By trade, I’m a book editor. Sometimes a sample from a prospective client will come across my desk, and I’ll wonder how the author thinks it could possibly be close to ready-to-query/self-publish. The story, while it may have an excellent central theme, may not be coherent. In many cases, I’ve found that the author is struggling with a single, relatively simple problem: organizing their thoughts.
Often, I’ll say something like, “I think I see where you’re going, but there’s definitely a gap between what you’ve created in your brain and what I’m gathering from the page.” Usually, I’ll provide a few examples of stronger passages as well as some weaker ones that still need a lot of work.
When this happens, I can’t always finish the manuscript; sometimes I’ll have to quit between 25% and 50% into it because I am so confused about the main plot or struggling to connect with the protagonist that, in its current state, the manuscript is a complete waste of my time.
That’s exactly what happened with 1984 by George Orwell.
After a month of slogging through this mush, I abandoned the book on page 158 out of 266.
My husband would call this book “a stream of consciousness mess.”
Orwell had some thoughts. They were even good thoughts. He wrote them down, but he never organized them. As one of my friends said, Orwell “sometimes transitions scenes in literal mid-paragraph.” This friend also said, “His writing style leaves a lot to be desired, and I don’t believe it’s just because the book is so old.”
My friend hit the nail on the head. I couldn’t connect with Winston, the protagonist, and after over a hundred pages, I really didn’t care about him. The society of Big Brother sounded like an interesting topic, but the words on the page were naught more than rambling about going from place to place and hoping a telescreen or so-called friend wouldn’t catch you committing a Thought Crime. Oh, and he bought a paperweight and got his freak on in the woods with some chick whose name I can’t remember and I found annoying.
This is one of those books where I wish I’d had my husband’s approach. “It’s actually one of my life’s goals to NOT read 1984.”
Well, 158 pages later, it’s now one of my life’s goals to never read another page. On paper (ha, puns), I’d like to finish it; I hate abandoning books.
But I want those three hours of my life back, and Orwell will not get another minute of my life.