Hello, I love you

Blog, excerpt, writing

Lately, I’ve become dissatisfied with sex scenes in fiction. More specifically, the types featured in romance novels and fanfiction. I have to say there is nothing wrong with the sex scenes in these stories. They have a purpose and fulfill that particular purpose. I have just found the sex scenes in some of these stories to be so graphic and over the top they turned me off. One scene in particular was so graphic that it was gross to me.

I write a lot of sex scenes myself. One of my novellas is very explicit because it details a man’s particular sexual journey. I write sex scenes because it is very much a part of the characters and the story. But along the way, I’ve found myself being overly graphic. I think it’s easy to fall into that trap. I’m going to work on improving my approach to sex scenes and be more impressionistic, rather than overly realist and graphic and writing in every last detail.

To that end, I rewrote a sex scene in my current novella to be a little less graphic. In the process, I found myself writing more about the characters, which, I think, lends a nice human touch which further keeps this from being gross or overly graphic.

I have a long way to go to be where I want to be with this particular aspect of my writing, but it’s a start.

I’ve decided to share the drafts of both scenes so you can compare and contrast the original and the rewritten scene. Below the cut, you can find both of those.

Some context: this story is about a May-December romance. Ren is nineteen and Paul is forty-two. In this segment, Ren has told Paul he loves him. Paul is very ambivalent about this. He doesn’t think Ren is old enough/mature enough to really understand what that means.

Writing Process Blog Tour Redux

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redux

A few years ago I participated in a Writing Process Blog Tour. This was during a particularly crappy part of my life, when I was not very happy with myself, or anything in general.

I recently rediscovered that blog post. First, I had to chuckle at myself and my verbosity (:/). Second, I had to marvel and feel grateful that so much has changed since I made that post.

To that end, I thought I would (re)write this post now, just to see how much has changed, and for the better.

 

  1. What am I working on?

I am writing both a collection of short stories, Love Like Salt, and a composite novel tentatively titled Flesh of Mine. My priority goes to the composite novel right now, simply because the structure of it demands more attention and nurturing.

Love Like Salt is a collection of short stories about trans men, from varying walks of life, and their experiences, particularly their romantic and sexual relationships.

Flesh of Mine follows the family of Michael, a man diagnosed with terminal cancer, as they grapple with his impending death, and then, with grieving him. The blurb I have for the story is as follows:

Their lives weren’t supposed to change, but when Michael is diagnosed with terminal cancer, his family erupts into communal and private chaos. His husband, Cal, veers wildly between his absolute devotion and his fears of the unknowns. As Michael succumbs to the effects of his illness, Kate, Michael and Cal’s seventeen year old daughter, tries to be the bedrock for her family that her parents can’t be. And Erika, Michael’s older sister, finds herself evaluating her life and relationships, especially as her relationship with Cal becomes increasingly intimate.

 

  1. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work is almost exclusively about queer people.

My work is also different because of my voice. It’s feverish, heady, and always on the very edge of control, just waiting to descend into chaos.

Structurally my work is different simply because I exploit first person (present and past) to a degree I haven’t seen much of. I’ve written and write multiple narrators, from an old man telling a yarn to a teenager who wants to be tough as hell. I cultivate the individual voices of each of my narrators — which is difficult — but ultimately very rewarding for me. I enjoy seeing how I can make each character sound different, and make each voice distinct.

I tend to warp time. I don’t do it to dick around with my readers, but because, realistically, people don’t lead linear lives. We swing and sway so easily between our pasts and the present. We don’t truly tell linear stories about themselves and those we love.

 

  1. Why do I write what I do?

My writing is best suited for the domestic, the quiet and intimate. My most successful writing has always been focused around hearth and home, and romantic and sexual relationships. I’m fascinated with intimacy and how human relationships work — and don’t. And I want to write people in love, and falling in love, who fuck, and laugh, who love each other something terrible, who bicker and make up, who do sweet soft things for one another just because they love each other. It’s nice to write people loving each other.

 

  1.  How does your writing process work?

I get an idea and I sit on it for awhile. If it stays, I write it.

Since I write primarily short fiction, things get done rather quickly. My turnaround is about two weeks to a month per story, depending on the length and complexity of the piece, and how much fixing up it needs.

I do three drafts plus edits/revisions. First draft is the crap draft, which exists to exist. Second and third drafts are about pruning things back, moving stuff around, and fleshing things out. Subsequent drafts are more about revision — tinkering with things.

After that, I start sending the story out in hopes that it gets published.

I used to belong to writing groups to give me feedback, and have critique partners look at my work. I’ve since realized that critique groups or partners usually hinder, rather than help, my work. I am quite comfortable with my own capacity to see my work’s strengths and weaknesses. When there are faults, I am very confident with my ability to fix those faults.

