Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

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Tomorrow I start

June 1, 2011

Tomorrow, June 1st, I’m sitting down and starting the new WIP. Do I have every detail of plot as ironed out as I would like? No, not really, but looking over my old notes from Project W has made me realize how much of that story was conceived on the fly. It’s like the old saying that writing a book is like driving at night; you can only see as far as your headlights allow, but you can make the whole trip that way.

My trusty guide

As for world-building and characterization… well, a lot of the world-building still holds from Project W, as it’s set in the same universe. The characters are new, but they seem talkative and cooperative thus far. As always, I’m quietly excited to see who gets picked up along the way. It’s like the night before the first day of school- when you know, at that very moment, there is someone out there who will become one of your new friends. But at that very moment, neither of you knows the other exists yet.

I have some idea of what I’m in for. My map and bag are packed, my travelling companions are raring to go, but there’s still one or two last-minute checks to make.

The night before anything is always one of the longest and shortest nights, isn’t it?

-Arvik

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The Planning of Novels and Expeditions

May 24, 2011

I think I’m nearly ready. June 1st is my current “deadline” to finish prewriting and start the actual writing of my current work-in-progress (which I’m sure will eventually acquire a code name of some sort). It feels strangely like I’m finalizing the details of an Everest attempt.

As long-time readers know, the novel-writing process as a journey is a metaphor of which I’m quite fond. I think it does help to make things seem a bit more concrete- it’s easier to accomplish tangible tasks (or so I find). And honestly, it’s fun to think of the writing as an epic quest in itself.

Whether you’re setting out for far-off lands literally or figuratively, a plan is a good thing. Scuba divers have a saying, “Plan the dive and dive the plan.” Here’s mine:

Know your route

Usually, you know your start and end points. It’s the stuff in the middle that gets hazy. Have a map. I tend to have a list of plot points to serve as “landmarks.” Do I always know how to get from landmark to landmark? No. And sometimes that lets me discover really cool detours and diversions along the way.

Is it enough to tell me when I’m lost? Mostly. And it’s certainly useful for keeping track of how far you’ve come and how far you have to go.

Pack Accordingly

I always envy light packers. Lugging an overstuffed suitcase up and down staircases is not fun. However, it’s hard to go too light- freezing because you forgot your sweater is no picnic either.

Same goes for prewriting and worldbuilding. You can’t go too light, or you won’t have the details on hand when you need them. But if you “overpack,” you may never actually start. Perpetually adding “just one more thing” to your story bible may be as useful as tossing in a parka for your trip to Hawaii.

Know your travel buddies

It’s a good thing to know whether you can get along with your travel companions before you start out. While the open road always holds surprises, you can mostly tell ahead of time whether a particular person is one you wouldn’t mind sharing a tent with. Likewise, you should have a pretty good grasp of your characters. Of course they can turn around and surprise you partway through- that’s part of the fun. And, just like running into fellow travellers at hostels, you’ll pick up new people along the way. 

I like to know the main characters fairly well before I start out… and know that they’re people I’ll be able to live with every day for months on end. 

Onwards!

-Arvik

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I Now Officially Write for a Living

May 21, 2011

No, I have not sold a book yet. However, I have managed to find and obtain a job which marries three of my major loves in life, those loves being…

  • Writing
  • History
  • Working with kids

Starting at the end of this month, I will be the “Theatre Programmer” at the Pioneer Village just outside of town. Essentially, I will read turn-of-the-century kids’ novels, do historical research on my own, and then write and perform monologues for kids.

Wearing Victorian clothing.

Outside.

In a Pioneer Village.

The amount of awesomeness just increased dramatically. I intend to keep serving on my days off (especially now that I’m getting the hang of it, and enjoy meeting all the interesting people we get in the restaurant), but this is really my dream job.

I’m being paid to write. Not only that, I get to introduce kids to history. And even better, I get a taste of everyday Victorian life for myself. Yes, I will admit, that my first thought after hanging up the phone (well, second, my first thought was probably “HUZZAH!!!”), was…

Imagine the steampunk I’ll be able to write after this!

-Arvik

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A Day in the Ideal Life…

May 14, 2011

Lately, I’ve been musing about life. More specifically, the day-to-day shape of my life, and how the future might play itself out. In job interviews, and guidance/career counsellors’ offices, people sometimes ask, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I’ve always found that question hard to answer. I don’t know what I’ll be doing in five years. Obviously, writing is Plan A.

But it’s notoriously difficult to get published. Harder still to make a living from writing. And my Plan B? At this point, it’s looking like academia.

