Archive for the ‘Novel #2’ Category

End of year thoughts : 2014

Posted by arnaud on January 1st, 2015

I’m not a person who likes to make new year resolutions I know I won’t be able (or willing) to keep, but I do like to see a sense of progression in what I do, so I find it useful to look back at what happened before. So here it is : my view of 2014 from a writing angle.

The Whisperer’s revolution

Now, that book really has been a surprise for me, not only in it’s writing process, but in how the book turned out. I already started editing it (see below) and what I found was that the writing quality has increased so much (when I compare it to Shrouds) that I can feel comfortable now submitting the rough draft with minor edits to the writing group. That’s a huge improvement over what I produced earlier (The Fifth Compendium for instance took me twice the time to edit as it took to write because it was so laden with mistakes that the rewrites were major).

The story itself had been brewing inside my head for a long time, with different ideas merging into a single plot line. There was at one time a feeling that I had to start writing it or I would lose ideas like a boiling cauldron sending out splotches everywhere. I never had trouble finding ideas, but to feel like I was brimming with this one story was really great.

The writing went smoothly even if the characters kept driving the story in unexpected directions. There was one scene in particular where I sensed I was so immersed in the world, that it drained me: writing a good man coming to the decision he must sacrifice an innocent friend to save his kingdom was a really powerful moment for me as a writer (much like Liseria telling me she murdered her mother while I was writing The Fifth Compendium)

I also feel very proud of the Whisperer’s ending. I don’t want to spoil anyone, but I think it’s surprising enough and still makes a lot of sense with the characters. We’ll see how my beta readers enjoy it. I might get cursed at some point, but I think my decisions made the story much stronger.

Editing

A very large part of this year was spent editing not one novel but two. I always knew I had to go back to Shrouds after I finished The Whisperer’s Revolution and I plunged right into it armed with my friends at Reading Excuses comments, but when my new writing group started to take off, I felt like I couldn’t give them Shrouds where my edits were more on language this time, and I decided to feed them with The Whisperer’s Revolution. The surprise there was how less work Shrouds needed when compared to The Fifth Compendium and how less Whisperer’s needed when compared to Shrouds. It shows evolution in my writing, I think and I look forward to the next novels to see even better stories (though I expects some diminishing returns in that area).

What I also noticed was my shift in dealing with magic systems. The Fifth Compendium is about discovering magic and its uses, so the third part of the book is all about the magic. In Shrouds the magic is everywhere but the bad guy has found new ways to use it, so the book tries to understand exactly how he does things and counter it. Emerald Shower was also about someone discovering magic (a dark version of magic anyway) and how that magic is taking hold of her. Already there I had started to shift my focus from the workings of magic to how the magic changes a character. In The Whisperer’s Revolution, I went along the same lines with a character dealing with her increasing abilities (even though she’s not the real protagonist). This I think came from the realization that as a writer I’m much stronger dealing with character than description. Setting is why I started to write in the first place, but over time, my writing mind started to use characterization more and more.

Anyway, despite a lag in September where I didn’t have time to edit, I still managed to finish Shrouds and edit the rough draft of Whisperer’s for the first act. Great work.

Writing Group

At the beginning of the year, I already knew that my Paris writing group was tanking. In fact, I had used the group not as a writing group per se, but as a way for me to practice my spoken English. I mean, that group was so transient (over 40 members, with average attendance of 3-4 for every meeting) and with so much time in between (once a month), that no good work could be done. At one time, I had decided that I should only submit short stories there because where the group renews itself every month, no-one will be able to judge chapter 24 of a novel without having read what came before. Still, I had hopes in this year that I could keep the group going and that serious members would somewhat appear. Then I had a meeting where I was alone (when 6 said they would come) and I decided to allow the group to die, so I stopped paying the monthly meetup cost and waited. No-one said anything when the group went from active to standby and no-one said anything when the group died. I had made my peace with that, so I wasn’t devastated. Leading a writing group is a frustrating job at best when nobody takes an active part.

But something good came from it anyway. During the group’s last throes someone new contacted me. I explained that the group was past dead now and we got to talk. I met him once and had a great time, exchanged some emails. Then he himself met other serious writers and this new group was born. We’re all writing genre (which is difficult to find in Paris) and are in different points in our writing careers (ranging from new to published), but all are really there to learn and work. So I’m really hopeful about this group. I had so wonderful comments on my work I already know the next draft will be much stronger. Yeah group!

