Apr 282011

It can be very weird being an editor as well as a writer. It’s definitely a kind of schizophrenia, being on both sides of the fence at once: spending the morning rejecting other writers’ stories and then crying myself to sleep when it happens to me. Schizophrenia? Actually it’s more like a kind of sex — bad sex: mornings fucking someone, and then getting fucked myself. Kind of appropriate for smut writing and editing, no?

While I could on for pages and pages about why certain stories don’t make the cut for a project, I’d rather deal with something more … mundane for now — but something that has recently been on my mind. In other words, manuscripts and cover letters.

While I completely agree that good work will always win-out, there is a certain amount of packaging that is needed to get the work to the editor so that it arrives with a smile and not a grimace — and, speaking from experience, sometimes a frown or a grin can be the difference between acceptance or rejection.

Manuscripts are not resumes. The trick with resumes is to catch the eye, to get yours stand out above the rest. Career counselors often recommend bright colors and tricks to get the potential employer to spot a resume in a pile of potentials — but manuscripts are exactly the opposite. With a manuscript you want the work to be the only thing the editor notices — not that you printed the story on bright red paper, or that you used a teeny-tiny font. Anything that gets in the way of the editor reading what you written is a strike against you. Now no real editor will reject a story just because you didn’t know about Standard Manuscript Format (more on that later) but if reading the story is a chore — or you neglected important information with the submission — you might look to be too much trouble to deal with. Remember, there are usually dozens of other stories sitting on that editor’s desk, just waiting to be easier to deal with or read.

By the stories I’ve been getting I think I’m a bit of a fossil — I still put my stories in a Standard Manuscript Format. It’s basically very simple, but I like it both as a writer and an editor because it gives all the important information needed to read a story, and contact the writer, in one neat package. In short, it’s courier 12 point, double spaced, throughout the story. Italics are indicated as an underline (an old practice, I know, but have you tried to read italics that have been printed on an old printer?). On the upper left-hand corner of the first page goes my real name, my address, phone, and email. Across from that, on the right side of the top of the first page, it the word count of the story. Centered, below that, is the title of the story and (usually) my pseudonym, “M. Christian.” On the left side of the header on every other page after the first is my pseudonym, the title of the story, and the page number.

Even though it sounds simple you’d be surprised the number of stories I get that don’t have any of this. The name and address, etc., is obvious — it’s how the editor reaches you if he wants your story, or (sadly) doesn’t. You don’t need to put your Social Security Number, by the way, as the editor will only need that if your story makes the cut. Even if it’s already on your cover letter (or email), definitely put it in your manuscript as well — you’d be surprised how often stories get separated from their cover letters. The word count is very important — it gets me annoyed, for example, to get a story without a word count and then not realize that it’s way too long for the book I’m working on — after reading through most of it. So put in a word count, for sure — rounded to the nearest hundred, by the way.

Unlike some editors I know, I like cover letters — they can tell a great deal about the person I might have to work with (if I accept the story). A good cover letter should be brief, pleasant, professional, and include a SHORT listing of where you’ve been published. If you haven’t been published, please don’t say that — some editors have an anathema against virgin writers. I don’t know about other editors, but I hate just getting a url instead of a list of credits — even in an email submission. I have crappy web-access at home and have been annoyed way too often by websites full of prancing kittens and java flames when all I was looking to see if the writer was a pro or not (obviously not).

My advice if you’re stretching the guidelines a bit for a submission (say the word limit is 4,000 and you have something that’s 5,000 or so) is, above all else, be polite. Recognize you’re pushing the limit of the book, and apologize if that’s not appropriate. I remember one fellow who sent me something that had underage sex in it — and then arrogantly argued that since the story took place in ancient Athens, and the age of consent back then was nine, it was appropriate. Well, obviously it wasn’t — as the publisher, not the editor, is the one who usually sets those rules. I couldn’t have taken the story if I’d wanted to.

Just a few more things: email is a necessity nowadays, so make sure you have a good, consistent one. There’s nothing worse than trying to reach someone for an acceptance — only to have the message bounce. The same goes for your snail-mail address. I recommend a good Post Office box or mail drop — sometimes editors can take years to get back to you with the good news or bad, and if you move and can’t be found … well, how will you get the contract?

That’s the basics: the pragmatic facts of life in regards to packaging up your work. Now get out there, have lots of fun, write terrific stories, and send them out. I wish you the very best, and that the editor you work with will see your submission as great work — and not as that weird manuscript with the pink type, the rude cover letter … and where the hell is the word count?

Apr 212011

So what happened recently, if you haven’t heard, was that Google began cracking down on content houses over their output. Seems that some people were handing back rather shoddy written work for blogs and articles that were to be used on the web. You know, all the stuff I try to tell you not to do; keyword stuffing, blogs that had little or no meaning, just a seeming bunch of paragraphs to drop keywords into, over-all sophomoric content written by people who are not really writers. It is good for us scribes who do this voodoo that we do and consider it a real job, bad news for houses that simply churned out stuff with no care for the quality.

