Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Build on solide ground

"Custer" wrote the following comment on the previous post "Change in the Wind":
It's a difficult stage in the writing project – there is going to come a time when the preparations have to be put aside, and Chapter One has to start.

Of course, the research/preparation stage could include some shorter stories in the same setting, either connected to characters from the main tale or almost completely unrelated, to help you get used to the world you are creating... maybe the wise old mentor had some adventures when he was young, or your main character's parents met in an interesting way?
Thank you, Custer for leaving me a message!! ^_^
Allow me to answer by telling the story of the story I'm writing... Ô_o'

The very first time I finished a book for that project, between 2002 and 2004, I had NO preparation, NO plan ... only outline in my mind. I started with nothing, I wrote as I saw fit and I simply let the story become what it wanted to be. It was the first time I worked that way and ... I didn't really enjoyed that method.

I found annoying to be at the stage of writing and come to wonder "what happens next?", and then having to stop writing for several days, until I found what'd be next in the story. That project, of course, didn't work (got refused by publishers for several newbie problems, including poor structuring).

The research and preparations are not as thrilling as the step of writing the story itself, that's true. By cons, this is not what's most boring! I personally find that working as an accounting clerk is – by far! – a lot more boring than doing my research to make my project more solid! It is the same for preparations. Of all the steps to bring a manuscript to publication, the one I dislike the most is the last one: the correction and adjustment of the text – "polishing" and once I finished my part, if a publisher accepts my text, s/he'll ask me to do even more correction, adjustment and polishing... but I won't complain if it is to have my book published! =P

At the point where I am in the preparation, I am not yet ready to start writing the book itself. There are too many dark corners.

At a Boreal congress (about french science fiction, fantasy and fantasy (SFFF) literature in Quebec province), someone told us, to us beginners: "I'll show you the length of the preparations that Elizabeth Vonarburg writes for her novels; it is longer than the novels themselves! " *lol*

On this side, it doesn't scare me to do a lot of preparations. I have few failures under my belt, but I've also attended to several writing workshops, I have contacts with other Quebecois and French SFFF writers, I have gained experience and I learn from my mistakes, though I know I still have much to learn.

Writing a book, finish a book, millions of people do it. It's easy. Every finished book is unfortunately not necessarily publishable. Publishing a book is to write in a professional manner. It's a bit like constructing a building, while the structure is not yet safe and strong... it won't hold.

The other point to consider, is that I'm not a part time cashier anymore, with most of my time free for hobbies (when I was a part time cashier, I had a verbal agreement with my managers that if there were no customers in the store, and all my tasks were finished, I would write for my personal projects. I have never – never! – gave a bad customer service; I always dropped my things as soon as I saw someone close to my cash register, and unfortunately for the store, but luckily for me, 75% of my time in the store was allocated to writing).

Now, with a child and one full-time job – where I have to work for real – necessarily, the project is not moving at the same pace... So perhaps the time matter seems more monumental than it actually is. If before, I could work 2 to 8 hours per day on my project, today it's more around 2 to 8 hours per week, at the max (when I'm lucky)! That's very little!

The last Boreal congress I've attended to, was most outstanding because I met the editors of the publisher I would dream to work with! One of them would probably be "closed" to what I do (as a novice) because, as he confirmed to the public of the congress, he prefers to publish experienced writers, even if that means only to translate and no longer encourage the writers of the Francophonie.

The second editor, however, was most interested in new talent in SFFF. By cons, his experience led him to ask (for projects in series, like the one I'm working on), to see ALL the books written at the first submission for publication, to avoid future issues (structure and continuity problems between the books...

If I spent two years writing my first project that received a refusal... I'll well take ten years (or even more!) to write the whole story in my head, without any insurance to publish! That would be totally absurd, in my opinion! What I understand of his comment is that he wants the proof that everything it thought ahead and nothing is left to hazard.

For that reason, among others, I intend to make complete files for the characters, tribes, islands, religions and beliefs, how magic is working, politics and sociology, etc. and also detailed plans of every books that completes the series – meaning ten to fifteen pages of "summary" per book. So when I'll be ready to start writing Book One, I'll know precisely how Book Two will end, what happens in Book Three, Four, etc. At every important passage, I'll know which words to choose to echo something else that will happen in another book or two later... See what I mean? (I know I sound Utopian in the way I explain this... I just mean that when I'll start writing, most of the period of reflection will be completed for all books).

