Category Archives: Cogging for Kibble

Digging Out

Look at that, it’s been two months since I posted an update on, well, anything. (ED: I have since noticed there was a draft of an April 12 post sitting in the drafts folder for over a month, so that’s been posted.) I promised myself I was going to at least post one round-up a week, and yeah, that’s really not happening. There’s a reason.

Remember back in late 2004/early 2005, when I was contracted to write my first two books, and the deadline for each was three months? Good times. (No, actually, they weren’t. For the first book, I was in my first trimester of pregnancy, falling asleep at my computer, and I don’t remember much of that time because everything was either writing or sleeping. And for the second book, I corrected the page proofs in the hospital after he was born, then sent HRH to a FedEx outlet to courier them back. It certainly wasn’t boring.)

ANYWAY. I’ve done it again. Or rather, I’m doing it again. I love this project fiercely. I’m working with a company I’ve worked with a handful of times before, with a team who is phenomenal, on an intellectual property I enjoy. But wow, yes, again with the really super crazy deadline. I’m writing a book in about two and a half months. The publication schedule is insane — the target publication slot is November — and the IP team is already swamped with other projects. I have no idea how they do what they do without falling over dead. They’re superheroes.

My job is to read and absorb a truly terrifying amount of existing material, make sense of it, pull out the most important bits, and write about them. And history — so much history. I am not shy about saying that I’m really good at what I do. However, I do have an absorption threshold, and when I hit it, I can’t sort through all the information I have to condense and present it in an easily digestible manner. It’s like decision paralysis on several levels at once. And because I’m not fully fluent in the IP, having jumped on board only recently, I can’t easily pull out what’s actually important. Things that seem important to me aren’t necessary critical in the overall scheme of things; some stuff that doesn’t jump out at me is actually super important.

I’m learning. And it’s why the IP team reviews my stuff two chapters at a time to say, “Yes, no, we need to tweak this, drop this part, this bit needs a lot more exploration.”

So, that’s why I haven’t been around so much. All available writing energy is being used up elsewhere. The last part of the first draft is being handed in around June 1, so I may have more time then? But rewrites. So probably not.

Catching Up

[Good grief. This has been sitting in a drafts folder since April 12.]

I had a concert. It was brilliant. The Grieg piano concerto was fantastic, and the Schubert ninth symphony was better than I expected it to be. (It was also REALLY LOUD.) Right up to the week before the concert I was still thinking I should have dropped out at the beginning of this rehearsal session when I was having so much difficulty with the material; I’m glad I stuck with it. Next: my recital in June, and then the Canada Day concert.

Yesterday I had my second meeting with the team I’m working with on this project. It was just as excellent as the first one was. We reviewed the first two chapters I’d written, and the feedback was so positive. It’s really nice to be so comfortable. The packaging guy was in town for this one, and it was good to meet him too; he said a coupe of very complimentary things about how I was functioning in the meeting and how pleased he was that the team had coalesced so well. And he suggested that if I was interested, if there were any projects that came across his desk that he thought I’d be good for, that he could call me. (Yes! Yes, please do that!)

The team sent me home with swag for the family, too. It was heavy to haul home — there’s just over half an hour of walking involved in my commute to and from downtown for these in-person meetings — but everyone here was delighted. In theory the two huge hardcover books are for my reference use, but HRH buried himself in one right away because it was directly applicable to something he’s doing right now.

We outlined the fifth and sixth sections of the book, so now I have the second and third to cover and have these two on the horizon as well. I am hitting the right tone and level of detail they want, which is good to know; I wanted to have this review meeting of the first two chapters I finished rough drafts of before going into the next set, just in case I was really missing the point somehow.

In non-work news, I am finally going to get to Rhinebeck, which is an enormous fleece and fibre festival in mid-October. (The actual name of it is the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, but no one calls it that.) Ceri, Megan, and I and a bunch of my online mums group are going to meet there; we’re all renting a house for the weekend! (A few houses, actually; people kept saying they were going to go, too, and more houses had to be booked. It’s crazy, and so exciting.) It’s going to be a ridiculous amount of fun, and my phone already knows how to autocorrect Rhinebeck to RHINEBECK, all caps; that’s how exciting it is. For some reason I thought Rhinebeck was much further away. Google tells me it’s just about four hours. That’s not taking border-crossing times into account, but still — that’s closer than driving to visit my parents. And there’s a Rhinebeck thing; people knit sweaters to wear while there. So I am going to knit a sweater. An easy one, mind you, but a real sweater. Once this book is done, that is. I’ve already swatched two different yarns, even, and know which one I’ll be using.

