Nov 302013
 
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By P.M. White

When it comes to erotic fiction, formulas rule. Even writers new to the genre can guess what they are. The most common: a rich man enchants a young, inexperienced woman, introducing her virginal life to the startling world of bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM). Change it up a bit if you want. Make it about two men (M/M), one of whom has never been so attracted to another guy before in his life. Or make it about two women (F/F), one of whom is so successful that their lover is shocked she chose to bed her.

The other element? One of them, usually the lead, has to be surprised at their behavior—“Her legs followed the man with the zipper mask, while her mind reeled… Am I really going through with this? Little old introverted me?” For so many novels, this is the vehicle that drives the story and places the reader firmly into the seat of third-party exploration. There are a number of variations, but the common formula is plainly evident: take the reader to school by using a character new to whatever lifestyle.

For veteran writers, this may seem too easy, and arguably not the common formula for some. Writers draft manuscripts based on two factors: what they would read personally and what others want to read. Readers new to—and intrigued by—everything from erotica itself to various sex acts and lifestyles are to be expected, hence the fish-out-of-water formula. But what do seasoned readers want in their stories?

And what advice would book reviewers give to authors, whether new to the game or not?

Book reviewer Carol Conley, owner of the review site I’m A Voracious Reader, pores over a library of books in a month’s time—and she reviews far more than erotic titles, which makes her something of an expert on books across the board.

Writers, she said, should stick to erotic topics that turn their cranks on a personal level.

“If you feel that F/F stories are hot, write one of those, but if F/F doesn’t do anything for you personally, I think it’ll show in the story. Don’t write what everyone else is writing. Write what makes you enthusiastic. Also, don’t shoehorn in a sex scene just because you think we want it or just because there hasn’t been a hot scene in a chapter or two. It needs to fit or we’ll call you out on it. And as a personal pet peeve of mine, don’t make your characters think with their groins all the time. Especially in dangerous situations. Nothing turns me off faster than characters who are too stupid to live,” Conley said.

Terrance Aldon Shaw, writer and operator of the blog site Erotica for the Big Brain, said he wastes little time reviewing books that aren’t well written or completely edited.

“Having a compelling story is essential, but grammar, spelling, and punctuation matter in the effective telling of that story,” Shaw said. “Whether a book comes from an aspiring indie or from one of the Big-Six houses; if it’s poorly written, indifferently edited, or sloppily formatted, forget it. I have better things to do with my time, and woe to anyone who wakes my slumbering inner angry-tenth-grade-English teacher.”

He cited an example of a young author whose work could make her the next big thing, were it not for terrible editing.

“Her story was brilliant, original, and full of promise. The problem is that she seems to have relied on AutoCorrect to do her editing for her. After a few chapters dense with misplaced prepositions, confused tenses, and inscrutable word choices like “volcano larva”—I swear I’m not making this up— I simply had to chuck it in. I sent the author an e-mail, advising her to hire a professional editor. If she takes that advice, I have little doubt she could end up with the kind of success most of us only enjoy in our dreams,” said Shaw.

Both Shaw and Conley agreed that stories, even erotic ones, should never forsake plotting for gratuitous banging.

“I think to be called erotic it needs to have a plot. And no, just having sex, no matter how hot it’s written, is not a plot,” Conley said. “A story that revolves around little else than sex is written porn. There’s nothing wrong with those stories. I happen to love them. But a successful erotic story has a plot that includes hot sex. Think of it as a horse race. The horse is the plot and the jockey is the sex. A horse may cross the finish line without a jockey, but a jockey isn’t likely to cross without the horse. However, both working together have a much better chance at victory. Sex scenes don’t have to be overly graphic for me to enjoy them. Dialogue that flows smoothly and isn’t stilted or forced is also important. I also like humor and some quirky characters, but that’s just a personal preference.”

Shaw said, “First, don’t obsess about the amount of sex in the story, or whether you’re being explicit enough, going too far, or not far enough. Let the sex happen naturally in the course of the story, and allow your characters to express themselves honestly and openly about it. Whether the sex turns out to be transcendent or deeply disappointing, beautiful or disgusting, a source of bliss or of shame, the most important thing, when it comes to erotic narrative, is to narrate sympathetically, frankly, and artfully.

“Second; avoid repetition. This is a common problem in longer narratives, which careful editing can often eliminate. Repetition occurs at several levels. At the macro level, entire scenes can seem to recur again and again, as if characters (and readers) are caught in a time warp or experiencing increasingly unpleasant déjà vu. At the ‘micro’ level, writers sometimes get hooked on the same words, phrases, or syntactical structures, often without realizing it. A short story I read recently used the word ‘feral’ at least eight times, and a fairly unusual word like that loses its punch and potency rather quickly. It’s not always unusual words that are plopped down in too-close proximity, though. The best advice is to recruit good eagle-eyed beta-readers, or, again, hire a competent professional editor.”

Cliches, he believes, should be avoided whenever possible, particularly when it comes to character development.

“Beauty and sexual attractiveness are not necessarily the same things. Endow your characters with rich inner lives, not just bigger-than-average body parts. And do avoid tired phrases such as ‘it was like no pleasure she had ever known before’ or ‘it was the most amazing orgasm he’d ever had,’ that is, unless you want the most excruciatingly scathing one-star review you’ll ever read,” Shaw said. “When all’s said and done, tell a good story from the point of view of real people (fantasy characters are, essentially, real people, too); the kind of characters you and your readers can care about, and will want to spend time with.”

He stressed that writers should take their work seriously, from plotting to editing and beyond, and not simply write, throw their latest on Amazon, plug it through social media, and forget about it.

“I look for professionalism from the get-go; a sense that the people involved in creating a book care about what they’re doing, take the endeavor seriously, and put some serious effort into honing and refining the final product. I can generally tell from the first paragraph, or sometimes, even the first line, if this is the case,” said Shaw.

When vetting books to review for his site, Shaw pays special attention to intriguing characters, motivating passions, and titillating plot devices.

