Beyond the Veil

At some point or another, we will all encounter the veil. It starts with a feeling, a tingling on the back of your neck like someone or something is watching you.

Despite yourself, you turn and see it, that piece of cloth: invisible, yet wholly opaque. You can’t see it unless you look closely enough and allow yourself to acknowledge that it is there, but no matter how hard you look you can’t see what lies beyond.

You step forward and reach out towards it. You can hear something behind it, a hulking mass, shifting its weight, stirring. It’s breath sulphurous; heavy, humid air stirring the curtain that separates you from it. A monstrous creature. A terrifying creature.

Part of you want to know what lies beyond it. Knowledge is power after all. To know what it is, to gaze upon it with your own eyes, will surely give you some, infinitesimally small piece of power over it.

But even as you feel the veil beneath your fingers, a part of you screams out. To avert your gaze, to turn, to run away. To pretend that there is no veil and no unknown horror beyond it.

To pretend that everything is okay.

To pretend that you are safe.

To pretend that your safety is assured.

So even as you clutch the impossibly thin fabric in your cold, clammy fist and will yourself to tug, just a little and peer beyond, you can’t.

And so you remain. Frozen. Trapped. Unable to act and unable to keep yourself from acting.

Poised on the edge of oblivion.

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.