Susan and I made our fortnightly pilgrimage to our local library yesterday. I had books to return, books to pick up, Susan had books to find.
While she checked through the catalogue, I browsed through the stacks. I rambled, stopping now and again to pull a book down and read the first page, the opening paragraphs, flip a few pages in – sometimes less than a hundred, sometimes more – and read again.
I spent some thirty minutes thus engaged. Probably opened 12-15 books.
Not a single book engaged me.
I selected the books at random. If a selection criteria existed, it existed non-consciously.
Walking out of the library, I said to Susan, “I can’t get over how many books are genuinely poorly written. And these got published?”
You don’t want me to review your book
A publisher sent me a book they’d published. I said upfront that I wouldn’t review it unless I thought it a good book.
I won’t be reviewing it.
I read the first paragraph and stopped. I read it to Susan. She thought it okay. I rewrote it. “Definitely better,” she said.
Basically I took a block of exposition and turned it into dialogue laced with action. Instead of being told what’s going on, the reader gets to hear, see, and feel it happening.
I wanted to contact the publisher. “You really published this book? What you sent me was after editing? What are sales like?”
(they’re better than mine, it’s been out longer than mine. not sure it makes a difference)
But the writing? Sucked.
Then I reread for the umpteenth time…
I spent my Sunday afternoon on my backporch watching the wind in the trees, sipping a good single-malt Scotch — neat. Water on the side — smoking a good cigar, and listening to music spanning Artie Traum, Rick Wakeman, Prince, World Party, Robert Palmer, Nick Lowe, Pentagle, Pippin, and you get the idea. Varied.
All of which served as background to Riders of the Purple Sage. On every page I wanted to share the writing.
Powerful, wonderful, elegant, moving, intricate, delightful, evocative, meaningful writing. Writing that pulls you in, takes you into the story’s myth and keeps you there, weds you to the characters, locks your senses on to the happenings of the story, makes it more real than the heat of the Scotch or the draw of the cigar or the sweet of the water or the cool of the wind.
That’s what I want my writing to be. To do.
Let me know when I get there.