Friday, 30 March 2012

Easter holidays!

The Easter Holidays are finally here!  Hurrah!  That last twenty minutes at work really dragged today, thanks mainly to this rather stinking cold which I've managed to pick up.  Not quite so hurrah.  And I'm off to Somerset tomorrow so here's hoping it'll have miraculously cleared up by the time I wake up in the morning!

I'm not sure how much opportunity I'll have for writing while I'm in Somerset - we are only there for four days - but you never know, so I'm making sure I know which bits I'm supposed to be writing next.  I'm really looking for the rest of the holidays to be the most productive.

I've also picked a book to take along with me: The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan (the first in The Black Magicians' trilogy) which I got for my birthday last year and STILL haven't got round to reading, even though I'm pretty sure it'll be very close to awesome.  I read the prequel, The Magicians' Apprentice last year in France and was very impressed.  And very appreciative of the excellent writing after several months of reading many much-less-good writing.  It got a sigh of relief.  Ah, at last - something great!

Hopefully I'll get round to reviewing it (providing I actually read it) in the not too distant future.

Right, I'm off to bed.  I'm not entirely sure whether my ramblings make any sense (do they ever?) and tonight I'm blaming it on the cold.  I'm blaming everything on the cold today.  Room's a mess.  It's the cold.  I have packed for my holiday very poorly.  It's the cold.  I've only just got round to paying my mother back for a holiday last April.  Yep, you guessed it: the cold.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Good Housekeeping submission

My submission for the Good Housekeeping competition is all sealed up in an envelope, sat on top of my handbag, waiting to go to the post office.  Having given it the same sort of obsessive checking and re-checking that I used to reserve for my uni assignments, I can now finally breathe a sigh of relief that it's done!

Providing, of course, that no major catastrophes befall the post office over the next twenty hours.  Part of me thinks that maybe I should try and get it posted before I go to Mottisfont tomorrow.  However, the more rational part of my brain points out that this isn't really practical given how much faffing it normally takes to get me out of the door in the morning.  Putting in an extra mission on the way is just asking for trouble.

And I think this competition has given me enough stress as it is.  I re-wrote the actual submission several times - or rather the first couple of pages of it.  It was, after all, my dreaded Hide and See Chapter 1, which I have whinged about in previous blog posts.  I think I'm happy with it now, although this is probably dependent on my not looking at the thing for several weeks (or months).

The synopsis, too, gave me trouble.  I'd written it to the two pages specified in the competition criteria, only to read in the small print that the entry should be double-spaced.  This led to much angsting over whether this included the synopsis or not.  Thankfully, Reb came to the rescue of my frazzled nerves and assured me that single-spaced was fine.  Hurrah!

So now it's time to get back to actually finishing this draft of the whole novel.  I have not yet completed the re-write of the first third.  I'm up to Chapter 9, and started it on my lunch break at work today.  The chance to write some fresh words - in glorious sunshine no less - was a pretty blissful experience, even though it lasted ten minutes at most.

The Easter Hols start next week (the joy of working for a college!) so hopefully I'll be able to get a good chunk of writing done.  I really want to finish this re-write soon.  Other things (book two included) have been whispering at me and needed to be written.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Bad blogger

March seems to be a bad blog-writing month for me.  In March 2011 I only wrote three blog posts - somewhat disappointing after my much more productive February.  Now, in March 2012, I have so far written only one blog post - once more rather crap in comparison to the, yep you guessed it, much more productive February.

I would like to blame something like seasonal change or bad planet alignments or something equally nonsensical for this lack-of-blogness but I doubt there's actually any reason for it.  It isn't like I've been so manically busy that I haven't had time.  I'm sure I could have found a few minutes at some point this month when I wasn't swearing furiously at malfunctioning lovefilm DVDs (that activity seeming to have taken up a good portion of March).

On the writing front I do have some things to report.  I managed to produce a chunk of my fantasy trilogy for my brother's birthday, which I enjoyed writing even if I'm fairly sure a lot of it is just waffly nonsense.  I also spent much of this weekend working on my submission and synopsis for the Good Housekeeping competition.  So my lack of blogging thankfully does not equal a complete lack of writing.

I also read Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, the second in the Hunger Games trilogy.  I've yet to decide whether to review that one because I'm not sure I can without having to spoil book one and I'd hate to do that to anyone who wants to read it.  And they should.  I seem to have accidentally persuaded a few people to read it so I figured I might as well encourage people on purpose now.

Here's hoping that I'll be able to write a couple more posts this month, regardless of whether they're just my general rantings or reviews.  I'm also hoping that the month trend isn't an actual thing - I only wrote one measly post for the whole of April 2011.  Ouch.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

For the opening sentences of this novel alone, I am jealous of Patrick Rothfuss.  I couldn’t even tell you why, exactly, that it gripped me so thoroughly; why it sent a little shiver of delight down my spine.  It goes as follows:

‘It was night again.  The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.’

Examples of a wonderful use of language are present through The Name of the Wind, and while I could easily quote you some here, I won’t because they need to be experienced in the context of the story.

The story itself is a strange thing.  Not that it’s difficult to follow or too far outside the realms of believability.  The narrative occurs in two time streams but the transitions are easily recognised and I was never confused as to what time I was in.  The action is well-written and exciting; the conversation is engaging and natural.  So what is it that makes me call it ‘strange’?

Looking back on the story, it feels as if not a great deal actually happened (considering the size of the book at least) and yet never once do I remember feeling bored while reading it.  The size of the book, the tone of the language, the not-quite-a-blurb on the back, even the front cover (here ignoring a certain saying about books and covers)… all of this combined makes it seem like this story should be an epic.  And it isn’t.

Not yet anyway.

That’s another thing that feels a little odd.  At the end of the book, the story just stops.  I know there’s going to be a sequel – have known it since shortly after starting it – but all the same I’ve never read a book which leaves so much without conclusion.  It isn’t even that it left us on a dramatic cliffhanger.  It’s simply feels like this trilogy (as it will eventually be) should be read as once continuous work, and the author simply stopped at whatever point he felt like.

The lack of epic-like action makes me think that this is a much more character-driven novel than most in this genre tend to be.  The events we’ve had so far serve the purpose of shaping the main character into the person he will one day be.  This we see in many novels – particularly fantasy – so that the protagonist will be able to rise to the inevitable challenge and defeat the big bad.  This is what I expected to happen in The Name of the Wind – except the big bad hasn’t yet arrived.  Or at least the confrontation with it hasn’t.

I can’t quite decide whether these observations about the novel are criticisms or not.  The standard of the writing has allowed me to forgive many things that might have irritated me in a less well-written book.  I feel like I should recommend this book for the writing alone, despite the fact that it took me almost a month to get through it.  Yes it is a bit of a monster (662 pages) but I’ve read longer books in less time.

I think part of the reason why I so frequently put it down was that the protagonist (Kvothe) kept doing things which he knew to be stupid and which would inevitably get him in trouble, with the risk of ruining his life, but he persisted in doing them anyway.  And yet he is intelligent, kind-hearted and brave, so surely we can forgive him this just as I forgive Rothfuss for his strange ending?

My ultimate test for many of these books I’ve been reviewing seems to be about the sequel.  Do I want to read it?  Sure.  Do I want to read it RIGHT NOW?  No.  I’ll get to it one day, but I’m not desperate for it.

But I did start reading the beginning again.  So is that one thumb up and one sort of wavering in the middle?