Hazel McHaffie

fiction

Humanity and magic

Quite a responsibility on our shoulders then. And of course, my own eye goes straight to ‘writers’; my brain inserting ‘fiction writers’.

‘Fiction is the most humane and magical of acts – it’s healing, restorative, exactly because it shows us a way across those chasms. We can never know what it’s like to be someone else, ever, except through fiction. People always talk of fiction as if it’s an escape from the world, but it’s not that, or not just that. It’s an escape out of ourselves and into the world, too.’  (in All the Beggars Riding by Lucy Caldwell)

We all know what it’s like to be immersed in a good book; in a totally different place; feeling the emotions and thoughts of someone else. If we let it, this absorption can offer us insights which in turn help us to empathise with other people, understand another point of view, maybe be more tolerant, more afronted, readjust our moral compass, be better equipped to support and help. To be more specific, my own novels take the reader inside the skin of characters grappling with some of life’s big questions and issues. Fiction allows us to do that in an enjoyable form, and I do believe that if we all allowed ourselves to truly walk in other people’s shoes before judging them, the real world would be a kinder, gentler and more peaceable place. The kind of world I want my grandchildren to inherit.

In my academic life, I always said I wanted to go out on a high, not fizzle and fail, and now I’m a novelist, I have to ask myself periodically, when will it be time to quit? Every end of year I take stock. OK. And this year? Well, I’ve decided I should continue writing fiction for now, the compulsion is still there. I have two books on the go at the moment; I’m keen to finish them. I’d be bereft without this driving force in my life. So watch this space …

But for the moment, in this the first blog of a new year, I want to say a very big thank you to all of you who follow my posts, and especially those who get back to me with comments and reactions – by any route. The discipline of writing something every week does me good: it keeps my writing and editing muscles toned; concentrates the mind; makes me think through issues/arguments; allows me to share writerly and occasionally personal experiences. Knowing you too gain something from it is a real thrill. So, it only remains for me to wish you all an excellent year 2017, joyful, peaceful, healthy. And if life is tough for you at the moment, I hope you’ll find the strength, courage and determination to overcome.

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Under construction

Almost completed houseWhen I sent off my draft novel for expert critique a few weeks ago, in my mind it was rather like this house – pretty much ready apart from some fine tweaking. (I’ve watched this estate being built as I pounded past it each morning on my daily constitutional.) Not quite turf-laid-and-curtains-at-the-windows ready, but basically sound.

 

 

 

Scaffolding and reconstruction of house

This week, though, it looks more like this.

 

Scaffolding back, new supplies coming in, clear signs of restructuring. From inside, the sound of drilling, plumbing, wiring, painting, glazing. Yep, I’ve been hard at work revising and editing: taking passages out, putting new chapters in: tightening some sections up, allowing others to breathe: tweaking semi-colons and parentheses; erasing adverbs and adjectives.

Heavy diggersThere’s even been some basic digging to strengthen the foundations. A new introduction for one of the key narrators, a different pathway for the plot resolution. I’m even contemplating adding a prologue!

To the runner passing by it might well feel like several steps backwards, but the architect and chief builder can envisage the distinct improvements being added: porch, conservatory, double garage, pond …

 

 

For Inside of Me this is all good news. The end result will be a more appealing, readable and desirable commodity … I hope! And that’s the whole point of this exercise at this stage. I’m hugely indebted to the ‘surveyors’ who kindly drew my attention to potential flaws and then left me to do what I think necessary. Thanks, folks – you know who you are!

NB: Before readers of this blog deluge me with comments about the flaws in this little analogy, I know, I know, I know! Of course the architects should get it right first time around, and no construction company worth their salt would operate in this slovenly fashion, but they’re building houses to tried and tested rules and plans. Estates like this are mushrooming everywhere. Creative writing, fiction, has no blueprint and every novel is unique and must stand alone amidst thousands upon thousands of other books. None of you will post a review about the house; many of you might post one about my novel! By then it’s too late to revise the text to gain that extra star. And once it’s published there is no second chance to sneak in and correct the faulty wiring or double glazing.

 

 

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