The Magic of Sci-fi

Carrying on from my last post about working in film and how it helps me learn about the crafting of story through my experience with the editorial process, I thought I might take a moment to look at the film I worked on last year that has just come out, Elysium.

I mean, I’m not going to review it, since I worked on it, that would be a little self-serving. No, really, I just want to talk about how difficult and yet enticing it is to write sci-fi these days.

I have always loved science, but I feel that in the last few years so many changes and advances have been made in scientific fields of study that we are really in a very open and exploratory phase of human history. Fields of study that were at one time mocked or ridiculed are now openly accepted as legitimate research subjects or at least worthy of investigating.

I feel that a resurgence of interest in sci-fi films and novels somewhat reflects this shift. It’s an exciting time to be writing sci-fi and getting to work on one of this year’s biggest sci-fi films was a real honour. It was also an amazing opportunity to work with writer/director Neil Blomkamp, who is at the forefront of modern sci-fi story telling.

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/aug/17/elysium-neill-bloomkamp-interview

I loved working on this project and felt honoured to have been part of a team that was so talented and dedicated.

However, when it comes to writing my own sci-fi, I often I find myself daunted by the amount of research required to do the work justice. I find that I battle constantly with trying to…

  1. Create accurate and plausible technology and science for my universe without…
  2. Bogging down the text with too much jargon and at the same time…
  3. Keeping it fresh and exciting with ideas and concepts that perhaps haven’t been looked at before or at least are being dealt with in a new way. While…
  4. Being mindful of genre staples/ cliches/ paradigms .Knowing when to adhere to what is tradition and when to steer clear from what is old hat…and lastly
  5. Trying to figure out how a modern teen really would behave in the bizarre circumstances that they find themselves in.

 

All the while I’m conscious that sci-fi readers are among the most critical and scrutinizing of all genre fans. And they have every right to be! I know I’m critical of other sci-fi writers.

Sci-fi writers  suffer all the criticisms of ordinary fantasy. Both genres deal with forging something completely imaginary and trying to make it believable. Readers ask questions like…

  1. Is the world building seamless?
  2. Are the characters realistic for the world that they inhabit? and
  3. Is the social/economic/political structures within the world detailed and well balanced to convince the reader that its all real?

But unlike fantasty authors, sci-fi writers also have to deal with an audience who have a sophisticated understanding of modern science and technology. Every single reader/viewer has their own opinion on how they foresee humanity will fare in the future – for better or worse. This is the key to understanding the sci-fi genre…because sci-fi stories all have something in common. They deal with the concept of our use of science or technology getting out of hand. The classic Prometheus myth. Sci-fi tackles heavy issues dealing with the human thirst of conquering new horizons without taking heed of the consequences. It is a genre that is about looking to the possibilities of the future in order to take responsibility for the actions of the present.

In Blomkamp’s Elysium, for example, we see the dark side of that philosophy. Elysium offers a look at how our current world social and economic structure may lead to a future where social division between the rich and the poor are at extremes and the fate of humanity hangs in the balance. We see a scenario where sacrifices must be made on both sides of the social spectrum, in order for a balance to be re-established.

Without going into too much specific back-story about how the world ended up in this situation, Elysium makes the viewer think about the implications of our current world economic situation and do some hard evaluating.

The sci-fi author must always be looking to the horizon. I find that it is getting harder to keep up to date with the rapid advances in science. It is really difficult to stay ahead of the curb. You have to identify with modern science and project it forwards, to investigate how it may evolve and change in time and what implications it has for the future of humanity, both good and bad.

But if a book takes three years to write/publish then the modern sci-fi writer has to realise that in the time it takes to get the book out there, a whole gamut of scientific discoveries will emerge.

Two years ago when I began writing my book, the Higgs Boson particle had not been discovered…NASA’s Curiosity had not landed on Mars…numerous exo-planets hadn’t been discovered including one Earth-sized planet that orbits Alpha Centauri B. And that’s just scratching the surface of what’s been going on.

