I’m trying to think of what I can tell you about the book I just finished, Once Upon A River, by Bonnie Jo Campbell. I’m trying to think of how to say that I think the author is a good author, but her character development needs some work, her sentences need work, and the depth of insight is lacking. I want to say to the author, "Well done," but that wouldn't quite feel honest. She accomplished something, yes, and the story itself is compelling—a teenage girl is raped and gets back at the guy, but in doing so she accidentally kills her father (at which point her mother has already deserted her), leaving the girl virtually orphaned. The protagonist is an anomaly, an Annie Oakley character who likes to shoot, can skin animals, and generally lives like a hunter-trapper but thinks like a modern adolescent.
I wish I could summarize five writing tips and give you an example of how they were used/not used in Once Upon A River. I could say "SLOW THE F- - - DOWN and don’t tell me so much, show me," or also, "don’t use so many adverbs," because adverbs are lazy. I could even say, "be unpredictable" in your plots. But then. . . well, the only way to write unpredictable prose is to get so deep in your story that you’re not even aware of what the heck is happening, yourself. And that’s called writing in the dreamspace. What my professor Heather Sellers liked to call "the best whiskey." The real guts of your stories. The writing you only pull out when you’re deep, deep within yourself. The stuff you can’t make up. The stuff of good music, of poetry, of best-selling short stories that never get seen because they take actual energy to read.
I could say all that. (I just did). Or I could hope you call me up and ask me out for happy hour, and we could talk. I’d love to talk. Share some best whiskey, figuratively and literally.
Maybe none of this makes sense to you, maybe a bit of it does. I’m hopeful for the latter.
Cheers, happy writing! Happy living.