Category Archives: Writing

Diving into the Writing : Concentration levels

Some details missing like the scuba and palms, but you get how I feel when writing… or reading a good book!

Those who enjoy scuba diving (or who, like me as a kid, had watched Commander Cousteau’s documentaries) know that before going back to the surface, you have to make mandatory decompression stops to allow the molecules of nitrogen/ helium who had taken refuge in your tissus under high pressure to leave your body, via your exhaled air.

Otherwise, the nitrogen can decide to turn back into gas while it is still lodged in your veins and your cells, and it would not be a pretty sight. Decompression sickness is as dangerous as its opposite, the deep nitrogen narcosis which develops sneakily if you spend a too long time at 100 feet deep.

Diving in deep water

For me, writing feels like diving into deep water.

Except that my decompression breaks are in the opposite direction! It takes me a long time to reach the level of concentration deep enought to penetrate a story. Levels of ‘compression’ or concentration…

My first level takes about 45 minutes to an hour. I go over what I wrote the day before to get the story and its atmosphere back inside my head; I check notions, places, etc. If I write 100 words in that period, that’s normal.

At the second level, which takes me about an hour to reach, I am entering the story at 300-400 words per hour.

At the third level, everything becomes magical: my fingers hug the keyboard and the ideas are transmuted into words without my having to stop. I feel like the story is writing itself, and I’m approaching 600-800 words an hour.

If I keep this on without interruption, I reach my fourth level of concentration: the story tumbles like an avalanche in my head, fingers and words roll like marbles on a flat table. It is paradise. I smash through the 1000 words per hour wall. Often, this happens in the evening, when I have a deadline approaching.

BUT… I do not descend to this 4th level often.

Ah, if only my concentration levels were simple steps! (Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com)

Interruptions!

On the other hand, to go up to the surface, there is no need for decompression stops. Any distraction can yank me up in a jiffy. The phone, someone calling me, or the family member.

As soon as my enthusiastic husband comes to tell me about a techno gadget he saw on the Internet or heard about on the radio, poof! immediate surfacing.

If the conversation is less than a minute or two, and if I don’t have to think to answer any complex questions, I can dive back in and get through my ‘focus’ levels pretty quickly.

Alas, this is rarely the case.

Another condition favors my rapid return to the depths: the certainty that I will NOT be disturbed again in the next few minutes!

So, after 5 or 10 minutes that ate my concentration. And, when the interruption ends, I have to dive back in and redo my stops. And, often, barely submerged, of course, it’s already supper time…

Confession of an unfocused writer

I created this article from a recent writing mishap.

Here I was, happily tapping on a wonderful science fiction story set in Antarctica, pom-pom-pom… when all of a sudden, a flawed scientific detail jumps out at me. Have I correctly calculated the position of the sun below the horizon during the southern polar night? Have I checked the right calendar for the current polar night?

Rising to the surface, opening the Internet, checking the info, then letting yourself drift on the Wikipedia sites, drift farther on the Scott-Amundsen station site, watching the web cam (it’s cold here, but not as cold as in the South Pole)… And, I came to my senses with the crucial realization of having wasted my time. It internally annoys me.

On the heels of that realization came another torment: should I change an explanatory paragraph to place it closer to the opening of the short-story? My words are so tightly knit together that moving one paragraph or one word requires rewriting several others, before and after. And so, I paddled on the surface to juggle these paragraphs.

Finally, after trying to dive back, I decided to go for a walk outside to clear my mind, and come back at another time. I told myself that it’s still warmer here (in Canada, Ontario) than at the South Pole…

TL;DR: Writing is like diving, but with the “concentration” stops going down instead of up.


Michèle Laframboise is a Canadian SF writer, with more than 60 stories published. Her most recent story, October’s Feast, is available in the Asimov’s SF Magazine. She is a fair low-level athlete runner, a lousy gardener, and avid birder. More on her official website here.