Conventions

I loved both Eastercon and World Fantasy, but I wasn’t prepared for the monster that Worldcon is. Apparently, as things go, Loncon was a larger beast than usual and I think it shows. I had hoped to meet a few acquaintances there, but aside from Gillian (because I knew she would be in the dealer’s room) and Aliette (because I attended one of her panels), there were so many people I didn’t get to see anyone. The interesting parties (the publisher’s) were all secret and private, so I didn’t go to any. The panels were difficult to get into (especially on Saturday where British walked in and bought day-passes) and far too many for me to choose well (I mean, who can choose between 16 different tracks with different lenghts?). Anyway, I got to see interesting panels (Charlie Stross is always great to listen to), but nothing as interesting as World Fantasy (When you heard Tom Doherty speak about publishing, really nobody can compare afterwards).

Then there was my usual Utopiales in November. That experience has been bittersweet for me this year. I go to that particular conference because they tend to invite international writers in an environment where few people can actually talk to them. It’s perfect for me and I used that con to grab chunks of time from Brandon Sanderson, Ian McDonald, Nancy Kress and Michael Moorcock. The hickup this year was that the guests were not that interesting to me: Jo Walton, Norman Spinrad and Michael Moorcock I already met, Christopher Priest was only there a short time, and K.W. Jeter  I didn’t know. So not much interaction with established writers here this year. Aside from that, the panels were better than the earlier years (they got rid of most of the bad moderators, academics who take a third of the panel ‘framing’ the question without anyone having said a word).

And then one morning I noticed a business card on a coffee table and read it. ‘Worldcon in France’ it said on one side and when I flipped it over, there was the mysterious sentence ‘Meeting Saturday, 2PM, Room K2). I went to the website (really bare bones thing) and yes, it appeared legit, so I went to the meeting. There I met France’s fandom. All 15 of them where I maybe was among the youngest. I joke when I say they’re all the French fandom–they’re the French fandom who cared enough they went to Loncon. There are surely more fans hidden somewhere, though they might not know about it. Anyway, this group has serious communication issues if you need to find secret business cards to find them. They could have asked the organizers to have a few minutes of screen time. I’m sure it would have attracted at least 100 people there, but they didn’t.

After I went to the meeting, I agreed to join their group and the magic started. Euh, not exactly. We’re french, you know and we can’t just get to work without some heated discussions and the appropriate amount of paperwork. For now things are moving at an handicapped snail’s pace. Thankfully, we placed ourselves on the 2023 slot, so there is still time, but I wish we could start working and stop the petty village wars for once. We still don’t have a venue, so unless we find one (which is a really difficult thing, since we could attract from 2000 to 9000 and there is no way to know beforehand), that project will end up at the bottom of the sea.

Preview of next year

Next year promises to be a busy one. First, I started my next novel ‘Chrysalis‘ a few days ago. The writing is really slow for now, mostly because I don’t know what this book will look like. I still haven’t decided on a genre for it (though I’m leaning toward Fantasy-Horror) and the characters still feel a bit bland to me. I already know what is happening behind the scenes, but that’s pretty much it. We’ll see how this turns out.

Then, I need to send out Shrouds now that it is finished. All I need now is a damned hook for the logline (because ‘God detective story’ isn’t nearly good enough) and a decent query letter. Once this is done, I have my agents and publishers list: I know where to go.

Hopefully, I can send everything before Easter and go to Eastercon (in London this year) to talk about Shrouds.

Within all this, I have to squeeze enough editing on Whisperer’s Revolution to keep my writing group well fed. And if that’s not enough, I always have Emerald Shower to give them even if it needs major rewrites.

And then there’s the Writing Excuses retreat. I’m still on the fence about this one (mostly because it happens at a really bad time of year). I guess I’ll have do decide before June.

Woah. That’s a big program! Maybe I should go right away back to writing, because those 1900 words blogs don’t really count as writing, do they?

Happy new year all.

Book 2 “Shrouds” is done

Posted by arnaud on August 18th, 2011

Just a quick word to say that my second novel “Shrouds” has reached the end of its first draft.

I started writing that one on August 22nd, 2010, so a little under a year ago. At times, I felt like I was running in mud with that one.

Yes, for the first one, I only wrote, while there, I wrote the book on week days, and edited the first one during weekends, so I spent less hours per week overall than I did on the first one. Still, an increase of +140% in writing delay can’t be put on writing one less day a week.

Yes, I’ve been feeling sluggish here, partly because for most of the time, I felt like I was walking blindfolded in the dark dragging a fully loaded sled behind me. At least, for the last few weeks, as I was closing the story, I got to write much faster. My usual 1000 words writing session turned in 1500 or 2000 words, especially in the last days. I’m quite pleased with that.

Now, I got to think about novel number 3. The main idea is here, I have to find some characters to play the parts. The fun begins!

