Friday, December 18, 2009

To Blog or to Novel, That Was the Question

It's been awhile since I blogged for several reasons: A new bout of seasonal viruses, a mini-family reunion, art class and art club. Around all that I had to decide: Post a new blog? Or work on my novel? The novel won out, and I am happy to say I am moving along on Chapter 12 of the re-write.

I did a lot of reading the past ten days as well, because the more I write, the more I realise how important it is to read. One especially good read was the Quantock Quartet, Sisters of the Quantock Hills, a historical series of YA or juvenile novels (depending on which sister's story you are reading) set in England. The time frame is 1910 to 1920 for the first two books (Sarah's Story and Francis's Story). The third book, Julia's Story, takes a reader up to 1930. And the last, Gwen's Story, takes one up to pre-WWII.

At one point my husband asked, "Is there any point to reading the same story four times?" But that was the beauty of it: As in real life, even though the four sisters all had common experiences, the experiences meant different things to each sister, and each sister also had her own separate encounters and issues. I was surprised at how engrossed I became in each new book (although Gwen's Storywas perhaps the least interesting until about the last third of the book).

I checked these books out from the library primarily because my own book takes place in the last of the 1910's decade, when war and influenza were issues in Sacramento as well as in England. Partly I wanted to see how the author handled clothing of the era. But I liked seeing how she handled the family relationships. I found the leisurely pace engrossing; I suppose family stories to ring true, call for that. (As opposed, say, to mysteries or action novels.) The writing took its time.

I also liked how each character got her own book. What wasn't dealt with in one book was picked up in another. It was probably overly ambitious to devote four books to the same family cluster, but it worked quiet well for the first three.

In re-writes, a writer has to do a lot of cutting. That old saw, "Kill your darlings" (attributed to about every famous American author you can think of) is quite true. I've had to kill a lot of darlings in my current re-write. Already the book is better for it. But my pruning meant inviting a lot of characters to leave -- relatives of the main characters -- since they were beginning to hijack my story. I was really sorry to send them packing. But, after reading the Quantock Quartet, I'm reminded that they can always get a book of their own after I finish this one. (I never throw anything away. The cousins are alive and well in files of the earlier drafts, hopefully sorting things out among themselves to get a second chance.)

Meanwhile, I really missed blogging. It's good to be back.

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