Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Wordnik's Word of the Day

For the longest time I was receiving daily Word of the Day emails from Dictionary.com. Then they stopped. It's one of those things—I was getting it for so long, usually casually glancing at the word then deleting the email, that I never really did anything when the emails started not arriving. I figured a system glitch or something.

I finally got around to looking into what's up and discovered that while my email address was still subscribed, I still wasn't getting the emails. Nothing in the spam folder, either. I tried re-subscribing, but it said I was already subscribed. OK. Unsubscribe. Subscribe again. Wait for confirmation email. Nada. OK, I'm done.

Finding another Word of the Day service was as easy as a Google search.

Wordnik, whose API I had once looked at for an unrelated project, caught my eye immediately. Their Word of the Day service requires you to sign up for an account. I did. Now, I'm once again receiving Word of the Day emails on a (surprise) daily basis.

I like the look of Wordnik's WotD page. Here's today's:

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The word is big and hard to miss. Definitions are clear. The "Notes" section gives you a little bit of additional information about the word; basically stuff that falls outside of the definition itself. There are examples that use the word so you can see it in action and, in this case, a user contributed sound bite of the word's pronunciation.

If you're into this sort of thing, I recommend Wordnik's Word of the Day service. I'm also going to start using Wordnik as the definition source for my Interesting Words posts.

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Found Books at Half Price Books

My wife and I were out doing some clothes shopping this July 4th holiday weekend. Everything was going fine until my wife asked very nicely if I wouldn't mind if we stopped at just one more store. Now, we learned early on that shopping for clothes is something best done separately. While I often find what I want right away, my wife does not. Therein lies the problem. But I was ok with waiting around this time (I usually bring something to do, anyway). But then she asked if we could make a stop at another store. I cringed. This is turning into an all-day affair. I got to thinking, though… hey, there's a Half Price Books almost next door…

"No problem, honey," I said. "Let's go, and take as much time as you need."

I love Half Price Books. What's not to like about lots of books at discounted prices? It's too bad that authors and publishers are cut out of this particular profit equation, but that's one of the downsides of the traditional model (downside for them, that is).

Turns out I was able to find quite a few titles of which I'd been looking for specifically. That doesn't always happen. Must have been my lucky day. Here are the covers of those books:

 

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LibraryThing's 50 Book Challenge: Where I'm At

As I've been spelling out at the top of each of my recent book reviews, I'm taking LibraryThing's 50 Book Challenge for 2010. The reason LibraryThing is doing this is to, of course, promote reading. I don't know that I necessarily need the extra incentive, but I also can't deny that the challenge coupled with my Kindle, given to me as Christmas present by my wife, has dramatically increased my reading.

So, how am I doing so far?

The goal is 50 books read. I'm currently at 17. Fifty books is about one per week. So, given that for the year thus far we've seen 19 weeks (I'm starting from Sunday, January 3rd), I should have read 19 books by now. Looks like I'm currently two short. But that's not a big deal. Given that I'll be taking some time off work and will have some holidays here and there, I should be able to make up a small deficit like that.

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How long should it take to write a novel?

How long would it take to write a novel if you wrote 1,000 words/day? 500? 100? How about three sentences per day? How long would that take?

I'm going to figure out some answers here. I'll start with the basic assumption that the length of a complete novel is 100,000 words. At 250 words/page, that's a 400 page book.

Let's see how long it would take to complete the first draft, sans edits, given varying rates of words put down on paper per day. I'll assume a completely arbitrary 20 words per sentence and, from that, 12.5 sentences/page (250 words/page divided by 20 words/sentence).

  Words to
Paper/Day
How Long
in Days
How Long
in Years
1 word 1 100,000.00 273.97
5 words 5 20,000.00 54.79
20 words/1 sentence 20 5,000.00 13.70
2 sentences 40 2,500.00 6.85
3 sentences 60 1,666.67 4.57
5 sentences 100 1,000.00 2.74
10 sentences 200 500.00 1.37
1 page/12.5 sentences/250 words 250 400.00 1.10
2 pages 500 200.00 0.55
3 pages 750 133.33 0.37
4 pages 1000 100.00 0.27
5 pages 1250 80.00 0.22
10 pages 2500 40.00 0.11
20 pages 5000 20.00 0.05
40 pages 10000 10.00 0.03
50 pages 12500 8.00 0.02

Starting at the ridiculous and ending with, well, the ridiculous again, you can see that were you to only write 1 word/day it would take 100,000 days or 274 years to finish a novel length manuscript. Something a little more realistic—3 sentences/day, of which I've heard of writers doing—and you're at 4.5 years. If you strive for the more often recommended 1,000 words/day, it will take you .27 years or just over 3 months. Pause for a second and think about that. My first reaction was: What?! Why has it taken me so long then to finish this bleep'in novel then? That just can't be right…

But it is.

