Operational Pressure

It’s taking me a while to build up a proper head of steam so far into this young and budding year. My internal writing engine is cranking slowly – certainly, a lot more slowly than I’d like. I suppose this is a normal side-effect of the excesses of the festive period, but it isn’t a place I like to be in. I wish I could shake off the shadows and get stuck right back in, but I don’t think it’ll be as easy as that.

I haven’t yet managed to get back to the WiP – I want to do another read-through in advance of the final approach of the competition deadline, and I intended to get back to it yesterday but had no success. I did (in my defence) send off a short story I’d been working on for a few weeks to the editorial committee of a children’s magazine, write a long (and time-consuming) blog post, and read a book, so the day wasn’t a total waste – but it certainly wasn’t the day’s work I’d wanted it to be! I’m pleased that I managed to beat the short story into shape, or at least a shape I was happy with – coming up with a title was the hardest part. I eventually went with ‘Floyd and the Nose-Bomb’, and as soon as I’d pressed ‘Send’, was sorry that I didn’t go for ‘Floyd and the Noseplosion’ instead. But such is life. Hopefully, I’ll hear from the editors soon, and meanwhile I’ll look for more competitions to enter. *puts on determined face*

Perhaps it’s a good thing that my writing is taking a while to wake up – maybe it’s necessary. I’ve managed to read a couple of books since I finished ‘Paper Towns’, and I’m hoping that every word I read will teach me something, as well as give me enjoyment. Trying to write books of your own is the quickest way to ruin your love of reading, though, I’m finding – every book I pick up has become a creative writing masterclass, instead of just a story in its own right. You might remember I listed off a pile of books I intended to read over Christmas and New Year (none of which I actually managed to read, besides ‘Paper Towns’), and through which I’m still working my merry way; I was lucky enough to be gifted several books as Christmas presents, too, so I have plenty to keep me going. I stayed up late on New Year’s Day to finish ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ (S.J. Watson), and yesterday’s book was Darren Shan’s ‘Zom-B’. I expected to really like both of these books, which is perhaps why I’m so conflicted about my reactions to them.

‘Before I Go To Sleep’ put me in mind of ‘The DaVinci Code’, not because the stories are anything alike, because they’re definitely not, but because it kept me hooked, and kept me reading, despite – in the end – not really being very good. All the characters sounded the same, and I didn’t really believe in any of them.

sleepThis book attracted such wonderful praise and I’d heard, over and over again, how good it was. Perhaps that’s the reason I felt a little let down by it – I often feel that the more I’m looking forward to something, the less I end up enjoying it. And it’s not a bad book – the premise is brilliant, and the set-up is great. I did enjoy the ratcheting tension, and I liked the idea of the central character (Christine) trying to overcome the effects of her amnesia by keeping a journal. For a reader, the idea that we know more about Christine’s life than she does – or, that we have the frame of reference to put together all the hints and suggestions, a frame of reference that she lacks – is a powerful and disturbing one. However, because this is such a strong theme in the book, I found myself putting the twist together a bit earlier than I wanted to. From that point on, it was more a case of waiting for my suspicions to be confirmed than waiting for the tension to come to a head, and it became a bit of a drag. I’m also at a loss to think of any other book I’ve read recently whose ending infuriated me as much as the ending of this one did – I’m telling myself that the end of this book is actually another plot twist, and I’ve written (in my head!) my own final paragraph, in order to satisfy my need for a proper, non-saccharine conclusion to this story. I just refuse to believe the story ends the way it says in the book! Overall, though, it’s not a bad book, and I’d recommend it. Just don’t expect too much of the conclusion, and make sure you start reading early so you don’t stay up until nearly 1 a.m., like I did, in your desire to finish it.

I’m a fan of Darren Shan’s ‘Cirque du Freak’ novels, and so I’d expected to enjoy ‘Zom-B’.

zom-bI suppose it’s not fair to say I didn’t enjoy this book, really – I finished it in record time, and it did keep me interested right to the end. There was just the right amount of gore for me – in other words, there was a lot of it, but the descriptions were the right balance of illustrative and disgusting, which allowed me to imagine what was going on without losing my lunch completely – and I liked the dialogue, as I do with every Shan novel. The character of the racist father, and his abhorrent politics, are probably portrayed a bit simplistically, but that’s fine considering the genre of the book and the type of reader it’s aimed at. There were some great line-drawings included with the text, which is something I always like in a book of this sort, and the book was a perfect length for its target audience (I’m guessing 10-14 as an ideal age range, probably). But – well. The twist at the end (which I’m not even going to hint at here) really annoyed me. It just didn’t seem real or believable. When you know what the twist is, and you think about the character it relates to, the whole story just falls apart. It creates more questions than it answers, I think. I admire the chutzpah needed to even think of a twist like it, but I just really wish it hadn’t been done. Then, this book is the first in a long series, so all the issues I have with the character may yet be worked out in later books. I’ll watch for them with interest.

The brain-machine is starting to whirr a little faster now, and the pressure gauge is hopping. I’d better make the most of it! Off I go to Edit-land… wish me luck!

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