“As in any good story in any genre, I want to read about sympathetic, or at least relatable, characters with obstacles to overcome, and conflicts to resolve,” Shaw said. “In erotica, sex (or its lack) may be a source of conflict; getting it may itself be the obstacle to overcome. Or, sex may be the vehicle of change and growth through which a character’s dilemma is ultimately resolved. What I want, in the end, is a story that’s less about ‘plumbing,’ the clinical descriptions of what goes where and when and how much; and more about ‘wiring,’ the sensations, thoughts and emotions accompanying the act, and, most importantly, the ‘why’ of it all.

“Atmosphere is essential; a sense of erotic anticipation and expectancy that fascinates and draws us in, but also keeps interest alive over a long period,” added Shaw. “Writers like Shanna Germain and Elizabeta Brook are particularly gifted in this department. Germain’s stories are especially striking in the way the author establishes unforgettable, unique settings, evoking virtually palpable erotic atmosphere with just a few deftly chosen words. A writer doesn’t have to go into torturous detail to create a vibrant setting or mood, but without a rich, sustainable atmosphere, the story suffocates, devolves into tedious clinical description and quasi-pornographic ennui. Yuck!”

He recommends taking the time to nurture a large vocabulary, something Shaw feels is the difference between mundane story-telling and bombastic literature.

“English is so vast, flexible, and almost infinitely malleable, and yet, to read so many boring, unimaginative, repetitious, over-long erotic narratives, you’d think there were only about 6,000 words in the entire vocabulary,” he said. “The skill and the willingness to play with language, to explore its poetic possibilities, its rhythms and melodic potential is, I’ve become convinced, the difference between the writer of an ordinary piece of fiction and the author of a masterpiece. I am in awe of writers like Kathryn O’Haloran, Jeremy Edwards and, again, Shanna Germain, who seem to employ language so creatively, with such seeming effortlessness; it’s great craft, and great artistry, and truly inspiring.”

 

Terrance Aldon Shaw (TAS) is a writer, and the “man behind the curtain” at Erotica For The Big Brain, a site dedicated to intelligent, literary reviews of the most notable erotic fiction. Find him online at bigbrainerotica.blogspot.com.

Carol Conley is the owner of I’m A Voracious Reader – Book Review Blog, found online at imavoraciousreader.blogspot.com.

Writer P.M. White has toiled on a number of sexy stories over the years, including his newest novella Volksie: A Tale of Sex, Americana and Cars from 1001 Nights Press. His previous publications include the Horror Manor trilogy from Sizzler Editions: Eyeball Man, Desire Under the Eaves, and You are a Woman. White’s short stories have appeared in Sex in San Francisco, The Love That Never Dies, Bound for Love, Pirate Booty and many others.

For more information, visit him on Tumblr at pmwhite.tumblr.com, at his Amazon author page, on Twitter @authorpmwhite and on Facebook.

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Nov 282013
 
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By Sherry Ziegelmeyer

There’s an adage in Hollywood circles that is very relevant to your own publicity efforts: “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” This is never more true than when you’re trying to grow an audience for your books. Without media support, all of your publicity and marketing attempts will fall flat.

Start with a media contact list. With this, you can target specific writers, editors and bloggers with whom you can form good working relationships. Once formed, those relationships—and, of course, your own pitch—may convince them to introduce you and your books to their existing audience.

The best way to put together your media contact list is to go online and start searching for websites that specifically run news and reviews related to novelists working in sex-themed and erotic literature, as well as other adult entertainment news outlets.

Read everything on the sites you find. These sites will give you a feel for what type of content they focus on, what they’re looking for from other writers—and whether your book will arouse their interest, or just go into their trash bin.

Once you have targeted a few news outlets, your next step is to get contact information for a real person at that website or publication. Some sites will have a form for submitting news. Some will have a list of editors and writers, including their company email or a phone number. And sometimes you can’t find any contact information on a site at all!

While you’re looking through these sites and publications, be sure to note individual writers who work for them. Once you have a list of the actual content writers, do a bit of research on each one. Read what they’ve written recently for that particular publication. Learn a little more about them from their company profiles, or look up their bios on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

This research will quite likely pay off. You’ll find out what a particular writer is interested in covering—and that can make or break your initial contact with them. The more closely their interests align with your work, the better received you’re likely to be—and the more they’ll ultimately value you as a news source in the future.

It never hurts to appeal to a reporter with a sincere compliment on what they have done, or how their views on a particular lifestyle topic match yours. Just remember that sincerity is crucial; anyone working in a media-related field can smell false flattery a mile away. Trying to deceive someone on how much you know about them—or agree with them—can turn them off to getting to know more about you.

Now that you have a few names and email addresses, possibly phone numbers (or—heaven forbid—a fax number) from your research, put together an introduction letter that tells these media members who you are, what you write about and how to contact you. There are a few rules that apply here, so pay attention!

Be polite.

Be professional.

Use their full name and title (if they have one at the publication).

Keep it brief.

And above all, don’t try to do a hard sell on why you are the bestest and onliest erotic novelist out there. People in media have heard (and read) it all before and are, on the whole, not easy to impress.

Your next step is to make initial contact with the targeted writers on your list. For this, you’ll need to set aside some time to create a personalized, introduction-style cover letter, for each writer you plan on contacting. You can template parts of this, as long as you are aware each letter will have to change to suit its targeted individual.

The best form of initial contact is along the lines of:

Hi Writer’s Name,

Your article on the backlash from the “50 Shades of Gray” phenomenon, and how it affects new erotic authors, was very enlightening. I wanted to thank you for the information on why sales have stalled for “mommy porn”, while growing for the male, college aged, demographic of readers. You perfectly illustrated why the shift in focus has moved away from feminist-friendly, yet kinky, erotica and why fresh voices are necessary in adult novels.

My name is . . . and I am an author of erotic books. I wanted to know if I could send you news on my new book releases. If that would be alright, please confirm the correct email address to use for news submissions, so I can add you to my contact list.

Thank you so much!

