Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Writing Update #5

This Monday's writing progress is coming in a little late because (1) today is Labor Day and thus a holiday and (2) my wife and I have been out all day biking and then celebrating my dad's birthday.

However, I do have some progress to report, so let's jump into it.

Let me throw up the latest graph:

image

I'm currently editing page 329, an improvement of 16 pages over last week's status. That puts me at a completion percentage of 79.47%. Last week I was at 75.24%.

As you can see, my completion percentage over time is very linear:

image

A few more stats: Total pages dropped by 2 to 414, word count dropped also from 123,508 to 122,866.

That's about it for this time. I'm still chugging away on editing, and I think based on some information I found and posted about regarding total word count I have a tough decision to make. I'm going to have to cut something fairly big in order to reduce the total word count down to where it needs to be. I have something in mind, but I need to finish the first pass, then take a look at the big picture before I make any rash decisions.

Till next time.

Fiction: How Long Is Too Long?

1028208_man_thinking Those of you who've been following along know that I am mired in a first-pass edit of my current novel. One of the main goals of this edit is to reduce the overall word count. Currently at 123,319 words, I still have some work to do. However, considering it peaked at 135,785 words before editing had begun, I think I'm doing OK.

Why care about word count at all? Because staying within the acceptable range is one less reason to be rejected, that's why.

Still, how long is too long? At what point do you know you're in the right, saleable range?

First, it depends on stature. Established authors have more leeway; they've got a proven track record, and a publisher is more likely to lay out the cash (longer books cost more to produce) because they are considered less of a risk than a first-time author.

Second, you have your first-time authors. Publishers want minimum risk and maximum profit, so they'll likely stick to their guns on word count unless you've produced a truly stellar, standout novel.

Third, it depends on genre.

Let's take that third one and break it down based on word count information gotten from Colleen Lindsay of the swivet blog, with an understanding that there are always exceptions to these numbers. Here's the data:

micro fiction 10-300 words
flash fiction 300-1000 words
YA fiction 50K - 80K
urban/paranormal romance 80K - 90K
mysteries/crime fiction 60K - 70K
chick lit 60K - 80K
literary up to 120K
thrillers 90K - 100K
historical fiction up to 140K
novella < 50K
space opera/fantasy up to 100K
epic fantasy 120K - 130K

I write fantasy, so the last two categories are of the most interest to me. I find those numbers a bit alarming because my book is not epic fantasy. It's more non-epic. Therefore, I need to cut out another 23,000 words??? I'm all for killing my darlings, but cutting to 100,000 words is a tough one.

Rachelle Gardner, an agent with WordServe Literary, has this definition:

Full-length fiction: 80,000 to 100,000 words is by far the best range to stay within. Some pubs will look at manuscripts from 70,000 to 110,000 words, rarely outside of that.

OK, so now we're at a maximum of 110,000 words. But she doesn't mention specific genre, which we know from above is important.

JA Konrath has this to say:

First novels have a better chance of selling if they are under 90k. The reason is wholly monetary. Your publisher will probably lose money on your first book. But a 150k book will cost more to print, more to ship, and less will fit in a carton. Cost of production figures heavily into a publisher's decision whether to buy or not to buy. 

He goes on to say this (highlighting mine):

Some genres, such as fantasy and historical romance, tend to be lengthier.

But he doesn't really go on to explain in more detail. That's OK. Joe's thing is mystery thrillers, anyway, not fantasy. (Consequently, Joe has some great advice in that post; go read it.)

So where does that leave me?

I could no doubt troll the submission guideline pages of my favorite agents and publishers and acquire more information, but I think the above more or less supports what I had originally thought on this subject. One thing is clear: I need to keep cutting. There comes a point, however, where the story itself becomes compromised. I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, I have a new goal: 110,000 words.

Writing Update #4

I almost had to write this report with not much progress to go over. Fortunately, my measly progress during the week last week was aided by some more serious progress over the weekend.

Here's my updated progress:

Writing Progress

You can see some definite trending upward on the dark blue (lower) portion of the bar. That's my editing progress. Of course, the lighter blue (upper) portion of the bar is gradually diminishing in size, which of course means there are fewer pages remaining to edit. It's all so scientific.

Week-to-week, total page count decreased by 1 page from 417 to 416. Current page edited went from 297 to 313, an increase of 16 pages. Not great, but not bad. That leaves 103 pages left to edit on this first pass.

Let me pop up another graph, this one of my progress in percentage terms:

% Complete

I'm currently 75.24% complete with this first pass edit.

I was really hoping to have at least 20 pages edited by this report; now I have a goal for next week.

Until next time.

Writing Update #3

It's Monday, so time for a writing progress update. As I indicated in my first writing progress update, I'm putting these out each week to hold myself accountable for editing progress on my current novel-in-progress.

Here's the chart of where I've been since I started these updates as well as where I'm at currently:

Current total page count dropped 2 pages from last week to 417 pages. I've edited 297 pages, up from 279 the previous week. That gets me to a completion percentage of 71.22% compared with last week's 66.59%. Can you tell I'm an engineer yet?

Bottom line is I think I'm making good progress. Not as well as I would like, but it's a constant battle against distraction, how much time to spend on blog posts, and actually having a little down-time every once in a while.

I think I see light at the end of the tunnel, at least on this first pass edit. More progress next week.

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: 

image

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.