The Trouble With Writing

I’ve made a commitment to devote more time to reading. It’s one of my favorite past times. As a writer, it’s highly recommended. Write and read other authors. Write more. On the road trip/book junket, I loaded up with five or six books with every intention of plowing through them.

One was Monster Chef by Jervey Tervalon, an author I know by acquaintance through my FB friend, Elizabeth Wong. Two more were NPR book review recommendations, The Cutting Season by Attica Locke and Bulletproof Vest: The Ballad of An Outlaw And His Daughter by Maria Venegas. I added Carsick; John Waters Hitchikes Across America because it seemed like a great road trip read. Last was Orange Is The New Black because I thought I should read the book before I became addicted to the television show. I also recently finished A Discovery Of Witches by Deborah Harkness.

Reading on the trip didn’t work out so well. So much of my own writing needed attention and traveling takes extra time when you’re setting up and taking down tent camper. Son 1 tore through more of my books than I did.

I broke open the books once I was home. I’ve made a commitment to try one book every week to two weeks. Here’s my stumble, I’m doing a lot of thinking about plot structure, pacing, and character development. It makes for a different reading experience. I’ve been transported back to my literary theory days when delving deeply into books and media became a crazy thought exercise rather than an entertaining experience.

Reading other people’s books is about noticing their pacing choices, their plot movement and story structure. Some work for me, some don’t. I find myself skimming and thinking, Wow, these 100 pages could’ve been distilled and cut down.”  I’m put in the mind of my favorite high school writing teacher, Perry Weissman (still teaching English! I bow to you Perry!) He used red ink and wrote PADDING in giant slashing letters across the page. I would grind my teeth when I received those papers. Now, I stop and think, “Would Perry leave this bit?”

That doesn’t mean I’m writing concise, compact and effective prose every time. I recently finished a third edit of The Esau Emergence with input from the very helpful Vivian Caethe. Vivan identified my writing tick and drawing my attention to it allowed me to cut 8,000 words. You read correctly….8,000 words! The great thing about seeing that tick is when I looked at Convergence…..voilá, I’d stopped the habit! No wonder the plot moved at writing super speed.

I try to look beyond the sluggish pace of some books and while I didn’t enjoy a couple (note to self: NPR recommendation doesn’t = good for me), I have found benefit in seeing how others put their storytelling together. I never write a terrible review i.e one star. Writing a book is a feat for goodness sake, even if I don’t enjoy it personally.

To be honest, I’m waiting until we push the third edition out before I send one to Perry. I know he’ll be all over the book with his red pen.