—You

Your phone, email, website, Instant Message program of choice and handle, et cetera

Obviously, you will substitute the vague references in the sample letter above with the writer’s name and your specific compliment or point of reference to them, your own name and information about your specific writing genre. Always include all of your contact information with the email signature. You want to make it as easy as possible for media people to get in touch with you.

If you only have a phone number as a media contact point, then you can use the above strategy with a few considerations due to the change in format.

Before trying to contact anyone by phone, rehearse what you want to say in advance. If at all possible, practice with a voice recorder so you can hear exactly what you sound like to another person. This gives you a chance to keep your focus on what you want to convey when you call a potential media contact and keeps you from getting sidetracked. It also helps you to edit down your message to 60 seconds or less, without speaking so fast that no one can understand you, in the case you need to leave a voice message for a reporter.

If you are forced to leave a message (highly likely), speak slowly, clearly and repeat your phone number and email at least twice during the message. No matter how easy you assume your email address is to spell and remember, spell it out completely if you are giving it to someone verbally.

If they answer in person (rare, but it does happen), remember to keep the call brief, polite, professional, stay on point with your rehearsed message and most important of all: Listen to what the person you call has to say, rather than focusing completely on what you want to say.

No matter how you initially contact a media member, don’t expect them to drop everything and respond to you immediately. They’re busy people and don’t have time to reply to every email or phone call they receive—immediately or, sometimes, at all. Give them at least a few days to get back to you.

If for some reason the writer you contacted doesn’t want to be added to your media contact list, thank them sincerely for their time and move on. If you don’t hear back from them after a week, go back to your research and contact another person at that same outlet, using the same tone of message. Since many writers are freelance, the person you found contact information for yesterday may not be at that publication today.

Above all, don’t give up. Your media contact list is an ever growing and changing organism. You may start out with only two or three writers that respond positively to your introduction letter. In many ways, it’s much better to start with a small number of media contacts. Focusing on a few individual writers gives you a chance to develop strong professional relationships with each of them. Once you start to develop working relationships with individual members of the media, that’s when you will begin to understand the nature and value of media contacts: It is all about who knows you, not just who you know.

 

Do you have specific questions concerning how to generate publicity for your books? Please email questions and comments to Sherry; answers will appear as future WriteSex blog topics.

Sherry Ziegelmeyer is a professional publicist and public relations representative, who happens to specialize in adult entertainment (in all its various forms). She resides in Chatsworth, California, affectionately known as “ground zero of the adult entertainment industry.” When not working on writing press releases, arranging interviews and putting together review kits for her clients (among dozens of other career related activities), she reads a LOT, loves cooking, appreciates beefcake eye-candy, spending time with friends, family and with her assortment of furred and feathered “kids”. Get to know Sherry at blackandbluemedia.com or www.facebook.com/sherry.ziegelmeyer.

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Nov 252013
 
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By Nobilis

As I mentioned last month, the theme I’ve decided to pursue on this blog series is ideas, where they come from, and what they’re worth. Ideas go through a process; they are inspired, they are worked, and then the results are either discarded or displayed. In all of this, my friends play a vital role.

I spend a lot of time on social media. Probably too much…maybe. Because chatting with my friends on Twitter and Google Plus is where I get most of my inspiration. My twitterfolk and google circles are full of fun, kinky people that love to flirt and tease and joke. Not a week goes by that a conversation doesn’t spark something in my imagination.

For example, this past week, a conversation got running on “friend-flashing,” that is, briefly exposing boobs or booty to friends rather than lovers; people talked a bit about good flashes they’d gotten, or given, and that sort of thing. And in the middle of that, the phrase flashed itself in my imagination: “Flash Club.”

And there’s the beginning. The seed. It immediately sprouted, giving me a setting, characters, and a situation ripe with fierce passions. I never would have thought of it just sitting at home staring at a blank computer screen. It was like a crystal dropping into a supersaturated solution; it catalyzed a reaction that made amazing things happen.

I was immediately full of energy. I was going to write this thing and write it big. At the first opportunity, I opened a new file and banged out a quick five hundred words. “Yes!” I thought to myself, “This is happening.”

And then ran into a wall.

What the hell happens next? Where am I going with this? The inspiration I had gotten was imperfect. It gave me a situation, but a situation isn’t a story. It’s the most important ingredient for a story, but those ingredients don’t really cook unless you apply some heat. There has to be some energy there, something that makes things happen, and I didn’t have that. It was tremendously frustrating.

This, for me, is what writer’s block looks like; it comes from not knowing where I’m going, not having a plan, not having an ending or even a middle in mind. I needed to find that before I could continue, and it was killing me.

So, I went back to my friends.

This time, though, it wasn’t the big hodgepodge of Twitter and Google Plus. I sent out a few IM’s to my fellow creatives, to see who had time for a little chat. A few frustrating hours later I was able to get on the phone with Lulu. If you had been listening to the conversation, you probably would have laughed; I said that I needed her for inspiration, but I was doing ninety-five percent of the talking. Sometimes, she could barely get a word in edgewise. I explained the idea, where I was with it, what I had written, and what was missing.

There were easy things I could have put into that missing slot. Someone who shouldn’t, falls in love. Someone who shouldn’t, discovers the secret. But those were too easy, too facile. They’d lead to a same-old-same-old story. What else was there? Most importantly, what could happen that was inside the situation? And in that conversation, I found it; the newcomer is the disruption. The newcomer plays their game better than anyone who’s already there.

And I was off.

That’s where things sit at the moment I’m writing this blogpost. The story remains far from fully formed, but I have found my way past that block, with Lulu’s help. I am quite certain that I have everything I need to produce a manuscript with beginning, middle, and end.

But just because I will have an ending doesn’t mean I’ll be done.

At that point, I’ll be recruiting a few more of my friends; beta readers that I trust to tell me just where my story sucks. And it will, because every newly-minted story sucks. But I’ll cover that in another essay; the important point here is that my friends figure strongly in that process as well.

