Don’t be a Slave to the Writing Process

Figure out your writing process. Don’t follow one blindly.

There are methods or a “process” that a writer uses.

You’ll be questioned about process if you ever get anything published in any meaningful way. But process can’t be transplanted from writer to writer. It’s something you have to discover for yourself.

Ray Bradbury wrote about his process.¹

  1. Make lists of what he’s thinking, short one to two word phrases.
  2. Find something that has a story behind it and write a lyric poem.
  3. Keep going as lyric poem turns into prose.

Following that process doesn’t work for me.

  1. I can’t write poetry.
  2. I can’t keep lists, because I barely have enough time to write as is.

My method is wildly different.

  1. Meditate daily.
  2. Come up with ideas when inspiration strikes or meditation leads me there.
  3. Run through everything I plan to write again in a meditative state.
  4. Sit down and type very slowly. That’s as fast as I can type.

That process isn’t going to work if your lived experience is different than mine.

Writing is an individualized act.

The product is generally recognized, but there are umpteenth ways to arrive there.

You’ll have varying success with everything you try.

It speaks to how difficult writing is.

You need to discover the process that best suits you.

It’ll be a mixed bag of the processes out there that no other writer uses to the letter.

Things like this are best figured out when you try things, everything you can find within reason until something gets you writing to the best of your ability.

It’ll be something close to who you are deep inside your soul.

Maybe you’re from the meditation camp or the poetry camp.

Whatever works is your process.

Resources

  1. Bradbury, Ray. Zen in The Art of Writing (p. 11-12). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

GK

Slaughterhouse-Five and The Handmaid’s Tale: Things to Like

Reading can show our lives reflected in a myriad of ways.

I have this allergy to classics.

Most books written before the 1950’s that is. I find sleep creeping up on me like an unfulfilled need. That’s after having a full seven hours sleep and not feeling tired at all. Something about them is dull enough to put me to sleep, and it’s just me. Unlike some, a book before 1950 takes me to sleep quicker than anything else.

Slaughterhouse-Five

I whizzed through the first chapter or two. Those chapters were Vonnegut trying to remember what happened in the war and preparing to write. There was this great exchange that setup the themes to come.

“You were just babies then!” she said.

“What?” I said.

“You were just babies in the war — like the ones upstairs!”

I nodded that this was true…

“But you’re not going to write it that way, are you.” This wasn’t a question. It was an accusation…

So then I understood. It was war that made her so angry.¹

Then the story started. Throughout I was confused about what was going on. The non-linearity threw me off.

Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.

Billy has gone to sleep a senile widower and awakened on his wedding day. He has walked through a door in 1955 and come out another one in 1941. He has gone back through that door to find himself in 1963. He has seen his birth and death many times, he says, and pays random visits to all the events in between.²

I ended up grouping the events of the story into parallel stories.

One was the war. The other was after the war. And the third was being abducted by non-linear aliens. That reminded me of Arrival. The movie is two parallel stories that each follows a linear progression. It’s much easier to follow than the leaping Vonnegut did. That makes me believe I didn’t get everything out of reading Slaughterhouse 5. A whole bunch of symbolism was lost on me.

I kept trying to find a rationale reason for this time hopping.

Maybe he’s in the POW camp imaging his possible future. The more likely scenario is he’s an old man looking back on his life. That distracted me from looking at other more important things. The skipping around was a way to give the reader moments away from the conditions suffered in the POW camp.

A few comical moments made me laugh in the beginning.

But lost their humor. Now, I suspect that was intentional. The dark humor came when some thing dies, and Billy thinks So it goes. It speaks to the universality of death, whether it be fleas, cows, or people.

The Handmaid’s Tale.

It’s about an alternate divergence of history in the 1970’s.

Society regresses to an ancient state. Woman became a possession of men again has it hadn’t been in a while. The pressure on the society was great enough to allow it to happen. The story looked almost prophetic seeing the way history progressed from 2001 onward. The adoption of the Patriot Act in a time of intense pressure from the outside.

Some things in the book made me angry.

