Talking books

The link above is for my appearance on Litopia, a live Youtube show that looks at writers’ submissions.
This is live so there is no preparation we see the texts as they appear on the screen and have to respond within seconds with words of wisdom or advice. This was my second appearance and altogether more difficult than the first.
There is one submission where the author describes the genre as literary fiction. If you watch the link you will hear that I wasn’t impressed.
There is a supposed line between literary and genre fiction, literary is meant to be character-driven, while genre fiction is driven by plot. This line is as clear as mud. I emailed the author after the show and apologised for not giving any positives as part of my critique, but I would stand by my main point. There were a couple of pages of detailed description of the world without progressing the narrative or giving the reader anything to hold on to other than the ‘beauty of the writing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I wasn’t seeing much. One of the most difficult things in writing is conveying a mood and emotion in as few words as possible because you want to take the reader with you. Even more than this you want to plant seeds in the mind of the reader that flower in their own imagination, so the story becomes part of their creation. They are creating the pictures to go along with your writing, it becomes a joint production. Less really is more.
This is Inspector Barlow returning home in The Wicklow Boys, which I hope will be out before Xmas.
He kicked his shoes off in the hallway. The cream carpet was still spotless a year after they had it installed, wall to wall. Cost an arm and leg, but kept the missus happy.
These couple of sentences give us an idea of the atmosphere in the house, and between man and wife, because you the reader fill in the gaps.
I wrote this sentence in Under The Bridge,
Panic and hope were two butterflies that fluttered round in Vinny’s stomach as he cycled along the busy streets of Liverpool.
A professional editor described this as self-indulgent writing, and I can see his point. The author (me) was enjoying writing and playing with the words. This was noted as a negative thing, and I understood. Writing to show your cleverness, is different from writing to tell a story. The challenge is to find a balance that works for the publisher, author and reader.
I would be more sympathetic to writing of this kind if it were commenting on real-world problems, rather than an absurdist sci-fi novel about a rocket to the moon. James Baldwin is one of those writers for me who manages to combine prose, poetry and meaning.
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
This is perfect for The Wicklow Boys.
People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.
All of this is in the framework of ‘what sells’, and the purpose of Litopia is to help people on the road to publication. My comments on this appear at around 38.30, not my most articulate presentation but you might find the show interesting.

Published by jackbyrnewriter


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