Assorted news : writing workshop – writing group – editing

Posted by arnaud on March 21st, 2011

Writing Workshop

I failed to post here for my last writing workshop, because I had to take a business trip shortly after and I really didn’t have much to say about it at the time.
Now, after a few weeks, I have some things to say. As always, what happens in the writing workshop stays in …

One more member joined us, but I’m still the only male. I guess writing is not a male interest within the company. After the second workshop, we all can really say who is interested in what type of writing : there is the lit chick type, the travelogue type, the philosophical type, and me, the fiction writer.

Sadly, the others only write about what they are feeling, and no-one but me tries to come up with imagined stories.

In fact, this has almost become a game for me : I take the writing assignment and try to build a story about it. The first occurence of this was : “describe a list of emotions describing a particular place and time you’ve experienced; all sentences have to start by ‘I remember'”.

That is a quite dull writing prompt if I follow it to the letter, so I perverted it to show a number of flashes showing a marketplace with vegetables and all, then the inside of an inn, then people coming to get me and drag me before an inquisitor with a blazing fire next to him, then…

Yes, I wrote a story with this dull writing prompt. Other described the smell of their parents couchs and stuff. Not that it was badly written, but it is a heck
duller than telling a story!

So, first time around, I built an horror story, then a straight historical. I’m two for two.

Next exercise had me pick three words and another group member had to select one of these words that I’d have to use to describe a place I had slept in one day.
Luck (bad luck?) had it so that I got paired with the group trainer (as we were an odd number). In my head, my three words were a clear sequence showing three stages of a PI investigating some gruesome case. Of course, knowing me, the instructor chose the least interesting of the three words : airport. She all but begged me not to build a story on that and do a straight description.
I gave in, describing a man sleeping in an airport, waiting for the next morning to see if the airport employees were going to give him a flight away.
I stuck to the description, but I stayed with my character. I may not have told my story, but I talked about my character, and I had a story in my head.

Yes, I’m stubborn. I guess that doesn’t actually make three for three, but I’m close. Can’t win them all.

Next workshop on march 31st.

Novel #1

On the first novel front, there are quite some developments.

I started to submit my book to the writing group!

Let me tell you : writing groups are tough. This is not a group of people amicably chatting around a cup of tea. This is a group of
“would-be-professional-writers” with only one thing in mind : making your work the best possible one.
So, no kid gloves in the writing group : we say what we think. We try to keep it not personal : this is about the work, not the person writing it.

Well, it may not be personal, but when you’re the writer being critiqued, it’s tough!

The first comment was the hardest. I don’t know if it was a good thing or not. It came from someone I don’t like that much, so I didn’t take it too much to
heart, but it was difficult. In a nutshell, my writing was described as a “flux between childish and almost witty”.

That hurt! At this point, I could understand some stories I had heard about writing groups completely destroying the will to write from some if their members : I can totally see that happening.

The next comments were a little better, and some were actually encouraging, if not outwardly nice. In a sense, the worst comment was the most useful. It
pointed at some real problems that I had to correct, so thanks to this guy : the others provided me with an ego boost, but he provided me with some real things to look after.

This was for the prologue.

As a result, I redoubled my efforts on chapter 1, which I submitted last week. The comments were much nicer, saying that the writing had improved much in between.

Yet, these efforts do have a cost : it took me two full afternoons, with detailed comments from my wonderful alpha reader to get to this. I have 44 of
those chapters to edit, so it will be a very long time before I have something I can really send to an agent, since I’m not willing to stop writing book #2 to
get book #1 out faster and I obviously can’t send out the book as it is.

At least, the writing group allowed me to get to know a wonderful new writer. The guy is actually talking to agents to represent him (and he has requests for full manuscripts, which is something big). I had the privilege to read and critique the entire manuscript and it’s beautiful. I really hope he gets published because he deserves it, and let’s face it, if a novel like that doesn’t find a publisher, nobody can. I know that some people are saying that NY publishing is dying, but if they do die, let them die after they buy and publish his book… and mine if possible.

Which brings me to…

Novel #2

After months of writing my mystery in the dark, so to speak, light finally came to me at about 3 quarters of the novel : I now know who did it! Let me tell you that discovery-writing is fun, but it’s not for the faint hearted. I spent months writing that mystery without any clue about who did it. That was not easy on my arterial tension all this not knowing. Hopefully, now that I’m almost closing act 2, I’ll get to steer my character in the right direction.

I wouldn’t say that writing that book is easy going now, but a big weight has lifted from my shoulders. I hope to be done by may, so that I can direct all my attention to editing book #1 as I let book #2 rest for a while. I can already tell that that one is going to need a lot of editing. Sorry alpha readers, but first draft of this book may never see a sheet of paper : you’ll have to wait for draft #2…

Final note on editing

I always say that I’m lousy at editing and that I hate it.