Like the way anything could be used to further a decrepit political ideology. The subjugation of a weaker group by the numerous and privileged. The impeachablity of the dominant sex and blaming the subordinate sex. The society described in The Handmaid’s Tale annoyed me, like the backwardness espoused by ethnocentric people. The subjugation of woman by other women was disheartening. Though that is actually a fact a lot of the time. Like the installation of a puppet government by a foreign government. The foreign power chooses a native figurehead and puts them in a position of power over their countrymen. The use of a select portion of the Jewish people by the Nazi’s to police the ghettos set up in Nazi Germany. And the symbolic position of people that had no real power.

The Handmaid’s Tale is about surrogacy without modern medicine.

That basically means state sponsored rape of woman with successful pregnancies and multiple marriages. The fact it’s government sponsored and enforced leads to normalization of rape. Reading through those scenes made me confused, because the Handmaid telling the story was so distant all the time. During the trauma that makes sense, but after it’s confusing. I don’t think society as a whole was ready to have an honest discussion about rape when this book was published.

A few passages resonated with my lived experience.

I’ll list those and explain their significance.

In reduced circumstances you have to believe all kinds of things. I believe in thought transference now, vibrations in the ether, that sort of junk. I never used to.³

I see this happening in my life.

Living with a limiting condition like Muscular Dystrophy is another version of reduced circumstances. That probably had some impact on my belief in meditation. And how ready I am to believe things based on very little evidence. I need that illusion of having control more control than I do with meditation and karma, so the situations I find myself in aren’t quite as helpless as they really are. Control is what we want in life, but the only way to get that is controlling what you can and letting the rest go. Holding control over everything means you have a little control over a lot of things. When all we really need is great/er control of the few things that matter, like our view of the world, and the way we move through it.

In reduced circumstances the desire to live attaches itself to strange objects. I would like a pet: a bird, say, or a cat. A familiar. Anything at all familiar. A rat would do, in a pinch, but there’s no chance of that.⁴

I hang on to things I’ve made.

Especially with abilities I no longer possess like drawing, writing with a pencil, or walking. And the projects I devote my limited time to like the stories I’ve written. When people lose a little of the autonomy that those around them have, they cling to the limited things that they have control over.

It’s impossible to say a thing exactly the way it was, because what you say can never be exact, you always have to leave something out, there are too many parts, sides, crosscurrents, nuances; too many gestures, which could mean this or that, too many shapes which can never be fully described, too many flavors, in the air or on the tongue, half-colors, too many.⁵

I include too much detail.

This is something I encountered in the beginning of my writing journey. My stories were too muddled with extraneous description making it completely uninteresting to read. Some blog posts I’ve written were like that a year ago. Choosing specific details, the right details separates first-hand experiences from imagined situations. But choosing that is a mental process so replicable. That’s what using senses in your writing is all about. Choosing the right details to put into writing the transport you there, and make something more real than fiction ought to be.

You can only be jealous of someone who has something you think you ought to have yourself.⁶

We want things we believe we deserve.

When things don’t happen how we like, we fixate on those qualities we hoped to attain but failed at. Then we see it everywhere around where it wasn’t noticed before. Jealousy happens when we want things we can’t have. Other people that have those things become the focus of our jealousy. That reminded me of the rampant jealousy I feel, because there’s so much I can’t do that I ought to be able to do. You can be jealous of anyone if they have something you believe you’re entitled to. The costs of those things are lost, just the object is remembered. Like writing everyday requires giving up other things like reading articles, social media, checking e-mails, listening to music, or responsibilities. People just remember the accomplishment of making progress. The cost is payable, and the benefit is attainable.

The arrival of the tray, carried up the stairs as if for an invalid. An invalid, one who has been invalidated.⁷

People can be invalidated by taking away their autonomy.

But an invalid suffered from an injury or disease. That was a powerful reminder of the fact that people can only take away what you allow them to. I have always been impaired by Muscular Dystrophy. My struggle has been making people see beyond my physical appearance to the stuff inside. I’m like everyone else on the inside. The only thing wrong with me is the external — my muscles are weak. Fighting for what I am, the person inside to be seen has been with me my whole life. What other people think about my ability doesn’t change the facts.