Now, having said all this, my story is heavily steeped in what can only be called magic. I worry about this at times, knowing that hard-core sci-fi readers might reject some of my more ethereal concepts. I try to reassure myself that magic is just as valid in sci-fi as physics, since at some point in our human history, they could be seen as one and the same thing.

I tend to think that only by incorporating things that seem utterly like magic to us, can I write sci-fi that is true to what I love about the mystery of science. Or perhaps, I’m just a dreamer who has my head too far up in the clouds? Sometimes I focus too hard on getting the facts right, (especially knowing that my nuclear chemist brother would not approve of my sloppy research). But sometimes, I find it particularly hard to be practical when it comes to some of the core scientific aspects of my work. I prefer to focus on a more philosophical and emotional side of things and sort of let the structural mechanics of the world fall into place around the characters. After all, it’s the character’s story that matters most to me.

So, yes, it’s a difficult and yet thrilling era to be working on sci-fi, I might even go so far as to say it’s magical.

 

 

 

The Sound of Storytelling

One of the great things about working on sound for films is the experience I get in learning how to shape and craft a story by examining how film-makers do it. The editorial process for films is similar to editing a novel, in many ways. The first cut we sound editors receive from the picture department, is almost always too long and in need of a major tidy up. Trimming shots and scenes the way we do in writing to cut out unnecessary detail or to speed up the pacing is a big part of the process. Sometimes it is the reverse also true, and a key scene slowly becomes longer as shots are extended to give more time to let poignant moments linger on the screen. Sometimes, the director even has to go back and shoot more footage adding more detail in the cut to explain things that are confusing or just didn’t work the way they had first imagined they would.

This is true of the novel editing process, sometimes you have to cut huge chunks of writing out in order to keep the story centered on the protagonist and their goals. Sometimes, you need to add more detail to flesh out an idea that needs more development in order to sell a critical theme or concept.

The main difference between film editing and novel editing, (other than the fact that they are completely different mediums), is in my mind, is the fact that from the very beginning, it is a process that involves the thoughts and creative input of not just one person, but many. Dozens or even hundreds of people, depending on how big the project is, put their creative energy into creating a film. Those people might only each have a very small part to play, but they contribute to the overall shape and tone of the film and constantly influence/ inspire or affect the decisions that the director makes as the project evolves.

Working in sound, you really notice this, since sound is the last step in the film creation chain. We get to see the picture edit change over and over and over again, refining the story day by day. With each new version, we alter and enhance our sounds that accompany the pictures in a process that can last weeks or even months. Sometimes you have to work very fast to get all the sound blocked out for temp screenings while other times you might be working on one scene that only lasts a few minutes for weeks on end.

Although the film started in it’s original form as a script written by a single person or handful of people, once it leaves their hands and enters the machine of the film-making world, it becomes a strange new beast. A conglomerate of creative talents. Sometimes this can be a very fruitful, smooth and rewarding process, but sometimes it can go on and on and become sterile or a confused tangle of competing ideas. At the end of the day it comes down to communication and team work.

How this relates back to my understanding of shaping a story is that this endless exposure to other peoples ideas, to the way they see things, affects how I create my sound. The visual effects (VFX) become more sophisticated and detailed, allowing me to think more about the world I’m looking at on screen. I try to make sounds that will immerse the audience in that space. I think about how the sound can affect the viewers emotions. I think about how the sound works with the music to achieve a cohesion between what is really being heard by the characters and what they are feeling. All the while, thinking about the main goal of the film which is – to tell a story.

When I’m writing by myself, I still think through the same process. I’m still thinking about the scene as though I can see it. Drawing on all the senses, to describe what pictures I see in my mind. The hardest part is getting that visceral emotion out into words in a way that is as effective as sound. So in a direct way, I’m always thinking about how the words I write, will sound.

