Monday, February 14, 2011

Nearing the End of the Novel

And so another month has passed and Uncharacteristic Behavior is nearing the end. I've been working on it constantly - not so much moving it forward, as filling out the characters, adding detail to the earlier chapters. There's a lot of material in my 'bits' folder ready for the last chapters, but I'm hanging back a bit, savoring these last few weeks before I put it all to bed.  Once again I'm experiencing that bitter-sweetness at the prospect of ending a book and wanting it to last just a teensy bit longer. I try to reassure myself that - although I'll miss my current ones - there'll be other characters, and there is even that possibility of revisiting Karen, if I do a sequel to The Place of Dreams.

As this is my fourth novel, I found it easier, naturally, than the first, but perhaps it's not as good, as no blood was drawn in the effort, as seemed to happen with that first one (which was difficult to write, but I hope not difficult to read). But I'm happy with it, and my who-dunnit reader likes it, so something must be going right.


Speaking of readers' difficulties, The Guardian published a relevant interview with writer, Nicole Krauss, on Sunday. I've added the link, although I was most taken with the following:
'On a long book tour of the US, Krauss was taken aback to find that one of the things she heard most frequently from readers was: "this book is difficult". "I was so surprised," she says. "I realise that it's challenging, that it refuses to come together too easily, but I didn't think of it as a difficult read." So how to explain it? Krauss believes – or at least, she worries – that in the west, we are moving towards the end of effort. "We've arrived at this place where we just thoughtlessly plunge towards whatever the thing is that will allow us to make less of an effort. We know we're diminishing experience. We know that it was richer to walk to the store, talk to the bookseller, maybe meet your neighbour than it is to click online. But we can't stop ourselves. We're programmed to do the 'easier' thing. That's why people have Kindles. It's easier not to have to turn the page. All that's left of turning is this bizarre little sound to remind us of it. People no longer have the concentration to finish things; we skim along on the surface, and it's miserable.'
I can't help but think that she's right. People have become lazy, perhaps always were. How many of you skim-read passages in a book because you see them as unnecessary or riffle through pages to get to the next 'interesting' bit? My who-dunnit friend finds Mark Billingham too wordy; I think all of his words are worthwhile. Will we shortly be publishing more and more books of under 70,000 words, because anything more will be too taxing? And when was the last time you read any poetry or a 19th Century novel? What? Did you say, high school? Give yourself a treat, pick up some Dickens, or Hardy, and wallow in the words. One of these days I intend to read Ulysses. I should start soon; time grows short.

So it was recently revealed, through letters acquired by the University of East Anglia, that J.D. Salinger wasn't the recluse we thought he was. I somehow always felt that a man of his insight would enjoy regular interaction with real people. Niagara Falls, Canada, eh? Who'd have thought it? I might have stood next to him a couple of times, just before we went to the casino for lunch.


As an aside, of all the postings I've done for this blog, the most popular appears to be about agent requests for full manuscripts. There have been dozens of searches on the subject, which obviously means you're all doing really well with your queries. Good luck to you, and certainly don't stress if an agent asks for the whole thing. Time to celebrate! Your query letter worked!

Perhaps, by the time I post again, I will have completed Uncharacteristic Behavior. Nice timing, as that's the beginning of the Australian autumn - not really fall, because most of our trees don't shed their leaves and nothing much changes in the garden; the perennial plants look a bit bored with everything and simply doze off. Being a cold weather girl, I prefer the end of the hot season. A couple of weeks ago, it was so hot (over a 100 F/40's C) that I didn't think I'd survive it. Like magic, courtesy of the new weather patterns (which have no pattern whatsoever), it dropped 50% the following week. Love it! With the cooler autumn weather, the MS finished, I'll hibernate with my next book idea (missing the carpet of maple leaves I used to have at my door), and pretend snow is not far away. I think better when it's cold.


Tell me what you're up to. You've all been a bit quiet since I moved. I miss the chit-chat.

Until next time...