Finally! At last! Woo-hoo! I finally got going on this rewrite that’s been plaguing me this week. I feel like I’ve loosened up the scar tissue in a bum shoulder and am actually getting some rotation again. *Phew!* What a relief. Anyway, I’ll go into that more later.
I’ve recognized one powerful way to know if a book is good (at least for me): possession. I’m not even talking about that “gotta read it” feeling, because I find these days that kind of intensity comes in fits and bursts, and can’t be counted on any more than “inspiration” to get my butt in the chair to write. I’m talking about real, honest-to-goodness possession: the ability of a book’s characters or dialogue or action to physically change the real me in the real world.
There’s a reason I don’t tend to read in public. I make faces. Weird faces. I scowl. I grimace. I glare. I break into huge goofy smiles. I giggle. I get teary-eyed. It’s odd, I’ve heard, from those who’ve studied me reading without my knowledge. But that’s how I know I’m in a good book: the characters have so deeply connected with my imagination that I’m not me anymore. I’m one of them. I’m feeling their pain, I’m enraged by the injustices done to them, I’m enraptured by their love interest, and I’m despondent when they’re defeated. This spans genres: I can get this way about a classic novel by Edith Wharton or John Galsworthy as equally as I can go head-over-heels for a novel like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell or Nova or anything with Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. I find myself mouthing or even whispering the pieces of dialogue, because reading them on the page alone isn’t enough involvement. If I could, I would crawl into the pages and be RIGHT THERE, short sword or evening paper in hand.
It’s a ferocity, this possession, a wild, maniacal connection with a world far beyond my own. It’s not something I feel all that often, if I’m being honest. It’s a rare, precious feeling, one I get just often enough to get that spark, that reminder, that I remember having so often in my childhood when all books were new adventures, and I wasn’t as concerned by writing style and plot problems. It’s the kind of book that reminds me that books are portals to wonderful worlds. It’s the kind of thing that makes me buy my own copy of a book, just because I want to keep that world within reach, even if I have no intention in the near future of re-reading it (though I do re-read from time to time). It’s the kind of book I want to pass on to my future kids. The kind of book I want to share with all my friends. The kind of book I’ll defend to the end of the world to other writers and editors, because it’s just. that. damn. good.
Most recently, it’s been The Silver Spoon by John Galsworthy (recently finished), and currently The Child Thief by Brom. Are either of these books perfect? No–definitely not. From time to time, I hitch up on technical mechanics that bother me, or scenes that don’t quite do all they could. But the overall feeling is that amazing heart-swelling adoration that just sucks me in and sweeps me away. I love it. And maybe I love it all the more because it’s a bit rare.
WRITING/EDITING PROJECT: Far-future lifeforms! Pulsars! Sentient robotic trees! Seedling space-travel! Massive radiation poisoning! It’s all here, and being converted to flash fiction from 3,600 words.
Working Title: ”The Miracle of Jane”
Added Words: N/A
Total Words (to date): ~600
Happening Today in the World of Fiction!: A raging pulsar! Poisonous radiation! Tidally locked satellites! A mother’s love and loss! The vast expanse of the universe, and the hope of a thousand happy clones!
Notes: Made good progress today, after a long, long bit of quite painful struggle to get my shoulders back into the story. Got two whole sections tweaked today, which is a nice pick-up, and leaves only three left to go. I’m relieved that a lot of this reworking is turning out to be not *quite* rewriting, but more syphoning off the absolute best details to keep and leaving all the (useful but technically discardable) chaff behind. There’s a bit of rewriting involved, just in transitioning from one thought to the next, but overall, it’s more or less compressing the best of the best sequences into self-contained 200-word segments. It takes a while, and isn’t particularly easy, but I’m finding that I already have a gut-feel for what I desperately want to keep, and that’s helping me zone in on the sentences and images to compile and compress. Tough going, but worth it so far, though tomorrow I’ll be starting to dip into the scenes I really *don’t* want to have to put together. Ugh. Not particularly looking forward to that!