Devices like onomatopoeia, alliteration and assonance, are all subconscious contributors to affecting how a piece of writing flows and how it draws us in. When I’m cutting sound, no matter how big or small the action on screen is, it could be a car chase or an explosion or simply opening a door, I’m always listening to the shape of the sounds and making sure that there is a flow. Every sound has a beginning a middle and and end, just like every story, every sentence every word. When you break everything down, you see that the process of a story unraveling is just like everything in life, breathing sleeping birth and death, all art is a reflection of this process of beginning middle and end. A three act play.

Sound is perhaps the most powerful and primal of our senses. It develops in the womb and is one of our earliest methods through which we can communicate and interact with out world. As a species, sound played an important role in our evolution, helping us to become better survivors in a world full of dangers. Our language sets us apart from other animals. It is through language and written word that we have learned to share our experience and our consciousness with each other.

It was the sound and the shape of words and the emotions that they can evoke that I think first drew me to the act of storytelling. I’m fascinated by the nature of how humans tell our stories and how we have done so since the beginning of human history.  A love of reading is completely connected to our childhood and our past. The stories that were shared with us from older generations, the histories of our ancestors become part of us when they are told to us. There is such an alluring mystery to the process of hearing about something that happened outside of our own experience. And by hearing an account of someone else’s story we are transported into their minds. It enchants me. I am in love with how the sound of words can evoke a world within our minds, a world that no two people can see the same.

This is what I think film is all about. People coming together, to try and take all those individual visions of a story and put them together to form a collective. A meeting point between the vision and imagination of artists working in all different fields. It is as close as technology has so far brought us to sharing a dream amongst others. That is why film is such an amazing force in the world of storytelling, because it’s not about replacing books, its about our desire to share our thoughts and dreams. Outside of people who claim they have telepathy, this is as good as it gets.

Withdrawal of Thrones

So I am suffering withdrawal since finishing watching season three of Game of Thrones. There, I admit it. I don’t know what to do with myself, I’m trying to absorb myself with work, but it is just so hard to carry on knowing next season is so far away.

It’s so  frustrating when a book, or a piece of music, or film, or TV series inspires you so much that you want to somehow incorporate elements of that style into your own work even though they are miles apart in genre or scope. This is how I get into trouble with my story becoming too cluttered and confused.

I have always been a fan of high fantasy and now I find myself wanting to incorporate fantasy elements more and more into my sci-fi adventure. Is this a completely foolish notion? Or is such genre blending a good thing? Is there a market out there for scifi-fantasy? I had a little look and saw that it is sometimes referred to as science and sword. Something as grand and epic as star-wars could be classified as this kind of a genre blend, simply because of the presence of hand to hand combat with the light sabres and an abuncance of magic-like elements such as the concept of ‘the force.’

When I think about it, my work on this sci-fi has always been of this ilk. I always set out to make my story like Indiana Jones meets Lord of the Rings, in space, with kids. Or something like that.

Yet, I’m aware of how cluttered my book has become due to my intricate genre blending. So now I’m at a cross roads yet again. I had a crisis/epiphany the other day when I realised that I hated the book and it needed serious revitalization. I get a sudden urge to make the book more like that movie I saw, or more like that book I read. I take it as a warning sign that I am not happy with some element of the story.

This time, it is my characters. I really need to push them in different directions. This is what I have taken from my watching/reading of “A Game of Thrones.” Despite not being a kids story nor a sci-fi, the character detailing and immersion into the mind of the POV character is something that is universal to storytelling and I’m sure I can do better than what I have already.

So what do I do?

Do I abandon the story all together? Or do I rework it once again into a new beast?

I feat it’s in danger of becoming a Franken-novel. It possesses very few words now that were in the original draft and has somewhat lost its vibrancy because of it. Yet I think it is getting stronger with each re-write and most importantly, I’m learning more about how to write. So regardless of where this book eventually goes, I think that the various lessons I can learn from re-shaping my work will ultimately make anything I write in the future easier and faster so get it to where I want.

