That’s not so easy anymore, I fear. I’m a most willing subject; that’s not the problem. It’s my editorial brain.
Even though I beg that freakish overachiever to take a break, it stands ever ready to pounce on any hiccough in the prose. Shut up! I tell it, as it allows awkward wording or a clichéd image to bump me from the fictive dream. Take a hike!—but no, no, it’s already seen this author use two different spellings of the same name eighty pages apart and now I’m going back to check. Let me finish this book in peace, I beg of it, as it scans the climax for psychological insight or philosophical profundity or an emotional payoff when clearly this author was willing to settle for action alone.
I’m sure you can see what I mean. My brain is not always the most accommodating partner when I want to lose myself in a book.
It’s still a few weeks until the holidays, but December has me thinking about the gift of a really good read. How extraordinary it is when an author, through careful application of imagination and craft, offers up the kind of psychological tension that does not allow you to put the book down. What a rarity when an author can so engage a reader's over-stimulated mind that it will elbow aside its editorial bent and fully surrender to the gift of insight being offered.
When that happens I’m no longer a reader, sitting in a chair, appreciating words on a page. I am in the scene, hearing the rain tap against the windows, watching as the kidnapper “cracks open our new skylight like an oyster and slithers in,” feeling my breath catch as this stranger scoops up the protagonist’s child—no, my child! I am dropping to my knees “to utter the only fearless words I have ever spoken”: “Take me instead.”
That’s why, in this time of thanksgiving and gifting, I must bust Philadelphia area author Kelly Simmons. Once I crossed the threshold of her book, Standing Still, I was kidnapped—and held willingly captive until I closed the back cover a day-and-a-half later. It’s been several years since I had such a fully engrossing and rewarding reading experience, and I’ll happily spend several more years finding another.
This isn’t the kind of book you’ll read to escape from life; it’s the kind you’ll read to enter life more fully. Then you’ll want to read it again for all the gifts of example it offers up to writers in all genres.
Kathryn Craft more appropriately applies her "freakishly over-achieving" editorial brain to the development of her clients' works at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and editing service. What she believes: 1. Editing forever changed the way she reads. 2. Well-crafted moments of brilliance help her forgive many other problems in a manuscript. 3. All writers have strengths and weaknesses—but why settle for weaknesses? 4. We can learn as much from what other authors do right as we can from what we do wrong. This is her series, "Busted!—An author caught doing something right."