Played some Space Cadet pinball simulator. It's not real pinball, but it's close.
And scribbled some outline notes for Scardown. Obviously I was right, and the brain does need refill time.
I'm reading Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, and it took me about a hundred pages to get into it. It took a while to hit its stride, but I am now engrossed.... and I am also thinking. Hannah's made the same comment on my books--that she takes a while to get a feel for my style, but then likes it. I've heard the same thing said of writers as diverse as China Mieville and Diana Gabaldon.
And it makes me wonder. More precisely, it makes me think. Novels are allowed to take a while to hit their stride, aren't they? Yeah, I think they are. As long as they establish a personality, a voice, a conflict, characters and a direction early enough, they do in fact get some nattering time.
The trick is pulling it off. And I think maybe one of the things that helps is doing most of that padding on the front end, and, per Swanwick's advice, driving hard and fast for the ending once you see it. Whatever you do, don't natter on the end. And don't tack on one of those endings that's all out of scale with the book. (David Brin seems to me to do this: I was especially disappointed by The Postman, which I found deeply engrossing until the last hundred pages. No spoilers.)
Interesting. I think I'm pretty good at endings, and I'm willing to forgive a lot of sins in a writer who can pull off a satisfying ending... Barbara Hambly, Guy Gavriel Kay, Peter Beagle. On the other hand, there are a lot of very successful novelists who really.... their books tend to wander south, or trail off strangely.
Which I guess proves the point: a novel is a work of fiction longer than a short story, and flawed.
But my favourite books are always going to be the ones that I close with a wistful sigh, and then have to go blow my nose. And those are the ones I want to write, too.
On the other hand, it also proves that there are a lot of ways to write a novel. And the workshop model--start hard, start fast, keep the tension climbing, climbing, climbing.... may be a little exhausting to read in the long run. Especially in a form whose strength lies in its richness and complexity.