Inspiration for change is everywhere and you don’t need to lock yourself into reading solely from within the same genre as you are writing. Moreover, it can come from any art from; music, poetry, sculpture. Just a few weeks ago, my partner and I went to the symphony and the whole time I was creating a story idea in my mind, inspired by the orchestra. Sometimes my best ideas come even when I’m doing nothing creative whatsoever, I could be walking down a street or sitting at a cafe, you never know when some idea will strike.

So, what do I do when I’m suffering withdrawal from a great TV series? I take what I have learned from the experience. I analyse what is great about the craft of that show and then go to the video store and rent out a new TV series….hmmm…Downton Abby?…sure my kid’s sci-fi could do with a little bit more social commentary laced with witty repartee and a dash of chaste romance. Why not?

Creativity in the Subconscious Realm

My life is full of Zen-like sound recording moments where I get to take in the world around me in a way that most people overlook. Sound is the first sense that we encounter in this life, we experience sound in the womb and yet, most of the time, most of us don’t pay a lot of attention to the sounds we hear. When I get to go out and record sound for a film I’m working on, I really listen to the world. Not just beautiful things like forests or mountains, but stuff like factories and industrial areas too. It is a chance to take stock of the world around me in a very unique way and there really is noting like it.

You sit there with your headphones on, your microphone on a stand and at first you simply listen to the space. You listen to what is really going on. What are the different sounds, how do they interact? You analyze the technical stuff like how the sound is reflecting off different surfaces or what is the texture of different trees and listening to how they move. Then after a few minuets, you wonder if you have recorded enough…if it is a nice recording, you might decide to stay there and just capture a good length of sound ten or twenty minutes maybe. Then something strange happens…you stop thinking entirely. You aren’t thinking about the sounds, you aren’t planning your life, you aren’t even thinking about the time anymore…you are just in the space, part of it. It is the closest I feel to how I experienced the world as a child, before I had deadlines, commitments, schedules or plans. I could just sit and watch the world and literally just – space out.

This is what I love most about sound, connecting to that very rare mind space, and experience a little moment in time that I can keep for later. But its not even just about capturing it, it is about letting go of being in the world and just stepping back and letting it tell its story.

So speaking of stories, where is mine? It has been a while since my last post. Have I forgotten about my story?

Sound has once again dominated my world. I do love sound and it is through helping to shape other peoples stories that I learn more about my own.

The thing is, when I’m working on a film, be it a short film, or a feature film, I tend to feel like you shouldn’t be doing anything else with my life. Exercise takes a nose dive, cooking, cleaning, everything associated with my own needs suddenly takes a back seat to my need to feed and develop this creative project that someone has been carrying with them form months/years/decades. I stop planing and structuring my book and start thinking how to conceptualize the film…what sounds I can go and record to bring this film to life, to make it something new and fresh, something never been heard before.

It’s a good feeling to be involved with bringing someone else’s dream to life. I just hope that one day I can be in the position with my books, getting other people to help me bring my vision into reality.

At the moment though, my book and all associated activities…(my blog, my reading, my research, my sketching, my thinking of the plot while I am doing household chores) have come to a stand still. It’s not just that it takes up most of my time to work on a film, it kind of hijacks all of my creative energy. To get my head into a project in such a deep and engrossing way, I need to stop thinking about my book, since normally my book is always at the forefront of my mind, like a demanding child stamping its feet and pestering me for its attention.

I always thought I was great at multitasking and in fact, most of the time, I need to have myself involved in a few art projects at once. I’ll swap between painting, music, sound and writing quite happily, but as soon as one of them becomes a JOB, it takes over and bullies all my other hobbies, interests and passions into a dark corner of my life. A corner rife with creative cobwebs. My JOB whatever it may be, becomes a gorging – rampaging – power-hungry – mind tyrant!

I have sometimes thought about trying to write more than one book at a time, but maybe I’d end up having some sort of manic episode. Maybe I’m just not experienced enough to live in more than one world at a time? I do have a lot of ideas for other stories beyond the one I’m writing now, but I’m not sure I could ever straddle more than one writing project, cause as soon as I get into writing a book, it demands so much of my brain’s CPU and I get obsessed.