And now for the News from Poughkeepsie, where I toss out an idea that may spark something for you:

Elves, as originally imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien, and imitated in epic fantasy ever since, are noble folk associated with magic and immortality. What happens if that immortality has a price? What happens if immortality is a mantle that prevents aging and disease, but also means the elf cannot procreate? And what if that mantle can be put aside, once, in order to regain fertility, but give up one’s life? What kind of society would that create, and what stories could be told about those people?

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Nov 232013
 
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Finding the time to write can be a tremendous challenge, even if you love doing it more than anything else in the world. The problem is, life happens—and if you’ve ever gone through one of those annoying periods where clusters of life bombs detonate your schedule, you know exactly what I mean. It becomes increasingly difficult to make time, or even think about making time. (Some people have the same problem with sex.)

Therefore, I suggest that first of all that you drop everything—I mean everything!—and take time to have an orgasm now for the literary benefit of all sentient beings. Get back into your body, now, in the deepest, most pleasurable way, and everything else will fall into perspective after that. Though I’m being a little flippant, I’m not kidding about the value of this. Restore your sense of pleasure and embodiment, and you’ll be able to reorder your priorities.

Secondly, there’s an old behavioral technique called “thought stopping.” It’s meant to keep people from spiraling into endless unproductive loops. The method has been somewhat discredited, so I’d like to suggest a variation called “task stopping.” When crises erupt in chaotic clusters, they often include meaningless, trivial, but somehow urgent and necessary tasks which get sucked into the vortex of this chaos with you. Often these are tasks foisted upon you by people eager to offload their own chaos. They take advantage of your confusion and stress, and before you know it, you’re picking up their dry cleaning for no good reason. Or copy editing their blog, while yours sits neglected in the computer.

Just stop. Say no. Don’t do these things. Don’t even wash your own dishes for a while if you haven’t been writing. Cultivate a benign and slightly fuzzy flakiness when it comes to trivial tasks—your own or other people’s. Become quaintly unreliable. It’s not exactly passive aggression, it’s passive resistance! Do this so you may focus on what is pleasurable, rewarding, and necessary. If you’re a writer, I am willing to bet that writing is, at least most of the time, one of the most pleasurable, rewarding, and necessary things you do.

I’ve found the world doesn’t end if you procrastinate about the small things. Eventually some of them may just dissolve entirely away. And when clusters of chaos pay you a call, you’ll have less stress about your to-do list as you deal with the larger issues—and your regular writing schedule.

Of course, roommates, lovers, and others close at hand may not understand why you are suddenly so unreliable or even sloppy. Just let them know you’re dedicating more of your life and time for your writing and then stay firm in your resolve.

Finally, say yes to writing every chance you get. Five minutes are better than zero. Half an hour is better still. Write in small chunks when you can’t carve out a longer stretch. Find ways to note and track writing ideas that come to you on the fly. Make creative use of your technological devices. Keep your writing momentum going. Make it a game if you have to. Keep it fun. And if you need another orgasm or two as a convincer, go for it!

—Amy Marsh

 

Amy Marsh, EdD, DHS, CH, CI, is a clinical sexologist and AASECT certified sex counselor, certified hypnotist and hypnosis instructor, and an associate professor of human sexuality at the world’s most radical sex school. She is a former Carnal Nation columnist. Learn more at dramymarshsexologist.com or follow @AmyMarshSexDr on Twitter.

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Nov 192013
 
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By Zander Vyne

I edit professionally. When I ask most authors what the theme of their erotica story or book is, what I hear most often is, “Uh…sex?” Bad answer and here’s why:

Every compelling story has a theme, usually one tied to common, human emotions. The Shining? Ignore your problems (or try to hide from them) and they’ll come back and bite you in the ass—hard. Gone With the Wind? Don’t be so focused on what you want today that you sacrifice what you need tomorrow (because, Scarlett, though tomorrow might be another day, you may wake up and find what you want most doesn’t give a damn about you anymore).

It’s difficult to write an exciting sex story where sex is the theme. We’re all adults. We’ve all had sex. We’ve all seen it and read about it before. We’ve also all had issues in our lives that impact our enjoyment of sex. Those issues are always more intriguing than sex. I read and edit erotica, but few stories stand out and linger in my memory. Last year’s favorite, Normal by Charlotte Stein, is full of sex, but the theme is fear—what if you find you enjoy edge play a little too much?

Themes give us familiar images, and comforting signposts along the way. Think of any Disney movie. The stories might involve evil circus owners, or lions, or princesses with enemies, but they all contain elements we’ve come to recognize: abandonment, a happily-ever-after ending, mommy/daddy issues, fairytale and mythology touchstones. We plunge right into Disney’s world because so much of it is already embedded in our memories. Use common themes to help your readers fill in the blanks so you can focus on the meat of your tale.

Themes tie together otherwise disparate elements. With a firmly thought out theme, you can write from multiple perspectives (but don’t try doing it in the same chapter or section unless you’re an expert), in first person and/or third. You can flash forward, backwards or sideways and your reader will follow your theme breadcrumbs and walk away feeling as if they read one, solid piece of writing.

People like solving riddles. Drop theme clues throughout a story and give readers a chance to put all the puzzle pieces together. Our brains like figuring out mysteries and riddles. There’s a satisfaction that comes when we have one of those light-bulb moments and everything clicks into place.

Themes make writing stronger and give it direction and focus. The time to develop a theme is after your first draft has been edited; you should be able to pick up your theme’s threads as you’re reading your work for the 100th time. If not, ask why. Odds are you haven’t told a strong enough story. Last year, I edited a story for a new, unpublished, writer. It was a straightforward lesbian sex scene with some D/s elements when I started, but it became a story about taking risky chances, sharing secret desires with a partner when you’re not sure they’ll go for it. Once the theme was there, it was easy editing the whole story to incorporate more tension, fear, and jumping-off-a-cliff moments. I’m happy to tell you that the writer sold this story to a major anthology publisher.