Another thing that changed with time: today, I personally know 3-4 writers as friend or mentors, to whom I could easily ask to read what I write and ask to help me in the writing (one of them worked for the publisher I quoted in second). In time, I could write Chapter One, send it to them, and right there, they would be able to comment on my writing style, my way of weaving the plot, in order for me to adjust the text before reaching the point where it's discouraging and painful to start over again.

Regarding the second portion of Custer's comment:
Of course, the stage of research and preparation could include some short stories in the same frame, is connected to the characters of the main plot or completely independent, ***to help you get used to the world that you create***.

Yes, you're absolutely right! =)

I realized it when I wrote the first version of this project... I was not sure where I was going, I was discovering on the way... Then, when I tried a second writing (still without preparations), I knew my characters so well that it was much faster and smoother to write.

According to my dear Elizabeth, a book should be written several times before publication, since at the first writing, we don't know the story or the characters well, and reversals of our own plot can sometimes surprises ourselves! By making very detailed plans, I would begin the process of writing the same story several times.

It took me two years to work on my first version and once sent to a publisher, it took six months to receive denials. For me, it is clear that I would NEVER be finished by Christmas 2010... or even Christmas 2011! The editor of Solaris, Joël Champetier, said it took him five years to work and publish his book "Le Voleur des Steppes" (but it's a long time for a professional writer...but like many writers of SFFF in Quebec, unfortunately, writing is not the #1 source of income for Joël (his a publisher too; Elisabeth is also a translator, and so on for most writer I've met)...)

For now, I have no idea how long it's going to take me to work and submit Book One to a publisher, but in a situation where I'm working on something else for a living, for sure as I have for at least two to five years!  =S

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Change in the Wind

I had some days off (with the St-Jean-Baptiste, Day of the Quebec province, which fell on a Thursday, I took Friday off to give me a good four days off!) I was able to do some family activities and to work on my project!

I'm at the stage where I'm writing in details the descriptions of the major islands of the story, people who live there and how they live (cultural, agricultural and other products).

Between two events, I tried to sit down and write something. I have so many parts of stories and I can't wait to write the story itself ... but I couldn't do it... I was not in the right ambiance, or the right mood (!), I could put myself  in an introverted state, which is necessary for me to write something structured... I was a bit disappointed, because not only am I rusty, I also have so many things in mind, I'm too excited, I do not know where to begin! It is the opposite effect of "white page syndrome", but it has the same result ...

Afterward, I thought I could develop the characters files. I thought that if I'm taking the time to select the relatively important characters of the story, and write their part in the story (their story), according to THEIR point of view, not only would have a chance to write while developing my pre-production and my preparations, but in addition it would allow me to better know and understand these characters.

My project is progressing surprisingly well all of a sudden! =)
I also started research on shamanism ...
Tomorrow it's back to work, and I only have four days and then after, it's freedom!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Time Obstacle

A long time ago now, I saw the movie "Girl Fight" (featuring Michelle Rodiguez; at the time she was completely unknown). In this film, I don't even remember in what context, there was the message "Quitters Never Win. Winners Never Quit." It inspired me a lot.

Later, I had a profound reflection about the "obstacle" because I was feeling like I was hitting a wall at every turn. With my dear "de facto spouse", we came to the fact that (in that period), I was seeing obstacle as an insurmountable burden, while I should try to see it as a challenge, or as a springboard (not easy)!

Strangely, a few days later stood my first writing workshop with Elizabeth Vonarburg and one theme of a text written there was "the obstacle". We saw several symbols of the obstacle... "The obstacle is the other, the conflict, the monster, the infernal tour, the imprisonment, the labyrinth, the hole, the wild forest; I had taken the mountain (insurmountable) (we were fantasy, fantastic and science-fiction writers).

In short, the subject dropped at a relevant point in my life and although I'm still having a hard time to see obstacles as a springboard today, I can at least take it as a challenge. If I quit on something, it's because it wasn't that important for me...