I’m not sure if I can find such moments of peace while writing. The act of writing is so different to what I do in sound, It feels more difficult to find a way to tap into my subconscious like recording sound does. I do come up with a lot of ideas in my sleep or when I day dream, so maybe that is part of the subconscious writing process – daydreaming…inhabiting the world within my head.

So what about you? Do you suffer from mind tyrants? Do you have problems juggling multiple projects? Do they fight in your brain for attention making you feel like someone with multiple personality disorder? Or are you able to organize your artistic projects and still find time for those Zen artistic moments?How does your subconscious influence your creative process?

 

The Artistic Journey

I am on a journey. Like my characters who are sailing off into space with a collection of misfit aliens on a dangerous and often mismanaged quest.

I am on a journey of my own. A journey of discovery. I’m learning how to take the reigns of my creative project and slay the dragon of resistance.

Self publishing is all about being the creative director of the book, its not about finding an easy way out of traditional publishing paths, it is about taking control. It’s about having choice.

I have always loved art, and Turner was one of my greatest inspirations. The work above is one of his. A painter, like a writer is subject to the styles and tastes of the period he or she is in. Likewise, the state of the artistic ‘market’ will always determine his or her success. However, when an artist paints a picture, do they then submit the work to a bunch of other people, (some of whom are not even artists themselves), to shape it before it goes into a gallery or is put up for sale. At least I don’t think it usually works this way for Artists. Why should writers have to jump through such hoops in order to see their work on the shelf?

I understand that publishing by traditional methods sometimes works great and can be very rewarding. But I also wonder why has it taken so long to accept that if people want to produce written works by themselves, then they should be given the opportunity to.

If you have put the time and the effort to into your work, you should be allowed to TRY and sell it. It seems that in many ways the notion of self-publishing has only just become a viable option for authors. I knew about self publishing about a decade ago, and like many people, I thought it was just something that people did if they really couldn’t get published NORMALLY…i.e. they weren’t that good. Now though, in the last couple of years, we see evidence on the net and in the media, that the stigma associated with not being traditionally published is slowly becoming alleviated. It seems absurd that publishing has taken so long to catch on to this concept.

However, I think it is critical  to realize how important it is to not do it all yourself. Have your writing properly edited by a professional. Get the cover and formatting done by a professional, and take the time to revise things like structure to ensure that the book is the best it can be before it goes out into the world.

This is where the indie-author is not just the creator, but the director of a creative processes. Getting other people involved in the development of the project, editors, designers and revision peers who can give critical feedback, gives the project more strength. More people become invested in the project and their interest in it’s success will propel it forward.

So, this change in my thinking has somewhat alleviated my fear of – “what if I don’t get published?” because I know, that no matter what, I will start to think of myself as an Author – or else! I will publish my books – or else!

Now that I’m not worried about failing, I can focus on writing and write for myself and what I want to read, not for some pigeon hole in a market.

Regardless of how I choose to do it – self publishing – traditional – eBook – audiobook (heck as a sound designer working on films, you bet I’m going to try this out.) My books will take over my world!

Now, if I could just finish that first pesky manuscript.

Everyone’s journey is unique, on the high seas of artistic adventure. There are currents that flow faster than others and their are courses that are easier follow, so I can choose my own path without having to worry about compromising on what I feel is important about my story. Through the internet, it has become even easier to share our journeys with each other and to see what our options are. We can learn from others mistakes and celebrate in their victories. So tell me your story…fellow adventurers. No matter what your vessel is, painting, music, dancing, Kung Fu…whatever! We all have a tale to tell.

‘Once upon a time…’

Happy writing everyone!

Self Doubt and Emotional Roller-Coaster of the Artist

What if I fail? What if I actually stink at my art?

Anyone who is an artist in any vocation will know what the emotional roller-coaster of the creative person feels like.