Cello, work, yarn stuff. That’s a pretty decent summary of what’s been going on.

Workity-Work

I am in the middle of a sea of uncertainty regarding work. Yes, there is lots of work to do! When can we get it to you? Well, not now. Later. Soon. That stuff that was also due in March? Not ready. Soon. Later.

As happens with large team projects, slowdowns here and there or periods of rewriting aggregate, and that aggregation now means the initial projected schedule provided to me is completely inapplicable by this point. So I know I have an unclear amount of work to edit… sometime this summer. When? Well… July? The first bits, anyway? (On the initial schedule, this part of the project was to be wrapping up in July.)

So I’m trying not to panic, both helped and hindered by Ceri saying, “You’re doing MENUS? Oh my gods, those are HUGE!” because now I at least have an idea of how much work there will be (i.e. a lot), but also now I am anxious about how soon they want this stuff turned around when it eventually gets here. The projected schedule estimated 10 days would be required to handle the material, which is somewhat comforting; that’s two weeks of work. There’s always more of a crush as the end of the project approaches, and the same amount of work has to get crammed into a smaller time period, though. I am good, and I am outrageously fast (did I not just turn around a 400+ page batch in a crazy-brief four or five days? yes, I did, holy cats, and let me tell you, there was wine when I was done), but not knowing is freaking me out. Especially since I have a week out of town coming up when I can’t work, which is likely to coincide with the first batch of this material finally reaching me.

Apart from the ZOMG I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN WITH MY SCHEDULE, which is something that always triggers anxiety (and I haven’t yet mentioned that daycare is closed for the last two weeks of July, ha ha ha, this will be fun), I am still very much enjoying this project. It’s been fun to see the fan reaction to the trailers and launch material, and to know secret stuff, and to think about how much fun people will have discovering it all when the game is released. Turns out the Xbox version will only be available on XBox One, though, not the 360, which means it’s time for HRH and I to update our Xbox console. The recent announcement that the One will now extend backward compatibility to lots of 360 games is a relief, though.

On the other work hand (does that make sense? sure, why not, yay freelancing), I currently have a deliciously perfect and staggeringly good novel I’m working on for the publisher. It’s so good that I’m doing the equivalent of racing through pages just to see what happens next. It’s beautifully clean, so I have next to nothing to do other than add the occasional comma, remove the occasional italicized closing quotation mark, and make my list of proper nouns to check. It’s a luxury to work on it, and I feel extremely fortunate to have been the one assigned to it. It’s half contemporary, half historical, and has magical realism; it’s a book I will recommend wholeheartedly and without reservation to pretty much everyone when it’s released.

Deep Breath

Well, we just discovered the wonderful gentleman who usually handles our taxes has passed away, so I’ve sent out a query to someone MLG recommended, and have another query (possibly two) lined up if that comes to naught. But my fingers are crossed.

I have been working overtime for the past six weeks. I booked last week off from the publisher because I was burning out… only to have work sent to me from the local contract. This was not a terrible thing; I really enjoy the work I’m doing on that local contract. I was looking forward to time off work, that’s all. In retrospect, it’s a good thing I did book that time off, because otherwise I’d have been in the exact same position, working overtime to get things done. Yesterday I finally got to prep all the tax stuff. Today Sparky has a ped day, so we’re going to go see Cinderella at the theatre.

But yes, overtime, what with two different companies sending me stuff. Journalling has fallen to the bottom of the pile of stuff to do. There are three (!!!) Owlet posts in the queue, plus one on pens and inks, I haven’t posted fibre arts stuff in months, and I really want to write down something about the baroque bow workshop class I did last weekend with Elinor Frey.

I’ll start with the most recent Owlet post; that’s almost complete. I just need to resize pictures and such….