A Cup of Hot Chocolate for the Soul : 5 Stories that Fill you with Hope

5 Chocolate-Rich Holiday Stories !

When days get shorter, we seek the comfort of a good book, with hot chocolate. These five stories are about trials and new beginnings, and how friendship or even love can bloom in any situation, as long as you don’t give up hope for the future.

Immerse yourself in five Holiday tales of compassion and courage, of wonders and sweetness by multi-award winner Michèle Laframboise, to enjoy with your favorite mug of warm chocolate !

Why those Holiday stories?

The first days of December are always difficult, for not only is the light dimming, but the news that bombards us discourages us with its darkness. Women’s rights, the rights of poor people to a life of dignity, access to the vote, respect for others, all the progress that I witnessed growing up are now under threat. The magic of the holidays seems very fragile like a crystal Christmas ball …

So these stories are about friendship and hope. On a human scale.

The 5 Chocolate Holiday Stories range from realism to fantasy and romance, and locations range from New York City to Toronto to the beautiful Appalachian countryside. However, the questions asked are as old as humanity. Is there any magic left at Christmas? Will I find a good man? A loyal friend? Can I protect my forest? We meet people struggling forward despite difficulties, mental illness, prejudices and the loss of their youthful ideal.

And the marvelous can spring from a wounded bird found in the cold, or from a stray delivery truck on a suburban street.

To learn more about 5 chocolate stories for the holidays

For a gentle respite

People who are caught in difficult health situations, forced to undergo expensive surgeries and suffering from illnesses, and their overwhelmed caregivers, also experience great stress. They yearn for a respite, a door ajar leading to a sweeter world.

So, a book, like hot chocolate, makes the reader forget their difficulties for a little moment of happiness.

We need an escape so badly!

Romances are often snobbed and called escape literature. But what’s wrong with wanting a respite, a break from this relentless pressure of negative information?

I have penned some heavy and dystopian science fiction (Ice Monarch, La ruche) that explored the excesses of capitalism running amok. But I also feel the need to write stories that caress, that appease.

And stories which can be put in all hands. English speakers often talk of “clean” romance (as if sexuality between consenting adults was immoral or dirty!) but I prefer the adjective sweet romance, which gives an idea of ​​sweetness, while promising the reader a certain restreint in graphic descriptions and/or swearing.

Hot chocolate for the soul !

I hope no one is left lonely or left out in the cold. And may the grieving souls find comfort in reading and music.

Do you remember the Chicken soup for the Soul collection? Well, a cup of chocolate for the soul is good too!

And, why not, read a good book while smelling the aroma of hot chocolate!

Practical info about those 5 chocolate-Rich holiday tales

The book contains three short and sweet romances, one magical Santa tale, and one friendship tale with birds.

Those chocolate-friendly Holiday tales are:

  • upbeat, hope-filled stories
  • all-ages friendly tales (what the English call “clean & wholesome” but I prefer to say sweet)
  • featuring colorful women who overcome difficulties and prejudices
  • Covering from the Winter solstice to Christmas Eve.
  • Any story can be read on a bus ride to work (3000 to 7400 words)

Useful links to offer those 5 holiday tales as a present

More info about 5 Chocolate-Rich Holiday Stories on the publisher’s site

Order the book from the main selling platforms

A Cup of Chocolate Stories!

Whatever is the flavor of your life and your deep-rooted beliefs, the shorter days leading to the holidays often coincides with difficult situations, forcing hard decisions.

It is a time when the heart may feel the relentless pressure of the exterior world, and also experiments inner turmoils of its own. No wonder, then, that so many striving souls lack confidence! When everything darkens, I crave for the oldest of pick-me-up, a good book and a cup of hot chocolate.

I love chocolate (I know, not original since I share this taste with hundreds of million of people). Dark chocolate, artisan-made chocolate, ethical… and also, hot chocolate, at certain times. For me, hot chocolate reminds me of the scout camps, when we doled out the evening collations to the cubs after a long day of activities.

