Background research close to home

So I thought I’d interview my sister and brother-in-law for their memories and past research (both are non-fiction writers) about early Alberta, and came up with another gold mine. I was interested in RCMP investigative procedures for a missing person in 1942, and of course, both having been National Park Wardens their entire careers, my sister and her husband had worked a lot with the RCMP. I’ll want to do further follow up (just learned through another source that the RCMP were also Canada’ spy agency in those years, and so infiltrated Communist and fascist groups), but its amazing where you can get information!

Research at the University

This week I interviewed Dr. David Bercuson, professor of history at the University of Calgary. Wow. What a ton of knowledge he has, and he was able to quickly grasp the intent of my questions and narrow his vast understandings to a comprehensive background and clear answers. AND he gave me some perfect resources to follow up, and invited me to come back for a longer interview. Wow. Just, wow.

Research at the Rodeo

Today I went to a rodeo to get a sense of western culture in support of my next novel, and I managed to get into a conversation with a couple of contestants about what it was like “in the old days.” One told me about a fellow who was born and raised (3rd generation) on a ranch nearby who might have stories to tell me. She was willing to take my card and pass my request on to him. Yay! Not sure if the rancher will be interested in following up, but if so, this could be a wonderful source of primary research!

Productive Writers’ Retreat

Very productive writers’ retreat: in 5 days I outlined 2 novels, to varying levels of detail, and got 2/3 of the way through editing a third. Also, during our writerly discussions, I waylaid the others for a critique of my magic system, and they found lots of holes in it—but provided suggestions for improvement as well. This helps tremendously!

Invited to Writers’ Retreat!

Yay!! Mike invited me to Whitefish along with 3 other writers for the long weekend in September. Looks like 6 days of intensive writing, and very inexpensive: gas, groceries, meals. I have SOOO many projects that can use a good chunk of time. Excited to dive in!

When Words Collide!

Yes, another awesome year at WWC. Got to be liaison to Guest of Honor, Sam Morgan, and went with him, and GoHs Tasha Alexander and Andrew Grant to Banff after the event. And, I sold a painting at the Hidden Art Show! Connected with tons of old friends and new, attended excellent panels and sat on a few, too!

Stages of Change

Came across a cool resource this week: stages of change. I think it is often used to understand people in counseling who want to change behaviors, particularly addictions, but I think it can be applicable to any character in a story who is going to change. The stages are: Pre-contemplation (they don’t know they need to change), Contemplation (realize they need to change but aren’t ready), Preparation (intending to take action soon, and maybe trying some small changes), Action (actively practicing new behaviors), and Maintenance (working to prevent relapse). And then, of course, there is Relapse, a feature of both of the last two stages. Very instructive.

Working Away from Home

My process is working very well. Each evening, I prep the next day by looking at my outline and making brief, point form notes on a slip of paper which I can keep in my motorcycle jacket pocket. If I write 2 scenes a day, that is about 2000 words, so makes for steady progress.

On the ride, I put on my microphone and get the recorder ready; I hit “record” when I have the scene (and what it has to accomplish, as per my notes) in mind. After two scenes I’m done my work for the day. I can usually finish in the morning, but not always.

Then, when we check into our hotel, or after supper, I transcribe my dictation to my iPad while the scene is still fresh. Road noise, a faulty microphone (I had to find a Source and buy a new one, mid-trip), technical glitches, and so-forth can cause the file to be difficult to transcribe.

The result is a terrible first draft, but then, aren’t all first drafts bad? I rather like doing revision, so I know I’ll get the right word for that phrase when I review. I also know there will be missing scenes, and so forth, but I’ll catch those on round 2 as well.