Novel Update

I know I haven’t updated this site in… many months. I’ve been hard at work on my novel, splitting my time between my passion and my day job. However, last week I finally hit my first big milestone: I finished the first draft of my novel.

To celebrate I got a copy printed at Staples. 322 pages (double spaced, double sided). It fills me with joy, even as I began editing my first chapter practically before the ink was dry.

I hadn’t really done a proper edit yet, though I did go run everything through Grammarly (which is a helpful if imperfect tool). Now I look back on my first few chapters and realize how much I have grown since I first penned those words.

An author is always their toughest critic, but now I see how my descriptions started out so bare-bones, how despite my efforts I still have a few exposition dumps, and how my dialogue feels stilted and flat.

However, I also realize that this is only a first draft. This is the scaffolding that will (hopefully, after a few tweaks) support my fleshed out and finished novel.

I probably won’t be updating this blog again for a while, but I will do my best to record my major milestones here.

The Editing

The red pen comes out
merciless, unforgiving.
You kill your darlings.

My first draft is almost done. I’m going to give it one last readthrough before I begin the editing phase. Editing is always the hardest part of any writing project. You take your (literal or metaphorical) red pen and you slash away mercilessly. Comments crowd the margins. Entire scenes fall before the power of the red pen.

Then you begin incorporating those edits. The red marks fade from the page as your manuscript heals. The lost words are forgotten, and their siblings crowd in to fill in the gaps. Sometimes new words are added to take their place, and sometimes the gaps simply fade away into memory.

It’s frustrating, but also cathartic. With each pass of the red pen, your manuscript improves until there comes a point when the red pen never touches the page again. When it passes over the manuscript and leaves it unblemished.

And then you are done.

Book Club

Lively conversation.
Talk, debate, illuminate.
Good food and good friends.

Last night I attended my first ever book club meeting. It was fantastic. I wasn’t a huge fan of the book, but like any get together I feel like the book was a good catalyst to get the conversation going.

As the evening wore on the conversation meandered along, making its way slowly and naturally like a large river cutting its way across the landscape. The hours flew by, and as the evening drew to a close I believe all present were left feeling satisfied both physically (in this case meaning “full of delicious food and wine”) and intellectually.

I can’t wait to see what we read next.

The Magic of Books

A conversation
Paper book, not yet read.
But where will we go?

I have always loved books. As a child, my favourite gifts, more than pretty dresses or dolls or lego, was a new book. A book is a time machine, a spaceship, anything you want or need it to be. They are truly magical, letting us explore new worlds and meet new and exciting people.

I’m in a book club now. Our first meeting is Friday. I’m excited. One thing I also love about books is discussing them with other people. Reading is seen, by many, as an inherently solitary act. True, once we are old enough to read by ourselves we rarely read with others, but books have never been a solitary activity. They are a conversation between the author and the reader, a message sent across time and space.

Books are stories that we experience together.

The Importance of Cross Referencing Your Sources

Disclaimer: I am not being paid to mention any books or products in this post. All examples are included purely because they are relevant and/or cool.

The other day I was reading some articles about the book we are reading for book club (I know how nerdy that sounds: I literally gave myself bonus homework for book club) and I came across an article with a misquote in it. In the book, the author, who was new to management and looking for guidance, mentions that all of the management books he read lacked any real substance. In the article, the author quotes the book’s author as saying the books he read were key to learning how to manage effectively.

It may seem like a relatively innocent misquote, but it got me thinking: If I had just read the article instead of the book I would have gotten my facts wrong, and in turn, I might have inadvertently passed that false information on if I went on to discuss that book with other people.

Many people seem to think that just because you are writing fantasy you don’t need to do a lot of research: You are literally creating your own fantastical world, so you don’t need to ground it in facts or real life. However, even the most fantastical world needs to make sense, and that is where research comes in. All worlds need to be believable, and even if the reader doesn’t see most of the world you still need to flesh it out enough that it feels real.

Say you are writing a book with a Roman flavour to it and you want to know more about how such a vast empire managed to stay on top of everything for so long. You might turn to a source such as this, which talks about that exact subject. You know that a solid, extensive and well-maintained road system (or magic equivalent, such as J.K.Rowling and her Floo network) is key to keeping all the various factions under control.

