Thursday, August 26, 2010

Loving a book to death

Internet, we have a problem: I am sick to death of a book that came out on Tuesday. A book I won't even get a chance to read until next week. If I even read it, because after another two days of this I'm going to start developing hives whenever I see the book.

I understand that Twitter and Facebook have made our sharing of what we're doing instantaneous, but there several problems with the way a lot of people are behaving this week. I'm not talking about revealing plot details in a public space. It should go without saying that's a crime against your fellow readers.

With social media, a lot of people want to make reading a social activity. Reading isn't a social activity. It's something that happens before you can participate in the social activity of discussion.

You can't have a discussion about a text with someone who hasn't read it. You can tell them about the text and they can comment on what you've told them, but that's just a secondary reaction. Any opinion they express is based on your bias.

When thousands of people join in to talk at other people about a text, it's nothing short of propaganda. These past two days the collective tweetbrain has been bludgeoned into feeling guilty if they aren't reading a certain novel. It would be different if this novel was part of new 1t1b campaign. It's not. It's mob-mentality loving a book to death.

I'm open about the fact that I've read the two previous novels in this trilogy and thought they were a bit flawed. I also feel any relevant discussion they offer—and they do offer a lot of socially relevant discussion—is usually overshadowed by shipping arguments of one pairing versus another.

To paraphrase a friend: This is why we can't have nice things, Fandom.

My frustration isn't over the popularity of the novels. I want you to read. I want you to love books. I don't care if they happen to be books that I don't feel the same way about. We're different people. We're allowed to love different things.

No, I'm annoyed because reading is a personal relationship—an intimate connection between a text and a single reader. It's a sacred bond that authors and their publishers work for years to create.

When a person tweets/statuses their emotional reaction to a book with specific page numbers, they ruin everyone else's ability to approach that text with no preconceptions. It's a spoiler to know that on page XXX someone's heart was breaking for this character, because now I know that around page XXX something sad is going to happen.

Maybe that person thinks she's creating anticipation, but she's only creating expectation. She's influencing the emotional response other people will have. Would you like someone to tell you how you're supposed to feel about your personal relationships?

Part of why I don't LOVE these novels is because other people created such immense expectations for them. I was told for so long that these were the GREATEST BOOKS EVER WRITTEN, so when I finally read them I was rather disappointed. Then I was made to feel guilty for believing them to only be decent, thought-provoking novels that are worth the time it takes to read them. That's not a criticism; just like it's not a criticism to say I don't enjoy them as much as another series. It's an opinion.

We all have opinions, and we all have the right to share them. But there's a huge difference between a single "OMG, YOU GUYS THIS BOOK IS SO AWESOME" while you're reading—with a follow-up confirming that the book was indeed AWESOME all the way to the end—and a constant parade of your emotional reactions with page notations.

The first behavior is respectful to your fellow readers. It suggests it was more important to finish reading the book than tweet about it. That's the kind of book I want: One that I can't put down long enough to reach for my phone.

The second behavior is exhibitionist. It's not about the book at all. It's about you.

I realize that Twitter is turning us all into narcissists, but could we at least try to put up a fight for what remains of civility and consideration of others? Honestly, isn't that part of what our beloved trilogy is about?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This book is cursed

It's a humbling feeling at 67,000 words into a draft to realize you've approached the telling of the story all wrong.

Not the story itself or the question of who the story belongs to. No, it's the background details and the overall focus; what moments you share and which characters share them.

About 40,000 words previous, I had a feeling the story wasn't working and that its issues were rooted in its beginning chapters. The problem with issues that early is that they twist and redirect the entire story in little ways, until it's not growing because those problems are like nasty weeds stealing all the sunlight.

Doing what I have to do—what the story needs me to do be happy with the telling of it—means I rewrite 67,000 words. I don't have to throw them out. A great deal of the plot can remain relevant, but the pacing and the time and the people involved has to shift.

I have to rework a romantic subplot, re-plot a secondary character's involvement, plot a new secondary character's role, and try to refocus the story. Was hoping to spend my upcoming vacation reading, but it looks like I'll still be drafting.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Voices

I've been struggling with character voice in the narration of The Magpie Book's draft. I should be expecting it, as I struggled with the previous book to get the distant male narrator to show us his dazzling personality.

I know it's the draft, and there are so many other things to be worrying about than the main protagonist feeling shy. It's a pet peeve I have in writing—I dock marks for poorly constructed worlds or narrative voice that could be anyone. If I won't let others get away with it, I can't very well give myself a pass.

That's why the draft is dragging. Not the plot requiring more words than I intended or a growing desire to be finished and moved on to something else. The draft drags because the main protagonist drags his feet. He mumbles. He delivers things in an almost monotone instead of a monologue. Yes, it's third person, but it doesn't matter. He should still be in the words because it's his story. He's hiding. And that's frustrating.

It's an issue to address in the redraft, but that doesn't decrease the annoyance of being so aware that it is an issue. At this point, I should know what he sounds like.

The idea slated to start drafting after I complete The Magpie Book is forming. Shifting. Changing. Settling. It'll do all that again in the draft, but at least it's not such a vague, ethereal being anymore. I also think I may have had a crack in the nut that is the stalled project that got shelved late last year. It may, after a little more simmering time, be ready to speak to Agent M about again.

What about you? How goes everyone else's writing? On sabbatical for August or are you slaving away at the keyboard no matter what the temperature?