Am back, have been reading so much Walter Scott

Hello friends. I’ve been struggling to get stuff done, so I’m devoting today to doing all the random extra stuff on my To-Do list. I’ve already funded my ROTH IRA, and now I’m writing a blog post. My last blog post was I don’t know when–a long time ago. Weeks? It was in the before times. And by that I mean “before my toddler stopped sleeping” times. For a while I was sleeping in her room with her, on the floor, which made me feel every morning like someone had beaten me up. We’ve since managed to get things into somewhat sharper order, hence me having the time to write this book!

I’ve also been revising my YA novel, a process that as always had has its ups and downs. I really like the book, I have to say. It has my trademark nuance, sharp characters, complicated relationships, and this time I even put in a plot. This draft has focused on building out a lot of the supporting cast more, filling them up with their own little hopes and dreams. I love my main characters, but they always partake too closely of myself to feel really distinct to me. The supporting cast are what I love even more! I’ve given up on creating realistic characters, instead I like to make the best version of a person. What would someone be like if they were totally awesome in this particular way? As a result, even my villainous characters seem great to me.

The revision is about 2/3rds done. I’m at a place where I had to pause and do some stuff. It’s looking pretty good, I think. Will be sad to leave this group of people behind, but I suppose that’s how writing works.

Another thing I did was get into a BIIIIIGGGGG Walter Scott phase, listening-wise. It was all Walter Scott all the time: I listened to Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, The Antiquary, Old Mortality, and Kenilworth. Scott is a historical novelist who wrote relatively early in the 19th century and had an incredible influence on the development of the novel in the 19th century. If you want to look at how novels stopped being the picaresque, playful creatures of the 18th century and turned into the brooding, baroque (and lengthy!) novels of the 19th century, the route runs through Walter Scott (and Ann Radcliffe, another novelist who I need to read).

Scott has a terrible reputation these days. People talk about him like he was a 19th-century hack or something–a writer with no skill, nothing to say, and certainly no verbal facility. That’s a very undeserved reputation. Is he Jane Austen? No. But he certainly does aspire to write realistic characters, to accurately convey manners, and to just generally write exciting and informative books. They’re better than almost any commercial novels you might read (and better than most literary books as well). My favorite of the ones I’ve read is probably Old Mortality, since it’s a well-constructed book with a lot to say (though you might want to read up a bit on 17th-century Scottish religious history before you start). However if you DO read Scott it’s hard to imagine you won’t start with his most famous novel, Ivanhoe, which is a really strange mid-period novel of his that features, amongst other things, Richard the Lion-hearted and Robin of Loxley teaming up to protect the fiancé of a virtuous Saxon noble, the eponymous Ivanhoe. Just a truly, truly bonkers book (reminded me in some ways of the Heath Ledger movie Knight’s Tale). Definitely worth a read.

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