To Read or Not to Read, That Is the Question

We're supposed to write about enjoyable reads this month. Considering the state of my writing, it is debatable whether I should read or not. Like the ads for Zoloft that will help fight depression, if I feel a sudden urge to off myself, I should stop taking it. So it is for reading.

What could I be reading that could cause such a disaster for my person? A fight for my very life? (ok, let's dial it back a bit and say, 'for my very fragile mental state'?)

A book on sentences.


That's it. A book on sentences.

You see, a while back, I hit a bleak place in my writing. Nothing was jogging loose. I met up with a good writer and we had a bit of a coze and I came home fired up to write something spectacular. I did. However, it turned out that spectacular didn't exactly fit the rest of the writing in the book. DANG!

So, in a fit of pique, I decided to improve my writing. I plunged into a box of books in the bottom of a closet. I read a couple of romances written by others that I had kept for their excellence. Still excellent and as I studied them, I realized that my style of writing was so different that it wouldn't have mattered how excellent they were, they had little application for me except to make me green-eyed with jealousy. My ire went higher.

I got out the books, both one and two, of a college course called optimistically, "Writing Great Sentences". This course was purchased a handful of years ago. I had put in the VCR tape and began to watch it. I had become so confused that after a mere half hour I quit, put the tape and books away, and went for a coke--all knowing I was doomed to un-distinction and an ill ability to write great sentences. This time around I was set to preservere (that and I thought maybe, since I'd slept in a Holiday Inn Express* since then, that I might have a shot at understanding it better. Unfortunately, I no longer have a VCR player and found myself doomed to READ book one and two. I carried book one in my purse for when I had to wait in line for something....

Something came along and yes, there I had that darned book and yes, I took it out to read it, and yes, it was still gobbledegook and iskcensrd to me, but I kept soldiering on through incomprehensible paragraphs, through unknown twists in Gordian knots of words until....

My brain swelled up and popped.

Ok, it didn't really, but I thought it was going to.

And then I managed to understand a bit. And then a bit more. And then....

Well no more, but then I haven't read anymore. But the part I did get to said that writing that is being taught now, stripped down and direct is a form of more masculine speak. Hard boiled detective novels used to use it almost exclusively. Sentences that turn and twist a bit are more interesting. Wahooo! All might not be lost for me.

Here's an example: The man drove with care, sunglasses shading his eyes, wind from an open window playing with his hair, a thirty-eight revolver on the seat beside him, a grim smile on his face, and a body in the trunk.


Now that is a sentence that catches your attention.

I'm a little way into book one now and it is not easy, but I just keep reading in hopes that another diamond will be discovered. I can't stop, as this book is like quicksand, and I'm afraid that if I try to concentrate on understanding each page before I go on that I shall sink like a struggling deer in quicksand. However, as I read along, some of it makes sense. But more than that, I can feel my writerly juices flowing a little less sluggishly. Thinking. Thinking of places that I could use a really good sentence or two. Hmmm.....

* for those of you who don't watch that much TV, there is a commercial that implies if you stay in a Holiday Inn Express you can do almost anything--like brain surgery.


Joan Vincent said...

Nina, no reason to be jealous of other authors or to decry your style. It is perfect for you. Your sentence works--your posts amuse and inform. Your writerly juices flow just fine.

Rox Delaney said...

Boy, I could sure use a Holiday Express right now.

Rox Delaney said...

Time to be serious. Okay, I was serious about the Holiday Express, but let's get down to the real business.

Nina, luv, do not--do not--mess with your voice. I know exactly how you feel. I have two excellent author friends who both have the most distinctive voices and styles which often make me want to cry, if not stop writing completely.

We're all different. If we were all the same, the world--and the books we write--would be boring.

Your voice is you. It's perfect. Leave it alone, stop thinking about if it's right or wrong and just write.

Nina Sipes said...

Ahhh. You guys are so nice. I guess I worry overmuch about it because my writing style, talking style, and blogging style are all DIFFERENT!
(Light Bulb moment)
Thinking about it though, so are the both of YOURS!! I've read both of you in print, in blog, and in person, and you are different in all three places too. Funny, I've been worrying about this a long time thinking that there should be some consistency in the output.AS long as I can be different like you two, I'm a happy, happy, girl. This is what a group can do for an individual that an individual CANNOT do for themselves--see the birds instead of the forest.
Thanks Joan and Rox!

Rox Delaney said...

Would it help if I admit that I've been torturing myself lately with thoughts of "what if I never sell another book again" and "I've lost whatever it was that I once had, if I even had it?"

Writing has been hard for me lately. Real hard.

Joan Vincent said...

You are not alone in that, Rox. It has been hard for me for a year and it's wwwwaaaaayyyyyy longer since I sold a book than you. You are so knowledgeable about writing and skilled. You will sell again! Now I'm going to repeat those words to myself. Positive thinking, right?!

Nina Sipes said...

Joan and Rox.
Are you tired of your characters? Maybe you've been thinking of them so long that you're tired of them and need a different story. I'm sure that is happening to me. I love my Zone books. They seem to write themselves. The Ship's Bastard is kicking my rear. And has taken three times as long to get anywhere with. I wouldn't be finishing it if it were not a promise. I'll not do that again as it isn't fun.

Nina Sipes said...

Forgot to mention. Both of you can write circles around me. There isn't any doubt of talent. Talent also doesn't wear out, burst seams, or otherwise disappear. However, it can remain unused. Put on your party hats and write something fun and take your characters to an odd turn. Maybe they are bored/uninspired too.

Reese Mobley said...

Do you think if I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express I could get published?

Great post as always, Nina. Your take on life should be shared. Have you ever considered writing a column for your local newspaper? I think it would be so popular!

Penny Rader said...

Maybe I should book a suite at the Holiday Express and see if I can come up with some words on the page that actually apply to a story, something that will get me past page 5.

You crack me up, Nina. I get a tremendous kick out of your posts -- I never know what you're going to say. Sometimes I chuckle Other times I LOL. Other times I scratch my head 'cuz I never of it that way. I love that you're different. You truly are a breath of fresh air.

Pat Davids said...

What a great post. Thanks, Nina. Your blog posts are always cooler than the other side of my pillow. I don't know how you do it.

Nina Sipes said...

A stay in a Holiday Inn Express couldn't hurt to get one towards publication. Of course you'd also need some writing material, a little inspiration.....

Nina Sipes said...

Publishing a column would be interesting, but no, I've never thought of it. Ann Landers type of column. Yes, folks and friends, I have a secret desire to share my obviously superior info on (where was I, oh, yes, I was in the middle of being, maaaahvaaahless). Actually, I don't think the world could take my advice very well. Or maybe they could. I once advised a woman to buy one of her mother-in-law's cakes and then stomp it. She did. I got to watch. You've never seen anything so amazingly freeing as watching a 40+ year old stomp a cake flat. Icing went everywhere. There was a lot of pent up anger there. Her two grown children hooted along with her. Very therapeutic.

Nina Sipes said...

Penny and Pat,
You're both so put together on your posts, I can't hold a candle to them with my chicken scratches! Thank you both for the kindness. I always worry that I'm not making any sense. Maybe that's not a bad thing--then everyone can decide for themselves what they wanted it to be....Hm..
And look at those turns of phrases, Cooler than the other side of my pillow! Indeed!
Penny, five pages is a thrill ride.