This Sunday Circle is an initiative of Peter M Ball (see here). I don’t get to it every week (in fact, I’ve been away for nearly a year), but I’ve been given a Mother’s Day moment at the computer, so here goes.

What am I working on this week?

I’m expecting to receive the copyedits on my next commercial novel, now called Saving You. In between that, I’m reading background for my PhD thesis exegesis, specifically Norman Holland’s Literature and the Brain, because it’s on non-renewable inter-library loan to me and I must finish it before the London trip in 5 weeks.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I’m being anti-inspired by E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel, which I read for exegesis background last week. It’s the transcripts of a series of lectures and is at times meandering, snobbish, vague, contradictory, and everything I dislike about criticism and venerated texts. That is, it contains very little practical advice to a novelist, because everything needs still further reckoning with. He treats the reader as a spectator, and sees readers in very stark terms – the stupidly curious (who can’t handle plot) and those with intelligence and memory who can. He sets character above plot (that old nugget), but, having taken such pains to show us how plot is about cause and effect, then conveniently ignores the cause and effect that resides in characters.

Still, valuable to read it was; this is the origin of the term ‘Homo Fictus’ (still somewhat useful), a useful definition of story and plot, a less useful treatise on flat and round characters (actually, really only on flat ones, as he decides that defines the round ones), and the origin of the somewhat arbitrary way that a lot of creative writing standard wisdom frames the construction of a novel. Understanding the foundations of how your profession talks about what it does is always valuable. However, Aspects is also extremely dated, narrow, and called into serious question by a lot of the reading I’ve been doing this last year. But that’s how we get progress: we update what doesn’t really work.

On a side note, I’ve found much useful life skills in Dan Harris’s 10% Happier, which is a memoir about how an ambitious anchorman learned something from meditation. If you’re jaded af about anything self-help, this is the self-help book for you. I note with interest that it completely takes to heart the narrative-structure approach to teaching material. I found it incredibly engaging, easy to process, and easy to remember, which is what narrative is supposed to do for non-fiction.

What action do I need to take?

I’ve been cutting back this last month to get on top of the chronic sleep deprivation, exhaustion and shitty PTD that’s marked all of the last 18 months. So, it’s just do the copyedit when it comes in, do the reading, and stay on top of the inbox.

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