Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sunday Serenity #56


What's better than being carried away by a story? That has always been a reliable serenity inducer for me. Even stories about scary things like vampires.

I am deep into The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova this weekend. Again. I started it last October just before our library system reopened and then set it aside to participate in NaNo. I was over 300 pages in.

I was planning to pick it up again immediately after NaNo but December was taken up by a trip to visit my family followed by holiday events. I did take it with me to Longview WA but probably read five pages the entire two weeks.

Then the first two weeks of January was all about the room makeover I blogged about then. You might have seen the book in a starring role in the photos I took of the room as I was putting it back together. I kept it close to me throughout the month of January and into February. Until the reopening of our Phoenix branch library in its new building on the sixth. After that it was a combination being distracted by the library books and the difficulties imposed by three viruses I fought through the end of April.

Last week my frustration with myself came to a head and I ruthlessly sent back nearly all of the library books due in the next two weeks and all of the novels due in the next three, clearing the way to devote my attention to The Historian again. If two weeks isn't enough time, I will do it again. I am determined to finish it this time. All 640 odd pages.

I found the first 380 pages the most exquisitely crafted prose I've ever encountered. Each sentence like a savory dish. The plot was intricate and the characters complex. And to top it off the protagonists are bibliophiles of a sort, being historians by education and temperament. Many scenes take place in libraries and ancient manuscript archives and museums.

I had to start it over of course. Even though I remember every scene once I am involved in it again, I got too confused trying to start where I left off. I am enjoying the reread of the first half as much, if not more than the first time through. The first time I was pressuring myself to finish before NaNo and was frustrated that I couldn't read it as fast as I had anticipated. Partly due to the savory prose that I just had to--well--savor. Mostly due to desperately needing new reading glasses which I got the week after Thanksgiving. This time I am taking my time, putting enjoyment of the story above all other considerations.

I should never have set it aside for NaNo. That was a self-imposed rule that I'm not going to impose on myself again. I believed for years, after a college writing teacher pointed out to me how my prose style changed from scene to scene and even in the middle of scenes and I then traced those changes to the prose styles of the novels I happened to be reading the day I was writing the scene, that I mustn't be reading fiction while I was writing it.

I have, just recently realized that was a huge mistake. Not only does it force me to choose between two loves--the reading of stories and the writing of stories--but it deprives me of fodder for the muse and the best source of how-to any aspiring writer can access: the successful stories themselves.

So I've lifted the ban on reading fiction on the same day I'm writing fiction, trusting myself to know how to smooth out the style hiccups on re-writes. Imagine asking an artist to stop looking at art.

But now I've got to learn or re-learn how to balance the reading of fiction with the writing of fiction. I was supposed to be working on the snippet that was supposed to be posted Friday. And now here it is closing in on midnight Saturday...

I can put part of the blame on the heatwave we're having that makes close encounters with laptop keyboards quite miserable. But, not all as I woke in plenty of time this morning to have worked four or five hours before the heat got unbearable. I picked up The Historian first instead.

Join us for a moment of serenity.

1 tell me a story:

Ed 5/18/2008 9:13 AM  

Mine is up at http://edsthread.399megs.con

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