Book in Progress

Victorian Houses

February 2014

This is going to be a bit of a ramble. Don't say you weren't warned!

Thanks to my new vow to stop multi-tasking, I had to to wait until I finished a book that was really pissing me off, before starting this post. I'm not going to tell you the title. I will never name books I don't like. Someone put a lot of work and a lot of soul into that book, and I can't bring myself to demean something so precious to another person.

So let me talk about this in the abstract: I wanted to stop reading this book altogether at some point (at many points). The main character really pissed me off. He was one of those types that I hate - a character that is a spectator in their own lives, where all they do is react to situations, and where every other character introduced is so much more interesting, and yet someone we don't get to follow. No, we're left with this guy, who can't stand up for himself, who isn't articulate, who is a constant victim in a world where bad things just keep happening, and in response he never seems to learn or improve. He's not attractive or intelligent or special in any way, and he doesn't become any of these things either. He's just a sponge - absorbing and feeling bad and then expounding on the the life lessons he has learned as a sponge. The longer the amount of time I spent with this person - the more I started to actively hate him. I felt like spending time with him was wasting hours of my life, and maybe so.

However, every time I wanted to stop - I thought about the reviewers that I sent my book out to, and I kept going. I've tried to put a constructive spin on reviews, with this post, and here's a follow up. I've sent the draft out to a good number of people - a sample. There were two reviewers in particular who I had been really looking forward to hearing from, because they were published authors; they had that aura of legitimacy: they had been published in the traditional way. They were represented by agents and a real publisher had published their books. This would be some great feedback! So I waited for their responses in happy anticipation. Then I just kept on waiting. 

One of the authors could not finish the book at all. My book isn't that long, just to be clear. But she just could not finish it. As I was reading the book which will not be named, I kept thinking - was this what it was like for her? What I've heard back from the reviewer is that this book is not her "type." (I'm assuming she's being honest here, and there's no reason to think she would lie.) Anything that falls outside this "type," she cannot bring herself to read, not even for a friend. What I take from this is that people have a natural range of books they will read: they have a "type." People like blonds and Thai food, and anything else is ugly and tastes like dogfood. Human nature is what it is. I, on the other hand, am a book whore. I'll read anything, as long as something about it piques my interest, so this was good to know. 

The other reviewer? She's a genius. Literally, a genius. She could probably put away an encyclopedia a day. So no sweat, right? Could probably jot down a few useful notes and be done with it. I never heard back from her again. I don't understand why people say they're going to do something - and then don't do it. Human nature is a funny thing. I'm going to keep shuffling along. Writing is a process, and there are a lot of obstacles along the way - I just have to keep moving forward. As long as I keep moving, I will eventually get to where I want to be.


November 2013

Long story short, I sent out a draft of my book* to a friend for a review, and the review came back that she had stopped reading at about 70 pages because she just couldn't get into it, and that if you haven't hooked the reader by 70 pages, then you never will because they will stop reading. 

So, the first reaction was feeling that this was a personal stab to the heart; it's like she told me my child looked like a gnome. I don't think that part is avoidable. It was a first draft, and I don't think anyone's first draft comes out anywhere near perfect. I read that part of her email again, and...nope it was still a stab to the heart. 

Then, I did what I did when I was back in college. I used to bounce back quickly back then. I remembered that I really enjoyed self-identifying as a problem-solver. For some reason, rejection never seemed to be a surprise then, it used to be something that just happened, and something that you turned into a problem to be solved. It's an old skill that I used to do instinctively, and that I'd like to learn again. 

I'm going to try to break the 70 pages of unreadability into manageable parts. What exactly worked or didn't? I think her assessment was useful and timely - I'm at a place where I can do something about it, but I would like something more concrete than that she couldn't get through it. I have some guesses on what went wrong, and if I think on it a bit, I can come up with some solutions. So life goes on. 

*Co-book. I've co-written a book, but to lessen confusion, I will use "my."


September 25, 2013

I started this blog to write again, just to write for the sake of writing. My vocabulary had become stunted, my creative muscles were sagging, and it just didn't feel right to think of myself as a writer without having written here I am.

On looking at other writer's blogs, I've noticed that while I write, I don't talk at all very much about my own work, so I'm putting this page together to do just that.

What I'm going to do here, is to update this page periodically to track where I am with my own work, so if anyone is interested, this is pretty easy to find. So far, I'm co-writing a novel with a friend. We have completed a first draft, and by last count we had sent it out to about six readers for feedback and none of them have gotten back to us. This makes me suspect that our book may be boring. But boring is fixable, or so I like to believe. My other suspicion is that with two writers, it may not be smooth transitioning between our writing styles, and once you lose a reader's attention, it's hard to get that back. I believe I can fix that too.

The novel itself I would describe as general fiction, maybe even historical fiction, because the characters are chasing after the origins of an ancient artifact. These are my goals when writing: a plot that twists in unexpected ways (I'm a sucker for novelty); humor; a character's voice that has a texture to it, when you hear their voice, it rubs up against you and there is a sense of friction; and of course an underlying current of strong emotion. Put simply, it moves you.

I have various theories about the act of writing, and the qualities that good writers should have, etc. I'll get to that eventually.

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