Friday, January 28, 2011

I Stab at the Heart of Your Draft, But Only Injure My Thigh

Lately, I've been priviledged to be able to watch a few novel drafts take shape in my writer's group. This is a fascinating prospect. Narratives shift and carve new tracks and characters separate from their creators and voices find their proper key and something that was a draft yesterday becomes a novel and I become a reader first and a commenter second. Amazing and then very, very cool.

However, to quote Practical Magic, "with the sweets, come the sours." I have a firm set of assumptions, beliefs, and graveyards that I whistle past as a person. When I am looking at pacing and characterization and the few grammar/style things I know, I sometimes run across something that shoves me from my comfort zone. I am uncomfortable and it feels "wrong." Although this is not a value judgment (i.e., it would be better if this moved quicker), my reaction is similiar enough that I find myself marking sentences and making suggestions to "fix" the discomfort.

It becomes more challenging when I'm faced with a novel that tends toward a conclusion that runs counter to my beliefs. How do I modify my responses so that I am looking only at the shape of the story and not at its content? There is about this a chill of academic remove that I have not yet had to develop. More than remove, however, there is the understanding of uncomfortable plots and themes such that they lose their discomfort.

The separation between the passion of one writer and reader and that of a different writer and reader is as difficult for me as that of separating myself as an intimate participant in my story from myself as a objective editor of that same story.

This is a skill that I could have mastered had I stayed in college. I should have stayed.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

To the Book Cave!

There are plenty of January tasks to ignore, so I've been curled by the window plowing through the Christmas drifts of books. Yea!

First from the pile was Kelly Gay's The Darkest Edge of Dawn. This I had actually picked up to while away the evenings waiting to pick up my husband. That worked not at all, since I started it in the car, continued while eating dinner, watching tv, and "sleeping." Books, the previous incarnation of iRudeness. I was surprised by the forcefulness of the plot, since I had felt that the first book had suffered from the author's willingness to run her character through the wringer to the extent that I started to have Dresden flashbacks. This story is leaner and caught my attention like a snare, pulling me through the plot in a single arc and leaving me dangling and waiting for the next book.

The next book was one that I'd been saving, since I assumed that it would have the same glue-me-to-the-reading-window effect and, of course, it did. This was Seanan McGuire's latest October Daye novel, An Artificial Night. Ms. McGuire tells the best adult campfire stories, by which I mean stories that are not "quest for maturity" fairy tales, rather they are about heroism that doesn't drop away when the single monster of adolescence is slain. Mixed metaphor salad, fresh for y'all. :) An Artificial Night was excellent. The way that fairy and human and horror and wonder combined to make a nightmare quest for October captivated me, as did the way that my expectations are confounded--one has to pay attention, because this isn't a rote rhyme one can recite just because one has read the first stanza.

The last book (in the recently finished stack) was Minister Faust's The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad. There should be a flashing sign inserted here with flashing smiley faces and exclamation points. This was a funny book and I enjoyed it thoroughly. There was grimness and horror, but I was so much in love with the main characters that I just held my breath and read through it. Hamza and Ye (the Coyote Kings) told a vivid tale (as did all the other POV characters, of which there were several) and I found myself rather unsubtly pushing this book on my husband pretty much from the beginning. Psst, buddy....*snicker, snicker*...wanna read a line? This is a quest tale as a sci-fi road movie complete with quotable lines and awesome characters that you will think about in odd moments in the future.

So far, the post-holiday book stack has been a tasty pyramid of goodies. There are a few books on Tolkien that promise to be more pedantic reads and one by Michael Moorcock on epic fantasy (clash of the titans ON MY NIGHTSTAND! Bwa ha ha ha!) that promises to make me feel yet more illiterate and poorly read. At some point, I will finish The Worm Ouroboros. Really. I will. On my list. There, in tiny print, bottom of page 10. Tolkien will guilt me into it.

Hope y'all have a cozy January!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fred's Guide to Fine Dining, Lake Jackson Style

This afternoon my mom was mentioning her bemusement at finding that her novel (featuring sidekick Fred, the ever-lunching) was proving more popular than she'd expected just as I was skimming an article from Book View Cafe's Brewing Fine Fiction. The happy accident of Mom's finding enthusiastic readers for a small self-published novel (especially one titled I Hate Art) just makes me grin and it took away some of the inertia that sets in when I read "how to" books--even good ones.

Fighting the overwhelming feeling that the ship has left the harbor, at least in terms of my writing career, has become a full-time endeavor. I think about writing and then I decide to read or skim Facebook or file stuff. Except for Facebook, the other two give me a slight sense of accomplishment that I'm not getting from writing. Brewing Fine Fiction is a fine and funny book, but many of the articles presuppose a level of craft to which I have not yet come.

Mom's news broke up my fusty mood with the sharp insight that she earned a victory from finishing. She has a book and she has readers who enjoy it. She did it without workshopping her ideas to death and with a steely eye toward grammatical revisions. She took it seriously without taking herself seriously. Her book is funny. My mom is awesome.

I'm not my mom. But...I am going to finish my novel Triskelion this spring. I'm working on some of the maps and artwork now (because nothing says mighty fantastic adventure like stick people leaping wavy lines). I'm going to keep my favorite character from I Hate Art--Fred the Ever-Lunching--in mind. If the writing gets tough, I'll be hunting up German food or a good delicatessen chicken salad and watching the world go by while I write it down.