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Archive for December 15th, 2009

The Paulo Effect

Sometimes it can be intimidating to read another writer’s work. This weekend I started Paulo Bacigalupi’s novel, The Windup Girl with great expectation. The guy has been writing some of the finest SF in the last decade. Near future Earth SF, not an easy subgenre to master.

Chapter One was not all that impressive, with quite a bit of repetition; you know, those sentences and paragraphs where you’re trying to say something powerful just right, only you don’t quite get it right, so you try again and say it a little bit differently, then again with just a tiny twist? I set the book down, feeling vaguely encouraged. “I can write this well,” I told my wife. Too bad I wasn’t going to enjoy the book as much as I’d hoped, but at least I knew I could match words with a winner.

Five chapters later my ego’s EKG has flat-lined and I’m feeling as if I’ll never write another story. Beginning somewhere in Chapter 2, Paulo kicked into high gear and he has not let up since. His world is wide and deep, filled with cultural details, colorful characters, mind-blowing SF concepts, and flawless action. Oh, every once in a while he still repeats himself, but for every one of those passages there must be ten or twelve that just drop my jaw. How in hades did he think to describe that concept like that? OMG that’s downright poetic! Oh no he dihn’t….

I spent hours staring at the screen today, pushing my prose around like a kid playing with lima beans.  I wrote maybe two new sentences. Where Paulo’s work glows, mine merely shimmers. Where his cuts, mine whimpers.

Anyway, I highly recommend The Windup Girl. Give it a couple chapters.

As for my work, I’m thinking of taking up knitting.

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