In part, I did hate it because I never knew what to do with the chapters I had written : I always knew that something didn’t feel right, but I never quite understood what. Now, about a year after I finished the first book, I begin to understand what is wrong with it. I now can edit out entire parts of a chapter and add entirely new material. I’m not quite there yet and need much editing after I add something new for the seams between old and new to disappear, but I’m getting there. All the readers comments are starting to get in and now, I know what I need to add or remove.

As a result, part of the editing process has become more fun. I get to see my work better itself, and that’s wonderful.

Never thought I would like editing. I guess I can always surprise myself.

 

Next blog post should be on early april, after my third writing workshop. Until then!

Update on the second novel

Posted by arnaud on October 10th, 2010

It’s been some time since I’ve posted anything here, so I’ll try to round up an update here.

Reading-wise, I’m currently deep in two books :

  • The Way of Kings by B. Sanderson (Reading at home, since this one is too heavy to carry around). Expect a full review on this wonderful book this week.
  • The Name of the Wind by P. Rothfuss (Reading during commutes). Another very good book. I’m about halfway through this one, so I should be done in under two weeks.

I’m waiting to hear from my short story (jury was supposed to be done on october 8th, results to be sent before october 22nd. I’m not expecting anything on this front, but it would be very cool indeed if it obtained any of the 8 prizes.

I also am planning to go to the Utopiales con in Nantes between november 10th and november 14th. I’m shamelessly using Brandon Sanderson’s appearance here to schedule my first con. The organizing committee seems a little slow, since they haven’t gotten out the schedule yet. I’m waiting on this schedule to know if I should be there during the whole con or only the first days.

Now, to the novel’s advancement.

Just to remind you of the situation, this is a mystery set in a fantasy setting that I originally planned to outline, to get the feel of this type of writing. After much trouble, I decided at the end of august to give in and discovery write this one.

So, where am I after a little over a month of writing this one?

First, it’s difficult for me to write while I’m on vacation. I need a specific mood to get into writing, and I usually get that mood at night after 10pm, whenI’m done with my daily routine. It turns out that while I’m on vacation, my daily routine changes, and the mood doesn’t come that easily. Add to this that my writing setup is quite unconfortable when I’m on vacation, and that I have someone sitting next to me making noise and talking to me, and you have poor writing results there. I probably wrote about one fifth of that I should have written during those three weeks, and the quality of writing wasn’t that good.

Second, I’m discovery-writing a mystery. As I didn’t have a good idea inside my head about the characters voices, I’m still discovering those as I write. The main character for instance that I had originally designed to be the trickster turns out to be a very quiet character. I’m beginning to feel his motivations. This means slow writing, and writing pieces that I will probably have to throw away, since they’re only useful to the writing process and not the story. Will I be able to throw those away? (As I often said : that’s a lot of work to throw out) I hope so, but nothing is certain when it comes to me and editing.

I had some happy surprises, including a side character that is becoming my third main character. I feel like I have a lot to write about that one. Another nice surprise was an unexpected scene full of tension. It might need some rewriting, but I’m quite impressed that this scene got out of my fingers when I never planned for it.  It feels like one of the scenes in the first book that I never anticipated and that turned out to be one of the focal moments of the novel.

So, yes, the second novel goes slowly, and in the 16 000 words written, I didn’t get very far yet in the plot. I have plenty of things to write left, that’s reassuring.

New book started

Posted by arnaud on August 22nd, 2010

Well, just as I had feared, the discovery writer inside me just won’t let the outliner do its work.

I have stumbled on the outline for my next book for months now : I first got the idea in february (I think), and had thought to save it for outlining. Sure, there is only one thing to do while writing a mystery : outlining, right? Is there?

But the outliner inside me isn’t a good one, it seems. He’s the source of my writer’s block, that’s sure.

All in all, I had one good brainstorming session in june , where I outlined the major parts of the book (Using Dan Wells 7 points system), but since that, zip. Nothing.

So, I gave in today, and let the discovery writer have his way. He knows where the book is supposed to go, and has enough of a setting now that he can begin to write something.

A few months back, I had written 15 lines in the main character’s voice, like in a journal entry, to get a feel of this character. Now, I put myself behind the desk, and wrote 2 new scenes for the beginning, introducing the two main characters. Despite the heat – I so despise heat – I managed to write 1500 words, and feel good about it. This one should have a more epic feel than the last one which was more of an urban fantasy.

So, I’ll have to stop this crap about outlining : I’m not an outliner. I’ll just begin to write and see where the book goes from there. Of course, I’m still missing important parts (like who the villain really is?), but that’s what discovery writing is for.

As last time, my objective is to write about 100 000 words, with a first draft before the end of the year, if possible.

Stay tuned for a new book incoming shortly.