God is love, they once said, but we reversed that, and love, like heaven, was always just around the corner. The more difficult it was to love the particular man beside us, the more we believed in Love, abstract and total.⁸

Love is a concept that we need to believe in.

It’s a security blanket that we will find this magic person that makes us feel loved the way our parents loved us. It’s like hope. It’s like God. It’s like dreams. Those concepts are what we need to keep living life. They are the promises that keep us going. Without them there is no life — there is on death — there is no meaning. Things that are necessary don’t fade away. They endure. They become justified no matter the circumstances. They grow to meet challenges. They are immune to the wear of time. They don’t fade away. There is no recourse in life but to believe, to have faith that they are always right and pure. Then to see things just right so that the illusion never blinks out of existence, because they are necessary for life.

I’m a refugee from the past, and like other refugees I go over the customs and habits of being I’ve left or been forced to leave behind me, and it all seems just as quaint, from here, and I am just as obsessive about it… I become too maudlin, lose myself. Weep.⁹

Things might change but there is always something left of the old.

Change isn’t to wash clean a chalkboard and write something new. Change is painting over an old masterpiece and leaving bits of the old in place to marry with the new. Things don’t vanish. They are reinvented, tweaked, and damaged, but they never disappear from existence no matter how we cling or try to forget. Things never leave the world. They are remade over and over. Transformation isn’t transient. It’s the constant state of life. Even death isn’t stagnation. It’s a redistribution.

That’s all I have on these two great books.


Hope you enjoyed reading. Please clap if you did.

References

  1. Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five (pp. 18–19). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.
  2. Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five (p. 29). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.
  3. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (p. 105). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  4. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (p. 111). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  5. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (p. 134). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  6. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (p. 161). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  7. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (p. 224). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  8. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (pp. 225–226). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  9. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (p. 227). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

GK

Reading about Writing

 

I read another book about writing as part of my DIY MFA. It’s Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands by Michael Chabon. He’s one of the authors I enjoy reading. I’ve only read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay so far. His writing was the third adult book I’ve ever read.

 

Maps and Legends in an anthology of roughly two dozen essays by Chabon. It’s about his thoughts and how he wrote his works. Throughout a few thesis ideas emerge. I’ll do my best to summarize those points. There’s a lot packed in 274 pages.

 

Successful writers bring new ideas that fit together well. Examples were the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the series His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the first to write about the detective with a series to characters giving their takes on event. All in the direction of unraveling the central mystery. Those nested story didn’t explore, distract, or rephrase that said before; they added information. That’s basically the difference between literary and the beginning of genre fiction.

 

In His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman a few key ideas combine to make a great story. Those plot elements, rules of the world, character traits all have to combine to enhance the story. Just serving as a wall the character faces and changes to overcome isn’t enough. That’s what happens so much in fiction. The cowardly face the obstacles that most challenges them. Feats of courage. Like how Froto has to leave the only home he has ever known. How Sam wants to be a good person so he goes. Every character is designed to be a foil to the things they face. Like Ethan’s struggle in Pines, Book 1 of Wayward Pines by Blake Crouch. His time in the military makes the resistance he faces in the small town that much worse. Or how Harry feels alone until he finds a community in the Wizarding World. I always thought my plots were good enough, but I’m missing a huge part. The resonance achieved by plot elements, character traits, and the rules of the world must play each off the other. I’ve been missing that key consideration so far.

 

The idea that ghost stories are the beginning of short stories. I would argue that a little bit. Sure they were around in the beginning. But previous stories aren’t always a direct blueprint for what comes after. Hauntings from sight unseen seems an obscure place for short stories to begin with. But isn’t something hanging in your thoughts like that in a literary story? Things lurk in your head from defining moments. Until you deal with them, they hang around haunting you. I agree that ghost stories could be the precursor to literary short stories. That connection could help when I get stuck. Maybe I’ll use it.

 

Fiction is the bridge between things imagined and things real. Fiction has fictitious parts. It’s in the name after all. But some things connect it with reality. That’s always something. How real the characters feel in fantasy. How some science still works how we think in science fiction. How the sky and the environment is normal in thrillers. But characters are the big things that make something real. Those bits of real are required for the reader to believe that somewhere out in the multi-verse the story is actually possible. In other words, fiction must always be relatable.