Which means I could be spending my life in a pizza-box shack.

Naturally, this caused me some anxiety. However, always one to look on the bright side of life (insert obligatory whistles here, here, and here), I decided to plan out a day in my ideal life.

6:30: Wake up. Admire the sun rising over the ocean, because I’ll be living in a house beside the sea (fingers crossed).

7:00-8:00: Swim/run/bike/whatever.

8:00-9:00: Leisurely breakfast while reading the newspaper and doing the crossword.

9:00-10:00: Surfing the net and taking care of emails, etc.

10:00-11:00: Read

11:00-12:00: Read more, if I’m engrossed. Otherwise, video games.

12:00-12:30: Lunch

12:30-1:30: Casual stroll

1:30-4:30: WRITE (presumably with breaks)

4:30: Rest/run errands

5:00: Make dinner

5:30-6:30: Dinner and cleaning up dinner

6:30-7:30: Read. Or watch Dr. Who. Or Andromeda. Or Star Trek.

7:30-10:30: WRITE

11:00: Go to bed.

Of course, as I reread this, I realize this chart leaves out the spontaneous-social-fun things. Like time with friends and loved ones. Those are important too, and certainly part of an ideal life.

But I think the major stuff is all there. Lots of reading, lots of writing, a good dose of outside time (I’ve decided I’m secretly part dog- I need to be let out every day, or I start chewing the furniture), and a good dose of gaming.

What’s in your ideal life?

-Arvik

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People-Watching

May 10, 2011

I continue to muddle along at the restaurant. On my last “training day,” I was paired with a server who actually took the time to walk me through things step-by-step, gave me opportunities for “dry runs” (i.e. practicing clearing and resetting an empty table in the back), and gave me her number to call if I got overwhelmed on my first solo shift.

Cue a huge sigh of relief.

With parts of my brain able to focus on things other than stressfearstresspanicstressohGodno, I found myself actually enjoying the work. Admittedly, last night was frighteningly slow, but I wasn’t complaining. In fact, I realized that working in a restaurant may “feed” into my writing.

People have always fascinated me. Who they are, why they act the way they do, what they’re thinking, what their lives are like. I’m the person that “reads” on the subway while secretly composing stories about the other passengers. Not in a creepy way, mind you. Just in a curious, playful way.

Restaurants are even better for that than subways.

Obviously, it’s not terribly polite to eavesdrop on your diners. Still, inevitably, you pick up scraps here and there. That’s actually better from a writing perspective, because you have to fill in the gaps yourself, thereby flexing your creative muscle and avoiding possible libel charges. Even if you don’t actually interact with a diner directly,  the mere sight of someone can spark something.

That’s particularly true of this restaurant, which sits at the junction between a few very different neighbourhoods. It’s within walking distance of the office tower crowd, the urban hippies, the university, a slightly “gritty” part of town, and Chinatown.

We attract a mix.

I have seen beautifully coiffed, older people who come in alone and savour every bite. I’ve seen couples gazing at each other across the tables. I’ve met the “regulars,” two middle-aged women who have a glass of wine and a long “girl-chat” every night after work.  

So much human experience. So many slices of life.

I may actually have another job offer at hand. But if it doesn’t work out… well, I have a feeling I’ll be all right here.

-Arvik

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What are you learning?

April 30, 2011

Sometimes writing is hard.

“How hard can it be?” people ask. “You’re sitting there typing! How is that hard?”

I try to ignore those people. Singing in my head usually helps. Singing out loud helps more, but then I get weird looks.

We all know why writing is hard, but an excerpt from the list  includes:

  • Rejection
  • Self-doubt
  • Writer’s block
  • Making the committment to finish what you’ve started
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Missing out on other things
  • Guilt
  • Frightening, disturbing, and icky characters/plot threads
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Hermitage

And so forth. Luckily, the list of why writing is awesome is so long, I don’t think I can fit it here (not today anyway, but that’s an idea for the future).

Getting sidetracked. When I’m struggling, which happens fairly regularly, I find it helpful to ask, “What am I learning from this?”

Someone’s interrupting my writing time? I’m learning patience and tact.

Harsh criticism? I’m learning to take it and thicken my skin.

Feeling like I’m secretly a talentless fraud and I’m doomed to live in a pizza box shack? I’m learning persistance. Also, probably that I should think about dinner.

It works for other things too. When I look back at other writing I’ve done over the years, I can see that a lot of it is… well, let’s say, “not very good.” However, what my fledgling efforts do have going for them is that I can track what I’ve learned. It’s like tracing evolutionary trees:

With enough perspective, you can see the changes over time. Knowing how far you’ve come and realizing how much you’ve learned is hugely motivating, because it hits you: whatever rough patch you’re facing is one more step along the way. And if you can learn something from it, you’ll be back on the road that much sooner.