We switch from thinking – “Man I love this…this is awesome….I can’t believe I created this, it is amazing!” – to – “How can I be so delusional, how can I think that anyone else would like this? I can even afford to buy the things I need to live, why do I persist in believing I can make a living off this rubbish?”

Sometimes this polarization of mood can happen in the space of a day or even an hour! Sometimes we use devices to try and actively switch the mood; stimulations like coffee or relaxants like alcohol.

There is nothing worse than getting stuck in a cycle where you think; “I write my best stuff at 2am after 5 glasses of wine.”(Believe me!)

Then of course there are those moments when we wonder; “Maybe I’m bipolar or something? Maybe my mood swinging is not healthy?”

I think it is.

To love and doubt oneself is completely normal and actually a healthy step in the artistic process. We are evaluating ourselves. We put ourselves temporarily in the shoes of someone who might hate what we do. This is so we can imagine how we might confront such criticism if someone else throws it at us. An important step in being able to confront doubt and criticism from others, is to first rehearsing it with ourselves.

Sometimes we simply take this rehearsal too far. I myself have been guilty of verbally abusing myself in the kitchen over coffee, or while violently preparing a meal.

When you live with another artist, our fragile nature can become really apparent and you both constantly have to prop the other up when the self loathing sets in.

Or if you have collaborators or peers who can help critique and support you, it makes us feel like we are not alone, spinning around in these mad cycles of ecstasy and despair.

I read this article just now and it made me feel better, as it always does, to see other artists struggle with the same self doubt.

How to Flip Your Self-Doubts as a Writer

The author, Suzannah Windsor Freeman, gives some really good examples of how to turn negative thoughts like

  •  “A little voice in my head would always be saying, “You are not a writer. You are a person who says you’re a writer.”

to positive ones like:

  •  “Writers are people who write. That’s all.”

Harboring negativity is inevitable and important for us artists, so we don’t develop an over-inflated ego. It’s important also to be able to see the positive effects of combating real problems and issues in our craft.

For me the hardest part comes when the writing is done and I don’t know what to do next. Learning about the publishing industry and networking platforms is the hardest part. Admitting to people that I’m not just writing for fun, but that I want to take my work seriously…that is also a difficult step.

Having this blog seems to be helping, as I know with every new post, I take a tiny step forwards in thinking of myself as an active professional writer. I know that if it is like any of the other art-forms I have thrown myself into (music, painting, sound, dancing) it simply takes time before it becomes a component of myself; as clear and definable as a personality trait. Some of my personality traits I can identify within myself very strongly, other traits people think of me, depending on how much time I have spent with them. Some people who know me may think I am kind and decent, while others might think me rude or selfish. I really don’t know how other people perceive my personality, but their regard of me can always be attributed to how much effort I have put into each relationship. Art is just the same I think. The more you invest in a creative aspect of yourself, the more honest and comfortable you will feel about sharing it with yourself and others.

Regardless of how good you are at something, if you do it, you become it. Art should be for everyone.

Happy writing everyone!

 

Life is Art – This is My Day Job

It’s been a while since my last post…is this because I have been so busy writing?

No. My father has been visiting me from Australia and so I have been occupied with drinking coffee, going for bush walks and painting. Sounds rough I know…all that ingesting of cake…

Now that he has gone home though, I’m left to try and motivate myself to get back to my work.

Work for me at the moment is two fold – writing my books and sound design.

It pains me to admit that I’m struggling to crack into two separate industries. I have had a few really good sound gigs that have given me some decent credit and I love the work, I love even more that I can earn a living off it. But at the moment I’m busy on a number of short films and it’s hard to find a solid income from it and hard to find mental space to work on my writing. When I’m on a sound job, it absorbs a huge chunk of my creative thinking power and a good chunk of my time.

