Hello everyone! I’m ecstatic to have M/M author Jessica Skye Davies with me today. She shares a bit about two great stories and about the evil writing rules we authors are all told to follow. Please say hi and leave her a comment or two below.
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Jessica Skye Davies has been a writer since her first works were “published” in her grandparents’ living room and written in crayon. She is a lifelong native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she has been active in the community, including serving as library director on the executive board of a local GLBT community center. Outside of writing, Jessica has a wide range of interests and hobbies: from Mozart in a music hall to punk in pubs, from Shakespeare to Vonnegut, from salsa dancing the night away to afternoon coffee in the square to kicking back with a good movie. She loves meeting new people and exploring new places, always open to whatever elements might inspire her next writing project.
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Breaking Writing Rules
Writers, particularly fairly new ones (or, should I say, those in the early stages of being “out” as a writer) typically hear a lot of “rules” about how to write (better?) Everyone’s likely heard the good old chestnuts, “Write what you know,” “Read more than you write,” amongst others.
Well, “malarkey,” I say! (And yes, I really do talk like that.)
Let’s do a little deconstructing, shall we?
Write what you know.
Readers, I ask you, do you think I have ever had a possessed doorstop trying to kill me? Or been kidnapped, drugged, and prostituted? Have I been the star photojournalist for a top-ranked travel periodical or run a hotel in Australian bush country? Let alone all three! No, I have not.
Now, I personally prefer to turn this sage advice on its side and say, “Know what you write.” Do your homework, put in the research, check things out. Ok, there’s probably not a lot you can say about “researching” possessed doorstops, but I knew the setting like the back of my hand, the feel of the community, and personality of the characters who call it home. When I wrote about Padrig’s struggles with HIV, it was because it’s a subject I’ve long been passionate about, to the point that I have done and continue to base my academic career on HIV-related issues. As for popping off to London and Daintree… think I can get that on the expense sheet?
Read more than you write.
Think so? Well, maybe you do if you haven’t got grad school, internships, and volunteer commitments. Or, if you will, a job, kids, family commitments. Whatever combination works for you. While lovely in theory, if you’re gonna do this writing thing amongst the rest of your work-life-school-family-community-sanity balance, you probably aren’t going to have time for sleep. Or food. Or air.
Here’s my advice: Can you read? Have you read? Do you like books? Job done. Now go write some. They might not even be all that good. But if you don’t write and write more and keep writing whenever you possibly can… it just isn’t going to go anywhere. For me, your voice is your most important thing in writing. And also, I don’t go for reading whatever is popular or new or just picking up books to have one on your nightstand. Have some taste! Cultivate your unique preferences in reading as well as your writing voice. It’s more than ok to be selective (too picky? Damn right I am!)
Dialogue in fiction should be reserved for the culminating moments and regarded as the spray into which the great wave of narrative breaks in curving toward the watcher on the shore. – Edith Wharton
I even like some of old Wharty’s writing (well, “Xingu” was good satire). I’m tempted to think she was bipolar though, because this is a load of utter bollocks and reads like it as well. Dialogue and narrative are equals and as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter what ratios they are used in. It depends on the story (as does pretty much everything else – here, again, is that “voice” thing you’re going to need). Sometimes you hear that narrative should be almost entirely expunged and everything revealed through dialogue. Or, to use Edy’s terms, you ought to have a “tsunami” of dialogue poised to wipe out 100,000 coastal villages… with a nice, relaxing breeze of narrative to dry things out. Yeah, right. Go with your gut on this, as with most things.
Write drunk, edit sober.
Well, as much as I like the concept…. If you write sober, you’ll have a damn lot less to edit, and thus more time to get drunk (and recover, which takes longer the older you get. Yes, it does.) And, if you write sober and edit drunk, you’ll probably be too drunk to edit at all. And that’s for the best. Because while you might revise or rewrite what you’ve written, you should certainly not edit your own work. Believe this. You will read right through your grammatical errors and typos and you won’t see anything wrong with your prose unless you’re neurotic. Then again, you probably wouldn’t be a writer if you weren’t neurotic. Bit of a Catch-22 there.
You gotta give ‘em hope. – Harvey Milk
This is not particularly writing advice. It is life advice. And you know what? Harvey was right. You gotta give ‘em hope. You gotta give the readers hope, and, more importantly, you gotta give the characters hope. Something to hope for, something to hope on. No matter how dark it gets, let them have one tiny star up there in the blackness – and then let the clouds obscure it once in a while, just to twist the knife. Consider this excerpt from Sins of Another:
There are times when I space out and don’t know what’s going on around me at all. I don’t know that I’m being fucked in a loud, smoky nightclub. I don’t know that I’m anywhere at all. I haven’t passed out, but I just go off into nothingness. Sometimes Nick is there in that nothingness, reaching his hand out to me. I’m always too fucked up to take it.
As you can see here, I’ve given Padrig hope: he still “feels” Nick’s presence reaching out to him. And I’ve obscured it by making him too drugged to “reach” back. Why? Because I am a cold, heartless bitch. And that’s what you have to be too.
(And just because I have tell it – when I got the cover art drafts on Sins and saw the “hands reaching” I was floored because I hadn’t including anything about the above imagery in the spec sheet, but it is such a strong representation of Padrig’s state at that point in the story. Almost like it came through to someone who hadn’t even seen it. The broken cup of drugged tea… I hadn’t mentioned that either and there it was in a cover draft. Uncanny.)
Basically, all this is to say, in the words of Marcus from Sins: “Advice is a great thing, but sometimes you’re going to hear a lot of conflicting advice, and that’s when you need to go with your gut.”
Here’s a final thought. Know the rules. Not the advice, but the actual rules. I’m talking grammar stuff here. The difference between who and whom? I was out of high school before I finally learned that. But learn it I did. I didn’t say you can’t break those rules. My characters aren’t pedantic, they are people. When they talk, sometimes it’s in run-ons and with horrid syntax. And your narrative doesn’t have to sound stuck up and pedantic. If you are comfortable using proper grammar (no, you don’t have diagram a sentence) it will read naturally. Know the rules that you may break them.
That’s your grumpy old lady writer advice for this week. Now throw it all out the window and go write something.
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Sins of Another
One morning Padrig Kennedy comes home to find his partner, Nick Glenfielding, in bed with another man. Shocked, hurt, and vulnerable, Padrig flees and meets a stranger who seems to offer comfort—but he force-feeds Padrig a steady diet of drugs and prostitution instead. When he finally surfaces from his hell, it’s to another system shock: he’s now HIV positive.
Nick descends into darkness as well. Devastated by losing Padrig, he finds no consolation in the legal career he doesn’t love and tries to find solace in alcohol, spending his days in an ever-deepening haze.
Padrig and Nick find each other again, but their relationship can never be the same. If they’re to stand any chance of a future together, they must do the improbable: make sense of the past and learn to cope with new burdens they’ll bear for life.
A Bittersweet Dreams title: It’s an unfortunate truth: love doesn’t always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.
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Half the World Away
Photographer Dade Faber keeps hoping for assignments on a big city beat, but time and again he’s sent into the wild. This time, he’s half the world away from London shooting the Australian bush. When Dade is nearly attacked by a crocodile, it leads to a shouting match with Elliot Harris, who owns Dade’s hotel. Elliot is both hot and persuasive, and when he offers to play tour guide, Dade accepts. After a week spent mostly together in the bush, Dade begins to fall for Elliott. The attraction is mutual, and when circumstances lead both men to London, they find they have much in common. But can their romance bridge the 10,000 miles between London and the Australian bush?
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