 

Something you’re exposed to serves as inspiration. It doesn’t have to be the most obvious things. If you look hard enough, ruminate hard enough inspiration strikes. Some things work better than others. It’s the writer’s purview to decide what stories to go after. Choosing could very well determine success or failure.

 

Maps and Legends fills me with hope for the future in writing. There’s a long way to go before I can’t progress further in writing. Writing and reading will never end up on the dust heaps of history. There’s more. Humble roots and inexperience don’t matter. Get your head down and write.

 

GK

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Image credit: Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Proustian Chronicles: The End of a Volume

 

I recently finished reading Swann’s Way, volume one of seven in Remembrances of Things Past or In Search of Lost Time. That volume is 600-something pages. I’m reading a guide at the same time. After each volume, I’m comparing my thoughts with the verdicts delivered by the reading guide. That isn’t exactly the best way to get the most from reading this but as the preparations for reading more literary work. I have my eyes on IQ83 by Haruki Murakami.

 

That’s a long way away or maybe sooner than I think. Anyway this is a summery/reaction to Swann’s Way and the reading guide the group’s using, Marcel Proust’s Search for Lost Time: A Reader’s Guide to Remembrance of Things Past by Patrick Alexander. The book is divided into three parts. The Overture, Combray, Swann in Love, and Place-names: The Name.

 

The Overture is a real bore in my mind. There are a few interesting tidbits in there, but forty pages seems overkill for a waking up sequence. It’s long but effectively primes you for the writing style you’re likely to experience. Brevity is a tad more important later on. It never reaches the expectations of today’s rapid gratification.

 

Combray is the memories Marcel has of his childhood. It details his experiences of visiting his ailing Aunt Léonie in the summers. There’s a lot there about his childhood desires and experiences. The guide refers to Combray as one of best childhood experiences in a novel of this era. Reading through, I noticed a few things. Marcel is ailing from some mysterious condition which I suspect is just getting colds that are quite severe. That sickness reduces his activity considerably. Still, he’d much rather stick his head into books. Marcel attributes good qualities to people he likes and people he would like to be like down the line. These memories Marcel remembers were triggered by eating something he enjoyed in those summers, lime tea and madeleines.

 

I like to think Marcel and I would be kindred spirits if we ever met. That makes me feel good, and that’s reason enough, but there’s more. I have Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, and that enabled me to distance myself from peers. In addition, I loved reading. That love is what got me into writing. Then, I wanted to be like those charismatic people who can entertain an entire room without breaking out in sweat and make people like them. And I remember my past history to a similar extent. I think we’re pretty similar.

 

Swann in Love was my favorite part of Swann’s Way. According to the guide, it’s the closest that Proust gets to traditional story structure. I agree. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. Swann meets Odette. He doesn’t commit right away. Then, he’s in love with Odette. Swann gets jealous. He asks too many questions and finds difficult answers. In lack of love, he tries with another woman. That’s the plot of Swann in Love.

 

The beginning of this part was the first time I loved reading this book. It makes me a little sad that the other sections won’t follow the basic plot structure. And a theme of this book is love leads to jealousy. That’s true. Love always comes with some unwelcome jealousy as a bedfellow. That’s especially true if you have abandonment and anxiety issues. Jealousy can make love sweeter by contrast. Working on your self-worth might reduce these issues. Surely possessiveness makes the jealousy worse. That’s a theme in this book that bugs me. Any number of themes bug me, so that’s basically a given with anything I read.

 

Place-names: The Names wraps up everything. It cross applies the lessons learned in the previous sections of Marcel’s young life in Paris. Then, it echoes the fact much more is going to change.

 

Each section is like a novel in its own write except the transition sections: Overture and Place-names: The Name. That’s not the way any book is organized these days except memoirs. Because In Search of Lost Time is the very first memoir as far as I know.

 

rob-mulally-123849
Photo by Rob Mulally on Unsplash.

