Writer’s Log: 2451

I know now why I don’t like to read for pleasure anymore. Or rather, why I can’t read for pleasure.

Everything I read feels like research.

“Is this any good? Should I use that treatment in my own writing? Ooh, that’s a cool word, must use it soon. Ugh, this is crap, strung out description, passive, inside out. Whoa, I’ve been reading for like a hundred words and almost forgot to analyze rather just enjoy it — let me go back and see why I didn’t get jimmied out of the vibe.”

Either I’m judging the writing for quality, or I’m mining it for tips and tricks, clues as to how it flows but my own writing feels like railroad ties on a bicycle.

C. Robert Cargill’s “We are where the nightmares go” nearly got me back in the groove. I skipped tracks, but I don’t think it was due to this author’s lack of skill. He’s clearly got some fine tuned aptitude. My lapses in immersion came from recognition, during the process, that: here’s some quality writing. His talent shows. And I noticed it showing, glowing. Yank!

Some days I wish I’d never started down this path. I’m nearly a fourth of the way through. I can’t go back to the beginning and the finish line stretches ever so far-off in the distance.

NOTE: There’s some fucking irreverent writing in that short story collection, whew! Loved it, you know, when I wasn’t getting jerked around by my own stupid editor’s brain. And, of course I didn’t buy it. Library rental. I only buy books from authors I personally know (relatively), these days.

21 thoughts on “Writer’s Log: 2451

  1. I’m so sorry. I guess I was lucky not to start writing until I was almost 50. I’d read so much before then that I’d internalized what did and didn’t work [for me] so if I stumble on a brilliant story I can still appreciate it without the editor butting in. Sadly, I know I’ll never measure up to the writers in my pantheon, but at least I can be a decent storyteller.
    Cut yourself some slack. In fact, why don’t you try to write something truly AWFUL. Deliberately. With malicious aforethought. Once you’ve given it your worst, every word thereafter simply has to be better. 😀


  2. Maybe the books aren’t all that great after all if you’re not gripped by the stories and characters. Generally if something’s good, I read fast for the story (which I won’t remember because I have no memory) and then I’ll go through it again to study it, if I think it’s worth it. A bad book can be helpful when you see obvious errors in technique, like witnessing someone’s faux pas in public and silently vowing to avoid it.

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  3. I have this, but to a lesser degree. I’m still somewhat able to read for pleasure, but I do notice the choices the author is making, how much time they sink into descriptions, inner monologues, etc, along with where they do it. Or how they handle things like foreshadowing. To some degree it seems like an occupational hazard.

    Although in my case, seeing where I could have written in a way I think would have been better often makes me feel good. If a successful author isn’t perfect, it implies there’s hope for the rest of us.

    It is worth occasionally pondering how you might respond to the story if you weren’t a writer. Would you care about that violation of a writing rule you just tripped over? There’s a lot of stuff straight readers just don’t care about as long as they’re connecting with the characters and able to follow the plot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great points.
      Flaws in NYTimes best sellers’ writing could in fact point out that, maybe perfection isn’t the end-all be-all. And that if readers don’t care, they are after all best sellers, then maybe agonizing over my own inadequacies might be counter productive.
      Get the words down; edit them as best I can; get them out the door. Next.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Instead of all this morose drivel why not sit, turn your brain off. let something run over you like a Mac truck? “Care about” is relative. Care about writing a good sentence. Care about listening to the voices in your head. I’m not a big JFK fan but the speech writer who came up with “Don’t ask what writing can do for you, ask what you can do for your writing” was on top of it. It ain’t about being there, it’s about getting there. Ever seen an artist’s sketch book? I saw Turner’s from Venice. Not all of it is hanging on a wall in the Tate. I wrote a silly tongue in cheek pulp just to get my chops back to functional. The minute you stop looking for the holy grail is the moment you find it.