Short films can be incredibly rewarding, especially as the short film director is fulfilling a little dream of his or her own that they have been working on for years and as the sound designer, I get to be there to put the finishing touches on, the icing on the cake. I get to see how excited they are when their brain child is delivered on the mix stage and all the effort is finally paid off. It is a great feeling for them and for me and I always feel so glad to be a part of some art that goes out into the world. I am blessed to have work in this industry.

However, more and more I am aware of my desire to finish my book and establish myself as a writer and I feel jealous of the directors that hire me to work on their near complete film. While I’m working on someone else’s project that is coming to fruition I am aware of the fact that I’m not working on my own project. I realize that wanting to be an author has more to do with a desire to fulfill my own creative ideas and projects than it has to do with me preferring writing over sound.

As a child I was never sure about what I wanted to be, because I wanted to do so many things. I would write my own little books, draw the pictures and staple them together, I would write little songs on the piano. I loved drawing…I loved writing…I loved music, I loved dancing. I wanted to do ALL art without having to just commit to ONE and I wanted to be free to just create whatever I felt like.

So, as much as I love working on sound, at some point I want to see myself putting my creative energy into my projects 100% and I see writing as a good outlet for that.

I have to just keep at it and stay positive. Finding a balance between doing work for myself and working for others is an important part of being in an artistic community in any medium and ultimately, every job we have in life adds character and experience to our lives that is invaluable. I don’t want to think of sound as my day job; the thing that gives me money and writing as my pie in the sky dream job. I want everything I do to be done with passion and conviction and all my work must reflect my belief in the power of creativity to realize dreams.

Job is a nasty word people use to describe something that should be a manifestation of their life’s energy. I was passionate when I was a guitar teacher, I was passionate when I was a student…I don’t think I could admit to being a passionate shelf stacker, but even that job gave me insight to all the jobs I would rather be doing.

Sound design, painting, singing, writing, composing, running, sharing, gardening, cooking, playing, loving. There are so many different ways that I can express how wonderful it is to be a human in this world. Why should my career be any different.

Life is art.

Indie Publishing Offers Creative Independence

I was wondering today if I have writers block. I have time to write, and yet I don’t. I re-read and re-edit my manuscript over and over again. I do endless research on publishing, agents, ebooks, and other writers blogs etc to try and gauge where I am at. But when I really want to just sit down and get the words flowing again and come up with something new, I struggle. Is it because I feel that if I start on the sequal when I don’t know that the first one is finished will I waste work? I started book number 2 last year and 40,000 words into it, decided I needed to seriously rework book no. 1.

Looking back, even though the first book is better now, I could have easily just abandoned it and started with something new. I see a lot of writers, who seem to strike better luck on book no. 2 or 3. But still I really like the story and I think that I’m not done with it. I think it has potential and this leads me back to my initial question…do I have writers block? Why can’t I move on, start something new?

I have come to the conclusion that no…I don’t have writers block. I am constantly writing in my head. At this stage book number 2 is stewing in my cranium and so is the background stories for all the characters and the worlds in which they come from. I’m constantly writing in my journal and drawing diagrams of what my creatures look like and I would love time to do more of this, but I guess it is just a slow process. The story is extremely complex and needs time to evolve.

Now in my research today I had another revelation.

I have been doing a whole lot of reading about e-books and self publishing. At first I was skeptical of this process, simply because of what we all grow up learning. We are told that only a really special and great quality book that is chosen by publishers will make it to publication. It is very hard to get published and it is an extremely competitive industry. I was not daunted by this, since the publishing industry seems similar to the film industry in this regard and I seemed to have cracked into that reasonably well. So I didn’t think too much more about self publishing and thought I would use it as a last resort.

However, after hearing about different people’s experiences with self publishing on Amazon etc, I have decided that the publishing industry and the protocols associated with getting published is also very similar to the music industry and the challenges associated with getting signed to a record label. Now, back when I was an aspiring muso and guitarist, I came to the conclusion that there is no WAY that people working for the record labels could possibly anticipate what is really going to sell any more than they possibly find everyone who has real talent and deserves a career in music. You just have to listen to the top charting musicians to see this. So often I hear people say stuff like ‘that guy I saw playing at the pub last year was way more talented than (insert random famous musician name here)’ etc.