 

Blog

another shitty first draft of a short story done

figured out what wasn’t working with another short story, so hopefully i can finish the bulk of a shitty first draft by the end of the month

and then to the great wide land of rewriting and revision

(thank fuck i can rewrite everything because the past few short stories i’ve churned out were steaming piles of crap)

Writing Process Blog Tour

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I was invited to join this blog tour by the lovely Bran Mydwynter, and it’s the perfect sort of thing to get my blog kicked off for this year. (Heh, yes, I have been lax about blogging as of late!)

The basic premise is that these posts work as a sort of chain letter. One writer posts, tags three others, and the tagged writers post and then tags three other writers writer. And on it rolls.

This blog tour focuses on writers and their writing process, as the title suggests. I answer the last question in a rather detailed fashion in the hopes that it might help other writers who are still learning their own process, or struggling with elements of their own. With that in mind, onwards!

If I had an orchard, I’d work till I’m raw

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I’ve made rather slow progress on rewriting my book as of late.

I basically hate the rewriting process thusfar.

I’m a recovering perfectionist. Perfectionism is one of the most destructive impulses a writer can have, in my opinion, and yet there are hordes of us with the inane urge to get things, well, perfect. 

As a recovering perfectionist, I finally recognize that there is no such thing as perfection in any creative field, period. I have had to correct my own students countless times when they think using the terms “perfect” and “perfection” are not only acceptable, but accurate in terms of describing a writer’s finished product. I tell them over and over: perfection is not attainable. Just finish the draft. Just finish the rewrite. Just finish the revision.

As a recovering perfectionist and a reader, I understand that any story I read and perceive as being “perfect” is, from the writer’s perspective, probably riddled with obvious, grating flaws. But there came a point when said writer just had to surrender the notion of perfection and simply do the work, finish the damn thing, and get it out there.

As a recovering perfectionist, I logically know all this, and I know that perfection is my enemy. But that still doesn’t keep me from wanting things to be, well, perfect. 

And thus I end up avoiding writing, or fretting about what I do write, and then rewriting what I just finished, and never really moving forward. It’s exhausting and dispiriting.

It’s something I’ll have to work through, even if it’s by whinging and wailing over it.

However, acknowledging why I’m having difficulty has helped me to recognize that I’m only having difficulty accepting parts of the process right now. It’s not actual difficulties with the story itself. In fact, this whole whinge has reminded me of all the things that I really love and enjoy about the story. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The main character. He’s rather sharp, and funny in his own way, knowing and oblivious by turns. It’s been interesting to get to know him again, and to learn new things about him.
  • The voice. I am relearning the main character’s voice and have had to make huge changes, in fact, to accommodate the story. I’m enjoying the process of re-learning his voice and seeing it solidify more and more each day.
  • The themes. There is a lot of discussion about difference and culture in the story, and I’m enjoying how the discussion on culture and difference is playing out so far, particularly with things like race, power, class, and gender.

So all and all, progress.

As a recovering perfectionist, I shall choose to be happy with this, and proud of what I have accomplished, rather than worrying that what I have just finished is not good enough.

I’ll be writing more in a week or two

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At the start of each new semester, I have to help my students unlearn a lot of bad writing habits, the first of which is that good writing doesn’t just happen. It takes time, effort, and practice, which usually translates into multiple drafts. Nope, a writer can’t just magically sit down and write a single draft and be done.

Weird how I seem to have forgotten that over the past summer.

I finished the first draft of a novel last autumn, and have been struggling to rewrite it. I used it in my Lambda application in the spring, and even outlined the novel in my donorpage so people would know what project they were funding when they donated. But I haven’t actively worked on the novel since April, and at that point had only been rewriting for a month or two. By the time I turned in my Lambda application I was so sick of the book I set it aside.

Setting up my courses for the semester, and talking my students through the initial steps of the writing process, I remembered very clearly: this is not something people just know how to do. The writing process, that is. It is something which is learned through time and practice, and diligence.

And I have not learned how to rewrite, at least, not a novel. I have written 4-5 novels at this point, all first drafts. I have written and rewritten short stories, and even a novella or two. But my own rewriting process for those seems vastly different than the rewriting process for a novel. A novel is larger, and more complex, and thus, the rewriting process is probably equally longer and more complex.

In realizing that I didn’t know how to rewrite, I decided to recommit myself to this novel, and the second draft. But this time, instead of trying to race towards finishing what I would consider a “publishable” draft, and being frustrated that things were not perfect, I’ve decided this second draft is about me learning what my process of rewriting a novel is. This way, even if the second (or third, or fourth, or tenth, or whatever) draft comes out un-publishable, I will still have gained valuable insight and knowledge into my own process, which will certainly help with future novels and projects.

To that end, I’m going to be blogging periodically about my process of rewriting and revision, and what I learn along the way. I figure other writers might find it useful.