Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Morning ruminations

Woke up fifteen minutes later than usual this morning (at 4:30 AM, instead of the more normal 4:15 or so) and lost track of time... nearly didn't get out to the bus stop on time. 

But I did, and here I am in the break room at work, waiting for my shift to begin. 

Finished a redraft of ENDGAME and tried to upload it to both Kindle and Smashwords, but ran out of time. No substantive changes, just a repolish. If my work is never going to be published in print form, well, I can just keep polishing it. I say good business is where you find it.

There are times when I absolutely cannot stand rereading my work, when I look at my own writing and flinch back from the screen, wondering how in the name of God I could ever think I was even a passable author. 

Most times, though, I'm much more egotistical than that; I quite enjoy rereading my own work and I think "God DAMN those publishers are idiots; they could be making good money off this shit". 

Having just finished repolishing ENDGAME, I have to say, it's a fun book. I like it. If I'd found a cheap, beat up paperback copy of it in some second hand bookstore and read it, I think I'd have really enjoyed it. It has fun characters, an interesting plot, great dialogue, and amazing fight scenes. I mean, a bunch of superhero roleplaying geeks get turned into their fantasy heroes by evil aliens and then have to fight giant robots and invisible dragon-snakes and shit! Plus, two of them fall in love. And then, just when you think it's all over... foul treachery! It's awesome. Everyone should read it. Well, everyone should BUY it, anyway... I don't really care if anyone reads it or not. What, I really want the same legion of dimwits who love Harry Potter and Twilight to suddenly think I'M a great writer, too? It would be humiliating. 

I also read George R.R. Martin's THE HEDGE KNIGHT on my Kindle. Interesting to see how the events of a hundred years prior have shaped the events unfolding in Martin's current series. I enjoyed the novella, but it's a remarkably simple story. Nothing wrong with that, of course... I write very simple shit, too.

But A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE is a tremendously complex story with dozens if not hundreds of important character arcs and plot threads. I've read some other books by Martin -- THE ARMAGEDDON RAG, FEVRE DREAM -- and neither of them managed to resolve their plots in particularly satisfying ways. And everything Martin has managed to do so far, in millions of words of writing, has simply been creating tension. Now, he's doing it masterfully... there's a reason these books are incredibly popular, and it's not the same reason that poorly written crap like Harry Potter or Twilight is popular (slavish adherence to an entirely moronic yet emotionally appealing formula designed primarily to target adolescents). No, Martin can WRITE... the man has real talent, and he's been doing this long enough to have picked up a lot of skill, too. 

But creating tension is just the first part of entertaining an audience, and it's the easy part. The really hard aspect is to release the tension you have created in a satisfying manner. Martin hasn't started doing that yet. We've been expecting him to do that... to bring ASOIAF to a worthy climax and then wrap it up... for the last two, long overdue, really bloated volumes... and he keeps putting it off. He keeps padding the narrative and delaying the moment when Daenarys finally brings her khalasar to Westeros and the final battles truly begin. 

And that's what most of A DANCE WITH DRAGONS felt like to me... padding and bloat. He dragged in characters out of nowhere that had no real place in the narrative, for no real reason, and then, after wasting hundreds of thousands of words on them, just killed them off and moved on. And why? Because (I think) Martin doesn't want to get to the point in his narrative where the final battles commence, because (I suspect) he doesn't really know how to end this thing. Oh, I'm sure he's got some vague resolution in mind... but it's way out there, and he has no real clear idea how to get there. How to make it all work, how to ring the correct emotional chords on the way, how to make all the various characters and plot threads work out, how to continue to weave this tapestry.

In other words, he's masterfully created all this tension... and has no real idea how to satisfactorily release it. 

I don't blame him; he's created a literary task that much, much better writers would balk at tackling. Roger Zelazny couldn't wrap this mess up in a way that people would think worked well, and George R.R. Martin is no Roger Zelazny.

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