Public opinion is really hard to predict and at the end of the day, the indie label band sometimes has way more street cred/ artistic integrity and soul than a lot of the music being churned out through traditional paths. Now, this is not to say that I think the literary professionals in publishing are churning anything. I think that the level of quality that is maintained in printed work by writers is an essential part of our human history and culture and I hope it never is abandoned.

The only reason I draw a parallel to the music industry is that I made the same realisation that, just because someone has to do it on their own steam and through an independent pathway, doesn’t mean it is a cop out, a lazy option or a last resort AT ALL. In fact, sometimes it is the best option to reach the audience that is looking for the art that a writer has to release. Some work just can’t fit into a predictable mold, or has to remake/ reshape or reinvent old genres to make them work for new ideas. Now is a very exciting time for humanity, there is so much more opportunity than ever before to let people choose, promote, finance and build their own career than ever before.

People like Joanna Penn  make it easy for us to see proof of how this works. She has so many amazing podcasts and video interviews that provide a wealth of information to anyone interested in hearing other peoples success stories as well as letting us learn from their mistakes.

OK, enough watching other people’s work, time for me to get back to my writing.

 

Finished Draft 5

So, draft 5 of ‘Wandering Stars‘ is complete. Well at least I have had a full pass through with the corrections I made starting back in October. Mostly this was about sharpening my point of view, keeping it more solid and consistent. I also made a few huge plot changes towards the end that came with a plethora of character modifications etc. So, basically I did a whole lot of stuff that I could have avoided if I had done more planing from the outset and less ‘winging it’.

But, that was sort of the whole point, I guess. I started this project as just something fun to do and it has become increasingly more serious and the tone of the book reflects that. At first, it was very light and silly at times, whereas now it is certainly a lot darker and more intense. Though I feel the whole piece still has a positive and uplifting vibe. I know distopia is all the rage at the moment, but by the time my book is really finished and ready to put out into the world, that fad will most likely be over anyway. The bottom line is, no matter what the industry is doing or what trends the world is going through, a good story is always worth telling and finds its way into peoples lives. Whether or not my story is what people would consider to be good or not, is beside the point…at the end of the day, my book won’t make it out into the world until I am completely happy with it.

I know that it still has a long way to go with editing. It stands at about 92000 words now and I know it is probably still 10000 words too flabby. Cutting out the last 6-8000 words was a hell of a mission and took its toll on my story arc, but now I know how much tighter it is.

There are a few more sections that are suspiciously superfluous, I know I have to go back through and floss them out.

I got a lot of tips from this guy, Larry Brooks, and his blog;

http://storyfix.com/

He talks about making sure each scene of the story is mission driven. Trying to make certain that every scene has a goal and drives the story forward, as well as revealing character development. It’s hard to be so ruthless when some of the really fun stuff that you love about your story, suddenly is revealed to be arbitrary, but it definitely makes a difference in the long run to shave it all off. Like a big messy beard that would look much nicer as a little goatee.

Brooks says that if you can’t sum up your story in 9 sentences, each one dealing with one of the major plot points then your structure needs revision.

Hunger Games (9) – The Entire Story in Nine Sentences

When I tried to do this with my book, I came to a grim realisation that my story is suffering from overflow…I needed at least 2 sentences at times to explain what happens and at the end, I kind of had two climax points.

Hmm…well this is what I will be looking at in draft 6. (I call it draft 6, but really it is all one long never ending draft that makes me feel at times that I will never be happy with it.)

My goal is to get it down to 85000 words, and be able to sum it up in 9 sentences with a nice solid plot summary. Then, maybe we will be ready to move forward.

Meanwhile, I’m going to get on with writing the short stories to build the back world and think about publishing them online.

OK, enough for today…I’m going to go eat more Easter eggs. Happy good Friday to all!