Friday, January 9, 2009

The Classics

Well, despite having gotten distracted watching a delightful episode of Great Performances on PBS featuring a new stage adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac starring Kevin Kline and Jenifer Garner, I did actually manage to get a few sentences written last night. I'm in another crucial transitional paragraph, so a few sentences at a time is all I ever manage from session to session. Once I clear this latest log jam, I expect another half chapter in a single sitting. But I'll have to get past this first as it will inform the mood of Claire's next actions. Poor Claire, she's been standing at the same crosswalk since before Christmas! I'm at another point in which I can't seem to make much progress no matter what I do. It's an extremely frustrating situation.

After shutting down the computer last night, again intending to get some solid sleep, I cracked open Wuthering Heights to send me off to sleep. I have been reading Henry James' The American as my bedtime book for months now and can never get more than 5 pages in without drifting off. I thought Wuthering Heights would answer the same purpose. I was very wrong. I haven't ever read Wuthering Heights before, but I am a keen follower of Masterpiece Theater Classic and they're airing a new adaptation of it in a few weeks, so what better time to read the book?

I had the firm intention of only wading in for about 20 pages or so and then snapping up some much-needed REM rebound, but I have a critical lack of self restraint when it comes to good books. I only fell into an exhausted slumber after having polished off a good fourth of the story. The first two chapters, especially, are filled with such wonderfully-polished insight that it makes me fairly despair of my own writing. A Bronte I am not. But I supposed that comparing my own writing with one of the greatest classics in the English language is being perhaps a bit unfair to myself, no matter that they share the attribute of having been written in the first person. I should pick up some Nicholas Sparks and compare my writing to that! Maybe that would make me feel better. Though perhaps not. I've never read anything by Nicholas Sparks, and so I'm not qualified to offer an opinion on the quality of his writing, though I did read an interview with him in Entertainment Weekly in which he boasts of writing 2,000 words a day. He's written 14 books in 14 years! I admire his incredible work ethic, but I'm highly skeptical of the depth and literary merit of his work. But then again, who needs literary merit when you've got millions in sales?!

And that brings me to another point about Project Reach (which I've increasingly begun to privately refer to as Comfort Foods Cure), I'm beginning to get a real sense of what kind of book it will be in terms of tone, readability and overall appeal. I know what it is - or rather what it is going to be - and what it isn't. First of all, in terms of tone, several of my first readers have expressed concerns about David's voice being too lofty. This has concerned me as well, but I believe I've finally decided to stop worrying over it and just let David be David. I want Project Reach to challenge readers. It must be accessible, of course, but it must also force thought. I'd like to say, to hell with the readers who are annoyed by David. If having to infer the definition of an obscure adjective from the surrounding context turns some readers off, then so be it. I'd like to say that, but the truth is that I do hope to procure representation for the manuscript at some point in the future, and no one will touch the thing if it's unmarketable. So I try to strike a balance between my tendency to over embellishment and tangential observation and the critical need for solid pacing and clarity. I keep the idea of "the target audience" in the back of my mind at all times while writing. I actually enjoy placing those scant limitations on myself much more than writing solely for myself. When I write for myself, the end result is often quite abstruse. Taking the considerations of others into the process allows me to see the forest for the trees, so to speak. It forces a level of clarity and warmth that I seldom achieve in writing for my own purposes. As for the appeal of Project Reach, I endeavor to keep it as broad as possible given the limitations that the story will place on it. I think of it as purely literary, if I must apply a label, but I can see it being mistaken for science fiction or indeed as fantasy in the later chapters. I must manage it very carefully to see that it doesn't get misrepresented when/if it every goes out on submission.

Sometime soon, I intend to make a deeper study of those first two chapters of Wuthering Heights that so impressed me, and pull from them some cues to add into my own narrative.

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