Themes can color your story, and add to mood and rhythm. I often use colors as themes, because they evoke similar responses in people. Red is a favorite of mine because I write a lot of erotic horror. Purple is soothing and gothic and poetic. Black is edgy and mysterious. For examples of how color can be used to enhance a mood and carry a story, check out my latest collection of short stories, Amaranthine Rain. The title story uses purple to bring together third person, past and present tense, and to create a lush feeling to the whole piece. In “Souvenirs”, red is splashed over everything and contributes to the twisted, scary nature of the story. In the noir story, “Tricked”, I use blue. Red pops up again in “La Belle Mort”.

Moral of the story: Every story needs a theme. Find yours.

—Zander Vyne

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Nov 172013
 
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By Elizabeth Coldwell

Every writer has one—that unfinished novel lying in the back of a drawer, or in a file on their hard drive; the one that simply refuses to work. The idea may be solid, the characters well defined and the sex so hot it’ll melt your e-reader, but somehow you could only get so far into the action before you lost your enthusiasm for the story. Sometimes, the only answer is to rip it up and start again—and you should be able to find a home for the erotic scenes in almost anything else you write, unless they involve something particularly specific, like a shape-shifting puma or a steam-powered dildo. However, the fate of your unfinished work might be less doomed; it could be that one of the following aspects needs reworking to breathe life into that moribund manuscript:

Point of view
Is the right person telling the story? Perhaps you’re writing in third person, when what the novel needs is the immediacy of a first person POV. Or you’ve decided that the story should be written in alternating chapters from the perspective of the hero and heroine (a common technique in erotic romance, or books where two authors collaborate and take on a lead character each), when one of the characters actually has much more to say than the other. And of course, some novels work best with the classic Victorian omniscient narrator, commenting on every character’s life at a studied remove. Once the book finds its proper voice, you may find the words flying onto the page.

Length
Are you trying to spread a novella’s worth of action into a novel? Before the advent of e-publishing, authors of erotic fiction had two choices: they could either write short stories (usually up to 5,000 words in length) or novels of around 75,000 words for print publication. Now, for some e-publishers a novel begins at 30,000 words, while the popularity of the novella and the “quick read” as book formats means that storylines don’t have to be padded beyond their natural length to achieve publication. Conversely, if there’s too much going on to fit into a short story, giving yourself the freedom to expand the word count can give your tale a new lease of life.

Genre
One of the most radical overhauls involves a change of genre. This could be as simple as introducing some BDSM action into what’s  previously been a vanilla relationship. Exploring their submissive side could help your heroine—or, less commonly but perhaps quite interestingly, hero—discover more about their own personality and that of their lover, or introduce tension if their partner realizes they’re uncomfortable with the situation. More radically, would the story work better if the lovers were both male, or both female? Could the couple invite a friend (or two) into bed with them, turning this into a ménage tale? Or is the story crying out for an injection of paranormal activity, or a touch of steampunk? (Or is your book, at its heart, a vanilla tale set in the here-and-now whose fantastical setting or BDSM themes are only extraneous window dressing? —WriteSex Ed.)

An element of the unexpected
The classic advice for writers struggling to complete a book as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge is that if the action has come to a screaming halt, introduce ninjas. Of course, NaNoWriMo is more about writing an arbitrary amount of words in a set period of time than producing publishable works of literature, but introducing a sudden crisis or unexpected element into your story can kick-start its momentum. What if one of your characters is involved in a car crash, or receives an e-mail from the ex-lover they thought they’d never hear from again? If you want to add an element of fun into your writing, or just devise an exercise to hone your chops as an author, you could always keep a set of postcards on which you’ve written words like “pregnancy” or “zombie apocalypse”, and pull one out at random when your plot appears to be going down a blind alley.

So now you can open that drawer or click on that file, and look at your manuscript with fresh eyes. Maybe soon you’ll be submitting the book you thought you’d never finish.

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Nov 142013
 
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By Remittance Girl

I promised at the end of last month’s post that I would wander onto the topic of the sound of language and how, although of greatest importance in poetry, it plays a key role in the reader’s experience of prose as well. As a topic, it deserves its own book—and yet, very few writing-instruction books ever deal with it. Grab my hand and let me pull you out to look at the topic from a distance this week.

We’ll be thinking specifically about voices, because the way something sounds is almost entirely dependent on who’s speaking. In any given piece of fiction, there are always at least three voices present: the writer’s, the narrator’s and the reader’s. Often there are more because there are various speaking characters—main and secondary—who all have voices, too. On top of that, many of the characters have both the inner voices of their thoughts and outer ones expressed through dialogue.

The writer’s voice is seldom obvious in fiction these days, but it wasn’t always. Up until the mid-19th Century, authors addressed their readers directly and unashamedly in what is called the diegetic voice—where the writer and narrator are one. Very much like the voice I’m using right now to address you. It has, in fiction, fallen deeply out of fashion and is usually looked down upon as either quaint or pedantic.

More common today is the presence of the narrator’s voice, which is assumed to be fictional and separate from the voice of the writer—that is, a fictional character tasked with delivering the story to the reader. Narrators are classed as either ‘reliable’ (implying the story is being related in a fairly objective manner) or ‘unreliable’ (given to mean that the narrator has drastically subjective viewpoint). In truth, no narrator is completely ‘reliable’ because no narrator is completely objective. The very act of choosing what to tell the reader, what to focus on, which details to pay greater attention to, etc.—all of those decisions are part and parcel of a subjective point of view, and the narrator literally wouldn’t be human unless they made them. Without these subtle subjectivities, we, as readers, would find that narrator unbearable. But it is fair to say that some narrators offer more extreme viewpoints than others and the language they use—the way they “sound”—is an implicit indication of this.

Finally, of course, there is the invisible narrator: prose written in third person POV which can either relay the story at a great distance, giving us no direct insight into what any of the characters are thinking or feeling, or the more common “third person proximate”. This is the narrator who allows us to see the characters from a distance, but also allows us inside the head of one of them in any given scene. I would like to remind you that, although this voice is not as easy to hear as first person narration, it is there to be perceived. And again, it is the choice of words, their turn of phrase, their focus and their dismissals that embody the voice of this type of narrator.

