Tag Archives: humour

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.

Writing Oneself in a Corner

The author writing herself in a corner

You know this famous joke about the guy who paint all the floor … to get caught in a corner, surrounded by a freshly applied layer of paint?

I do not know if you are like me, but there isn’t one story where I did not commit this blunder in writing… Even when I had a plan!

Last time, I was so hesitant that I missed a contest. It was a historical fantasy thing that worked perfectly … as long as I did not notice a 5-year gap in the dates!

A head-banging puzzle!

It was terrible conundrum, a head-banging puzzle: either I changed the date and the age of the main character, and the plot fell flat. Or I kept the factual error by arbitrarily changing the year, and it was a great story. (The story being in submission, I do not speak more about it).

I should have done more research. The mistake would have jumped in the face and it would have given another story.

I am happily preparing a series of historical mysteries following Domus Justice. (published in Fiction River 27, edited by the talented Kris Kathryn Rusch)  I realized that — I who adore the antique period – I took liberties with the plans of the Domus (house) in question. Moreover, it was not clear where were the toilets, hum!

So, in the subsequent stories, after serious re-study of the plans, I saw that I misplaced the altar of Lares, in a corner of the back garden. Heaven what to do? See this Wikipedia entry for a layout.

In this case, I decided not to change anything in my text about this site … and to pay more attention next time!

In establishing your historical setting, you have to “do your homework”! But be careful not to stretch this search time indefinitely …

 

Following the right tracks!

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I’m also wading into writing a crime novel (technically, a mystery). I found out that I sent my shy heroine twice to the same place. It allowed me to insert a beautiful sequence in the center of the novel … And to advance the investigation because she discovers a special clue.

But, what my heroine already knows when coming back to this place breaks some of the reveal progression, the tension. In addition, I have a bad tendency to multiply the oppositions when only one could do the trick. In short, have I put too much, diluting the danger?

Ah, la, la … I’m not out of the woods!

In a detective novel / polar / suspense where all the details must converge towards a strong resolution,  painting myself in a corner (whereas I made a plan, I recall it!) led to a catastrophe. I got embroiled in my tracks, adding motive over motive for my villain, to be certain that the assassin had a strong incentive to act!

I have not solved this problem yet, so I’m working on another creation while letting my creative subconscious search for a viable solution.

2018MichelePUSpogneeDansUnCoin

 

And you?

When was the last time you “wrote yourself in a corner”?

Catch some free minutes for you!

SurmenageHivernal2017coloriseFor my writing friends and artists, exhaustion and overworking are two companions of the indie worker. I’m no exception this year, starting my own company.

For this Christmas, I wish for you to catch a few of those flying minutes for yourself and for those you love. And if you can mute those minutes into hours and days, all the better!

 

One hour at the signing table

Here is the photographic adaptation of the comics in the previous post, by an enthusiastic fan.

The one hour signing session at  a literature event

Réalisation by Christ Oliver, with Jean-Louis Trudel, a fellow science fiction author.

Now we are hoping for the movie adaptation.  It would not be a big-budget feature, but it would certainly echo with the many writers almost drowning in a sea of publications traveled by big corporate ships chasing the elusive best-sellers…

A tribute to all of you, artists able to create without the pressure of success!

Splendors and miseries of the signing table

Another bookfair is coming at Montreal! And, if you are a lesser-known author, you might experiment this:

One hour at the signing table.

One hour at the round signing table

I drew this page after some signing sessions for my novel Piège pour le Jules-Verne, my table close to the Harry Potter stand.

Jean-Louis Trudel, my fellow SF writer, had accepted to figure in the comic, and even contributed to the scenario.

This page was originally published in a fanzine, (MensuHell) and found an echo with many friends and comic creators, among them, Christ Oliver , who did a piece on it (coming on my next post).

My profound sympathies to the all writers who will experiment that desertic bookfair at the Salon du livre de Montréal , very well frequented. When there are more than 800 writers vying for the public’s attention, it is bound to happen…