Behind the Scenes

Apart from the thrill of working on something tremendously cool and with someone whose work I admire, I’m really appreciating being a part of the writing team on this video game project. Put that way, as my contract does, it makes me sound much more involved than I actually am, doesn’t it? (My contract also stipulates that I must be available for promotion, interviews, conferences, and anything else they deem necessary for marketing purposes… at which point I snickered a lot, because who is going to want the copy editor’s point of view around game launch time? “Tell us, how does the insertion of a comma here or the use of a proper em dash instead of a double hyphen subtly affect gameplay? How is that experience deepened and made more impactful for the player?”)

What I particularly appreciate about this, however, is reading the story.

I suck at video games. My brain doesn’t seem to work the way games expect a player’s brain to work, and it makes for a very frustrating experience. So all this time I’ve been perceiving video games as these horrendous blocks of weird puzzle-solving or monster-slaying, of fighting with the controller to try to get it to do with what I think it wants me to do, and ending up just walking away. I have several friends who are writers within the video game industry and who talk about the storylines and dialogue, and while I have known that logically, this is what makes a player care enough to move on to the next challenge and advance the story, I have not experienced it personally.

So working on this script, even peripherally, has given me a wonderful opportunity I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I’m following a story, an actual narrative, with none of the gameplay that makes me crash and burn. In fact, the gameplay is often noted by a single sentence between square brackets in the script. (That’s right; the thing that takes you three hours to play through can be a single sentence in the script, because it’s not handled by the scriptwriting team. Different people entirely take care of that.)

I get to read a story involving certain characters, protagonists and antagonists, and it amazes me that the scriptwriting team can demonstrate so much about individual characters within so many constraints. The story of this particular game has to unfold and advance, but on a more focused level, the story of these specific characters also develops and advances. And on a broader level, the story of the overall franchise has to further develop and advance, as well. It absolutely fascinates me that all this can be done through dialogue. And spare dialogue, at that; spare in the sense of being brief, not the sense of being extra. There’s nothing extra here: character-building moments have to do double duty, advancing the story or delivering key information to the player at the same time. It’s incredibly interesting to observe, especially if I have the chance to follow a scene or set of scenes that undergoes a major rewrite.

And in unrelated work news, I’ve been handling some other projects in my off hours. I just finished working on a STEM book, which needed heavy, heavy editing, and I kind of burnt myself out on it. My current project is a homeschooling book, which is a peach of a manuscript; it’s so very tidy and perfect, so perfect that my attention wanders away while I read it, because there are no errors to trip me up. I have to keep bringing myself back and refocusing!

Oh Look, It’s the End of February

And really, March 1 cannot come too soon.

I don’t have the energy for full paragraphs. Let’s do a point-form post.

My first two weeks on the video game project are done. So far I am enjoying it.

In my off time I handled my first project of the new year for the publisher. It was a Star Wars book. Yet again my geeky hoard of trivia proves useful! (Here’s a tip for you: The term ‘Jedi’ is a singular plural. One Jedi, two Jedi, many Jedi. Never Jedis. Never. LOOK, I CAN BE GEEKY ON MULTIPLE LEVELS HERE! AND PEOPLE PAY ME FOR IT!)

I started my free month-long trial of subscribing to Scribd for e-books and audiobooks. All things Agatha Christie have been converging in my life, and I decided to subscribe to an audiobook service so I could listen to her books while I spin or knit, but I find Audible very expensive for what it is. Scribd is $8.99 a month and offers unlimited access to a tonne of audiobooks, and e-books, too, so I went that route. (Bonus, I discovered: comics and graphic novels. Awesome.)

I am knitting a hat for a swap, and I am arguing with it. I have already ripped it back twice, and I suspect I will do it again. I just don’t know if I will try the pattern a third time, or give up on the decorative stitch part and simply knit it straight, then add a little something to it afterward. That kind of feels like cheating or giving up, but it may save my sanity. Ceri pointed out that the pattern isn’t hard but it’s tricky, which can be just as frustrating in a different way, and she has a point. Add that to the fact that I can’t knit anything more complicated than basic stockinette or garter in a room where there are other people, and there is a problem. It doesn’t help that the deadline for mailing is in one week. I could have been done by now if I hadn’t decided I really wanted to spin the yarn for this project. (But I did, and it’s terribly nice to knit with, I must say.)

