Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Page 99 Test

Ford Madox Ford suggested that if you want to know how good a book is, you should "open the book to page ninety-nine and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you."

A new website plans to let aspiring and published authors upload page 99 of their work for public scrutiny. The Page 99 Test isn't running yet, so I've decided to jump the gun and post page 99 of my Civil War horror novel A Fine Likeness here to see how it stands up. Regular readers of this blog will know that this novel made it to the finals of Dorchester and ChiZine's Fresh Blood contest before losing. Oddly enough, five months on, the novel's fan page is still attracting hits. The manuscript currently squats malevolently in ChiZine's submissions pile.

So here's page 99. Let me know what you think. I'll post my own thoughts in my next post.

“This the right way?” Hugh asked.

“’Course it’s the right way,” Morgan said. “You think I don’t know where I’m going?”

“Don’t seem the right way,” Hugh said.

“It ain’t,” Elijah replied.

“Shut your mouth,” Morgan said, looking around at the woods uncertainly. “What’s that old devil thinking making us come all the way out here for anyways? Why didn’t we meet back at his cabin?”

“Probably afraid we’d get followed,” the Kid said.

“Damn it, we should have made that road by now. He said head north five miles and we’d hit it,” Morgan grumbled.

“We would have if we’d gone north,” Elijah said.

“Course we’ve been going north!” Morgan shouted. “We’ve been going north the entire time, haven’t we Jimmy?”

Jimmy didn’t reply, looking down at the ground as the Kid led his horse.

“Don’t ask him nothing,” Elijah said. “He’s been told his end and that’s a hard thing to take. And we ain’t been going north the whole time. When we took off from the Schmidt place, remember how we cut along that streambed? That made us move east a ways before we straightened out. We’ve passed the road.”

Morgan frowned at him, not wanting to believe, but he knew as well as the rest of them that Elijah never got lost in the woods.

“Jimmy, what do you think?” Morgan asked, bringing his horse alongside him.

“I don’t know what to believe,” Jimmy said.

1 comment:

Sioux said...

The Page 99 test makes sense. By that point, the story should have enough momentum for the reader to decide: continue or discard?

I'm intrigued about Jimmy's "end." So by page 99, I'm desiring to know more, I believe the characters (the dialogue is spot-on) and I'd enjoy knowing some of the backstory found in the previous98 pages.

Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

You can also find him on his Twitter feed and Facebook page.