If you can write 1,000 words per day, you'll have a 100,000 words in 100 days. A complete first draft, in other words.

It sounds easy. So why isn't it? The reasons are many: life gets in the way, we procrastinate, we edit/rewrite before we should, the writing itself leads us down dead-ends from which we have to back ourselves out. Anyone's who's ever attempted to write a novel, whether you failed or not, knows about these things. It takes a lot of discipline to keep pushing forward, especially when you know what you just wrote is crap and is going to need some serious re-writing.

But therein lies the gist of it: you have to keep moving forward if you want to reach the end. It sounds simple. If only it really were.

Dropbox

Sign-up for your free space nowDropbox has become my cloud storage vendor of choice, replacing Office Live Workspace for those times when I need to synchronize files between multiple machines (think home vs. work; no more sneakernet with USB keys), when I want to make sure files are accessible from anywhere, and when I just need to get a large file (or files) from one place to another. It's also great as a secure backup solution.

Dropbox is free (2GB of storage, 50GB is $10/month, prices/storage go up from there), secure, and fast. One of the best things about it--and what ultimately made me abandon Office Live Workspace--has to do with the way Dropbox works.

You can access your Dropbox account through their web site, sure. But they also have a client application you install that creates a special "My Dropbox" folder:

My Dropbox folder

You save/copy files into this local folder. The first time you do so, the Dropbox client app will auto-sync with the Dropbox servers, copying those files up into the cloud. Further, if you have Dropbox installed on other machines, those machines will have their individual local Dropbox folder sync'ed as well. In other words, since I have the Dropbox client app installed on my laptop at home and my work machine, anything I copy into my Dropbox folder on either machine is sync'ed with Dropbox's server as well as all machines where I have the client installed. Not only is it excellent redundancy, it's a great way to transfer files (especially when they're large) from one computer to another.

This differs from Office Live Workspace in one very crucial way: With Dropbox, you're in effect saving to your local machine. The Dropbox client software takes it from there, sync'ing automatically in the background when it notices changes. Office Live Workspace, on the other hand, saves files remotely into the cloud exclusively and in the foreground. This is slow. If you're like me and lived through the unreliability of computers in the 80's, you save a lot. Sometimes I add a sentence and hit a quick Ctrl-S. Then I have to watch as Office Live Workspace proceeds to save the document. Twenty seconds, thirty, or longer, and the save is done. I can't deal with that kind of slowness when I'm trying to save my work; I need to keep my thoughts flowing onto the screen.

The Dropbox client is unobtrusive, sitting idle in your tray (in Windows) until it detects a file change:

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When it performs a sync it briefly changes the icon.

One of the best features of Dropbox: file versioning. Whenever you do anything with a file, including creation, modification, and deletion, a change event is recorded and a new version of that file generated. A typical file version history might look like this:

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In this particular case I actually accidentally deleted this file. The deletion event is at the top. Fortunately, Dropbox created a new version of the file along the way so restoring to the last good version was easy. This saved me a ton of time as otherwise I would have had to re-create that content.

Some other features taken from the Dropbox web site:

  • 2GB of online storage for free, with up to 100GB available to paying customers.
  • Sync files of any size or type.
  • Sync Windows, Mac and Linux computers.
  • Automatically syncs when new files or changes are detected.
  • Work on files in your Dropbox even if you're offline. Your changes sync once your computer has an Internet connection again.
  • Dropbox transfers will correctly resume where they left off if the connection drops.
  • Efficient sync - only the pieces of a file that changed (not the whole file) are synced. This saves you time.
  • Doesn't hog your Internet connection. You can manually set bandwidth limits.

I'm happy with the service and have yet to have any problems.

If you're at all interested in giving the service a try, you can use this link to sign-up. I get 250MB of additional space for the referral. Thanks!