 

That method isn’t acceptable in fiction these days. I know it’s not fair to Marcel Proust, his many fans, and the English literature community to compare a book written something like 120 years ago to stories these days. That comparison is of paramount importance to current writers of fiction trying to learn from Proust. What elements of Remembrance of Things Past can be used to write fiction in the time we live in now? What elements won’t work? For example, putting two storylines in one piece of fiction. They need to smoothly merge from one to the other despite section breaks. Some things can end and be picked up later but never left hanging forever except at the end. Simultaneous story lines are permissible if they’re all pushed together.

 

I read an example of that recently. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer. The title is uninspiring to me, but the writing is top notch. That story artfully combines numerous storyline to create a synergy more powerful than any one alone. For an example to a story continuing through section breaks check out The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon.  That’s the best example I can think of off the top of my head.

 

I didn’t get to my conclusions matching the guide: 4/7. That seems pretty good for a start. I’ll get better by the end of this.

 

See you around guys.

 

GK

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Cover photo credit: Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash.

Evolution of My Writings

 

“Write what you know.”

–Mark Twain

 

That’s one of the most used writing phrases out there. It’s become a cliché. But what does that mean? Banalities frequently stick in my head. There’s a bigger lesson to be learned from simple phrases such as that one.

 

Writing that reflects first-hand experience feels more real than pure fiction. What’s the cause of that feeling? I ask myself that question a ton. Why do I feel, guilty for example? That’s what meditation is currently for me. Why am I feeling this way? The feeling that something is real or pops off the page. What determines the difference? I need to know to write well.

 

My experiences seem far removed from the everyday life of most people, hence the moniker, Radical Thinker. That comes from a few personality quirks. I don’t listen to other people unless some avenue of proof is available. Of course, that precludes generally accepted theories like science and any reasonable thought process. Still, external confirmation. That process invites deep thought and learning stuff through observation. Add that to the differences in my emotional landscape discussed here. Adding that to my medical condition gives me different experiences than the average functioning adult. I bridge that gap by observing and using my imagination for the rest. Like going to work. Like dating. Like being in a relationship. Like playing a cello. Like having bipolar depression. Like basically anything within the bounds of reality.

 

It can’t ever be the real thing. There’s something missing. The most impactful details are remembered. The rest is forgotten. Doing that in a fictional construct is really difficult. Those imaginings aren’t real. They fade away like a dream after you wake up.

 

I have two examples for you guys. First the song lyrics from Taylor Swift’s autobiographical song Out of the Woods.

Out of the woodc

That has the quality I was talking about. There’s just enough detail to seem real. It supposedly is. Two details. The camera and where they were. Giving just enough detail is nearly impossible without first-hand experience. The compilation of what should be remembered and what shouldn’t is one way to get the feeling of reality.

 

I have another example of feeling real. It taps into another method, the relatability of something. It’s from Ella Dawson’s blog, Post Grad Warriors. I’m a fan of her writing, read this for more.

Ella

That’s basically what happens to everyone after college. Sometimes you drift away from your college friends. And sometimes you’re bound for life.Sometimes you connect with people that were there in the background. Still, there’s connection. Still, there’s shared experience.

 

I read something researching how to write well. It said, “use three senses when writing every scene.”[1] “Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay” by Adair Lara,  referencing Flannery O’Connor in “The Nature and Aim of Fiction” That also works. You add three sensory feelings in every scene you write. One of the pieces I saw on CritiqueCircle was published into a book. Here’s the first paragraph of The Boyfriend by Alex Pilails.

alio

First, there was the music, strobe lights, sweaty people, and the way they danced. That’s more than three senses, but this is an overwhelming place, a nightclub. So three senses make you feel you’re there. More depending on how intense the situation is. Fewer than three if it’s boring like a long sink to the seafloor. Sight first. Sound next if it matters, or smell. Something along those lines.

 

That’s a change for me, this checklist of senses.

 

Something else showed up when I wrote a couple of short stories. I actually have relatable personal experiences. They’re all personal emotional experiences. That’s where my extreme emotions come into play. Exploring their root causes is an added tool given to me by mediation.

 

That started as figuring out how to write creative non-fiction. Read this one, that one, and that other one for more. I used those new skills to write this post for Medium and this other one for BayArt. Writing non-fiction helped this change come about. I’m all about cross-application of knowledge and lessons learned.

