Friday, March 21, 2008


Oh, what a busy few weeks it's been. I haven't posted because I simply haven't had the time. Work has been exceptionally busy lately, and probably due to an early Easter, a lot of things have had to be 'squeezed' in. Last week I worked my usual part-time fraction but continued to work on related projects at home, and by the end of the week, I had worked myself up to a killer migraine that saw me arrive home on Friday and go straight to bed.

So the writing took a back seat, and I've only just resumed. I think ten days went by with no writing, and the night I finally sat down to my laptop was divine bliss. Last night I finished chapter seven (out of twelve), and tonight I plan to go over it with fresh eyes and edit.

In the meantime, I've been enjoying a great book. My neighbour lent it to me saying that she'd earned her husband's wrath late at night because she just couldn't put it down. The book is "The Other Boleyn Girl", by Philippa Gregory, and I'm enjoying it very much. Don't know if it's "unputdownable", but pretty good nevertheless. Most importantly, it's a book from which I can learn a lot. One of my problem areas is pacing, and Gregory handles it beautifully in this novel. From a big picture point of view, nothing much is happening. No wide-ranging, fast moving plot, here, just a King increasingly tiring of his Queen and turning to the Boleyn girls, first Mary, then Anne, as diversion. But what makes the novel fast-paced is the complex behind the scenes plotting by the Boleyn/Howard family on one hand, and by the Queen and her Spanish and Roman Catholic allies on the other, as well as the many and varied small scenes that make up Henry VIII's courtship of the two Boleyn girls.

As I read, I try to store Gregory's tricks away so that I might practice "moving" my writing along at a faster pace than I manage to do now. She seems to pack a lot in by giving just a little visual/sensory detail, and relying on the reader to fill in the blanks. Such a good lesson, and one I sorely need to learn.


Tracey said...

Interesting comments about the pacing, particularly given the type of plot. Might have to get myself a copy and have a look. (I'm particularly thinking about it because Lisa just had me thinking about Atonement.

Re leaving stuff to the imagination -- that's so right. I bought a book on drawing fantasy worlds the other day (not that I'm a drawer, but I just loved the pictures) and there was a picture of a cave opening and the comment said that the inside of the cave had been left dark and to the observer's imagination, and that the picture would have been far less interesting and successful had it all been illuminated. I thought that a powerful example -- and so much easier to grasp immediately than explaining how it works in fiction, so took it in to show my students. I think they all got it!

Scribbly said...

Now that I'm further along in the book, the pacing has definitely slowed - along with the page-turning quality of the novel. Fascinating working out why. My opinion is that, since the book is written in first person and Mary Boleyn is the only POV character, she's not able to provide the reader with a satisfying enough account of the story.

The king is now in Anne's bed, and all those details are no longer accessible. While he was in Mary's bed, I was completely drawn in by the development of their relationship. Henry VIII was an exciting character for Mary to interact with. Now all the most important - and powerful - exchanges are between him and Anne, and are only given as second hand accounts.