An ulterior existence

We do not get swept up as readily as might be by the big-screen excitements of film. But if we do read perseveringly we make available to ourselves, in a most portable form, an ulterior existence. We hold in our hands a way to cut against the momentum of our times. We can resist the skimming tendency and delve; we can restore, if only for a time, the vanishing assumption of coherence. The beauty of the vertical engagement is that it does not have to argue for itself. It is self-contained, a fulfilment.

- Sven Birkerts, 'The Own Has Flown', The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, p.76

Quiet Spaces

“The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author’s words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas. Deep reading…is indistinguishable from deep thinking. If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with “content,” we will sacrifice something important not only in ourselves but in our culture.”

- Nicholas Carr, Is Google Making Us Stupid?

 

Week 16

Bit late this week, as I spent the weekend visiting family in Munich. Leberkas'

The time off got me thinking about my progress with this novel. At the start of the year I aimed to have a first draft done by the end of the year, and I think that's still possible.

A few people have asked me about reading it, and, to be honest, the idea fills me with horror. I'm not happy with much that I've written so far. There are some good ideas in there, the odd nice turn of phrase, but on the whole it's a fraction of what I want it to be. My approach so far has been to plough on, get a first draft done and have something to work with, hopefully improve upon.

Others have suggested I rewrite as I go, or at least the first few chapters, so that they're in a state I'm happy with and can hand out to a few early readers. Doing that might tell me if I'm on the right track, and motivate me to get it finished.

The trouble is, who should I hand it to? Am I risking them telling me I'm not on the right track? I'm not sure that would keep me going, especially after the three-week break from writing that’s coming up when I go on holiday next week.

Stephen King has this thing he calls the "Ideal Reader":

"He or she is going to be in your writing room all the time: in the flesh once you open the door and let the world back in to shine on the bubble of your dream, in spirit during the sometimes troubling and often exhilarating ideas of the first draft, when the door is closed."

For him it's his wife, Tabby. He writes with her in mind, tries to make her laugh and raise her suspense, and she is a stern critic of his first drafts. I thought I'd try it to help with the pace of my story, but I don't have a wife. I don't know who my first readers will be.

So I wonder, do other people write with an Ideal Reader in mind? Who are they? Are they real or imaginary? Perhaps you do. If so, does it help you keep on track? When's a good time to get others to read it?

Word count this week: 1,041 Running total: 31,471 First draft: 16,103