 

That carried over to fiction writing where it could. I’ll write up a short paragraph on the feeling of guilt I felt this morning. Here it is:

 


Guilt

Guilt is that nagging feeling, the perpetual elephant stalking you from room to room, everywhere you go. It starts small, like the way big things always start. It seems insignificant at first. Then it grows and grows until it’s an elephant on your chest. It doesn’t have to be an elephant. Most guilt isn’t that severe. It’s a rock in your shoe that doesn’t go away until it’s dealt with. It’s an annoyance that hurts the more it’s in there. There are ways to scrub away the annoyance, the weight hanging around you. All it takes is an apology, but it’s not as easy as saying sorry. You get caught in the doldrums of your anxiety. Is an apology required in this situation? It’s not just you against your guilt. There’s another person involved, the one you wronged.

 

Are they hurt? Did the mistake bother you more than it should? Does the aggrieved see the wrong as you would, as you do? If not, there’s the pickle. Should you apologize and risk highlighting your mistake, your error. Well if you did, the elephant disappears, the rock vanishes. Then you get to pick up the cards dropped where they may fall. You have to move on and forget the turn in your fortune. What was once peaceful friendship became your torture for a while, but you mustn’t forget it. Those that forget are soon to repeat mistakes anew. Those that conjure the elephant, those that create the stone are always there. Never repeat the mistake, never call guilt forth. Mistakes are human, and we are human after all. But humans can change, and so can we.

 


 

There. My example of writing what I know. Guilt as the case is.

 

Featured Picture Credit: Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

 

GK

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Things I Screw Up in Writing

how the write

I finished reading How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frev. It gave me things to learn I frequently ignore. A few tips redefined a few things like what to explain and what to leave out. The book is about writing dramatic stories, not the literary I frequently write. My literary pieces have a strong dramatic storyline and a deep internal conflict. The lessons learned are invaluable in improving my writing.

 

low res final
Photo by Matthew Kane on Unsplash.

 

The character must be fathomable. Explain their motivations, character attributes, and decision-making process. My writing process directly opposes this requirement. I establish a new thought pattern in my head to match the character I’m writing. That’s only possible because I’ve spent nearly a decade and a half mediating. Acting out physical traits isn’t something my diseased body is capable of. That mental model is as close as I can get. Thinking like your character makes the motivations, character attributes, and decision-making process apparent and self-explanatory. It should be second nature. Stuff that doesn’t feel wrong as that character. Everything except that particular action feels wrong. Putting that on paper isn’t tricky at all, except I never know how much to put down. This book helped a lot. Include everything required to understand the characters.

dark matter

Each scene should be a story in its own right. The scenes should have all the pieces of a story. A beginning setting up the conflict. A middle of rising tension. Finally a build up to the conclusion. When a book has that it’s difficult to stop reading. A perfect example is Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. It followed that pattern. Each scene was a story in its own right.

 

 

 

 

There needs to be a connection of causality between scenes. Watch this, the best discussion on causality that appears in a feature film in my opinion. The events must require the events prior to lead up to them. A connects to B, then C. The web of causality must connect from one to the next. Again this is exemplified in Dark Matter. Of course, literary novels frequently forgo that rules. But getting things in line helps to justify those tangents literary is famous for.

 

Dialogue should also follow the structure of a story. No conflict in dialogue means it can be rewritten or scrapped. Standard conversations we have every day can easily be reduced to one summarizing sentence. We talk about this or that.

 

Sometimes things go down. You come away reeling and need to spew everything to someone you trust. Those are the sorts of conversations dialogue should be. I noticed that in my first novel. The lunchroom conversations were boring to read but the arguments were impactful. Leaving out the daily dribble of conversation helped my story beyond measure.

 

Reading How to Write a Damn Good Novel and Dark Matter in a basic requirement for any writer. The theory expressed in the book about writing is exemplified in Dark Matter. Read both and get back to me. Kidding.

 

Cover photo credit: Photo by Baiq Bilqis on Unsplash.

Photo enhancement and editing by me.