I rarely drink while reading a book, because I might get drops on the pages. But yes, on rare occasions I have enjoyed the treat of reading on a good chair, with the cup of chocolate nearby.

As the Holiday Season is upon us, I put out my first collection in paper and ebook, 5 Chocolate-Rich Holiday Stories published by Echofictions. Those new, upbeat stories include three sweet romances set in the Holiday period, and they’re best enjoyed with a cup of chocolate or your favorite treat!

Out on the stores!

A Story at the End of the Universe

True to the laws of thermodynamics, the expanding universe keeps cooling down. Now, the last transformed humans linger near the black hole at the center of our Galaxy.

The UnAttached, who count their age in billions of years, feed on the powerful X-ray emissions and rail against Entropy, that selfish cousin who sucks leftover energy. The Attached, recently forced to leave their ruined worlds, live too fast.

As the stars around them wink off one by one like in a dying city, what can they hope for ?

A short and crunchy hard-SF story set far, far in the future, told by multi-award winning author Michèle Laframboise, translated from the French by N. R. M. Roshak.

Accolades

The short-story published in Future SF had received several accolades:

“Cousin Entropy”… has a wonderfully Stapledonian scope. –Locus Magazine

The hardcore physics fans out there will certainly enjoy this.” –Kat Day, for Tangent Online

“…a far-flung space opera reminiscent of Liu Cixin’s book.” –Alex Shvartsman, Future SF

“...a wonderful piece of Science Fiction, full of physics and feeling.” –Eamonn Murphy, SF Crow’s Nest (link underneath)

My inspiration for this story

My father Jacques- E. Laframboise had a fine telescope, and I recall many summer nights where he would adjust the position with patience, to point at this or that star, or planet. I still have the 1970’s astronomy books he had bought and, with another telescope, I search the skies, when said skies are not obscured by clouds or the luminous pollution of cities.

I always pondered the fate of our (pear-shaped) universe. The heat death of the universe linked to the ever-growing Entropy, does rarely make for an upbeat story, but add the transformed, long-lived remnants of humanity, and a pinch of spicy black energy, a tiny bit of humor, and voila!

I wrote the story in a short form, so it makes for a thin paperback, be warned. However, I allow my readers to share the paperback and give it to someone close, so you commpose your own chain of friendly atoms.

The translation had been done and edited by N. R. M. Roshak, to whom I owe a lot of gratitude. French is my first language, but a growing part of my public understands and read in English.*

Get your own End-of-the-Universe Story!

Fresh from my indie house Echofictions, Cousin Entropy has come out on several platforms. You can even order a paperback on Amazon.ca.

About the the nice cover image: it is a NASA/ESA pic taken by the Hubble Telescope, showing two colliding galaxies nicknamed The Mice, located 300 million light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices.

* The French version, La cousine Entropie, is also available.

A Promise Kept – my First Story in Asimov’s!

After 16 years of besieging the English-language sci-fi magazines, a breach has been opened in Asimov’s wall. My sarcastic new “Shooting at Warner’s Bay” is out this month.

(Don’t look for my name on the cover, about 20 and 25 authors participate in each double issue!)

A promise kept

It is a special moment for me, because it was a promise I made to my father on his hospital bed, in November 2014. I had already started my cycles of submissions, but I had a lot less stories written at this time. Now with 120+ written texts, including 80 in the current submission cycle, I’m not short of ammo!

My dad Jacques E. Laframboise had a large library of science fiction and fantasy books (the Black Marabout collection). I read a lot of classic horror authors (Jean Ray, Claude Seignolle …), but science fiction was really more my thing. I had loved the Fin d’Ylla, a very, very old thing re-edited by Marabout. The Robots, by Isaac Asimov. A collection of translated short stories from Harlan Ellison.