If you were to hold my feet to the fire-and I’m kinda into that, so have at it, just make sure you buy me a soda first-I wouldn’t be able to tell you what is good or bad writing. I am not the grammar police (ever see some of my stuff?) so I really wouldn’t know what’s good or bad, but I do think I know a thing about SEO and SEO as it applies to the adult industry, but an expert I aint’. And in fact, if anybody tells you they are an expert-about anything-take it from your old uncle Ralphie with the charred tootsies, they ain’t an expert either.

What I can tell you about SEO is, the keywords need to relate bro (either the client will provide them or you will be asked to research for some…and for this you damn well better be charging), the keywords need to sit nice and comfy in the article, blog, what-have-you and the article, blog, what-have-you need to be about something and something germane to the site you are writing for…unless your client tells you they do not want it to be germane.

But I can’t sit here and advise you what is good writing or bad, I just know what moves me when I see it and what doesn’t. The actual good or bad part is subjective, even Google’s not cracking down on that part of the writing, they are cracking down on writing that reeks of pure badly placed SEO and rambling content.

But I can tell you this for sure….if you are out there writing SEO content for clients you damn well better step-up your game because the stakes are higher now and big brother-of Google-is watching.

Apr 142011

In the last blog post we talked about the four act structure for novels in general.  I promised I would cover how to write and use of the four acts in erotica/romance novels and how to apply it.  We’ll take one of my longer stories as an example writing tip.

To react is to behave negatively and BE CONTROLLED by the situation.  To respond is to behave positively and CONTROL the situation.

A reminder:

Here we meet the characters, get into the basics of our conflict

The main issue is slowly brought to light and dealt with using the characters old ways of being.

In this act we give the characters what they think they want, rather than what they need. We also make things more difficult in order to FORCE new behavior on our characters.

The characters learn lessons and change their ways of being to resolve the core issue.


First off, I used the words react and respond at the end of the previous post.  The plot arc covers this as our characters go from reacting to an event to responding.  The difference is simple.  When plot and character arc happen to the character, initially they react, meaning they let the situation control their feelings and emotions.  Behavior occurs with an old way of being.  In my Male POV workshop we cover this concept of being, extensively but for now understand that just like us, our characters have a predefined tape in their heads.  In our first act and throughout the story until we reach our black moment, our characters are going to react the way they normally would, despite having new information and a new way of being.  This, in conjunction with conflict will ramp up tension for the reader and make them continue to read.  This is especially true if we’re writing erotic romance where the plot has a strong focus on sex between the hero and heroine.  The sexual encounters are where passion is explored and where emotional conflict comes out as characters think their way through their previous actions, think for the future of any relationships and continue to react to events in the first and maybe second sex scene.

In the middle sex scenes, characters have experiences that maybe didn’t go as they planned or were used to.  They begin to question things and this is where the conflicts start to get heavier.  As more pressure is put on our characters in the middle of the second Act that drives us towards conflict, they start to see that their old ways of being no longer work with the same results and something new needs to be done.  But what?

This is where our black moment has the most impact.  Our characters are lost both emotionally (depending on plot) and perhaps physically. The arc we’ll explore in another post will discuss character development in greater detail but for now, understand that there should be a shift in behavior on both parties.  The point of view character starts looking at a new way of being to a situation.  Thus, responding should occur during the climax and resolution of Act Four.

My next post will focus more on the character arc.  Until then, stay tuned for Ralph Greco and our SEO adventures!

Apr 072011

by oceania

I was reading a radio newsletter and they asked if stations had a digital strategy… seems the old saying if it ain’t broke don’t fix it was being mainlined and hard by the radio industry! Unfortunately they aren’t the only ones! Except for a few most authors feel that if they write it readers will come (oh my – and orgasm too perhaps)

If you subscribe to the idea of 1000 true fans, (anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living),  a creative needs to  reach out on all levels to potential readers and make them fans. Most authors know in their heart of hearts that they need to be focused more on digital media because that’s where a significant portion of their true fans will come from. So what is your strategy?

Do you have a website?
Is it mobile compliant?
Do you have video book teasers?
Do you have both a facebook and twitter account?
Do you make time to voice an opinion, write a weekly blog?
Have you gotten yourself interviewed?

Think outside the wordpressor!

There is no excuse for not having a website. Free sites can be had on wordpress and blogspot and even on some publishing houses servers. A writer cant even use the I dont know html excuse now that wordpress has made life simple with themes that just require one to type and post.

The same goes for twitter and facebook… many writers have them but most are gathering dust. Social media requires a daily commitment! Hence the name SOCIAL MEDIA – not recluse or anti-social

Radio Interviews should be an essential part of any publicity campaign a writer embarks on… Podcasters and online radiostations, like Radio Dentata offer great packages for authors from interviews to books read out loud, places like that offer more than the standard banner or video teaser display.  Plus radio offers more bang for your buck in the way of connecting with a fan base… Market rearch has shown that “… online radio listeners are more than one-and-one-half times more likely to have a profile on a social networking site as compared to average Americans and that they tend to be power-users, with one-third of online radio listeners logging on to their social networking site nearly every day or even multiple times per day.” <<<<tapping into that market can make it easier to make those sales!

Why not comment and let me know how you’re maximizing your visibility!