A Complimentary First Review


So the first non-me reader of my novel has finished it, and gave me a pretty solid compliment. She said that she loved the concept, and wished there was more to the book because she was enjoying it so much.

Okay, so the reader is my wife, which perhaps makes her review a little less than perfectly objective. She does have several notebook pages of notes compiled, though, and pointed out some errors that I overlooked, and some that I downplayed in my own mind despite the fact that they are actually pretty significant.

In short, a mixed review, which is actually exactly what I was hoping for. Good news is she didn’t feel it was a waste of her time or mine, in fact just the opposite. She told me it would make a good movie, and that it would do really well as a series. All the things a wife is supposed to say to her husband who is thrashing around in the riptide trying to find an artistic identity.

In fact, her feedback couldn’t have come at a better time; I’ve started working on my next major project and, much though I love the raw rush of creating from nothingness, it’s leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. Maybe bitter isn’t the word for it: I tried to describe the sensation to my wife, and the best I could come up with (though I actually rather like the simile) is oatmeal.

Writing the new project, at the moment, is kinda like eating oatmeal. The right things are happening, I feel like I’m building a solid foundation for the story to come, and in general the development of the project feels good. But it’s lacking flavor, and I can’t put my finger on why. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m writing the story explicitly from one character’s point of view, but I’m writing it in the 3rd person. Like, if I got into the character’s headspace, I could develop her voice with a bit more flair and verve, but from outside, I’m stuck describing events simply as they happen, and it feels… well, like oatmeal. Also, there’s the fact that I haven’t 100% decided exactly where this story leads — I know some major landmarks along the way but I don’t yet have an ending in mind yet. As a result, I’m moving through it a little tentatively, and that makes me nervous to take risks, which leaves the writing feeling… yeah. Bland.

So maybe I’ll toy with some 1st person perspective over the next couple chapters, or then again, maybe I’ll hold off, since the action is about to start crackling. Blerg. Should I be focusing on infusing a bit more flash and style into this piece to complement the story, or should I just focus on the events first and nail down the delivery later?

I would have thought that, having written a 90,000 word draft before, I’d know what I wanted to accomplish in this new story when I tried to come around and do it again. But apparently not. I blazed a path through the jungle only to discover that writing the next novel will be a hike across the endless desert.

Writer problems. I complain, but these are good problems to have, because the words are flowing, and a lot of writers can’t say that. Nothing to do but press forward. No way out but through.

This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.

Time Out for Reading!


Weird circumstances the past couple days have seriously disrupted the routine, and as a result I’m getting virtually no work done on the novel, nor am I having any particularly useful things to post about here on the blarg.

That’s partly due to the honest-to-goodness fact that my daily schedule is all screwed up and partly due to the fact that there is some heavy sharknado weighing on my mind that I am literally not allowed to discuss.  More updates in a few days when the dust settles.

However, my activities the past few days have left me with some rather large gaps during the day which I’ve had to fill using no electronic devices at all, and since I plan ahead for these eventualities, I’ve gotten to do something I haven’t enjoyed in quite some time: sit down and read.  You know, from a book.  Like in the olden times.  Pages and all.  Bookmarks.  Dog-eared pages and jotting little notes in a notebook.  (Yeah, that’s how I read, I can’t help it.)

In particular, I’m sinking myself into the second in a series by Jasper Fforde, Lost in a Good Book.  The series in question is the Thursday Next series, which follows the titular heroine (a literary detective) as she gallivants in and out of various works of fiction, some renowned, others reviled, in pursuit of her duties tracking unauthorized changes to priceless manuscripts and verifying the authenticity of lost works of Shakespeare.

Now, “literary detective” is a job title which immediately makes me want to fall asleep, but these books are just flat out fun.  They detail a fantastically well-imagined alternate reality in which, to name just a few key differences, ownership of the Crimean peninsula is still in dispute, long-extinct animals have been genetically resequenced as household pets (Thursday keeps an adorable and rare second-sequence dodo bird, Pickwick, in her home), and Gravity Tubes allow anybody to travel to anywhere in the world in the space of just over forty minutes.  If that sounds whimsical, rest assured that I’ve only just slipped you the tip of the taco.  Fforde weaves the details of this fantastical world so thoroughly into his narrative that I never find myself questioning how things work; rather, I bounce happily along for the ride.  In fact, the alacrity and gusto and sometimes the offhanded way in which he creates the tiniest of details in this world is so charming and effective that it makes me feel woefully inadequate as a writer.

To wit, this passage from page 112 of Lost in a Good Book:

“Looping” was a slang term for Closed Loop Temporal Field Containment.  They popped the criminal in an eight-minute repetitive time loop for five, ten, twenty years.  Usually it was a Laundromat, doctor’s waiting room or bus stop, and your presence often caused time to slow down for others near the loop.  Your body aged but never needed sustenance.  It was cruel and unnatural — yet cheap and required no bars, guards, or food.

He tosses off this explanation like sluicing water off the hood of a freshly waxed car, deftly weaving the callous cruelty of the monstrous corporation together with the unfathomable scientific capabilities of the universe and, oh, just for fun, offers a clever explanation for why we always sit around checking our watches (sharknado, I just dated myself) or rather our cell phones in waiting rooms.  And he does this every three or four pages.

I’m not here today to offer a review of the entire book, let alone the series.  I haven’t yet reached the point in the book where somebody does get Looped, though it’s not necessarily an eventuality I expect.  It’s simply one example out of hundreds that detail the possibilities of an alternate universe that plays fast and loose with the laws of physics.  Fforde is also unrelentingly British and has that delightfully dry wit, so the books scratch that Douglas Adams itch that seems so untameable.  (Untameable?  Untamable?  Spellcheck doesn’t like either option.)

In short, if you’re a bookish sort, you should be reading Thursday Next.  Possibly you could read Thursday Next on Thursday next.  (I think the man must have been chuckling sideways at himself with just about every character name in the thing.)  And no, it’s not a particularly new series — Good Book came out in 2002 — but who cares?  It’s brilliant and clever and whimsical and ridiculous all at once.

The last several books I’ve read have been so heavy and dark and drear that these books have felt like a much-needed B12 shot.  Anybody else out there reading books that make you laugh?