Wednesday, May 6, 2015

When You Don't Feel Like Writing (Read)

crochet robot
Photo from Christelle

I haven't been talking about my writing lately. I'm in the midst of a re-write of one of my older books. I fleshed out the world and beefed up the outline, and I was making progress.

But recently I hit a spot in the writing that I'm almost positive I'm going to have to hack to pieces when I finally start revising. I feel bored just writing it. I might feel that way due to self-doubt and general self-uncertainty, but I'm sure I'm at least a little bit right.

I know what I need to do. I need to keep writing until I get through this part and then go back and see how I can fix it when I'm editing (or, rather, what I can just chop out). But it's kind of hard to keep writing when I know what I'm writing is not actually useful.

I make myself keep going, but it's slow going, and I need more breaks than usual. So I've been trying to catch up on some reading during those breaks. Some noteworthies in the last month:

  1. Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
  2. electric sheep
    Photo from Mann Library
    • Quick Summary - Classic Science Fiction and the basis for the movie Blade Runner. Dick, despite his mildly unfortunate name, is one of the masters of early(ish) science fiction. This book is from the '60s, and its views on women's roles in society are a little bit dated (but not as much as another sci-fi master, who I just cannot get into - Heinlein). Androids are being used as slave labor on Mars; Earth is in sad straights; and Rick Deckard, android bounty hunter here on Earth, is our main character. He's just been assigned to take out some particularly smart (and human-esque) androids.
    • My Take-Aways - Themes. This book is chalk full of the question, "What does it mean to be human?" So many different characters contribute to this question in different ways. Dick builds the world and plot around the question. And then, of course, there's the whole "Mankind is going to kill itself" bit too. But that's more world-building than thematic. This book has cool world-building, philosophical questioning, and interesting characters with interesting dilemmas. There's a lot to be learned here. If I can figure out how.
  3. Magyk (the first Septimus Heap book) by Angie Sage
  4. fortuneteller, teenaged boy
    Image from Sean McGrath
    • Quick Summary - there's a bad wizard dude who wants to take over the kingdom of The Castle, and the good guys are fighting back! Generic, right? But it was such a good read! Also: the Castle's princess was abandoned in the snow and taken in by a wizarding family that just lost their son - who would have been a seventh son of a seventh son.
    • My Take-Aways - How to freshen up a standard idea & How to use a ton of characters without losing your reader. To be honest, I'm not certain why the plot didn't feel old and used. Maybe it was because of the extensive world building that drew on some slightly unusual characters and some different ideas of how magic should operate. She used a few unusual twists and built such a cohesive world that it didn't feel stale. Also: she managed to keep introducing new characters but in ways that really related to the existing characters and helped tie everything together.
  5. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  6. creepy, dark tree
    Image by Carlos AndrĂ©s Reyes
    • Quick Summary - Boy wakes up in an elevator as he's being sent up to a world surrounded by a dangerous maze and populated by teenaged boys. He's missing memories about himself but remembers about the world in general.
    • My Take-Aways - Honestly, I'm having a difficult time getting through this book. It's pretty original and the concept is interesting. And, weirdly, enough, my own main character has really similar memory issues (from a book I started writing about the time this book came out). My problem with the book is that the boy is really impulsive and super complainy about how people won't tell him stuff and how he can't remember stuff. And since I find that annoying it's a good lesson in stuff I need to avoid in my own writing. And I'm sure I could take a few action writing lessons from Dashner as well.
  7. Greenglass House by Kate Milford
  8. ominous stained glass
    Photo by Michael Kooiman
    • Quick Summary - a mysterious pack of strangers arrive at Milo's parents' ramshackle, old inn. His town is famous for smugglers and thieves, and his house holds many secrets.
    • My Take-Aways - Building tension/mystery & The impact of a title. I think this book suffers for its title. I was reluctant to read it just because it sounded like it was about a greenhouse, and books about greenhouses don't seem that interesting. Milford successfully takes what could be a slow book and captures the imagination by dropping little hints here and there about what all of the characters are hiding. It's a bunch of people snowed in at an inn, and I'm loving this book. It reminds me of both Agatha Christie and The Westing Game.

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