A Monkey Rides The Writer’s Back

I’ve read a number of books that have been excellent in their entertainment, and in their execution.

It took me several re-wordings in my head to get that first sentence out.

The most recent book, MAKERS by Cory Doctorow, was one that I consumed…

Devoured? Avidly read? Something else better than “consumed”?

…in the span of a couple days. I read it hoping to also learn from it, and I did, sort of.

Of a sort instead? Naw, that makes me look like I’m trying to sound smart, and comes across as stupid.

I was able to read through it and not really grasp what the plot or main story arc was, right up until the end. I’m still not even sure I know who the main characters were.

I had originally started that with “The thing that struck me is that” and realized mid-way through that I was being too wordy, like I’m still warming up to the writing. Which I am, of course.

Doctorow knows the rules (he’s got a few best-selling books, so he must), but could break them and not lose the reader. The story, and the ideas behind it, are so fascinating that I read through it wondering what the next twist and technological concept he’d throw at me was.

I cringed and paused when I typed “unwittingly” before the word “read,” as it’s an adverb that only adds girth to the sentence, not value. I had to pull it. It’s at this point to that I’m wondering what edits I’m going to have on my hands.

I don’t think I can break this rule yet. But it does reinforce the idea that perhaps I should take something else, some other work, and analyse the hell out of it.

Oh, those two sentences needed editing. So many ways it could be clear and concise. The first sentence alone went from “I don’t feel I’ve reached a point where my skill will allow me to break such a big rule” to what it is now.

Thinking back, I recall a book that seemed to be the epitome of structural perfection. KRAKEN by China Mieville.

Do I try and find the stupid ASCII character that will get the accent on the first “e” in his last name? Naw. Fuck it.

The first chapter alone got me to care about the protagonist while creating a ton of mystery. All the story checkpoints were hit at exactly the right time. He could then deviate from that structure and rattle off flowery, slightly purple prose because he has us. He’s kind of showing off.

Ugh, I’m getting a bit purple myself. Like I need to add in a “as memory serves” to that first sentence. Little flecks of inefficient bullshit. I think I burned a good 5 minutes just making those few sentences tighter.

He impressed me, and to a small extent I impressed myself. It was flawless execution, as far as a novel goes. And I surprised myself by recognizing such great structure soon after I finished the book.

Definitely after, and not during. I was WAY too caught in the story to see it before I finished. Aside from that, I think I can let those few sentences be. For once.

The exercise I must do is buy the book in paperback (I have it in e-Book form currently), take pen and paper and dissect the living hell out of it, chapter by chapter.

Good fucking lord, that’s going to be work.

I had best get started on that. Until then, I don’t know if I’m going to be satisfied with what I write.

Dude, you’re never going to be satisfied, because even this stuff is shit. You’re killing me, man. Give it up already.

I think I’ll share this with the JustWrite folks.

Oh good, we’re stopping. I can feel your relief. And that’s why you never finish anything. Asshole.

© Jeff A. Chapman 2011