Planning to take you along

Where does the time go? Well, for starters, I must ration my time spent on FB. That would give me hours back in every day. I have better things to do, of course, and writing is one of them. Keeping my hand in is important in a business where new writers don’t even have a face. The other half of writing is reading. Hmmm.

Reading is a whole ‘nother animal now that I write. I used to read just for pleasure and information. My fave is historical fiction, hoping the author gets the history part right. I read period pieces but differently now. I read with my writer brain playing critic….how would I say such and such, how would I formulate the flow of the story, what characters could I eliminate, and still keep the story intact, etc. It took some time for my inner critic to back off so I could just enjoy the read. The discipline keeps me from “borrowing” the styles of other writers and to recognize I have a style of my own.

Other writers, alas, me included, want to see on the page what makes us comfortable readers. That is a no-no. For instance, I’m currently reading a well crafted submission with beautifully constructed characters. But there are too many of them for me to follow. I don’t think I can impose a restriction on the author for my comfort. As a critique I can make that suggestion but the story isn’t my own; I can’t determine who should stay and who should go from this stage. That would constitute my displacing the writer, wouldn’t it? As a reader I can say I get lost trying to keep track of all those characters, but I worry that it says more about me and less about the quality of the work. Because in the end, from my point of view, the quality of the work, structurally, is outstanding. The detail and the pacing are way outside my own skills.

When I look at my own drafts, the writer in me scolds the reader in me to just keep my opinions to myself. As a writer, crafting a story with a reader’s eye is important. I must constantly be sure I’ve brought the reader along with me into the places I go, with a mind to clarity. In today’s world, for instance, the sound of a steam locomotive straight out of my childhood is like trying to convey the shape and detail of, say, a space ship. A sleek Japanese rail rider bears no resemblance to the enormity of a black and stomping monster breathing fire as it hurtles across the landscape, whistle screaming, steam billowing into the sky.

I’m writing in a particular period alien to many readers, about WW2, and its aftermath, the development of the previously nonexistent middle class. Markers must be laid along the way, as touchstones to keep today’s reader in the story. Not just in my head. The ultimate work of the writer is to put you, the reader, there. To feel you right beside me as I take you on the journey in my mind. To not forget and leave you down a road I should not have taken you in the first place.

Life stories from an eight year old in a time of struggle are salted with rare glimpses into Amish country, and orphanage institution living, and broken and weary adults who survived our history’s greatest war. Putting a nation back together, recreating America with most energy gone, was a monumental task even for the “can do” people of that time.

But it wasn’t all hard work and poverty. Little kids had long moments of ordinary childhood pleasures. Did you pull taffy with the neighbor lady? Ride the boxcars into town until your Mama found out and tanned your hide? Did you spend hours in hot summer nights capturing enough lightning bugs to fill a jar, to light your way as if a flashlight? Toboggan down a steep hill covered with apple orchard and never hit a tree? Sleep in a pup tent under the stars with your little brother? Have a little girl crush on a handsome Amish lad too shy to even say your name?

I’ll take you there in every instance if ever this memoir gets published. Oh, by the way, current instruction is don’t call it that. Heh. Well. These are memories. Not fairy tales.

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