So, last time I mentioned how a name came into my head and I carried a baby into the future and brought her up to be a teenager meeting another character and, well, I had to write it down. After writing much of that scene I returned to another story I was writing which was of the parent of the child, a short time after birth… and then to try to keep on track with publishing my stories I went back to another story and found myself at the honeymoon of this parent. (Obviously, I’m not running into writer’s block. I just wonder if other writers have this difficulty… that of having so much of this story to write that it comes out in spurts and streams and explosions… which means I have to exercise the one trait hardest to come by: focus)
Bringing up this trait points out the fact that I’ve been neglecting it, just as I’ve been neglecting what I meant to focus on in this blog which is the books that led me into writing. I meant to… really… I started reading the next of the Witch World series by Andre Norton and then picked up one of Charles Williams books, Shadows of Ecstasy and started reading that (due to an untimely snowstorm in the area I had no power and was reading by flashlight and candles and thought I’d get a lot done). A friend was reading a more contemporary book (though itself a period piece) The Alienist by Caleb Carr, so since I had a copy on my shelf waiting for me, I started reading that as well. This is the kind of book where, if you really love details and specifics and getting every detail of the flavor of the past brought up to view (the atmosphere) alongside of the story, you can take your time and read.
Personally I love details and getting the flavor correct to carry the reader into the story… giving the reader a taste of where they are. The problem in current genre fiction (which is what I seem to be writing) is that carrying the reader along with the story is done immediately and not worked on page after page, if you see what I’m saying.
I had a writing seminar with a bestselling author once and she looked at the story I was working on at the time and told me the beginning was too long, too wordy, what I spent 20 or 30 pages on she would have said in 5 or 10. Of course when she pointed it out and mentioned the reasons, I had to agree… so I worked on it and I think I actually discarded most of what I’d written and gave the same details looking over the shoulder of my main character in the first three or four pages. Also, I believe I engaged the reader’s emotions and curiosity as to what happens next (at least of those readers who have discussed it with me) in the same length of space.
Most of what’s published currently is meant to engage the audience by presenting something so well known (almost a universally accepted idea) and showing all the new and interesting characters with all the variations that make them unique (not so strange that you can’t relate to them, though) and have you halfway through the story before you realize you’ve heard it all before. The books I look back to are no different… there is nothing new under the sun… there are only different ways to express it.
Then yesterday I was leaving the library and found a book in their free book box (a little too worn for the book sale I think – or it’s missing pages I haven’t got to yet) and I started reading that; The Quest by Wilbur Smith. I picked it up because it’s a story of ancient Egypt (I believe he has a series of that era) and it has magic and caught my attention. I also grabbed it because of another series I love, which is by Elizabeth Peters, with her character Amelia Peabody Emerson as an archaeologist in Egypt, which are mostly murder mystery/adventure stories. The Emerson family is perfectly delightful and I still haven’t read them all.
So as far as focus goes, I’m without, with four books to read, one in my car that I listen to while driving, three or four or five notebooks I’m currently working with (writing) of the same series, creating the covers to the ones I’ve finished and working at various necessary support plans… maybe it is focus but it’s on multiple targets…
And then this blog…
I meant to recommend the book by Charles Williams in this post, I still do… it is good… I simply have not finished re-reading it for the occasion. Power was out at my house for several days and reading by flashlight and candles seemed more difficult than it should have. I like a lot of light when reading, writing or drawing. (I found I could not work on my cover drawings with only candles or exterior light) Then there were the withdrawal symptoms from my TV addiction. I can read very well with the television on… and write… and draw.
In any case Shadows of Ecstasy by Charles Williams is written with the British flavor of English and one must be able to grasp that to enjoy the story, to have it flow easily. C.S. Lewis has the same writing style but that stopped no one from enjoying his stories. The difference is that Mr. Williams’ writing is on an adult level, the concepts and form are offered with no secondary explanations to qualify the storyline. He takes for granted that you have an understanding of the world, the ways of the world and the fact that there are mysteries that men prefer to avoid rather than admit. This is the one aspect of his books that I found remarkable when I first read them, he confronts the mysteries and brings them to light… it is up to the reader to accept and believe or disbelieve.
Hopefully, when I present my next offering I will have finished reviewing another of the past books I mean to…