Because I’m being terribly old fashioned and addressing you directly, I get the opportunity to tell you that one of my very favourite voices of all is called the heterodiegetic narrator (as opposed to a homodiegetic one). This doesn’t mean that I prefer to write straight erotica. A homodiegetic narrator tells the story in the first person and is also its main character. Like Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye, he speaks to the reader and he’s the star of the story.

Probably the most famous heterodiegetic narrator of all time is Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes’s sidekick. It’s a great voice because it allows a writer to create a secondary character who offers us a fine and clearly subjective portrait of the main character. It allows for the possibility of presenting two incredibly rich personalities and viewpoints at the same time. Not only do you come to know the main character, but you come to know the narrator even better by what he or she chooses to tell you about the main character. And this mode of writing doesn’t risk the kind of distancing that third person POV can sometimes create. There’s a lovely coziness to it, as if you are being invited to participate in a preexisting intimate relationship without all the awkwardness of a formal introduction. It also creates the effect of being allowed privileged, intimate information.

In any case, there are always major and minor characters and, if the author sticks to the rule of showing instead of telling, they often deliver the story to us through dialogue (and some very successful writers write appalling dialogue. I’ve always suspected that Dan Brown would be a rotten dinner companion; he doesn’t seem like a good listener). It is not unreasonable to say that although ‘talking the talk’ seems to be valued less than ‘walking the walk,’ I glean more about someone by listening to what they say, and how they say it, than by observing their gait.

Getting dialogue right entails knowing your character well enough to know how they express themselves. Although it’s a writer’s business to endeavor to be realistic in his or her portrayals, this is one of those odd exceptions of erotic fiction writing.

My experience is that, in reality, most people aren’t tremendously talkative in the moments just preceding, or during, sex. There are moans and grunts and groans and a fair amount of hyperventilating going on. But when I read an erotic story, I’m most likely to reach between my legs the moment the characters start talking nasty to each other.

This makes great sex dialogue very hard to write. I’ve only ever had three lovers who really were effective with their tongues in the linguistic sense. Very often, I have to ask myself: well, if he did have me in the shower with my wrists tied to the spigot, what would I want him to say? What words could he or she use to compel me to arch my back and generally make a slut of myself?

Even though, in reality, many people don’t say much during sex, it’s important to stick to the rules of good dialogue in your fiction. People have unique ways of speaking; make sure your characters phrase themselves differently to distinguish them. The words they choose matter. A man who calls his penis a cock during sex is a different man from one who resolutely calls it a penis, even when he’s about to get a blowjob: “Beg for my cock, you little whore!” is one sort of man. “Beg for my penis, you woman of loose morals!” is another man entirely. In fact, I do have a rather eccentric theory about fundamental differences between women who can call their vaginas cunts and those who can’t.

Good dialogue in BDSM erotica can be sublime. I don’t mean the stock vocabulary of the high-dungeon “yes, master, no, master, three bags full, master” stuff. Language has power. Word choice, phrasing and tonality all convey a powerful nuances of who’s on top and who’s on the bottom. “He put me in my place” refers to people’s linguistic abilities, not their flair for moving furniture around.

The last thing to keep in mind when writing dialogue is to keep the lines short. We seldom speak in long, informative monologues, and your characters shouldn’t either. A short phrase, effectively set on the next line, can be infinitely more effective than a long rambling exhortation to copulate.

“Yeah,” she said. “Fuck me.”

The hardest part of any writer’s job, and one that I only manage poorly and at my best moments, is anticipating how the reader will read. Here, in this little miracle of communication through prose, is the reader’s voice. One of the most concise ways I’ve ever read this explained was in the way Mike Kimera used to sign off his posts to ERWA: “What you read is not what I wrote.” Of course, what he was trying to underscore was that the reader is the final arbiter of meaning in any given story. But I would also argue that readers read to themselves aloud in their heads and the voice they use to read is unique to them.

This last voice is, I think, the one a writer has little control over, but it is foolish to forget it is there. To some extent, it is possible to anticipate it, to know it will be a vocal layer added to the ones laid before it. The most skilled writers give it room to live and breathe and fill out the sound of the prose. One of the easiest ways of doing this is simply not to over-write. To leave silences, let the odd phrase hang, don’t tie everything up within an inch of its life. Over-writing is essentially an attempt to dominate and quash the reader’s inner voice.

The reader, literally, has the last word. Fight for it at your peril.

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Nov 122013
 
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By Colin

Everybody’s got one.

An Uncle Joe, or an Aunt Cathy, or a family friend, who regularly buttonholes you at holiday gatherings and asks, “So…when you gonna finish that book you’ve been writing?”

I could talk here about the delights of acquainting these people with the fact that not only have you finished the book, you’ve actually published five sequels since last year—but haven’t mentioned it, since, per their loudly stated opinions at several earlier gatherings, their interest in “perv sex” is limited. This, after all, is a problem somewhat unique to erotica writers. Instead, I’d like to look a little more closely at the dreaded “When Are You Finishing That Book” question…because for a lot of writers, it’s a very real question and a very difficult one.

A lot of new writers (not necessarily young ones) have THE NOVEL hanging over their heads, the project that they’re sure would launch their careers—if only they could just finish the darned thing. Mind you, it started off beautifully; the ideas seemed so full of potential, the characters compelling, the underlying story both topical and timeless. Even better, it promised to be wonderfully sexy (they left out that part when they told Uncle Joe about it).

But the longer they worked on it, the less compelling it seemed. It got to the point where they had to flog themselves back to the keyboard every single night, just to squeeze out another hundred words or so.

It wasn’t just the way the book seemed to have rolled over and died…it was the sneaking suspicion that the stuff just wasn’t very damned good. The words they were grinding out each night weren’t just flat, they were bad from a technical standpoint. Individual sentences were filled with grammatic flaws and seemed to make no sense no matter how many times they were read aloud; the main characters seemed to have developed completely new personalities since the first chapter; critical scenes felt abbreviated, rushed through. They couldn’t imagine an editor actually buying something so awful.

