I finished reading an amazing book. It was one of those reads, the sort that embeds in your psyche and leaves you changed. The narrative techniques employed were startling, surreal, and just exactly what I needed to read.
You see, I was stuck.
Editing, that is. I had a story that was true to itself, but flat. It didn’t resonate the way it should. This story touched only the word-receptors in my brain, but gave nothing to the mythology-receptors in my psyche or the truth-receptors in my soul. In short: it didn’t move me. The story deserved better. My readers deserved better. But what to do? The answer, as always, is to pause. Read someone else’s work. Partake of the fruits of a writer I admire. I never know what I’ll read that will help me lift a lifeless story, but I have faith that I will find what I need. And I did! Shirley Jackson’s HANGSAMAN.
You can read my review on Google+. Here’s an excerpt:
HANGSAMAN is a bizarre, nightmare trance. I came up from reading it feeling deeply affected, infected. The prose warped my mind. I found myself thinking like the narrator reporting Natalie’s musings; it was disturbing. HANGSAMAN is not a book for anyone on the brink of a mental breakdown. It is a dangerous beast. It will swallow you whole. It is frightfully unique, and one of the most masterful novels I’ve experienced.
HANGSAMAN gave me the answer to my problem with my story. I needed to change my narrative voice! I’m attempting (bumbling) to use a few of the techniques I identified in HANGSAMAN. This approach, to identifying and then practicing with different techniques, is the most valuable writing lesson I absorbed out of all of my writing seminars, workshops, and classes. I owe thanks to the Writers Studio in NYC for that – it has changed my writing for the better. The trick, of course, is to practice until I find my own way of employing the technique; my goal is not to be a pastiche of other writers. This is one of the more advanced narrative personas I’ve ever tried to employ. I’ve spent nine years honing my craft, and you know what? I’ve grown! I can aspire to (bumble at!) using Jackson’s techniques. The writer I was in 2005 couldn’t even have attempted this, and probably couldn’t have identified the technique, although surely I would have felt the tingle of rightness in HANGSAMAN. Reading feeds me as a writer, and practicing my craft allows me to feed you, my readers. My lifeless story is being revived. I look forward to sharing it with you later this year.
Now, though, I have a big announcement about a different story!
MIXED MEDIA, my surreal short story, goes live on JULY 17th!! It will be free to read as a PDF from my blog – always! If you want the convenience of Kindle Whispernet delivery, it’ll cost you .99 cents. Please support me by reading, sharing and reviewing!
A Surreal Short Story, with a Cover You Helped Design!
Mario Santa Maria is an artist who has lost his dreams – literally. Insomnia, unemployment, and a failing relationship are his lot. Things are going badly, and then things get strange. On a visit to the Vos Modern Art Museum, Mario discovers he has the ability to intercept the communication between art and a viewer. MIXED MEDIA is a surreal tale of masterpieces, Delphic sugar cubes, and the promise of new perspectives.
What’s hidden by what we see?
Schedule of Launch Events
JULY 17: Launch day!!! I guest post on Mari Biella’s blog to announce the official release.
JULY 17: Brighter than a Technicolor Dream, a post on my blog about the influence of O’Keefe, Rothko, and Ashley.
JULY 24: Groovy Escher, a post about the influence of M.C. Escher, a surreal painter after my own heart!
JULY 31: Wisdom Tooth in the Belly of a Worm, a post describing why I chose to include THE SCREAM, by Edvard Munch.
AUG 7: We Always Want to See What is Hidden, a post examining the HUGE impact René Magritte’s work had on MIXED MEDIA.
AUG 14: A Sort of Sex/Wine Triumph, a post about the Melendez painting (with those feminine figs!)
AUG 21: Want to see how sausage is made? This is a post about revision. I show you how the first paragraph changed throughout my editing process.
AUG 28: Author Reading, a video of me reading the opening scenes of MIXED MEDIA.
If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to my newsletter.
My newsletter is an event!