Dear 22-Year-Old Me:
After getting over the shock of discovering your older self is, in fact, a man, and hairier, smellier, and grubbier than you currently are, I expect you might be a tiny bit disappointed. (But not with the impressively groomed facial stubble.) I know that you didn’t expect your life to be like this, thirteen years in the future. I think you expected to be a university professor by this time (ha ha), rather than some dude who works part time as an adjunct. I think you also expected yourself to have written and published a few novels by now, and might look on this scruffy character — who will be you — as something of a failure. Not only is he one short bastard, and not only has he not even finished a single novel, he does not even give two shits about writing novels anymore. He has all these — novellas and short stories — just simmering away on his mental burners. But what does he really have to show for those thirteen years’ time, creatively speaking?
I’ve applied for a few Stegner Fellowships in my time, and inevitably found myself looking at the biographies for the current Stegner Fellows. Supposedly the fellowship takes people from all walks of life, with different educational backgrounds. The website for the Stegner Fellowship states that a degree is not a prerequisite for the program. And yet, fellow after fellow had matriculated in an MFA program, and published in all the “right” prestigious literary magazines, and was neither terrifically young, nor that old — probably most in their thirties. Most were white or white-passing. I would also bet that the vast majority were straight and cisgender, and hadn’t dealt with PTSD or mental illness.
I wish it wasn’t so, but most creative writing graduate programs suffer from the same lack of diversity the Stegner Fellowship does. It’s no wonder the fellowship is populated with the same people.
This is a problem which has been commented on a great deal, so I won’t bore you with the standard “but we must have more diversity and it begins with changing our gatekeeping practices” shtick. We know that. Of greater concern to me (and to the literary community of the U.S.) is the impoverishment of literature under these conditions.
In my time as a writer, one persistent myth I’ve noticed, which clings to even seasoned writers, is that one should wait for inspiration. One doesn’t need to force words out with something as tedious and dull as discipline. Just let the words come naturally, as if by magic which came from rainbows farted out of a unicorn’s asshole.
Just like rainbows farted out of a unicorn’s asshole, the idea that most writers can get anywhere without discipline is false.
I am going to brag a little, so if you want to avoid that, now’s your chance.
While I have been neglectful of updating my site or submitting my fiction to magazines, it’s been a long damn year:
- I broke my ankle in three places last June, in an attempt to learn how to ice skate. I was still recovering well into December of last year.
- I totaled my car in a moment of carelessness. (That’s what you get for becoming too wrapped up in an audio book, kids.)
- I fell into a deep depression last December, and it lasted nearly six months. During this time, I wrote very little.
- I broke my wrist in the spring.
- Relationship woes in the summer, which I will not detail except to say there were woes.
So it’s been one hell of a year. I am feeling better, stronger, and more positive in my outlook. But the result of all of the above meant I didn’t submit to short story markets, and I didn’t do much in terms of writing except for the second half of the year. Hence the radio silence over here.
I will write more about what I’ve been working on. But later. I have to go make dinner. 🙂
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.
Today my short story, “The Blind Tattooist”, came out in issue three of |tap|. This story is important to me for a few reasons. It is that it is the first publication I’ve had in the two years since I began submitting short stories professionally, since I decided I would only submit to paying markets. And it is that this is the first time I’ve been paid for my writing.
Incidentally, this story came out of Chuck Wendig’s Flashfiction Challenge about a year ago. Wendig gives a list of titles, provided by commentors to his blog. The idea is to choose one of the titles and then write a story of about 1,000 words to go with it. I wasn’t expecting the story to go where it went, but here we are.
The story follows a young trans woman, Lucky, and her journey of recovery after surviving a horrific attack.
You can read “The Blind Tattooist” here.
I finished the second draft of my novella, Bloom. It’s just under 57k. I may have to do some tinkering with the third draft and consider designating it as a novel.
I do feel accomplished, but I also feel relieved. I’ve been chasing this ending for what feels like forever, and I am ready to be done with this draft.
On the other hand . . . I have never completed a second draft of any long piece of fiction. So this is a big victory for me.
I’m going to put it away for at least a month and go work on short stories. But when the time comes — look out third draft.
So day two of #writelifemay is “WIP”, aka, work in progress.
I wasn’t sure what to post and so settled on posting an excerpt from my work in progress.
The official blurb for my current work in progress is:
“Men ought to love men, and do.” Ben, a straight man, falls in love with his best friend, a gay man. Ben must navigate the precarious waters of friendship and love while exploring his sexuality.
In this excerpt, Ben has just kissed his friend, David, for the first time. Ben is, as per usual for him, having a “freak out”. Seeking guidance, he calls his sister Jess. This scene, which takes place at a small bistro, is between Ben and Jess. There might be typos and the like, since this is an unrevised draft.
Me: What a nice relationship and life you have there.
My Character: Yes. 🙂
Me: Wouldn’t it be a shame if —
My Character: No.
Me: I fucked you up next chapter.
My Character: 😥