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    1. I’ll have to sit on i495 at rush hour, and still get missed.
      I’ve got a concept in mind. I’m looking for the kicker, the high stakes, the antagonist. the theme now. I know you’d just say write it already. And I will, but I’ll quit if I don’t get the foundational aspects at least sketched in my mind.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. turn on your phone recorder and talk to it in the car. Write one good sentence that should be in it. write a couple. I see Jim kicking Bill and it looks like this. You have to get out of your own head to let the story in. Ain’t nobody dropping by if you don’t look like a vessel.


  5. Duke is right–those war poets, Owen, Sassoon, Brooke–definitely well worth reading. I keep saying I don’t do a lot of reading anymore but it’s actually not true when you consider how many other bloggers I read, the submissions for the lit mag I read for, and of course, the synopses of the numerous shows I bingewatch–all good stuff;-) But why are you so worried? You’re a great writer, so don’t let other voices tell you that you should be writing in a different way.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. So today, I am actually participating within your blog “in real time”, which is totally different from my weekly or even longer entry into your world. Funny, whenever I am super depressed I tend to read other people’s writing. I can always find something good in what you, Heddy, Jan, or Aaron have to say. I like to read writers I don’t know. Jan turned me on to a guy by the name Sheridan Le Fanu. He predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by about 25 years and the similarity in their writing is striking. Le Fanu wrote Carmilla in 1872 which I am reading now as a hopeful inspiration for “Spin the Bottle”. In short, I read to get a new feeling about something, really nothing more. I remember a writer once that was so depressed, she was talking about suicide. Then her editor told her to start reading poetry and sure enough, she got better and begin to write again. Poetry as therapy. I believe in that. Duke P.S. Did you like the Wilford Owen poem and if you don’t know about him and Siegfried Sassoon, you ought to take a look. Those were guys writing under extreme conditions and they found beauty in death and destruction although it killed one of them and caused the other to be declared insane by the English military. Such is the history of life on our planet. Duke

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can imagine a time, before the internet, when a poem, a thought or a conversation would linger on my mind. It would mull there, savored, and it might eventually become part of my permanent psyche.
      These days? I’m like a two year-old with dementia and a five minute reset period.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s right in front of you. First, figure out what you want from your story. Take cues from what you read. I don’t write like EL or Parker or Hillerman or Byron any of those watercolor-for-detail authors, I take cues from them. Why did I like they way so and so ended chapters? Because they knew when to STFU. When done is done. And as amateurs we ALL overcook. Learning to find that shit in our own work is our job. Not to be those people, or emulate those people, but to learn what makes a five-star meal out of a cast of characters instead of a fucking casserole. Don’t write to achieve, write to write. If it sucks, yeah, so what? Write some more. Pretty soon the suck factor goes down simply because you’re writing in every nook and cranny of time you can find. GF would be well advised to get out Lanham’s first 20 pages and start learning to edit because that shit will clean you up faster than a fresh razor and a haircut.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. This resonates. Funny you should bring this up.
    My conclusion, speaking solely for myself: “Well, ok…I’m living in the past…I never REALLY wanted to grow up and graduate from college, did I? I mean, after all…I had so much fun…”
    Everything is research, read, study, find tips, learn the way…reading for fun? Ah.
    Right now I’m “studying” Elmore Leonard upon the advice of PH and finding similarities between Chili Palmer and Chance of the book/movie “Being there.” Profound observations indeed…but how can I implement this brilliance in my own writing? Can I implement this technique with my characters? Do I have characters? Why write at all?
    And since I’m busy with Leonard I certainly won’t have time to swing around the the latest Indie suggestion C.S. Boyack who rates an amazing 5 stars from our mutual buddy…which means I’m falling behind even faster.
    As they say in Cycling…keep up or catch up.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “I may not be a great writer someday, but I can be a better one.” — Anonymole

      If I don’t practice it’ll never come true. The challenge these days is generating the mental and emotional investment in a story. Pulling back from my Nihilistic edge long enough to give a shit about *something* so I can engage in incremental progress. Ten minutes is scant time. Maybe you can manage a longer window.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. Your motivation is to become cognizant of your shortcomings so by minimizing them you write better. We all have to woodshed, it ain’t a gift like being a musical prodigy. The gift is learning to let go of the creative control and manage the output.

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