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Proustian Chronicles: Halfway Through Swann’s Way

I’m reading In Search of Lost Time with a reading group from Book Oblivion. It’s supposed to be a really difficult and punishing read at over 4,000 pages. Sentences are frequently massive and sometimes over 100 words long. The sentences are more convoluted than anything I’ve read. It’s a study in difficult to read writing.

 

I deeply respect the work of Proust. He has deep insights that aren’t frequently explored to this depth. My tastes just systematically oppose the purposes of this book. I have extensively studied how I remember stuff for years. My memory is highly selective, and changing its focus is extremely difficult in practice. I feel I share a lot of things with Proust as most heavy readers do. Add to the fact my life has basically lent itself to me becoming a writer. And the book is about Proust becoming a writer.

 

malgorzata-frej-4151
Photo by Malgorzata Frej on Unsplash.

 

Proust’s masterwork is basically a biography/memoir of his life. That was something special around the time it was written. Today, we have memoirs and things much closer to what Proust is trying to do. I have previously sworn off memoirs. I read Eat, Pray, Love out of my pretentious ideas. I will simply read and like something because a great number of others have liked it. I would rather discover things about life from other sources. Meditation is my preference. I have learned meditation without the aid of a meditation teacher. I learned writing in the same way. Garnering insights from others feels a little like cheating. Insights from the art of meditation has a much bigger impact for me. Those insights don’t fade as easily and give a bigger impact for me. Experiencing a trip around the world isn’t the same as reading about someone doing the same.

 

That raises the question of why I’m still reading this 4,000-word tome. The length of the sentences fills up my head as few books have. The main reason I like reading is it occupies my head space so thoroughly, I can’t succumb to my anxiety and physical issues. Those long sentences needed a slight switch in the way I read. When reading, the brain assemblies the entire sentence from the words you’ve read so far at periods. Long sentences make this reading process doubly difficult if not more. My first day of reading Proust, a new realization struck through my head. There was a trick to make Proust just one tick more difficult than the average read, instead of the three ticks it had been. Think Shakespeare instead of Beowulf in old English. The easy system of partially reconstituting everything read at semi-colons then it became after each comma. Sometimes this doesn’t work. One example so far. I need to figure a way to un-flip the switch of doing it that way.

 

Reading something difficult makes reading everything else go faster. Reading speed changes with how much you’ve read and how difficult it was to read. I also want to understand what made this book last beyond its publication generation. And I need to figure out how to be social in the setting of a book club.

 

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Photo by Carissa Gan on Unsplash. Enhancement by Graham Kar.

 

At the beginning, I was tempted to read it full blast. If I really tried, I could be done in 14 weeks. The schedule the club is on goes for two and a half years. That’s five percent of each volume a week. I have done independent study before and the results were mixed. Sometimes I’m ahead, and sometimes I’m behind. I decided to read when I got sufficient sleep the night before. That’s another thing that readers of this blog should know. Classics put me to sleep effectively. Without enough sleep, I’ll never get through. I’m five weeks behind and finally got back to reading. I should catch up in 14 days. Not too bad.

 

I feel so inadequate in the book club. Everyone else has an English degree of some sort or the other. I just have a public school education up to a high school diploma. And two AP English classes along the way that are supposed to be equivalent to college level classes. I am trying to fit in with partial success. I’ll learn from the others and will eventually fit in. I’m learning a lot, and it’s fun.

 

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Photo by Nicolas Prieto on Unsplash. Enhancement by Graham Kar.

 

Sometimes I feel we’re over analyzing the book. Maybe the walking route his family goes on isn’t symbolic. Maybe we’re digging too deep. But another spot in the book made me think it was symbolic. I’m too new to this to really know. I’ll watch and observe. That should help to figure this out.

 

“Easy reading is hard writing,” ― Ernest Hemingway

 

Sometimes I get annoyed at the overly complicated sentences and the extensive detail to mundane things. I find confusing sentences lazy. But I’m new to this whole writing thing. Maybe those sentences add something I’ve yet to discover. I feel like I’m missing something huge. By the time I finish In Search of Lost Time, I might have this head scratcher figured out.

 

And I think the book’s theme is time is never lost if you remember what you were doing or learned from the experience.

 

Title photo credit: Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash. Enhancement by Graham Kar.

 

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