The Speed of Stuck

I think I’ve mentioned in a couple of posts that I’ve been stuck at this one particular point in my writing. I’ll look at it, go back a few chapters and change a little, then go back to where I am, clean that up a little, but no forward progression whatsoever except for maybe a sentence or two. I haven’t actually been stuck quite this badly for a while.

Then my attention turned to the fact that I was extremely behind in my reading–I was doing the Goodreads Challenge thing and decided at the beginning of the year to read 143 books. I’d been fine until I started writing a lot again, then the reading sort of fell by the wayside. I know it isn’t a huge thing, the world isn’t going to end (I think we’ve had enough of that for one year, thank you) if I don’t finish reading the number of books I said I was going to. But it bugged me. So far I haven’t really accomplished much this year, for various reasons which don’t need to be discussed, and I just latched onto the necessity of finishing the books for the challenge. I was about 27 books behind in the second week of December, and didn’t think I’d make it.

Being stuck in my writing and not being distracted by that, suddenly a lot of time opened up for reading and I’ve been on a mad reading marathon for the past two and a half weeks or so. I can read pretty quickly if I’m engrossed in the story, and luckily the books I had around from the library and that I’d bought but hadn’t had time to read were, for the most part, really good and interesting. (Just don’t ask me questions about details of a book I read last week). I read quickly, but my retention isn’t all that great. I read for the story, and often don’t pay attention to little details (that’s what second readings are for <g>) and get caught up in it, so I can read about 2 books a day if I really try, well, more of a read one, finish it, start another, finish it the next day… it depends on how thick the book is. I did not deliberately choose books that were small, by the way <g>. I can’t help it if City of Lost Souls has the equivalent of  14 or 15 point font in it. I think I possibly could have read that one without my glasses. I read a lot of last books in trilogies, some which ended satisfactorily but a little open-ended, so I could put characters together in a relationship in my head without feeling guilty if that was what the author intended or not. It’s the last book, after all. It’s open to interpretation, right?

On a side note here, I just have to make a couple of comments on City of Lost Souls, because I’m becoming sadly annoyed with the Mortal Instruments series. When Cassandra Clare first started writing this series, I stuck up for her and said it didn’t matter what she’d done in her fan fiction, because I didn’t see anything that she’d taken from anywhere in the first books, I thought they were pretty well written, and they were interesting. I expected the Mortal Instruments to end at the first trilogy, and was actually pretty annoyed when it turned out there were going to be three more books. I do have to say I like the Infernal Devices series better. I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s a time period I like, and it’s also different enough from the Mortal Instruments that you don’t have to read one series with the other. I was OK with City of Fallen Angels–I didn’t think it was great, didn’t think it was awful, but while reading City of Lost Souls, I really, really wanted to tell Ms. Clare to stop. It’s too late to go back and undo the damage COLS did–not to mention that it’s beginning to sound a lot like Twilight, which was really disappointing, but the characters were all doing things that didn’t seem like things they would do. We’re five books in, here. This whole Clary/ Jace thing is really beginning to grate on my nerves. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way–I read some of the reviews afterward and about half of them felt the way I did. That now it’s for the money and not in the interest of writing good books. COLS was getting sloppy toward the end, and it was beginning to get genuinely weird. I don’t mind weird if it’s conducive to the plot, but when it’s weird in the sense of drawing out a very thin plot, I do mind. I also mind, and this is where the Twilight thing comes in, so there are *****spoilers here if you haven’t read COLS and plan to, when the book starts to echo some themes I didn’t particularly like in the original book, in this case, Twilight.  (I’ve made arguments in defense of and against Twilight, just to play devil’s advocate). Yes, Jace is being controlled by Sebastian, but does that make his treatment of Clary forgivable? He’s been nasty to her at various points in the whole series, but it was worse in this one, to the point of being abusive, yet she just takes it and goes on about how much she loves him and she has to save him, enough that she’d make a deal with the Seelie Queen and start making extremely stupid decisions in general. It was getting to the point where I didn’t care if they destroyed the world as they knew it and took over. They deserved it. Alec became this paranoid, insecure boyfriend who was overly worried about his mortality, a theme that shows up all the time  when there’s a romance involving someone who’s immortal and someone who isn’t. He is still obsessed with Magnus’ past lovers (honestly, how many hundreds of years has he been around? Alec expects him to have taken a purity vow or something and wear a ring for all that time?). It’s normal to be curious about former lovers, and possibly jealous to an extent if they are still friends or if you feel your partner isn’t being completely honest with you. Their relationship was one of the more interesting things in this trilogy, and Clare has Alec ruin the whole thing. In the other four books he wasn’t so whiny or snivelly. And I think the things he does in this book are out of character–he becomes more and more insecure until he makes a very stupid choice. People do that all the time, I suppose. But most people aren’t involved with 800 year old or so (sorry if I didn’t get the age right) warlock, either. Most likely, they have a lot of baggage. At least too much for carry-on. So that part sucked for me. And I know that coincidences happen when you’re writing and someone else has a very similar idea that you’ve been working on and you think “Damn, now they’re going to think I copied them!” but I don’t know if this falls into that category. In order to separate Jace’s link from Sebastian, Clary kills Jace with an angelic sword that burns all the evil out of him–if there’s enough good left, he’ll survive. But meanwhile, as someone in another review put it, he’s basically the Human Torch for a bit, and then (jarring, horrific jolt back to Twilight) he glows. Yes, he glows now. No one is sure why, not even the Silent Brothers. Sound familiar? Maybe a little…sparkly? And then–personal statement injectment here: I do not condone having sex before a person is emotionally and physically ready to do so. It should be something valuable, hopefully, and meaningful. But let’s face it, it happens all the time in YA novels. We’re five books in and Jace and Clary have only gotten to third base, so to speak–something always happens to stop them. It’s clearly obvious that Jace isn’t a virgin, but Clary is, so in that respect we’re back to the “it’s ok for boys but not for girls” scenario. And now, ta da, due to Jace’s current state of glowiness, he says they probably shouldn’t do anything because of it (presumably until they know what it is). Does that sound familiar?  Through the whole course of the book everyone is terrified of saying anything to the Clave regarding anything they know about Jace because they will probably consider it treason and kill him. Serious, serious stuff. But when he’s back? Clary can’t see him for days until she finally just goes and does it, everything seems fine with the Clave, and suddenly the book is populated by paper dolls. Truthfully, I’m mostly sad about this. I probably will get the next one, just because I feel sort of committed at this point (or should be committed for continuing to read them) and am hoping the last one will redeem this one. Enough of that.*******