So maybe, they thought, it’s time to set this trainwreck aside and start a new novel. They’d had a new idea just the other day…a really bangin’ idea. In fact, the more they thought about it, the better this new idea felt. Much more in line with the way they saw their career going.

The problem is that this wonderful new project met with exactly the same fate as the first one. Pretty soon, a cycle was born that repeated itself pretty dependably every few months. Now it wasn’t just Uncle Joe they had to contend with; it was their friends, teachers, other writers, and even their significant other. When you see your S.O.’s eyes glaze over every time you mention your latest project over dinner…well, it’s a lot more painful than dealing with Uncle Joe.

It’s enough to make you start doubting yourself altogether.

So what do you do?

If you’re in this position, permit me to whisper two little words in your ear that might help just a little:

First Draft.

You know what those words refer to? Your novel. Or what you finished of it. That’s what it is right now, a first draft. That means not only that it’s probably not very good, it means it’s kinda-sorta expected to be not that good.

Now to a lot of you, this will sound so obvious that it verges on the insulting. Everybody who’s gotten far enough down the writer’s path to actually have a go at writing a book has heard of the concept of multiple drafts. Nobody actually thinks that any novel was written in one go, even On the Road.

But you’d be surprised. People have very strange expectations when it comes to creative work—and even stranger ones when it comes to their own creative work—and a lot of them coexist quite comfortably with hard, cold truths that everybody knows and acknowledges.

So in a lot of cases, our writer knows perfectly well that if there are inconsistencies in the way her hero behaves in the story, they can be fixed. Changed. Smoothed out. I believe revised is the word that has particularly wide currency in this area. Likewise, if that love scene or swordfight feels limp, it might just be because the author isn’t seeing it in the context of the (wait for it) finished story. You know, books are like houses; whole chunks of the little suckers can be ripped out, refitted, and rehabilitated. If she has successfully completed any number of short stories before trying a novel, our writer doesn’t just know this, she’s put it into practice.

So why does our writer resist?

Well, for one thing, it’s much easier to just switch to a new project. But ultimately, the truth is that the prospect of moving to a new idea is fun. It’s exciting. That element of fun is very much what brought a lot of us to writing fiction in the first place.

Look: some projects really don’t work out, and they should be allowed to die a quiet, dignified death. But if you find yourself in a situation like the one I’ve outlined above, you could do worse than take a deep breath and try to stick with it a little longer. This Nanowrimo thing the kids are all crazy about is in full swing this month, and if it helps new writers develop the crucial habit of sitting down every night and batting out some number of words in effort to complete a 50,000-word first draft by the end of the month, then hey, I’m all for it.

However you do it, remember that the draft you end up with will probably be a lot shorter and certainly a lot uglier than what you initially envisioned.  But if you can get there, you might just be surprised at the new potential you see.

And come on…don’t you want to see the look on Uncle Joe’s pasty kisser when you mouth the fatal words, “It is done, actually…right now it’s in the SECOND DRAFT.”

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Nov 102013
 
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By Jan Graham

Procrastination, avoidance behavior and excuses: three things at which I, along with other authors I know, seem to excel. The fact is, when you write for a living the only person keeping you accountable for showing up at the computer each day is, well, you. There isn’t a boss, a time clock or colleagues waiting for you to arrive at work, there’s no management committee requesting an account of how you’ve spent your time or what you’ve produced in the last week, month or year. There’s just you and, if you’re a full time procrastinator and shirker of responsibility, probably an empty bank account.

I’ve recently had another book accepted for publication, but writing it posed all sorts of problems. After nearly twelve months of avoiding putting fingers to keyboard on that particular novel, I finally decided I needed to make myself accountable to someone else in order to get it done. Enter my best friend (I’ll call her ‘H’), teacher of more than twenty years, wearer of funny hats, lover of all books (not just the ones I write) and critic of my in-progress work.

H and I met for coffee, where we discussed what might be preventing me from working on this particular book. After psychologically dissecting me, we finally made a deal: I’d begin writing the elusive script and she’d keep me accountable for doing it. My target—one chapter every two days; my punishment for not producing the chapter without a plausible reason—a battering of emails, phone calls and texts from H demanding I live up to my word and fulfill our agreement. Luckily our friendship remained intact over the time it took to complete the manuscript. No, I didn’t always produce the chapter on time, sometimes for legit reasons like I can’t write a coherent sentence with a migraine. Other times with no legit reason, or the flimsy ones which H saw straight through and called me out on.

Being accountable to someone other than myself certainly worked in this instance; it allowed me to produce when I really didn’t want to, giving me the incentive and support to complete a task I found difficult for lots of reasons. So, if you’re having difficulty writing, finding a way to make yourself accountable may also work for you. If you’re lucky enough to have books already contracted to a publisher, then there’s your accountability right there. But if you’re like me, often writing with no idea where the manuscript will end up, then it’s time to be creative. No pun intended.

Find a way to make yourself accountable for the production of tangible work on a regular basis. Stop using excuses and get on with the job any way you can. Grab a friend to keep you on track like I did. Give yourself a goal to purchase or do something once you’ve finished a task, or ask your hubby or wife to say no sex until that book is finished (that would get me writing really fast ☺). Whatever you think will work for you, do it.

So, what do you do as incentive to write? Are you accountable to someone? If you have any ideas that keep you on track and stave off procrastination when you’re writing, I’d love to hear them. After all, a self-confessed procrastinator can never have too many ideas up her sleeve.

 

About the Author:

Jan Graham describes herself in many ways. She is a full time writer, friend, submissive, orphan, widow, aunt, and sometimes, a wild child. Despite any hiccups the universe may throw at her, she believes in experiencing everything life has to offer and being the best person she can be. Jan lives in Newcastle, Australia, where she spends her time writing erotic romance. Her writing falls under a variety of genres including BDSM, contemporary romance, romantic suspense and paranormal romance.