Science fiction nourished my imagination, even if it had not made me popular with my French teachers, for whom there was one Literature with a capital L (generally written by long-dead, white Europeans guys) and the ‘paraliteratures’ like the detective, SF, fantastic novels that I read voraciously.

Of course, I would have preferred to get at this happy point earlier, so that my dad, and my grandma Edmée Laframboise (who loved to read detective stories) could rejoice with me. But, that’s life. And, at least, those stories will live on and find new readers.

Laying siege with perseverance

Table of submissions in October 2020 – almost 60 texts in the race at that time. Subs in French are now on a separate spreadsheet. Red: refjections. Yellow: active submissions. Green, acceptances. Blue: scheduled submissions.

Looking at that table, you can guess some mags answered faster than others.

The American pro SF mags pay very well, and they sit at the top of my mailing list for submitting a manuscript. Then, if the text is refused, I go to less prestigious magazines, then to semi-pro (which pay, but a little less) and finally to the “token” markets. To understand all these categories, I recommand the page of Ralan, who has devoted himself for 25 years to disentangling the “markets” (as named from the point of view of the author who is paid by the magazine).

SF pro magazines like Asimov’s receive several thousand texts per year. The acceptance ratio of pro mags being very low, that publication means more pressurized air inflating my pride balloon !

Climbing quality raises the acceptance bar

The overall quality of submitted texts always rises… and that’s good news for the readers!
Photo de Monstera sur Pexels.com

And as editor Scot Noel of DreamForge magazine pointed out, the average quality of the submitted stories is climbing, which makes it more difficult for the first readers to sort through the slush pile. The same phenomenon occurs for all other magazines as the level of writing increases. It is rather good news for the readers, but a challenge for a would-be writer. It is no longer enough for a story to be good, it has to shine, to stand out.

And, for me, I had to stop telling myself “I must write like X or Y” and to dive into my favorite flavor without feeling guilty for not writing in the genres in demand, especially with lots of deaths like horror or thrillers.

And I have to write with my heart, too, otherwise it would sound like a niah-niah-look-at-me exercise. That story in Asimov’s sprouted from my sympathy for ignored Hollywood actresses, and was fun to write. It flowed smoothly and didn’t require too many revisions or line edits.

By the way, why do I specify “my first story”? Because I am currently revising another short story, which will be released in 2022 in this same magazine. And I don’t miss any “ammunition” for other SF magazines!

Asimov’s, September-October 2021, double issue. For electronic subscription. Otherwise, run and buy it at the newsstand!

Building a House of Cards

My plotting process

Fragile as a house of cards

Any strong, researched plot I build looks as fragile as a house of cards in my mind. This is how I feel when writing a novel, a short-story, anything, in any genre including romance and science fiction.

And this happens to me even when I plan my stories in advance. The carefully-laid plan goes by the window after a certain point in the writing. And for my very first writing endeavour, I had bought into the “not writing a line before the plan is perfect” and followed by “show your work-in-progress to everyone (and get their advice)” to “rewrite ad nauseam until its polished and smooth.”

I found out that I am closer to a pulp writer than a once-every-ten-years literary author. So I write mostly by the seat of my skirt those days, going back if a nifty details grabs my attention.

My scientific self vs my story-telling self

And it doesn’t help that I am a SF writer who likes baking hard and crunchy SF stories. Sometimes I even overcooked them, making them so hard nobody could access its softer heart!

My scientific upbringing and formation in geography and engineering (even if I didn’t make a career in those fields) had left me with a reflex to check my premises and promise to my readers. I’m a nit-picker. I like flying off on the wings of pure fancy, but at a point my basic knowledge of sciences trips me.

Of course, I could stay in the fancy realm and ignore the science and call my story science-fantasy, where the ships engine screech like mad demons in the vaccuum of space.

Moreover, at any point in time, even the most concrete-hard SF story will be caught up by real science advances (e.g. lab-grown meat or gravity waves). The most I can do about a nagging detail is making a check in my paper books and on the web. If I have to research for more than one hour, without finding anything regarding this devilish detail, I leave it in the story.