I didn’t mean to go on about that for so long, it’s just that I finished a few series and was really satisfied with the way they ended–the Matched trilogy: Reached was far, far better than I thought it would be. I wasn’t so sure about the first two, they seemed a little hollowish to me but I thought they were alright, but Reached, I thought, was good enough that it didn’t matter–things made sense in the first two now that hadn’t, the characters were growing (some more than others, but still). The final book of the Seven Realms books, The Crimson Crown, was awesome. The Far West, concluding that series, was good. Quintana of the Charyn, and especially, although I know people are somewhat divided about this one as well, Bitterblue–both of those, but especially Bitterblue, I just sat there for a while after I finished it trying to soak it all in. I love Kristen Cashore’s writing style and her characters, and I loved how everything came together here. I didn’t want it to end. There were also some pretty amazing first books in trilogies (although it would be nice to get some stand-alones just so you don’t have to wait three years to finish a story): The Dark UnwindingGrave Mercy, Shadowfell, Defiance, Throne of Glass–I know I’m leaving some out, but there are plenty of books to look forward to next year. And I do recommend For Darkness Shows the Stars very highly. I started reading the unicorn series and didn’t like it so was hesitant about this one, but when I found out it was loosely based on Persuasion I was curious. Now I need to read Persuasion again.

Again, I’m straying from the original point. While reading all of these books in such rapid succession, the back of my mind was still thinking about where I was stuck, sort of poking it with a stick and trying to annoy into something workable. It was amazingly exhilarating to go through all those books so quickly–it was like being inundated with marvelousness. But I realized that’s what’s wrong with my book. I’m rushing it. Things happen before they should, I get impatient so I’ve rearranged things to happen when they originally didn’t, so not enough time has passed before important things happen. In my rush to get to the end of my book, I’m not paying attention to the details and things that I sometimes don’t pay attention to in other books because I’m so engrossed in the story, and read too fast when I should slow down and be more patient. So I’ve gone back (in my head, I just finished my last book for the challenge last night) to where I think I need to start slowing the story down a little, or at least letting things progress at a more natural pace. Yes, Madeleine can do such and such, she just needs to wait. She and Geoff are not particularly patient people, and he’s become more central than he was before, so I have two impatient characters telling each other not to be so impatient while I keep rushing them along, and now it’s turned into a log jam. So I’m curious, now that I think that’s what the problem might be, to see if it really is. Yes, the story does need to flow, but not run headfirst into a dam at full tilt. Plus, that would hurt.

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