Okay, that was a long break from blogging. Sorry. Life is in session. You know how it is.
I'll get off my soapbox for a little while and talk about reading and writing again. Also, sorry about the weird font size problems I've been having. :/
So right now I'm basically doing two things: reading my own novel first draft, and reading Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio. One is going well, and one is not.
Don't mistake this for a book review. This a statement of personal preference, not an assessment of a writer's skill or worth, (which I would barely be qualified to make if I tried.)
I'm not enjoying Darwin's Radio. There is a style of writing that mostly involves characters telling each other what the reader needs to know, in pursuit of An Idea. Greg Bear had a Great Idea, and though I'm certainly no expert it seems like his science is sound. It was pretty clear in the first 100 pages what the Great Idea was, and how it was going to play out, and now I'm just forcing myself through the pages, trying to reach the end. I really like The Idea that the book is about. I love biology, evolution fascinates me, genetics is an area that I'm in total awe of. It's just not enough to capture my attention for 538 pages, because the stories I like to read are about the complexities of people, and these characters are not interesting to me. The only problem any of them has had that I found compelling was the heroine, Kaye, and her relationship with her mentally ill husband, but that conflict and its incredibly fertile field for character development was cut off within a few chapters.
This book has won awards, and probably deserved them. According to the back cover it was nominated for a Hugo. The research that went into it must have completely consumed the man's life for years. Honestly I picked it up because it's something I've seen mentioned on a number of science blogs I read, the Idea was interesting, and I happened to be standing in front of the Bear shelf at Powell's in Portland (looking for the Other Bear, That Which We Must Need.) I'm not saying it's not a great book — obviously many people have loved it, loved the Idea and rode the wave of it happily to its end. Art is subjective. What I love someone else will hate, and vice-versa. What I've discovered is what kind of writing I don't want to read, and what kind of story I don't want to write.
So, a valuable experience overall.
The other thing I'm doing is reading my own first draft, which I've discovered is a misnomer, because after I cut the scenes that are just complete garbage what I expect to end up with is about half a novel. I still have to write the other half. I have so far learned that I did a crappy job with my protagonist, whose problems were clearly The Easy Way Out when I wrote it two years ago. I have also learned that I don't know the answers the many of the questions I pose in the story. It is simply not done yet.
That's the assessment based on having only read through the first half. Some of it has made me want to toss the whole thing out the window, but every now and then I come across a scene where I appear to have been channeling a genuine muse. Those scenes leave me shaking my head and saying to myself, “Did I really write that?”
I do love a number of my characters, even the broken one, and I find myself daydreaming about the story, solving little problems here and there, coming up with ideas for new scenes, connecting dots in the subplots that I hadn't connected before. I'm having those 3:00 a.m. moments wherein I scramble for a pen and paper before sleep erases the thought. I'm planning creative side-projects to help me flesh out some details.
I have a few days coming up this week where I'll have lots of time on my hands, so I hope to plow through the rest of it, make my notes, and then get down to the business of writing what's missing. I am looking forward to it. I'm actively resisting the urge to start writing the scenes that I already know need to happen, in favor of being certain that I have the whole arc in my head when I finally do.
p.s. The title by the Other Bear (that'd be Elizabeth, who should by no means be thought to be relegated to 2nd place in the Bear category, just that I was writing about Greg, and holy Zarquon I should totally stop worrying now) that I picked up was Undertow. I am looking forward to it.