Google is real life magic. You can literally find anything you need by just typing in your query and asking. That being said, not all Google searches are equal, and a well-structured query is much more likely to give you the results you need with a minimal amount of sifting. For most of us Googling something is so ingrained in our everyday life that we don’t really think about it, but if you want to improve your Googling skills there are free, self-directed courses that can help you.

If you are looking for something a little more academic or detailed you should turn your attention to Google Scholar. Google Scholar works like regular Google, but restricts its results to scholarly literature. This makes it much easier to find high-quality peer-reviewed articles, and avoid articles like the one I read for book club.

That being said, a good thing to remember is that if something seems off it likely is. Good research is an excellent way to check that the information you receive is accurate factual. As my one professor loved to say “Don’t just cite some random person’s blog. Find an actual article.”

If your focus is more on Science Fiction scholarly articles are a huge blessing. In particular, try and find articles that provide a meta-analysis on the subject you are researching. This will help you weed out outlying studies and save you the time of comparing different studies that aren’t necessarily looking at the exact same problem or asking the same question. When looking for meta-analysis articles look for articles that mention the phrase “systematic review”. This will help guide your research towards articles that you may find more beneficial.

Long story short, always do your own research and verify things that seem off. And don’t just go to some random person’s blog and hope that their facts are correct.

Happy writing!

 

Welcome Friend

A weary traveller
knocks at the door. Enter friend,
come in from the cold.

Winter is both miserable and magical. Cold winds bite at our faces as wet, thick snow blankets the world. The cold settles into our bones, chilling us through and making out teeth chatter. Winter is beautiful, yet harsh.

So we gather in our homes, the rooms filled with friends and family. We light fires and candles and push back against the gathering darkness. Soon we will weather the shortest day, and the longest night, of the year. In times of darkness, we must not bend, we must let our lights shine bright.

Happy Holidays everyone.

NaNoWriMo Update – Day 30

Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo, and I’m actually really sad it is all over. Yes, I am definitely looking forward to a full weekend of not-writing, but doing NaNoWriMo was a great way to motivate myself and make some solid progress on my novel.

I’m still only about 80% of the way to being officially done my first draft, but I’m feeling really great about all of my hard work and what I managed to accomplish. My story is chugging along nicely, my protagonists are evolving, and the end of my first draft is finally in sight. I can’t wait to see where the rest of this story takes me.

I’m fading fast, and today I added just 949 more words to my novel. Still, that brings my total word count up to 79,924 and my NaNoWriMo word count up to 54,222.

 

NaNoWriMo Update – Day 29

Today was another long day, but a good one. After finishing up a bunch of paid writing for various clients I hammered out another 1007 words. This brings my novel’s total word count up to 78,975 and my NaNoWriMo word count up to 53,273.

These last few days have been exhausting, and though I have really enjoyed doing NaNoWriMo I’m also looking forward to this weekend when I plan to do absolutely no writing what so ever.

Out of curiosity I checked my FreshBooks today and tallied how much time I had spent on my novel. Now, I am the first to admit that I did not keep the best records for this project so my tally is imperfect at best. I came up with the initial premise for this book on May 14, 2018. Interestingly enough I crafted my three main characters, and the basic storyline, as a throwaway example for this post.

I haven’t tracked all of the time I spend thinking about my novel while doing things like commuting, washing dishes, or doing laundry or other housework, and I haven’t tallied the countless hours my boyfriend and I continue to spend discussing and dissecting my book. But, as a rough tally, I have currently spent 140 hours on this novel. I didn’t start tracking my hours on this until last August, but even then it doesn’t seem like that much time. Even if that 140 hours only happened in the last four months that is still only 35 hours per month, or about 1.17 hours per day (assuming an average of 30 days in one month). NaNoWriMo definitely skewed those numbers, but that isn’t the lesson I’m getting at.

I hear so many people say “Oh, I would never have time to write a novel” and to be perfectly honest I use to be one of them. My goal isn’t to shame people for not putting in the effort. Instead, I want to show you that just a little bit of time each day really adds up. Even half an hour per day really adds up over time, so if you have that great idea and want to turn in into something then go for it.

Give yourself the gift of 30 minutes of writing per day and see where it takes you. I promise the journey will be worth it.