Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Oh... where did the summer go?

It's been a while since I last blogged.  So much has happened.  August was a busy month.  I spent most of it in Japan, partly doing research but mostly trying to stay cool, which is nearly impossible.  However, I managed to do more location scouting in Matsue city, finding both a suitable location for the Ninja house and details on Matsue castle.  Both are necessary for the book.  I fulfilled one item on my 'bucket list' too, when I visited and stayed at the World Heritage site in Takayama, Gifu,  We stayed over night in a tradition house, an inn actually and had a great time.  I will use it some day in a book, for sure!

Traditional Housing in Shirakawa-gō

So, about that novel...  My editor was flattering, even as she tore my novel to shreds!  While it took some time to absorb, she was right about everything.  The plot is fine but there are so many things I need to cut, to clarify and strengthen.  While she edited the first half, I'm not even working on that right now.  At this point, I am working on the ending - not a small deal - writing it based on the changes I will make later on the first half.  Confusing?  Yeah, but it actually is working quite well and the ending will be so much better than i hoped for.  Thanks Shannon!  The due date is November 30.  Will I make it?   

Thursday, August 5, 2010

On Plot

Writing my first novel, I have often fought with the issue of plot.  When I first started writing Junya's story, I didn't have much of a plan where he was headed.  I had some vague ideas but I was just interested in seeing what would happen next.  As I described in an earlier blog, to me, writing is a magic process where I am surprised daily with the direction the book takes; the characters are always surprising me, as if they have a life of their own and I am just recording it.

However, after several months of that, I noticed my book and my characters, lacked direction.  All I had was a series of 'scenes' that had no focus.  At that point, I read a quote by Robert Muchamore which stated, basically, that anyone who starts writing without a plan is mental.  And so, I tried using a more detailed plot plan.  While this worked at first and gave me much needed focus, after a while it stopped working because as the book progressed, my characters kept doing unexpected things, driving the plot in a different direction than I'd planned.  What to do?

"In my case, if I start out by thinking about the plot, things don't go well. Small points, such as my impression of what is likely to occur, do come to mind, but I let the rest of the story take its own course. I don't want to spend as long as two years writing a story whose plot I already know."  Haruki Murakami

I read this quote today and I like it.  While a plot plan is helpful, it is too confining.  I've often said I find writing more interesting than watching a movie or TV.  The process itself is interesting and if I knew ahead of time what was going to happen, then writing would just become work, like filling in the blanks.  I think my characters would be flat and without their voices being validated, would probably turn on me.  Like a director, I have to ease their performance out of them.  However, as Murakami also said, I do need to keep in mind what is likely to occur. 

In the end though, I need my editors to get me straightened out.  I have been wondering lately what process I will use for my next novel: Detailed Plot Plan or let it out naturally?  We'll see...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Big day today!

25 chapters of my novel are now in the hands of my editor!  While that is exciting, it doesn't mean I'm done.  There are still about eight chapters to go but I thought it was time for some professional feedback.  I think it will help clarify things; make writing the ending easier - that's the plan anyway.  I have to tell you, writing a novel is hard work.  To quote Norman Mailer, "Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing." 
"There's no such thing as perfect writing, just as there's no such thing as perfect despair."
             Haruki Murakami

Friday, June 4, 2010

Completed First Draft!

On Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010, I finished the first draft of the novel!  I have been pushing like mad to get there and although it will need much more work, especially the ending, it is time to start a edit from the beginning.  I'm looking to get this to my editor by Mid August.
The next step is a review for continuity; see what is missing and try not to edit it too much yet.  Then I will have AJ go through it for her thoughts and once my girl is done her work, we will start the big edit for content, story, plot and flow.  After those rewrites, I plan a word by word edit, adding more scene and cleaning it up.
The bar is set quite high for this book.  Good isn't good enough if I am to achieve my goals.  My mentors require nothing less.  What would Murakami say?
I am also looking forward to what the editor has to say after her initial review.  I will get a month off while she has it.  Its going to be a busy summer!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Things are going well...