Ta. Catch me if you can!

Melting chocolate fudge or rock-hard cocoa?

For me, some details are almost impossible to ignore. Like when you read a contemporary police procedural novel and your detective picks up various things around a body, with his bare hands! Unless it is set in a past era, everyone knows about prints, and now DNA! The same goes for your cat burglar who handles art items without gloves.

Some basics in science fiction are difficult to ignore, like the sound of ships in vacuum. I believe in making as much research as necessary for the story to hold together and not crumble, but if you are not a NASA rocket specialist, or a military strategist, it’s no biggie. Keep the very basic and improvise (ahem, build up) from there. I did read some hard-candied fiction by authors who have a professionnal background, but I do not expect to imitate them!

As one writer told me, you make your science as palatable as you like, whether soft, chocolate fudge that melts in the mouth, or hard 80% cocoa chocolate bar that defies the teeth! Telling stories should feel fun, not like dragging a chain and 100-kg ball behind oneself.

And you have all kind of readers from wide-eyed children to glazed adults, and the whole spectrum between. Some might prefer the melting in the mouth parts. The characters of the story will bear the weight of the plot, and the emotional/personal impact of the situation at hand (or at tentacle) will nab your reader.

Writing is not a straight line

Do I go back and change things? You bet!

And generally, many of those details are about the characters interacting with their environment. I tend to follow the rule of three mentions, adding at least two instances of the details, so it sticks in the reader’s mind. For instance, in my novel Paloma’s Secret, one of the teenagers had a favorite and fun catchphrase, that I only found out about in the last chapters. So I went back and change the dialogue to add the catchphrase in the first chapters.

Do I write in order from word one and not stopping to the end? Nope. I have novels that begun with one impressive scene, plus the prequel and consequences woven out of the strong scene. Or a novel is a tiny seed that grows and grows.

Yes, my first efforts looked like a very convoluted garden hose.

As for my recent efforts at story-telling, you might get to see one very soon in the next issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction.

The call of adventure -1 : Starship

You read that in every How-to novel writing advice, the call of adventure that the hero or heroine spurns at first… I wish to share this incredible moment when I boarded and rode an experimental hovercraft.

The name of the vehicle was… Starship. Don’t laugh. It was a miniature orange two-person hovercraft, in demonstration at an event organized by my father (a hovercraft specialist) for an aerospace association that do not exist today. A jobless geographer atthe time, I had volunteered to help him with small things. We were in a hangar by the St-Lawrence River, under a gray sky.

Michèle riding the Starship behind the pilot. Note the smile.
Michèle riding the Starship behind the pilot. Note the smile, the ear coverings. And the faraway Victoria Bridge.

One visiting engineer had been invited to test it, but he said he would get drenched (and he was an experienced, gray-haired guy, I suspect he knew what to expect bouncing in a small craft next to the engine, while I didn’t). So, I offered to go instead. I put on a thick and loose and dark wetsuit over my light and elegant September clothes and sat behind the pilot.

The first assault on my senses was the deafening noise of the main engine (see in the pic, right in my back) and the propeller pulling the air down to lift the hovercraft, screaming at one hundred and ten decibels that made even the red composite hull shake. It was impossible to talk, and the earmuffs might have been cotton candy for all the protecting they did.

After the flat concrete, the cold, cold September water of the St-Lawrence River rushed at us, sprayed droplets everywhere. Water seeped through the seams of the wetsuit, enclosing my legs in a moist embrace. The smell of tar and exhaust, the stench of dead fish coming from the posts of the bridge we were passing nearby gave a moldy taste on my tongue. But nothing beat the excitement of flying over the water in an experimetal hovercraft!

The hovercreaft jumped over chopping waves, propelled so fast every bone of my spine and basin was vibrating at the same pace. I grabbed the hull on my sides, not sure the orange lifejacket would be of any use if a sudden swerve shook me off. The craft reached the faraway bridge at piers in less than a minute!

