Sharp Teeth and Sharp Writing

June 4, 2012

CampNaNo Blog Post #2, Day Three

On day three of the 30 day challenge that is June ‘s Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve made my word count jump up to 7,819 words.

Along the way I’ve added two new sub-plots that will feed the overall story and brought in a group of five characters I had no idea would show up. But there they are on my pages, all getting along with each other (or not) and it seems they knew they’d be there even if I didn’t realize it.

Fewer lines, Sharper image

It’s a tricky thing, letting go long enough to let the intuitive stuff happen, you still have to keep hold; to be the craftsperson along with the dreamer, and judge what is dross and what’s gold.

I’m trying to craft something that’s able to express longing and regret – but in real time, not with any dramatics, flourishes, or formula stylings of most popular fiction. I told someone recently that real life writing is the best way to explain what I meant when I said I write literary fiction. They thought on that and then asked, “Like Lifetime TV?” So it’s a more elusive thing to quantify than you can imagine.

And speaking of an elusive thing to quantify, Let’s talk about Sharp Teeth, Toby Barlow’s novel in epic poem form.

I wish I could teach a literature course around this book. Toby Barlow’s found some hard truths about life and love to weave into this story. I hope I can do so well in mine. He’s managed to couch these elements in new-angled phrases. They are , for a lack of words to use­–unexpected in their perfect aim. Barlow’s a master at bringing in that ‘real life ’ by focusing in on such out of the way details. The ones that draw the sharpest visceral images; with the least words to show us these harder truths. There’s nothing TV (in that lowest common viewer way) about his writing at all.

If you have his hardback 2008 first edition from Harper Collins, go to page 85. Look at the three lines of text prior to the start of the XIX sequence.

2 sentences. 25 words. Only 7 of those bother being two syllables long.

Terse. Yet, ending with these simple lines brings to life one of those harder truths the minor character Bone is feeling.

NaNo Campers – If you’re someone who’s trying for a deadly serious run this month, consider taking any two lines you want to have the most impact with – and bringing them down to that equation of  2 sentences. 25 words. See what you can do with your truths, pare them down to the sharpest of lines.

Boy I hope my novel can do truth telling this well.

If you’re NaNo’ing this June, or you’ve read Sharp Teeth – feel free to comment. I’d love to discuss things.


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