The novel is coming alone nicely.  I may even beat the June 30th deadline for the complete first draft.  I've been told to rest - Doctors orders - so whether on the lounger outside on the deck or on these grey, rainy May days, on the sofa inside, I rest with my little laptop on my knee...  I have accomplished more in the last  month and a half than ever before.  My renewed resolve is also a factor I suppose...  I've got to do this now.  This novel is the start of the second part of life.  Chapter Four?
There is probably only three more chapters to write then the novel is done.  The Journey has been difficult, disorienting and quite frustrating but, knowing I am almost there is exciting.  I am looking forward to the edit/rewrite stage.  Finishing is my forte after all.  
I've been reading a lot lately in my ample spare time, from a Contemporary Fantasy novel by Guy Kay - Ysabel, to an old western by Louis Lamour; wierd combinations I must say.  I needed a hit of the really good stuff and picked up Kafka by the Shore, by Haruki Murakami.  He is the bar; the level I am aiming at.  Is it too high?  Perhaps, but it is far better than aiming too low...

Friday, May 7, 2010

It's almost time for the birth...

After about eighteen months and 150,000 words, the book was stagnating, overdue, you could say.  It was getting quite frustrating to have all these scenes and chapters done, some well beyond the third draft, and still not be certain of their order.  Or of the direction of the book.  It was crisis time; felt like throwing the laptop out the window...

Ah, but then my girl came through for me as usual.  She knows my characters almost as well as me; she hears about them everyday.  Who better to ask?  So i began bouncing plot ideas off her and away she went.  After a three hour conversation about the plot and motivations of my characters, spanning dinner preperation, through tub time and concluding over scotch in our PJs, I had a complete plot plan written out - beginning to end.  The first time ever for this book!  I can not tell you what a relief that is.  Robert Muchamore once said that writing without a plan was mental and I do agree, but could never quite do it this this book.  Sometimes,I think I am too close to it. 

You can't write a book if you don't know where your characters will end up.  Period.  But the labor pains are passed, I feel.  It is time to birth this book.  As always, my girl saved the day with great plot ideas, twists and her usual unique take on relationships.  What would we do without the people who support us in this journey?

Monday, April 12, 2010

SFU Novel Course

I just finished a writing course at SFU, taught by writer Nancy Warren.  It was one of those overview courses, with a little information about a lot of topics; nothing indepth but quite useful, especially coming from a person who has actually sold a fair amount of commercial fiction. 

But perhaps the most profound thing about the whole event was my 'outing' myself as a writer.  This was it: the first time I showed up in public, proclaiming to be a writer, and had to present my work in front of others.  Unnerving but ultimately rewarding.  I was not laughed at.  So, it is time to move forward and get this book finished.  Hopefully the contacts I made will be useful as well.  Support from other aspiring writers is a necessary thing.   

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Four Host First Nations Welcome

I thought I would add this Olympic video, for those who might not find it amongst all the sports and tourism noise. It is great to see the pride and spirit of our First Nations coming out, finally. All too often we hear and see the negative aspects of what has happened to their great culture but what about their heritage, their wisdom? This video shows what they can be proud of and I hope it is the start of something new for them. Many American tribes and certainly the Hawaiians have capitalized on our fasination with their traditional ways and I hope Canada's will start to do the same. In these times, we all look toward the ancient wisdom. I believe it is our only salvation...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity | Video on

I wanted to share this TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I found it very enlightening in that I have ideas and inspiration that come to me, seemingly out of the blue, but I've never really heard it articulated quite like she does.  I call my subconscious "Herman" and know he works for me but this concept that ideas just arrive, fully formed and ready to use, was a new concept.  However, since I started writing this novel, I know it is true and I can't be so arrogant to take all the credit myself or even Herman.  The Ideas truly do arrive, fully finished as needed.  Just last Sunday I sat down at the laptop with absolutely no idea how the next chapter would unfold.  Within two hours, it was done and I was as surprised as anyone else would be at the outcome and how well it fit.  That is divine creativity.  I'll let Elizabeth explain it.  She does it far better than I could hope to...        

Olympics come to the Fort

My daughter and I went to see the torch run; it passed within a block of home.  Interesting to see how many people are excited about this but also sad to see how much security there was.  Six RCMP officers running beside the flame, as if it was the president, looking for the guy who wants to make a point by attacking the poor civilian carrying it.  What a world.  It gives me lots of fodder for my writing though.   Every day I see something or talk to someone which somehow ends up on the page, coming at just the right time for what I am doing.  That is what amazes me about this process.  Inspiration comes where it is needed, right when it is needed.