored. I can only wonder how others felt. Many times I spoke in the abstract, not wanting or really being able to reveal meaningful details about specific characters or certain plot points.

However, with regard to regular writing progress updates, I'm going to (re-)start doing just that each Monday, starting today.

I'll tell you why:

  1. Because it allows me to gauge my own progress from week-to-week.
  2. More importantly, it provides me a sort of accountability.

The first I could just as easily do in a spreadsheet that I keep to myself, so it's really #2 which makes this exercise meaningful. If I edit through several chapters or write new material to the tune of a few thousand words, then I'm going to report it and probably feel good about it. On the other hand, if I get lazy, stuck, or otherwise derailed by one of life's curve balls or some other commitment, then I'm also going to report my lack of progress and probably feel a little downtrodden. I'm hoping that, in the latter case, I get motivated to make a good report the following week. I'll report figures in both page and word count, because both are important.

So, without further ado, here's where I'm at right now:

I'm going through a first-pass edit on my fantasy novel, The Five Elements. It's a total of 421 pages or 125,037 words. I'm currently editing page 261. My initial goal with this first pass is to instill consistency and flow. I've left behind a couple of "markers"—places I know I need to flesh out a scene or add something new. Oftentimes as I'm writing new plot points hit me; sometimes I add them immediately, other times I throw in a marker. For now, I've gone with the latter approach so I can complete the first pass without interruption. After that, it's on to completing those markers and a second pass at editing.

I'll report next Monday on how far I've gotten.

When To Stop Reading, Part 2: The Page 99 Test Put into Practice

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A multi-part series where I address the question, When to stop reading?

1. When To Stop Reading, Part 1: The Rules
2. When To Stop Reading, Part 2: The Page 99 Test Put into Practice
3. When To Stop Reading, Part 3: Short Stories
4. When To Stop Listening, Part 4: Audiobooks

A while back I blogged about when to stop reading a book. As the post detailed, there are many criteria, not the least of which is your own good judgement. But there's also quantitative measurements one can take, including the Page 99 Test.

The Page 99 Test is simple, and explained best by this quotation taken from the Page 99 Test web site:

"Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." --Ford Madox Ford

I decided to try the test on my own book, The Hall of the Wood, which I've offered as a free download for some time now.

For purposes of the test, I'm going to start at the first paragraph on the page, so I'm leaving out about 2-3 lines at the top.

Here's the page 99 text from The Hall of the Wood:

Murik raised a finger to his mouth and whispered, "Shh."

The man trembled as he sat up and pushed himself backward. There was nowhere for him to go, though, as he backed into the wall. Murik knew he had found Graewol, for the man looked every bit the crazed lunatic Relk had made him out to be. He wore only pants with no socks or shoes, and his hair was a greasy black and gray with no order to it. His untrimmed beard shot off in all directions.

Murik held his hands out to the man. "I mean you no harm." The sorcerer's voice soothed him as his trembling lessened. "Are you the one they call Graewol?"

The man's chin rose, then went back down. He repeated his nod over and over, stopping only when Murik spoke again.

"My name is Murik. The citizens of this town say you are a wise man who knows many secrets."

Graewol smiled. "Ah know many. Many ah do. Secrets, secrets ah know. All the secrets."

"I need to know of only one this night, my friend. Can you tell me a secret about the lands around Homewood?" Murik tread lightly, not wanting to unduly upset him.

"Secrets, secrets, ah know the secrets..."

The first thing I immediately had to resist was the desire to clean it up a bit. I've noticed as I edit my current novel (The Five Elements) I'm much more judicious, and I dare say merciless, in chopping out unnecessary words, consolidating character movement, and just being more concise overall. But none of that is the point of this post. The point of this post is to determine if my page 99 makes The Hall of the Wood a worthy read.

I'm biased, no doubt, but I like what I see there. There's a certain amount of intrigue and mystery, and hopefully a desire on the reader's part to want to know what secret Murik is after. I'd flip to page 1 and give it a try.

So, for me, The Hall of the Wood passes the Page 99 Test.

Agree or disagree, let me know.

What This Site Is About, or Where I'm at in My Writing

This site is about my writing, of course, and my attempt to get published.

The short of it is that It remains a work-in-progress. The long of it? I'm about 65 pages into editing my second book.

This is just the first run-through. The goal at this point is really just general clean-up: tie-up any loose ends I left dangling, clean things up, make sure everything is whole and consistent, and, most important of all, hack and slash anything--anything!!!--that doesn't fit into the main storyline. It's all well and fine to have sub-stories or other plot devices that help build your characters up, but I've got a 135,000 word monster on my hands and, as a new writer, I help my chances of getting published by lessening the door-stop quality.

Anyone differ on that assessment?

The second and subsequent revisions will refine some of those points but it really becomes an iterative (or repetitive?) process at that point as I work closer towards a finished product.

Need to finish up some work, then I'm out of here. Have a good weekend, everyone.

Response Times: Why do we put up with them?

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So I go to check my email the other day and what do I find at the top of the list but an email from Baen Books. It took me a few seconds to figure out what it was all about. Then I remembered: about a year ago, I sent them a copy of the The Hall of the Wood for review; the email was a rejection of my novel. I think their guidelines mention "about a year" on their response times, so give them points for sticking to that. But it was still a bit of a shock to (finally) get a response back, especially since I'd forgotten I'd even sent my novel to them!

I wonder: why do we put up with such lengthy response times?

The easy answer is because we have to if we want to see our work in print. It's just one of the realities of the publishing industry.

The long answer is that we really don't have to put up with it at all. There are other mediums in which to publish our work: self-publish, POD, Amazon Kindle, our own web sites or blogs, our MySpace page, Facebook, lulu.com... the list goes on.

But this approach lacks something: validation. Anyone can write. Anyone can think their writing is good. But to have someone else read our "stuff" and approve... that's what we're striving towards. That's the golden apple. Not to mention we get something else that's critical to the success of our writing success: the marketing and resources of a "real" publisher. Now, maybe money isn't important to you, but for those of us who have hopes of someday doing the writing thing full-time, it's paramount.

So we put up with publishers' response times. Fortunately, most are much quicker than Baen's one year.