What are you learning?

-Arvik

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An Intergalactic Dictionary

April 27, 2011

Beta Reader (noun):

1. A trusted associate who reads and offers comments on an edited first draft.

2. The person from whom you will alternately dread and crave hearing a response.

Chosen One (noun):

1. A character who is unaware of their hidden greatness, but who will somehow, inexplicably and very often despite their own incompetence, save his/her world.

2. Harry Potter (who is not a typical “chosen one” incidentally, as his importance derives from the fact that Voldemort chose him as the wizard more likely to be a threat)

Coffee (noun):

1. A mild stimulant deriving from the coffee bean.

2. Many writers’ (and adults’) drug of choice.

Con (noun):

1. A gathering of fans, usually of science fiction and/or fantasy, to discuss and celebrate the chosen object/field of their devotion.

2. The means and the ends of fandom.

Edit (verb):

1. The process of revising a first draft.

2. The process of attacking your ms with a red pen and “murdering your darlings.”

Fanboy/girl (noun):

A person who follows and enjoys a story, series, universe, or person, but to a greater degree than a typical “fan.”

Fantasy (noun):

1. Speculative fiction in which magic and/or the supernatural play a central role in the story.

2. The literature of what couldn’t be, but is.

Geekgasm (noun):

An experience of overwhelming joy induced by contact with an object, idea, person, or event which stimulates the geek centre of the brain.

Geekgasm (verb):

To experience a geekgasm. Often identified by a silly, beaming grin, a high-pitched squeal, and a happy dance.

Genre (noun):

1. A means by which books are classified.

2. An attribute of a book which often receives far more attention and/or judgement than it deserves.

Internet (noun):

1. The medium across which computers exchange information.

2. Your best friend and worst enemy.

List (noun):

1. An efficient means of organizing information.

2. Evidently, a form of energy. To be without “list” is to be passive and unresponsive.

Josephine grunted listlessly.

Mary-Sue (noun):

The protagonist of badly-written fanfiction, sometimes a thinly veiled portrayal of the author. The character is universally loved and has no physical or personality flaws save perfection and being intensely irritating.

Nightmare (noun):

1. A frightening dream.

2. A spirit-horse which forces you to ride it to various evil realms and gatherings.

3. A potential source of inspiration.

Notebook (noun):

1. A small book with blank, lined pages.

2. An object which, in large numbers, can hypnotize writers.

Pirate (noun):

1. Seafaring murderers and thieves who are often romanticized as being the jolly epitomes of awesome.

2. Someone who illegally downloads music and/or films.

Podcast (noun):

An audio programme, similar to a radio show, distributed over the internet and most frequently listened to on iPods.

Podcast Novel (noun):

A unique medium of novel, in which the story is read aloud on a podcast. It may include voice actors, music, and sound effects along with the actual narrative.

Science Fiction (noun):

1. Speculative fiction in which nonexistent, but plausible, technology and/or physical laws play a central role in the story.

2. The literature of what could be, but isn’t.

Speculative Fiction (noun):

1. Fiction wherein some element intrinsically different from the writer’s own empirical experience of natural laws is essential to the story.

2. A legitimate genre of literature.

3. Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and their various subgenres.

Steampunk (noun):

1. A creative re-imagining of the Victorian Era, particularly the London milieu, with an emphasis on speculative steam-based technology.

2. What happens when Goth kids discover the colour brown (attr. I Should Be Writing).

Time paradox (noun):

1. A paradox resulting from following the circular logic of time travel.

2. A plot device.

3. A terrible thing to think about if you have insomnia and are lying awake at 2 a.m.

Tribe (noun):

The greater community of writers.

Vampire (noun):

An undead human who survives by drinking blood. Contrary to some misguided beliefs, they do not sparkle.

Writer (noun):

Someone who writes.

Writing (verb):

1. The act of transcribing or setting words down in print/type.

2. The act of creating a story with fully-realized plot, characters, and theme.

Worldbuilding (noun):

1. The process of creating an imaginary, functioning world and its various components, including religions, geography, history, cultures, and economy.

2. Something really, really fun, and really, really important… that can become a really, really good way to procrastinate if one isn’t careful.

Zombie (noun):

1. An undead creature who survives by eating brains.

2. Something which ought not to be present and/or functioning, but is.

When Joe’s computer sent spam without Joe’s knowledge, Joe realized it had become a zombie computer.