At our dizzying speed bouncing over the wavelets, the air rushed at my face with countless droplets, my carefully combed hair was askew, but I still remember today how exhilarating those five minutes had been!

Gratitude

My grateful thanks for the gallant Starship pilot, who may have retired since the pic ws taken (I didn’t get your name, alas, so say hello if you recognize yourself!) Note how on the pics the pilot did not wear the earmuffs; he probably lent those to me for the test drive.

And kudos to the fellow engineer who took this picture and sent it to my dad, Jacques Laframboise, a few weeks later. We thought you might like this as a little memento of a happy day, he had written, noting the dsate September 23rd, 1987, and a time 2 min 45 sec, which may be the time elapsed in the hovercraft test drive. Alas, that friend didn’t write his name, and my father has flown into the great unknown in 2014.

It had been 34 years, and I still count those three minutes as the most exciting in my life!

A Lady Byrd Story

An owl perching
image from Canva.com

Superb Owl Day

For the first time, fearless Amanda Byrd must mind her turbulent grand-niece while on a special birding excursion, on the day of the SuperBowl.

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Our sharp-eyed guide pointed silently towards one of the husky, snow-powdered spruce branches. There, its mottled cream and caramel-brown plumage almost invisible against the tree background, its pale heart-shaped face marked with the dark marbles of its eyes, was a discreet nocturnal bird doing its best to avoid the sharp daylight.  

You rarely got to see a Barred owl from such a close distance, in a cold February afternoon, a meager dozen feet from the trail our small gaggle of birders was following. I didn’t even need my 8×42 Bushnell binoculars to take in its 22-inch long body from head to tail. I felt I could just stretch an arm to brush the fine down on its roundish head.

Well, not that I would do such an impolite gesture in front of my small niece. But my sister’s first grandchild had no such qualms herself.

“Hooo, hooo!” Mona said, her bright red mittens cupped in front of her mask, her brown eyes full of glee.

The owl’s neck moved like a tank turret to investigate the disturbance, one abyssally-dark eye blinking under a fluffy cream eyelid.

Most owls had gaudy-colored irises, orange or gold, framing round pupils; Barred owls had obsidian eyes, like black glass, the irises indistinct. Owl’s eyes were not slitted like cats’ to minimize incoming light, so the nocturnal bird protected its sensitive retinas.

Its downy eyelids, lowered at half-mast, gave him a perpetual air of either wisdom or sleepy annoyance.

Some owls’ tufted feathers reached out in points, like the Great horned owl, but this owl’s tapered along the round head.

When the owl’s head moved, Mona hooted happily.

“He looks like caramel ice cream with nuts!”

Count on children in the dead of winter to talk about ice cream, I thought, shivering.

The bird’s colors rather reminded me of an ill-fitting wool pull one of my own “aunties” had knitted for me (forgetting that teenage years were also growing up years) with a pattern of creamy whites and spatter of light brown stitches, at odds with the gaudy colors the sixties era favored.

I wore it for a time, to please my aunt, and as a camouflage to observe birds, Eventually, the mites found it. My mother unraveled the pull and knitted a warm scarf with it. Now that scarf, decades later, I wore in my winter bird watching, those muted hues being less aggressive.

I breathed in the cold air through the scarf and my thin face mask. The low temperatures prevented me from getting the scents of pine and fresh snow, but the odor of old wool impregnated with my mom’s patience remained present. I wore a heavier daypack with a thermos and collation.

But at least, it was a rewarding activity to go birding on the ‘Superb-Owl’ Sunday, as birders called this day. The name had been coined by a passionate birder in the 90s, and since then, many bird-lovers found out, in cities and woods alike, how quiet that peculiar Sunday was. The usual troves of weekend hikers also dried out on that day.

