Step One by jean-francois dubeau

So far, I've received one very thorough and expert review of my book from one source as well as some preliminary comments from another. This has been enough to get started on the road to a final product. I've built a plan based on the more complete evaluation and will integrate any further comments I feel relevant into it as I go along. Gotta strike that iron while it's hot.
The first step on this journey has been to take my prologue (I initially called it a preface but was told that I had the wrong terminology. I learned something new!) and make it part of the main story. Mostly because, as far as prologues go, it didn't do it's job of introducing the story very well. I've also been reviewing and rewriting parts of what is now my new first chapter to make it quicker to the point and more engaging.
It's been an interesting experience, going over the text and tightening the bolts on the narrative. I could see myself doing that over and over for weeks just to make that one chapter as perfect as possible. The problem, as i see it, is drawing the line between 'perfecting my story' and 'avoiding moving forward'. Especially if I end up doing this for all twenty one chapters.
Thankfully, I have two very good incentives to encourage me onwards; writing the sequel to the book has been very entertaining and I'm eager to go back to it, and the more clever amongst you may have noticed that I'm now lacking a prologue. I have a few ideas what I want to do with that and can't wait to play with the options.

What are friends for by jean-francois dubeau

Earlier this month, I sent a copy of my manuscript to a few friends for peer review. This is the second book I've written but the first I want to see published. In fact, it's getting o be quite the obsession.

I sent the manuscript to six people. Each is different and will give me a different perspective on what my book is worth. That is valuable. First amongst equals though is a friend who is a voracious reader, a lover of words and someone who works in the publishing industry. While I'm eager (and terrified) to hear from the five other test readers, I was especially anxious to hear from that particular friend for reasons that should be obvious. Predictably, she was the first to finish the book and over the weekend took an hour of her valuable time to give her impressions.

For anyone who wants to be published, that is an ordeal that you will have to go through. It is the difficult but necessary process to have someone look upon your work, a project you most likely love and have poured hours into, and give it an honest evaluation. Draw whatever analogies you must, but if you're going to have someone judge you and your performance on something personal, it's very reassuring to have it be a friend.

The critique I got was perfect and what, in my uneducated opinion, every aspiring author should hope for. Let me explain. I've never published anything. I don't have a degree in English literature and I've taken a very limited number of creative writing classes. I'm the portrait of the idiot at Starbucks, sipping lattés and trying to write the next great American novel or whatever writers aspire to these days. If I had walked into this evaluation of my work with hopes my manuscript being deemed flawless, what kind of self-important, delusional idiot would that make me? In fact, after talking for an hour, I discovered that, for a book I technically finished writing almost a year ago, I still had a ton of work to do.

The entire first third of the book needs to be reworked to prove the pacing, I need a new prologue (which I mistakenly called a preface) and I need to tweak the ending a bit. I have to go over the whole manuscript and hunt down instances of head-hopping, drawn out sentences and a laundry list of other gimmicks that do nothing to improve the legibility of my book. That's 90, 000 words to go over on top of the re-writing that hastily happen. You may recognize this as a lot of work.

So why do I think this review is perfect? First, it's because now I know what I need to do next. I have focus and a next step. More importantly however, my friend said I had a good story. I can fix anything about the book, as long as I have that important foundation. Moreover, she gave me the tools to make those corrections.

So there you have it. Are you writing a book? Some short stories perhaps? Are you stockpiling your work somewhere, polishing it over and over until it is perfect and ready to be sent out into the world? If so, do yourself a favor and cut it out. Find a handful of people you trust (or in at least one case for me, barely know) and get some opinions. Maybe you're not lucky like I am and you don't know someone super competent to give you a quick, informative critique, but if the five others who have my manuscript in hand are even half that helpful, it will have been worth it.


So yeah, peer review. Do it. 

A step forward by jean-francois dubeau

So I haven't done Sketch-a-day in a while now as those very few of you that followed it might have noticed. It's not that the feature was a failure, quite the contrary. Sketch-a-day thought me a lot about where my where my traffic could come from, the weight of keeping up regular, daily updates on a site but mostly, what snuck up on me, is how damn hard sketching really is. Not the artistic act of course but rather the production of something that is, by definition incomplete and how difficult it is not to over-think and over-do it. Another problem I encountered, a luxury problem I confess, is that every second sketch made me want to turn the artwork into a finished piece. This lead to a few interesting projects, some of which I am still looking forward to. Finally, there is the question of time, or rather scheduling. It's easy to ind 15 minutes to devote to a quick doodle, but I need to find a regular time at which to do it. One that won't interfere with my other projects.

Now, I am looking forward to many changes. On Monday I start work on my third book. I'm incredibly excited to revisit the characters from my second book and tell their continuing adventures. More importantly, it means that I am that much closer to being in a position to present these characters to you.
I will also be moving in a few weeks. This opens the door to many exciting things as I will finally have a studio in which to work. While I reap the most joy from writing, having a space where I can paint, draw and type will give me the opportunity to be much more organized in how I approach these projects. At the very least, it gives me one less excuse.

Lastly, Sketch-a-day was taking time away from another very important project; building my website. While slapping together a site is easy, putting together the images to make that site truly my own is time consuming. I want to spend the effort into making this site at least borderline interesting visually so that I can send more people to it without being overwhelmed by shame.

What does this mean for Sketch-a-day? It means that I'm going back to doing it. There won't be any flavor text and I'll be much more raw. If a sketch sucks and didn't work out, so be it. We learn from our mistakes. I will remain open to sketch requests on Twitter however. I will also be posting more about my writing efforts and other subjects. I want to make this site more active and offer more content.

This is a work in progress and while I know where I want to get with it, I still have a long road ahead before getting there.

Suit up! by jean-francois dubeau

Remember when I said that sometimes I'd take a sketch and if I particularly liked it or felt inspired by it I would make a piece of artwork from it?

Well, here's the first example of what I mean. I'm probably going to get this printed on canvas and framed so I can start decorating my office at work with my own art. 

This is the original sketch if you don't remember: 

 The worst part is that every minute I spent drawing the final version is a minute I came up with more ideas for a story for this character.

 The worst part is that every minute I spent drawing the final version is a minute I came up with more ideas for a story for this character.

So let me connect the dots for you: 

If you submit an idea to me for a sketch and I do it, there's a chance that I'll push the idea further into a piece of art. This means I take your idea and make it into a drawing or painting. Should that happen, I feel it's only fair that I should somehow make a copy of that piece available to you. Perhaps as a print or as a digital file or whatever makes the most sense for the piece itself. 

 

Just sayin'... 

 

@jfdubeau on Twitter to submit ideas. 

So tired... by jean-francois dubeau

Today I climbed a small mountain, mowed a huge lawn, flew an RC plane for the first time and painted models. I was hoping it wouldn't keep me from doing a decent sketch but...

Well, you be the judge.

Reminder: you can make sketch requests on Twitter @jfdubeau, #sketchaday

Sometimes I make real artwork from cool sketches. So there's that.

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