Best Fiction and Writing Blogs

I’ve reached a milestone! This blogger M.C. Tuggle whose site is solid and excellent has curated me onto a list of resources to help people become literary superstars!

Blogger M.C. Tuggle whose site is solid and excellent has curated me onto a list of resources to help people become literary superstars.

Blogger M.C. Tuggle whose site is solid and excellent has curated me onto a list of resources to help people become literary superstars.

Deeply chuffed and yet I can measure up to the task too, there is  no vanity there. I am like the lady at the beginning of Fame from the 80’s saying ‘You gotta pay, in sweat’.

The best thing? The list is great, check out Cindy Harris 8 tips for editing a manuscripts and Nihar Pradhan’s lovely scientific take on writing, which I find oddly comforting.

Best Fiction and Writing Blogs.

Even the Flaws Must be Flawless

Draft 14 and Cameroned

Two different people, two different stances. They baulked in their own ways at the same things, things I thought were fine, until I read their reasonable assertions. The result? Draft fifteen and counting.

Two different people, two different stances. They baulked in their own ways at the same things, things I thought were fine, until I read their reasonable assertions. The result? Draft fifteen and counting.

I would have uploaded Gnaw by now if I didn’t have such a hang-up about perfection even though I know perfection isn’t possible. Yes, I was tempted to take Gnaw, published ten years ago, accept the flaws, pass them off as engineered and make it a quick repurpose job for ebook but I’ve learnt a lot in ten years. Readers deserve more than that. The characters themselves deserve more that that. When I wrote the male character initially, my protagonist did not need understand him. On re-read it nagged me. This guy could not just be a stooge for her musing; he had to be a real problem in his own right, an addition to the equation, possibly even a solution? It took nerve to develop Kenneth, who before was named after an alcoholic spirit (or pub), and make him more of a nuisance in his own right, but ‘our Kenneth’ is now firmly planted on the ground a spanner in the works for however long he lives in this format.

Rewriting it was like a piece of archaeological reconstruction. Like trying to conjure an urn out of a rim. I have excavated it, dusted it down and extracted the details. Perhaps I am less afraid of that story now because I am less afraid of love (Illustration: Jennifer Brady).

Rewriting it was like a piece of archaeological reconstruction. Like trying to conjure an urn out of a rim. I have excavated it, dusted it down and extracted the details. Perhaps I am less afraid of that story now because I am less afraid of love (Illustration: Jennifer Brady).

Another change: Gnaw was always a love story and within that, there was a metaphor for addiction. However while the metaphor was there, the love story was absent. I have put that love story in now. I had to be careful doing that. It was like a piece of archaeological reconstruction. In the weirdest piece of rewriting ever, I had to respect the original writer (myself in this case), and ascertain from evidence (ie the printed story), what that story was. It was like trying to conjure an urn out of a rim. Had I genuinely intended to leave the love story out back then? Or was I simply hidden to it? I have made a call on that now, excavated it, dusted it down with tact and extracted the details. Perhaps I am less afraid of that love story now because I am less afraid of love.

The title remains. There is no better one. The conundrum and solution is summed up in that title. I still believe that. It is the firmest artefact in the reconstruction of this particular rewrite.

So, after fourteen drafts of Gnaw in its new form, it did finally get to the copy-editor before Christmas (see previous post: Postcard to an Editor). I also sent it for a ‘stress test’ read with author and peer Janet Cameron. Two different people, two different stances, the result? They baulked in their own ways at the same things, things I thought were fine, until I read their reasonable assertions. Now, with draft fifteen incorporating editorial comments done, I realise I’ll need at least two or three more to get it close to flawless.

Rewriting The Literary Kiss

One of the things I love about writing is that you never know where it’s going to take you. Or sometimes you do know. You may even have it mapped out as in: write that scene, the one you’ve been putting off? DO IT now. In some cases it’s a rewrite. As much as I like the discipline of a rewrite there are times I have little desire to groom the rawness of earlier draft. Take a scene between lovers? I just want to let them get on with the way they did first time around, full of flaws and awkwardness, on the other hand I don’t want to be mashing their heads together like some authorial version of playing dolls.

Legend kissing, Romeo and Juliet

Legend kissing, Romeo and Juliet

The scene? A kiss. Just two people kissing. So, what’s the big deal? Couldn’t you just write ‘…and so they kissed…’ and be done with it? Not really. The kiss in real life may be incidental but in fiction it’s a device. It’s got to push the action on, be a defining moment. You’ve got to get the essence of what that kiss is about, why it needs mentioning at all? A fictional kiss can, in the end, be quite a cerebral thing, an out-of-body experience for the protagonist as much as for the author as the narrative strives to impose the message on the moment and balance it with any kind of natural beauty (or as needs be, repulsion) and integrity, the integrity being? That you believe in that kiss, experience it, involve yourself in the paradigm shift that comes from it. Actually, writing a kiss can leave you quite breathless.

Watermark Book Cover

Sean O’Reilly’s breathtaking book ‘Watermark’ orbits on a kiss

Literary kisses are wonderfully varied because literary characters are necessarily honed to see things a certain way.Take Humbert’s almost forensic kiss with Lolita ‘not daring really to kiss her, I touched her hot, opening lips with the utmost piety, tiny sips, nothing salacious.’ or Romeo’s heated plea to Juliet ‘Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again.’ Or take Sean O’Reilly’s novel Watermark, a whole erotic world built on an illicit kiss that shuttles his protagonist Veronica on an aching journey of desire, ecstasy and despair ‘I kissed you and you learnt nothing from it. I kissed you for joy and you twisted it into an ugly thing. I kissed you and it should have disappeared in an instant, a beautiful frail thing to hold up to the light but you caught it and pinned it down and wanted to show it off.’

Cameron creates a whole night bathed in a kiss

Cameron creates a whole night bathed in a kiss

The book I’ve just finished by debut author Janet E. Cameron Cinnamon Toast And The End of the World has a gripping kiss between two male gay teenagers. ‘How did it feel?’ the smooch deprived Stephen Shulevitz asks. ‘Picture a dark empty house in the winter. Then somebody goes walking through the rooms switching on every single light, basement to attic one by one, until it’s so bright you can hardly stand it. It felt like that.’ Respect. Instead of baulking at the challenge Cameron creates a whole night bathed in this kiss because she knows this is necessary for the character (and therefore the story) to develop. Job done. But enough of reading about it, time to do the writing. Who knows where it will take me? But I’m hoping for some breathlessness alongside some retained awkwardness from the previous draft – as in life no kiss is truly perfect, it’s the flaw that makes it sing.

Listen to Sean O’Reilly discussing Watermark on The Parlour Review

More info on Janet E. Cameron’s book on her website