A Slow, Glorious Good Read

 

The last two weeks I’ve had the joy—sheer rapture—of reading a novel slow, every-word-slow, calculated as I imagine the writer penned and intended it. Smiling at masterful turns of phrase, laughing when appropriate and jaw tensed when anger at a character—no, a person—gave me cause.

Yearning to arrive at the next important event the writer maneuvered me toward—at the same time fascinated by the lyrical sentences luring me down a magical path—I journeyed. Caught up in a world very much like my own, yet not at all, I traveled, experiencing the life of another beyond my own finite personality.

The novel was recommended to me with lofty platitudes. I was skeptical, but hopeful, as I always am when I open to Chapter One. A slow and good read, or a fast read making me a bad reader? (See last week’s post about the difference).

I’ve seen the movie based on the book, a favorite we own and watch at least once a year. Usually a book is better than the movie adaptation, but on a few occasions the movie outperforms the book. Still, I hoped and was not disappointed.

The Green Mile is such a book.

I am not a Stephen King fan, have tried to read a couple of his other novels, and found I was a bad reader. I’ve enjoyed several of his movie adaptations—Shawshank Redemption comes to mind—but never eagerly awaited his next book, which made The Green Mile all that more enjoyable and mystifying.

“For those of you who think that Stephen King only writes horror fiction, think again . . .” San Diego Union Tribune

 The Green Mile is great on so many levels:

the viewpoint of the story (the protagonist, the “I” of first person) is multi-faceted and approachable like a friendship you enjoy over a cup of coffee;

the setting (both present and 1932) is believable, each demonstrated by tidbits of the “familiars” from each era;

the backfill arrives expertly (which is the majority of the text), stitched into the storyline with precision so the reader is never uncertain where they are;

secondary characters develop from the protagonist’s views and opinions as well as by their own actions and dialogue, giving each a “completeness” lacking in many otherwise well-written novels;

the story events flow naturally—at times leisurely, others at break-neck speed—with mysteries enticing and drawing the reader further on the adventure.

Overall a fantastic read determined by this avid fantasy reader, which The Green Mile hints at, and if pigeon-holed, is considered Magical Realism, or to a lesser degree, Urban Fantasy—but defining the book does not do the prose justice for it stretches any barriers that can be associated with it, including “historical” since it’s “time-line” is eighty-five years ago (64 years before its publishing date of 1996).

Besides being a wonderful novel, its publishing history is equally unique: The Green Mile was published as a serialized story, six segments published monthly as small, manageable parts (the completed version clocks in at 536 pages).

Other delights stood out while reading the novel, but those you can discover by reading and living the story on your own—you won’t be disappointed. I will certainly re-read The Green Mile, probably many times, enthralled with the premise, the writing, and the myriad of surprises waiting the next page turn.

I dabbed my eyes a few times during the reading, and I’m not ashamed to say so—those were the best moments.

See you on the next page,

Rick

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Fear and Loathing of the Writer Self

The writer “me” wrestles with fear and loathing. The analytical “me” tells the writer “me” he’s an idiot and shut up. Both have valid points; I ignore them and write. One word after another, “enter” button to the next paragraph, there we go . . . .

The accumulative “we” are plagued with doubts, thrashed by rejection, and harried by the many duties required to be writers in the modern world: write, edit, post, respond, research, follow, send, wait, research some more, wait some more, all the while writing every day and dripping sweat onto our keyboards.

Writing is a wonderful thing.

One person appreciates what you agonized over, so who cares that no-good editor sent you a form rejection? Place that rejection in your collection-of-rejection file, send the story to the next market on your list—that reader might be the one to give your life’s work credence. Hope: Keep it, Embrace it.

Write

Only you can tell the stories you have to tell. Oh, sure, learn the craft, study published authors, every day add new knowledge to your masterpiece. That’s how it should be.

