Wednesday, October 23, 2013

for the love of books

Several good links to share:

1. The ever brilliant storyteller, Laini Taylor, draws inspiration from SPIRITED AWAY's creator Miyazaki to explain her thought process on pacing.

"As a storyteller, it's something I'm always trying to structure. Plus this: often I find the "at rest" moments to be the most fun and rewarding. From my very beginnings as a novelist I've been trying to strike the balance between imperative forward momentum and enjoyable interludes that exist purely for color, character development and fun ... You can't indulge in too many of them or you slow down the plot. But if you don't have them at all, at least for me, I find that I careless about the plot. There has to be a feeling of life and reality extending beyond the plot. There has to be an established threshold of "normal" that is being overthrown by the high stakes of the current situation. Or else ... EVERYTHING IS LIFE OR DEATH yawwwwwn ..."

Personally, I love that lull in between action scenes. The emotions just come out that much stronger, as though you're still riding on that momentum from the last action scene that's seguing into the next.

Unfortunately, sometimes you need to know when to build up the action again. Otherwise, you'll end up with TOO GREAT a lull and your story slows down. Which is really the last thing you want. (See: a literary agent's feedback on BLOOD PROMISE)

2. Writer Darcy Pattison shares her thoughts on what the wretched first draft means to her:

"The purpose of the first draft is to figure out what story you are telling. The purpose of all other drafts is to figure out the most dramatic way to tell that story."

The first draft is usually a huge mess that lurches in spits and stops, weighed down by unbalanced pacing and sometimes stilted dialogue and exposition. It causes much agony. It is often regarded as eeeevil. Even Hemingway says so.

But without the first draft, there won't be anything to edit or rewrite later. I guess as much as we might agonise over it, we just need to stick it out or give up on our story entirely. No one's forcing us to write it, after all.

3. And here, Laini Taylor waxes lyrical about books, independent bookstores and the thrill of little discoveries that make huge impact. And when I say wax lyrical, I mean wax lyrical in that quintessential Laini Taylor way:

"I love bookshelves, and stacks of books, spines, typography, and the feel of pages between my fingertips. I love bookmarks, and old bindings, and stars in margins next to beautiful passages. I love exuberant underlinings that recall to me a swoon of language-love from a long-ago reading, something I hoped to remember. I love book plates, and inscriptions in gifts from loved ones, I love author signatures, and I love books sitting around reminding me of them, being present in my life, being. I love books. Not just for what they contain. I love them as objects too, as ever-present reminders of what they contain, and because they are beautiful. They are one of my favorite things in life, really at the tiptop of the list, easily my favorite inanimate things in existence, and ... I am just not cottoning on to this idea of making them ... not exist anymore. Making them cease to take up space in the world, in my life? No, please do not take away the physical reality of my books."

And she said something that completely resonated with me: 

"If I love a book, I want it. I want it sitting there so I can pick it up and leaf through it and maybe just hold it."

I was like, I KNOW! My friends think I'm crazy and wasting money when I buy a book that I've already read, having borrowed it from the library. But they don't get it. It's just not the same if you go back and borrow the book again, or even own the e-book. When I love the book, I want to hold it in my hands, stroke its spine, gaze lovingly at the cover and know that it's right there on my bookshelf whenever I feel like revisiting a particularly lovely passage or listen to the voice of a particular character.

Which is why I own every Maggie Stiefvater and Sarah Dessen book ever written - and catching up with my Deb Caletti and Laini Taylor collections - even though I've read all their books before. (Let's hope my dad doesn't read this, or he'll launch into another rant about my book-buying habits and how my books are encroaching on my living space, which is ridiculous, because there is ALWAYS space for more books.)


As convenient and space-friendly e-books are, they're just NOT THE SAME as physical books. Imagine a not-so-distant future where browsing for books and reading reviews online has COMPLETELY taken over discovering new titles on your own in bookstores - where's the fun in that?

Also, Laini laments the dearth of letter-writing and worries that books are headed in that direction too.

"I am of the old guard, and I cannot embrace this new technology, not for what it is but for how it will change and demolish one of the institutions dearest to me in life. The world is barreling in this direction -- towards this shiny sci-fi future -- that lacks ... texture. Already our grandchildren will never find boxes of letters in our attics, bound with faded ribbon. We have killed letter-writing (some people can barely hand-write anymore, for any length of time; our hands don't have the muscles for writing with pens anymore!!), and we have killed music stores, and we're out to kill books too. It doesn't mean we won't still have stories; we will, in this there-but-not format, but to me, what we are losing is a very great thing. It has begun, and I think that in some places there are enough of us who love books and bookstores that the stores will continue, and publishers will keep printing books on paper for a while longer, hopefully a good long while, hopefully the rest of my life. But ... the rest of my daughter's life? And her children's lives?"

She is clearly a passionate bulwark of all things old-school, but it's nice to know there are people like her around who still love books and will continue buying them just because.

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