Recently, at my work, I went into another department, where someone had posted "Defeatist see obstacles as a dead end. Optimists see it as an opportunity." Again, it dropped on an moment where I needed to head this, because I was questioning myself and some days/weeks later, I decided to quit my job and return to my artistic roots.

Since my last post, very little have advanced in my project, except perhaps ideas in my head, without having the time to write them down... Very slowly, when I can, I advance my research too. I have finished today reading the book I was talking about in previous posts.

I've mentioned the obstacle in the introduction, because I'm facing one... For once, the problem is not the project itself.
If I was "not well" at the time I took my decision to quit (a month or two ago), I'm now starting to have the first signs of mini-depression. (I know for sure because I already made a major one!) It is fortunate that everything is almost over! I don't regret my decision.

As I been there before, I now know my limits and I know I'm on a slippy slope... so I've started to take it as "easy-going": I see friends or family on weekends, I do what I gotta do and my job is no longer a priority, and let-go on many things (I don't do the dishes every night, if my daughter wants a hug, I can give her for how long as she wants, even if it means for me to be late, I often fall asleep early, I listen to movies ...)

Speaking of my daughter, I stopped breastfeeding her last week. My goal was to let her decide the time of weaning. Well, we were at 2 mommy's-milk per 24 hours... she was forgetting one here and there... Last Saturday (the 5th), she forgot one, then Sunday she has forgotten both. Monday morning, I had almost no more milk, then she shoved me to drink her cup of rice-milk.
All week, she was less independent than usual, probably because of this is a new phase of detachment with the mother ... When she was in my belly, we were one, then after the birth, we had a connection with milk, then I returned to work, she started the day care, and now that the link of the milk is cut, I think that she needs a new period of adjustment to the separation...

It was also a week of cold (for herself and her dad ... me too, but very slightly), week slipping was difficult for everyone. With the mini-depression, if everyone does a classical insomnia, I do the opposite: hypersomnia! Meaning, I can sleep 12 hours straight, but I wake up as tired as when I went to bed, mostly because the sleep is to light; it's like if I have almost not slept ... but I've lost 12 hours anyway... Just to mention that I'm a person who gives more value to time than money, so losing my time is a major irritant for me!
I had to run to complete my daughter's passport (we had to go to the passport office three times in the week! it was well annoying!), The dishwasher broke (with water damage), I'm training a colleague to take over my job and try to catch up the backlog. My grandfather (the last one of my grandparents still alive) is not well at all and I have trouble finding time to visit him at the hospital ...

Edited June 18th 2010:
This week, we saw it wasn't a cold that my daughter caught, but measles; I've missed 3 days of work to stay with her.

In short, this is why my project is not advancing. There's things more important in life at the moment.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bronze and Iron Age

In my last post, I was talking about a research I started on Celtics, at the Bronze Age and Iron Age. Since then, other than working, spending time with my family and reading this book, I don't have much news. On the other side, this reading put in place several ideas.

I was right to think that I needed a bit of research to inspire me more (even though my world has not much to do with ours and our history). I realize now that without this research, some elements of the social context of my story would have seemed naive. I still have some pages to read before finishing this book and then I would like to read a little more about mines and forges (of that time, of course) because the metalwork is relatively present around some characters. However, I have no book on the subject, so I'll see what I can find on the Internet.

The last time I talked about the series itself, I said that I discovered new pages to write about a character "important by his absence". My research on the Celtic Antiquity has given me some new ideas. I still don't know if this part of the series (which I'll call for the moment the episode 0) will be in the final version, but I think my new ideas add up to the story and I realized that some important characters can be seen in this episode (which happens 40-50 years before episode 1), which advantageously deepen the story on the social context. I'm not sure if it is relevant to the series to add this episode, but I feel like writing it. We'll see later for the rest. Period, I'll do it.

Besides that, I still have one month to work where I am now, then we're going on vacation in France (see my in-laws) and when I return, I'll start my update in 3D. I am now well installed, with two working monitors, ZBrush and Softimage installed on my station... The only thing remaining is... the time to start! =D