Reading and Writing

I used to believe that reading and writing were the same thing–different branches of the same activity. You can’t be a good reader without ending up a good writer. You can’t be a good writer if you aren’t a good reader.

I think I’m wrong. Because lord knows, I read the shit out of things all the time and I think I still suck as a writer.

I read through the Sue Allen thing over the last couple of days and I read it really well, you know? But now what?

I know I need more and better descriptions of Nashville. Which means, in part, I better get a better idea of what Nashville looked like in 1860. I need more and better descriptions of people and things. The descriptions I have work really well. But I believe you could pick Ed Baxter–a minor character–out of a crowd and not be sure which one was Sue.

Okay, I can do that.

I took out the butt-sex scene, but I need something right there that gives you a good idea of how and why Ben and Sue are together.

Okay, I can do that.

I want to rework the Innana part using not the formulaic thing she says now, but the formulaic thing that comes at the end.

I can do that.

I need to rename a bunch of minor male characters who appear to all have ended up named “John” even though the running joke of the book is that there are so many John Overtons. I need to reduce the non-Overton John population in the manuscript to zero.

Not a problem.

Here’s the problem. I’m not sure about the pacing of about the last third of the book. It just feels off to me. But I’m not sure how, once one knows she has a pacing problem, that one goes about fixing it. If things are happening too fast, do I add more events? Do I leave the number of events but add more description of the events so that it literally takes the reader more time to read about them, thus giving the illusion of things slowing down? How do I tell where to add in these things? And how do I balance that against keeping things suspenseful?

And speaking of suspense? I suck at it. I’m not sure how to fix that, either.

Also, I feel like there are parts of the book that are wonderfully and perfectly strange. And then there are parts of the book that, even as I’m describing obviously strange things, just aren’t. The kite of strangeness does not catch the breeze. It just plummets back to earth. And I don’t know why the strange parts work and the non-strange parts don’t.

I have this idea–which I’m going to act on after I get another load of dishes started (since every piece of silverware I own seems covered in mouse poop)–that I should make an outline. Yes, I have an outline. But I mean, an outline that actually reflects what’s in the book. I wonder if that will give me some sense of where and what my issues are.