Write

It’s as simple as that. Not quite, eh? What’s the problem? Time and responsibilities got you down? Does “What do I Write About” haunt you? Vow to never grow stagnant. Create something outside your field of interest, your genre, and experiment.

You see, it does not matter what you write, only that you do. Writing is what matters, and the prose can be anything other than a grocery list.  Butt in the seat, fingers on the keyboard, thoughts transcribed in front of you. The crux of writing is writing. Can I be any clearer?

I understand it’s infinitely easier to sit on the porch sipping lemon aide, dreaming of being a writer and going to book signings, being lauded as the next great novelist.

I once dreamed of playing guitar. I never owned one, didn’t practice, took no courses to learn music.

At one point I wanted to be an artist, but I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. I never practiced other than scratching out one-dimensional stick men.

Dreams, mists, nothing more.

Is that what writing is to you? I will be blunt: if that is your attitude, if washing your hair takes priority over ironing out a plot problem or further developing a character, you are not a fiction writer.

It’s okay to not be a writer, just as it’s okay to not be a chef.

For me, writing satisfies a yearning and passion—it nurtures my soul. It may not be for you, and that’s okay.

But if the passion boils in you, simmers in a constant stew of writing thoughts, discard the negative as you would an old toothbrush—no regrets. Then please, please reach out to the keyboard or pad of paper and write. Create your dreams, and then share them with the rest of us.

The fear and loathing may huddle in the shadows, but at least your dreams will be a tangible reality—nobody can take that away from you, and perhaps the next editor on your list will hoist your by-line for the world to see.

See you on the next page,

Rick

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The Only Writing Goal Needed For 2017

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Hundreds of blog posts preaching goal-setting methods for writers have appeared the last weeks. They expound many of the same things, the obvious old-hats we read every year. I wrote such a blog post at the end of 2015.

Many of the suggestions are sensible and will help, but they all miss (or glaze over) the one problem all writers share, beginners and professionals alike.

The problem often ignored is all in your mind.

There lay the subterfuge needling the will to write, punching holes in plot developments, and pushing over cardboard characters like props on a stage.

Writers wear three hats: creator, reader, editor.

The problem writers share is confusing the third hat (editor) with one that should have never been bought, and certainly not worn—the critic hat.

The critic is the voice in your head that tells you writing is a waste of time. The critic is a sneaky bastard, the master of clichés, whispering “that’s been done a hundred times” or “nobody wants to read what you have to say” or “you will never have the necessary skills.” In effect, the critic is a doubter, a wet-blanket, a party-pooper, a liar.

That is not to say you should not be critical of your writing. Taking a critical approach to your prose (word choice, sentence structure, plot, character, etc.) is an essential aspect when wearing the editor’s hat.

The difference between the two? The editor is analytical, the critic is emotional (with a heavy dose of negativity). Adopting the editor and denying the critic is a matter of changing your attitude.

The problem I vow to master in 2017 is Mind-Set. It will take effort, and quite a few reminders throughout the hours and days ahead while hunched over my keyboard.

I have hung on my study wall two reminders that I am a writer: a copy of The Accomplice, my published short story, and the acceptance letter.

Those are my reminders. Yours might be a favorite quote from a published author or simply the words I AM A WRITER above the monitor. Perhaps you are not quite so bold, so you have inspiration on a wall to your side, or maybe on a wall behind which forces you to swivel in your chair when attacked by doubt.

Be bold, and go where you have never gone before—place your inspiration where you can readily view it as a constant reminder of what you wish to become. What, no inspirational reminder? Find something and make it your own.

Repeat after me:

I am a Writer.

Because I am a writer, I write whether convenient or not, regardless of my mood.

My skills will improve if I write; whining about why I can’t write makes me a better whiner. Effort extended will make me better at what I spend my time doing. Better Writer or Better Whiner? I Decide.

Know this: you have the skills to succeed, and any problems or mistakes in your writing can be fixed. Now go write, and become what you are destined to be.

See you on the next page,

Rick