Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Writing Update #8

A funny thing happened yesterday. I had begun editing chapter 22, which just so happens to be the second to last chapter in my book. Because of some scene shuffling, re-ordering, and previous edits, I had to change the way in which the chapter starts. I was really hoping for a big writing day. What I got was borderline writer's block for much of my writing time, to the point where I was sitting at my desk, staring at the computer screen, and nothing was happening.

Now, I don't believe in writer's block. In my case, it wasn't even so much that I wasn't coming up with anything. It was that I wasn't coming up with what I wanted. In other words, starting the chapter wasn't the problem. The problem was that I couldn't figure out how to start it the way it needed to be started. It screamed for a very particular type of start, and I just wasn't coming up with it.

So, in order to combat this, I closed my laptop and did some other things around the house: played with the dogs, treated some ant hills that had popped up after last week's rain, had some lunch. Finally, I returned to my editing, but instead of hitting the computer again I took a pen and a notepad and went outside. The weather has been beautiful out here in Texas lately, so why not? I tried different openings, free-handing it until I finally came up with what I thought was "it". I went back inside, typed it in, and started to move on, only to realize it wasn't "it". But, somewhere in that process of getting away from the computer, it finally hit me. I had it! Amazingly, the beginning of the chapter flowed from my fingers across the keyboard and onto the screen like water gushing from a spigot. It was both a defining and satisfying experience all at once.

So, given that, where does that leave me in terms of progress? Unfortunately, even with yesterday's success, my progress was not great. Here it is:

I increased my current page editing from 332 to 343 while dropping the total page count from 385 to 381. Here's the graph:


Total percentage completion broke 90% (barely):


Total word count is now 111,995, down a lot from last week (114,564). That's probably the best news of all because it gets me more inline with what might be considered a saleable range. This is tempered a bit by the fact that I know I need to go back and add some more detail to one character in particular, possibly even giving him an additional scene or two of his own.

More progress next week, and I think a post discussing writer's block in more detail might be forthcoming.

Comments (5) -

  • Melissa Donovan

    9/23/2008 1:40:51 PM | Reply

    You're making great progress! I always love to stop by and look at your charts and graphs to see how the novel's coming along. Your trick for combating writer's block is a good one -- change it up, do something else... very helpful strategies ;)

  • scottmarlowe

    9/24/2008 5:24:13 AM | Reply

    Thanks, Melissa!

    I'm finding that doing the weekly reports helps keep me motivated, too, which was one of the primary reasons I wanted to start doing them. I think one of the keys is the 'weekly' part. If I were putting out updates on an irregular schedule I think I might have a tendency to slip-up and maybe not stick to a more regular writing schedule. In other words, sticking to a regular progress report schedule is helping me stick to a regular writing schedule. The last thing I want to do is come into a Monday with no progress to report. So, whatever works, right?

  • Zoe

    9/25/2008 8:42:02 PM | Reply

    Hi Scott,

    Just came across your blog, and I'm quite impressed with your detailed progress reports! I made a set of writing goals when I started my blog, and posting them really helped to hold myself accountable. I don't post my progress very often, but I suspect that doing so would push me to stick with my routine more.

    I also wrote a post about "When to stick to the basics"...though I usually tend to write on my laptop, sometimes it's really refreshing to sit down with a notebook and pen. I think sometimes physical changes are helpful in encouraging changes of perspective.

  • stevent

    9/26/2008 2:11:59 PM | Reply

    I've been in the exact same situation before. Sometimes getting away from your desk, doing other things, switching locations, exercising, anything to get the creativity flowing, is the best solution. Sometimes I find myself doing everything I can not to write. I know I need to write but something will distract me, and I'll start reading a news article on the Internet or playing around on Facebook. It's so easy not to write but it takes great self-discipline to sit down everyday and just do it.

    I'm on the fourth draft of my novel currently and still have not divided it up into chapters yet. Is that something you do early in the process or reserve for later drafts?

  • scottmarlowe

    9/27/2008 7:18:21 AM | Reply

    @Zoe Thanks. Staying motivated can be tough sometimes--the weekly progress reports definitely help.

    @stevent I outline before I write anything, which is done chapter-by-chapter, so it's sort of built-in to the format from the start. I mostly do it that way so I can set objectives for each chapter. This is what I need to accomplish in this chapter and this is what needs to happen in order to move the story along. I think I would have a hard time slicing it up afterwards.