Jan has often been quoted as saying I am glad to finally give my characters, who swirl around my head on a constant basis, the opportunity to put themselves down on paper and I hope they entertain my readers as much as they amuse me.

Find out more about Jan Graham, browse her books and follow her social media links at www.jangraham.com.au.

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Nov 062013
 
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By P.M. White

First came Stephanie Meyers and Twilight, a novel that sucked in not only teenage girls, but their moms as well.

Vampires, glittering or not, became hot-blooded once again. The sub-genre of “shifter” novels took flight as a result, thanks in part to Jacob and his furry brothers and sisters, as did fan fiction and sexy stories derived from said efforts, which are legion.

Say what you will about the Twilight books, and many have plenty to say on the topic; they were phenomenal hits. Grown men may not get Bella’s often-whiny, pathetic attempts at attention, and wonder why Edward and Jacob didn’t just ditch her to the wind the moment her highly underdeveloped emotional fortitude became evident. Even guys, however, will admit that something about these books (and their numerous progeny) is incredibly compelling to readers—not least of which was the vamp/shifter/helpless female love triangle, leading to the biggest and one of the most hotly debated leaps of literary escapism under the proverbial sun.

Fifty Shades of Grey was born from the smoldering embers of Twilight‘s romantic appeal. Erotica readers, and authors in the genre, are born every day thanks to E.L. James’s simple tale of Ana and Christian—and, thanks to her revamped fan fiction, erotica now holds court in mainstream media. On the downside, more than half of the new releases seem to revolve around a hapless young woman and a strapping, oh-so-wealthy businessman with a cute little streak of kink.

The combination of teen-novels-turned-erotica, thanks to the Twilight/Fifty Shades breeding, has led writers to pen both smut and teen fare.

In fact, a new genre in the fiction has been born.

Appropriately called “New Adult,” the fledgling genre stems from fans who have aged out of the Young Adult (YA) genre and need a bit more spice in their simple stories of love and passion, says author Kristina Wright.

“New Adult (NA) is a relatively new genre which encapsulates the years between young adult and adult fiction—roughly ages 18–25. These are kind of the ‘lost’ years in adult fiction and yet they’re some of the most formative years in our lives. NA fills this niche in a way that allows for a more natural transition for young adult readers, while also appealing to many of the same adults who read YA fiction, exploring more adult themes, which of course includes sex,” Wright said.

Wright said cons are in short supply when it comes to the NA genre, though there are plenty of pros.

“Honestly, I can’t see any cons to New Adult fiction, other than some YA readers will skip to NA before they’re in the demographic, and read books that might be too mature for them, according to their parents, at least,” Wright said. “I was reading adult fiction and nonfiction when I was in sixth grade—an 11-year-old kid reading glitzy sex-drenched novels by Judith Krantz and biographies of people like the Boston Strangler—so NA would’ve been more appropriate, if it had existed.”

Author branding is also an important factor, she concluded.

“For writers who write both erotica/erotic romance and YA (or New Adult) fiction, there are issues of author branding and maintaining a readership. Most authors I know who write in both genres are using different names to differentiate between the two. Of course, it’s [an author's] hope that the YA/NA readers will move on to [their] adult fiction novels, so pseudonyms aren’t well-kept secrets—some authors even mention their other names in their bios and websites, so readers who age out of the younger genre can stay with their favorite authors,” Wright said.

Up and coming author Scarlett Black writes in both the young adult and erotica genres, though she strives to keep the two separate. Much of her writing stems from her own life experiences, she said.

“Prior to wanting to write more mature adult fiction stories, I spent most of my time, within my writing craft, either writing young adult fiction or poetry,” Black said, adding that writing in two genres isn’t always an easy task.

Black has never thought to merge the two genres into a single story, as James did (in a sense) in the Fifty Shades trilogy.

“I never intended to merge the two, ever, because it could go to a place that really isn’t ever appropriate to be published,” Black said. “What comes to mind when I think of the two genres is the TV series Law and Order: SVU. The subject matter for their department revolves around ‘heinous crimes’ or ‘sex crimes.’ If I ever get to the point where these two are intertwining, I may need to have my head examined.”

Preplanning becomes a necessity, she confided, to excise the erotic from YA and vice-versa—and sticking to a single genre, when plotting a fiction project.

“The preplanning can include various focus points on what genre the project will be in, and ideas on where to draw the line, regarding theme and subject matter. I’ve personally never found it a problem of keeping a project within one genre,” Black said.
Both YA and erotica, she believes, continue to evolve.

“I think both genres will continue to grow based on how society shifts and moves forward. I really don’t want to make a comment that ends up being a PSA for sex education, but if the two genres had any business or future together… It would be for erotica to help educate youth about healthy sexual and intimate relationships, however that may look.”

 

Kristina Wright is a full-time writer and the editor of several anthologies for Cleis Press, including the Best Erotic Romance series. Her newest release is the cross-genre relationship and sexuality guide Bedded Bliss: A Couple’s Guide to Lust Ever After.
You can find out more about her at kristinawright.com, or visit the Cleis Press website for a complete list of her available titles.

Author Scarlett Black’s original focus was on poetry, non-fiction, and the YA fiction genre.  Through years of soul-searching, Scarlett is ready to take the plunge into the next level of writing by battling her naughty skeletons through the Erotica genre. Scarlett has previously published poetry under another pen name, and currently hosts her website at naughtyskeletons.weebly.com.

Writer P.M. White has toiled on a number of sexy stories over the years, including his newest novella Volksie: A Tale of Sex, Americana and Cars from 1001 Nights Press. His previous publications include the Horror Manor trilogy from Sizzler Editions: Eyeball Man, Desire Under the Eaves, and You are a Woman. White’s short stories have appeared in Sex in San Francisco, The Love That Never Dies, Bound For Love, Pirate Booty and many others. For more information, visit him on Tumblr at pmwhite.tumblr.com, at his Amazon author page, on Twitter @authorpmwhite and on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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