At this moment, my nephew, along with half the United States population, was lounging on his living room couch watching football players as colored as birds disputing a spectacular waste of money. (I’m told the commercial spots alone cost several millions.)

Meaning that, on Superbowl day, our small group of dedicated birders had the huge park near Albany, NY – and all its birds– to ourselves.

Including our own elusive, superb owls.

“Hoo, hoo!”

That is, if one of us did not scare said birds away with her bubbling enthusiasm.

Continue reading

A Happy Bundle of YA Books!

StoryBundle was created by Jason Chen to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price.

Discover the YA MegaBundle!

All Books Large800

The YA MegaBundle organizer, Anthea Sharp, explains her motivation to link readers and writers with a super ebook deal. I met Andrea in 2016 and she is a talented musician as well as a writer. So I was delighted to be included in the Bundle with my YA SF novel Clouds of Phoenix!

A Word from the YA MegaBundle Curator

“I love connecting authors with one another, and with readers. This huge multi-genre project is a perfect chance to benefit a good cause (children’s literacy) and bring a little brightness into the world—for parents and teens alike—during this difficult time. Continue reading

I fell down a rabbit hole… (The joy of researching)

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I did it again!

I am researching for a SF novel in preparation (the specifics I keep to myself for now) and, one interesting site after one fascinating site, found out that time compressed itself and most of the afternoon had fled down the rabbit hole!

I do not know if my scientific formation aggravates this time-sink habit. I hold a Master degree in geography, and so many aspect of macro-ecology do hold my interests!

Plus, even the very day-to-day concerns penetrates my Serious Writer mode.  From the over-usage of single-used plastics that keep turning up in the remotest places or the oceans, to the waste of my own pens and stylus, to the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count, and my own, heart-warming geek love Valentine day short-story…

So, all those tiny bits cluttered like a planet aggregation process, dissolving my focus. Already 16h00?

As I mentioned previously, most of what I ‘m noting right now won’t ever make it to the novel you’ll read somewhere in the next year. Some of those, if I can’t place it in the novel, will turn up, greatly compressed, in one or two exploratory short-stories, set in the same universe.

What I will NOT do is integrating all that painstaking-ly gathered tidbits into the novel itself, under the form of some extra-large infodump, (or a rather lengthy explanation by a secondary character that will get killed in the next chapter).

Research as an iceberg

See research as the hidden part of the iceberg. What floats if what the reader experiences. If you tried to pull more of the iceberg over the water level, like I did in my first books (fortunately Daniel Sernine, my editor of the time, detected it) you would end up with an indigestible lump of details that weights down the storytelling.

Yes, I was one of those very interested in sharing all those cute details!

Yes it is soooo tempting to have your characters stop on a ridge and describe the wondrous landscape in excruciating details, over two or four pages! It is more palatable if the description is shorter, and punchy, like this one from a WIP:

The dunes went on and on, a pale sandbox barely contained by a row of angry mountains, each chipped and corroded summit vying for predominance.

Most of the research iceberg must stay invisible!

Solution is not dilution!

To keep our focus, it’s good to set limits, to avoid diluting our attention.

One solution in time management is to do the research after you complete writing a certain set number of words for the day. This is Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s method to limit the time spent in research. She also manage to get her research done before writing the novel, while she’s finishing the previous book.

Not the way of Dean Wesley Smith, who does his research as he writes, because some cool factoids will influence the story telling. I know it happened to a short-story I was researching for.

One obvious solution is to restrain the time passed on the social platforms. Or retire completely from social media in a period of rush. Julie E. Czerneda mentions it.

My own is setting a timer. Sometimes the amount of time is not enough and I prolong the time. Still work to do.

Or I use this experience to write a blog entry.

 


TL;DR : I lost time surfing the web for my research. Some remedies may apply


Flash news:

I had the joy of discovering that my last published SF story in Galaxies 60 (in French!)  is on the selection for the Grand Prix  de l’Imaginaire 2020.