I got downright spooked yesterday when I read a passage in Thomas Harris's Red Dragon that is so close to what I wrote earlier in the day that it set my teeth on edge. I got scared to death. I found my own thoughts in another book, and a book of such caliber. I got validated. If Thomas Harris wrote it like that, it means I have a chance. It means I'm on the right track.
Here are the two passages for you to compare (mine of course is very wordy and still needs a lot of work, as it's only the second draft, but the gist of the scene is there).
TUBE: Trans-Urban Blitz-Express (Draft 2) by Ksenia Anske
"He squinted at her, the laughing lines running in rays from his eyes to his temples, the greying hair combed and smooth, clean and neat, the fingers interlaced.
Olesya pulled up her legs and hugged them, squeezing as far back as the narrow couchette allowed.
"Are you cold?” His tone was thick with concern, genuine concern for a sick plaything that needed care and attention so he could play with it some more, play with it until he grew bored and kicked it to the curb. “Look at you. You’ve grown so much in eleven years. You’ve grown into a beautiful young woman, Olesya. Gorgeous. Exquisite. Your proportions...flawless, your legs, your entire body. To think that I’ve missed all those years watching you blossom—”
“Monster,” she said.
“Why do you say that?” He drew a deep breath. “You got it all wrong, silly. Do you think you can hurt me by calling me names? Is that what you think?”
“Did mama know?”
He studied her, first her eyes, then her hair, then the line of her chin, caressing it without touching it across the table. His gaze oily, salacious, it slid down her neck to the opening of her leotard, to her breasts flat against her knees, and she wanted to scream and couldn’t make a sound.
No. No. No. No.
“You’re freezing. Here, let me warm you up.”
He peeled the blanket off the bed and as he neared her she stiffened and stopped breathing. He draped it over her knees and tucked it all around her, his putrid breath grazing her skin like coarse emery paper."
Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
"Dolarhyde rolled him into the house and parked him in a corner of the parlor with his back to the room, as though he had misbehaved.
"Are you too cool? Would you like a blanket?"
Dolarhyde peeled off the sanitary napkins covering Lounds's eyes and mouth. Lounds didn't answer. The odor of chlorophorm hung on him.
"I'll get you a blanket." Dolarhyde took an afghan from the sofa and tucked it around Lounds up to the chin, then pressed an ammonia bottle under his nose.
Lounds's opened wide on a blurred joining of walls."
What you see here is the bad guy toying with the victim guy (victim girl in my book) before intending to kill him. Very sweetly offering the blanket. I suppose all psychopaths share the same or similar traits, and as I had first hand experience with psychopathic people, I wrote it by my gut, but as I still don't have much confidence in my writing and constantly doubt it, this passage hit me on the head. Fuck, it stunned me. After reading it I sat still for a good 10 minutes before I could move. It was like the revelation from God, if I believed in God. It felt like Thomas Harris reached out to me through time and space and held my hand and said, "It's okay, girl. You're okay. You're on the right track."
I often get ask by beginning writers for advice. How to do this. How to do that. How to overcome fear. How I did it. And I want to tell you, READ UNTIL YOU BLEED OUT OF YOUR EYES.
I'm not mentioning here writing until you bleed out of your fingers, as I assume you already do that. But the problem with asking people for advice is that often people have no time, as I wisely mentioned in the previous post. So what do you do? How do you help yourself when you need help and there's no one to help you?
I get puzzled when I hear from some writers that they don't read or don't have time to read. Dude, if you ever write anything worth reading without reading what other writers write, I'll hand you my head on a spike. Bury your nose in books. Root in them until you stumble on a voice that speaks to you, that makes your skin tingle from the nape of your neck to the tips of your toes. And keep reading as you grow. It'll give you a tremendous boost in courage. It'll give you answers to all your writerly problems, every one of them, as you move forward with your book.
I cannot tell you in this short post what reading did to my writing. I'd need to write a whole book. And I mean reading the type of stuff you want to write. Novels if you're a novelist, not books on how to write novels.
Unfortunately, to find that voice that hits you you have to read a lot. It's almost like a sport, how fast can you find it? That's the game I play. It's this game that helps me set aside books quickly, books that don't grab me, and reading books like Red Dragon makes it even easier. After that kind of stunning writing not much can compare.
So find your own Red Dragons. Read the best that's out there. And if you're getting ready for NaNoWriMo, good luck! Don't forget to carve out time for reading as you race. It'll help you when you're stuck by cleansing your creative palate.