I’ve started spinning more yarn for Mum’s beautiful silk/cashmere/Merino wrap. She’s getting close to the end of the stuff I made for her in 2013, and it’s not long enough, even taking into account the length blocking will add. I am so glad I took good notes about how I made the initial yarn.

One month till the chamber orchestra’s spring concert. That’s… soon. (Saturday 21 March, 7:30 PM at Valois United church. Mark your calendars. It’s a lovely programme.)

Yeah, Owlet’s post is late. That’s par for the course these days.

We had a lovely little Valentine’s Day tea party for our goddaughters, and it was so much fun. We finally got to use the half-size china teacups I bought Owlet for her first birthday for the kids. There were several courses of delicious tea-type foodstuffs, excellent company, and it was just a lovely day all around.

I got a new fountain pen; a Noodler’s Ahab in the colour Ahab’s Pearl. It’s a flex nib, and I’ve been really wanting to try a flex nib. It’s got a thick barrel, like my Waterman Kultur. I would have preferred a Konrad or a Nib Creaper, both of which are slimmer, but WonderPens.ca didn’t have them in stock at the time and I had really promised myself a new pen when the big cheque for the math book came in. I inked it with J Herbin’s Vert Empire, and I am smitten. I am also wholly smitten by the converter it came with, and the converters I ordered for my Waterman and Parker pens. I put some Diamine Damson in my extra-fine Sheaffer pen, and it writes so much more smoothly than it did when inked with the Noodler’s #41 Brown. I think the Diamines may be lubricated; I’m not entirely certain.

Okay, that’s enough. Back to work.

Back to Work

It’s been an awful week and a half here. Everyone except Sparky was very ill with the flu. Today is the first day everyone is where they’re supposed to be. We’re all tired and drained, most of us haven’t eaten properly all week, and I’m still mystified as to how Sparky managed to escape all of this. (HRH thinks it was sheer force of will, because we had a Lego party for five of his friends slated to happen here yesterday, and we warned him that if he got sick we’d have to reschedule it. He stayed well, and the party went off brilliantly. Six ten-year-olds, a tonne of Lego, pizza, and a movie; it was a good day.)

This is good, everyone being where they’re supposed to be, because I am starting a new project today, according to the contracts that were countersigned last week. I signed an NDA in early January, heard nothing for a while, and then was in negotiations with Paris office at the end of January. (Full confession: I enjoyed saying “I’m in negotiations with Paris” way too much.) This week is devoted to getting to know the project, the team, and talking about guidelines and standards. It’s an exciting project and one I’m very interested in working on. It’s an experiment of sorts for the employer who signed me, because they’ve never had a devoted copyeditor oversee all the written content for a project like this before. The team’s writers are said to be happy, too, because a pair of outside eyes is going to be going through it all for consistency and stylistic tweaks before release. It’s difficult to do that for your own writing, especially when there’s no clear stylesheet and several writers contributing. I like to think that if it goes well and there’s a measurable positive impact, then this may become a repeat gig. (And I’m not just saying that because I get to work with a very good friend. Observing inconsistencies or errors as a consumer drives me nuts; I like to think it’s good business sense to have a copyeditor manage the vast amount of text produced in a project like this.) It’s full time for a month and a half, then a possible week after that, followed by two (possibly three) more weeks at different times between April and June as various parts of the project come due.

On Friday I also accepted my first new project of the year from the publisher, which I can work on in evenings and on weekends if necessary. It’s short and a lot of the work I’d normally do is already done, as tends to be the case when I handle a manuscript for this particular editor. While the exciting new contract is theoretically full time for these six weeks, turning something down from the publisher felt like a dangerous move, especially if I’ll have to do it in a couple of weeks once I’m actually buried in actual deadline work for the new project. Every time a freelancer has to pass on an offered project, it’s a bit less likely that they’ll be assigned something the next time a manuscript comes up for editing. It’s good to stay on top of things and keep one’s availability fresh in the coordinator’s mind.

It’s been a quiet year work-wise so far. It’s nice to sit down and be able to work again. I certainly needed the break, and I am endlessly grateful that I didn’t have work that had to be done last week when I was out with the flu, or the week that Owlet’s daycare was closed in mid-January… but it’s good to get back to my desk. Just cleaning out the mess my work and personal e-mail inboxes had become over the last three weeks felt great today. Now… to work!