Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Writing Update #7

This previous week I think I hit on some nice writing progress. Overall, 22 pages closer to finishing this first pass edit.

I achieved that from both sides, both increasing the current page that I'm editing from 316 to 332 but also decreasing the total page count from 391 to 385.

Here's the graph:

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A little hard to see that the total pages came down, but the increase in the pages edited is easy enough to see.

Here's the percentage completion graph:

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Unlike the previous week, where it very nearly flat-lined from the week before, this time there's a nice gain, putting me at a completion percentage of 86.23%.

So, what changed this past week? I was more focused. I made a conscious effort to remove distractions and make some good, solid progress. I hate to think that 22 pages in one week is "good" progress, but this is something I do in addition to work, family, house, dogs, and so on. Still, I need to do more, and continue to stay focused on finishing. I'm enjoying the story immensely; it's by far better than my previous novel, both in content and style. I hope it's a sign I'm maturing as a writer and that I'm closer to getting published.

More progress next week.

Writing Update #6

This past week was an interesting one as far as my writing is concerned. I finally made the big decision to cut one of the supporting characters. I'd been thinking about this for some time, but it was a difficult decision because I liked the character. He provided some meaning to the overall storyline, too, but not enough that his part couldn't be supplemented here and there by others. So, he's gone.

That cut by itself removed about 7,000 words from my last week's total of 122,866. That along with some additional material needed to fill-in some of the resulting gaps brings me to a current total of 115,664. Still not down to the 110,000 I had determined I needed to get to, but a lot closer.

All of that kind of skews this past week's results. Here's the graph:

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That puts me at a current editing page of 316, down from 329 last week (note the backward progress from that perspective), with 75 pages remaining. That's down 10 pages from last week, so some forward progress there.

Here's the completion percentage outlook:

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I don't like that nearly flat line at the end.

Here's the bottom line: I dropped the total word count from 122,866 to 115,664, total pages went down from 414 to 391, and pages remaining to edit went down from 85 to 75. All told, not bad.

The game plan at this point is to continue moving forward. I had to reorder one scene, but that's nearly done. At some point, I'll have to go back and fix some of those scenes where the missing character is no longer there. I'll probably save that work for my second pass edit.

More next week.

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:

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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:

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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.