Jan 172015
 
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By Nobilis

This week, I collected the fifth draft of the Monster Whisperer novel into one manuscript and sent it off to an editor at Circlet Press to consider for publication. My feelings are, as I’m sure you can understand, complicated. I’m relieved to be done with this phase of the story, anxious about starting the next, puzzled about what to work on afterward, and eager to get rolling on it. All at the same time, or in any combination. But I’ve been through this enough to know that the relief will fade, the anxiety is temporary, the puzzlement is natural, and the eagerness will, in time, need to be nurtured.

I’m enjoying the relief of being done with this novel. Finishing any novel is not easy, and the fact that this is my third hasn’t really made it any easier. But I can’t afford the urge to sit back and rest. There’s more writing to be done, and I know from experience that if I go even just one day without writing, it can easily stretch into two, or three, or a week, and I don’t want that. So I’ve set a goal for myself—to write at least five hundred words a day, every day, in the year 2015. No excuses, no exceptions.

Monster Whisperer is now at a stage where there is nothing I can do about it. It’s out of my hands. Anxiety won’t do me any good, so it’s really best to let it go. Dwelling on it will only lead me to do stupid things like check in with the editor daily on whether she’s reading it. So I need to let it go. The best way I know how to do that is to let myself feel it, acknowledge it, thank my subconscious for its opinion, then go about my day.

I don’t need to work very hard on the decision of what to work on next. I have a story I really need to finish, a novella for a box-set that I’ve been invited to participate in, but it’s not an immediate one and I can afford to spread my efforts around a little. I can’t afford to do that very much though, especially writing only five hundred words a day, so I need to maintain focus. Distractions need to be kept at a minimum. Monster Whisperer took a year to finish; I’d rather not have the next project take that long.

That eagerness to be writing, that desire to feel the intense satisfaction on finishing a manuscript, will need to be preserved and nurtured. Luckily, that gets easier with each finished story. My confidence improves every time, especially when I get positive feedback from people whose writing I admire. But the time will come, somewhere around the late middle of the next story, when I want to just give up. I know it will happen. So I need to fix this feeling in my mind, remember it, come back to it again and again to maintain my enthusiasm. I need to hold onto it the way some people hold onto grudges.

Essentially, my emotional state is very important to my success as a writer—and therefore I need to be able to manage that state, control it, shape it so that it serves my purposes. That may sound like a strange idea. Much of modern culture portrays people as helpless to control their feelings, even victims of them; or else that our feelings should be respected over other modes of thinking instead of in concert with them. I disagree. Our feelings are ultimately under our control, though sometimes only with great difficulty, and only if we maintain a respectful relationship with them rather than pitting them against our rational thought processes or trying to “fight” them. When understood and managed, these feelings can help us achieve our goals.

***

Stories that don’t stop at the bedroom door—or the castle gate—or the airlock.
http://www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

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Oct 032014
 
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by Nobilis

I don’t sprint when I write, not anymore. It used to be that I could get 1,600 words down in an hour if I really put on the power and concentrated on nothing but how many keystrokes I could apply to my story. Nowadays, an hour’s worth of work results in something more like 800 words. It’s not impairment that has caused this slow-down, it’s a recognition of how my creative mind works.

At some point I began to pay attention to how much time and effort I actually spent on a piece of writing—and it became clear that 1,600 words an hour was less effective than it sounded. Did most of those words end up in the final draft? No. I ended up cutting about a third of them, and completely rewriting another third. As it turned out, it was more efficient in the long run for me to slow down a bit and pay more attention to what I was writing. Better for me to write eight hundred words that are already in fairly good shape, and build on those, than to quickly churn out a story I will end up breaking down and rebuilding anyway.

I’m not saying that sprinting isn’t a good practice in general. I’m saying that it doesn’t work well for me. I’ve analyzed my writing process and made the conscious decision to think more carefully about what I’m writing on my first draft. Overall, I’ve tried a number of different ways to get from first draft to final, and found that slowing down works best for me.

There are all kinds of decisions a writer has to make when they set out to write a story. How deep will the outline be? How much planning will go into character and setting? What software will they use? How much time will they spend on it in one sitting? How long can they set it aside? What time of day, and day of the week will be “writing time”? When will beta readers see it?

It’s rare for a new writer to answer these questions with intention and forethought, and yet it’s a crucial first step. No one else can answer them, ultimately; only you can.

And those answers will probably change over time, as you learn more about your writing process. If you’re a new writer, you ought to be trying out many different things. You can’t really call yourself a “discovery writer” if you’ve never tried writing to an outline. You can’t call yourself a “binge writer” if you’ve never tried setting aside an hour a day, every day, for writing.

These experiments can’t be evaluated until they’ve been taken to some kind of conclusion. If you just measure your productivity at the first-draft stage, then sprinting always looks better—but if a sprinted novel takes a major rewrite every time and a more carefully composed manuscript doesn’t, then the gain from sprinting is lost in the editing process. On the other hand, you may find that you wrote your first draft too tightly, didn’t let your ideas flow as freely as they could have, and need to develop much more of the story in the next draft. If that’s the case, maybe a looser, faster style of preliminary writing will prove better for your next book.

Likewise, if a writer completes an outline and feels like the story is told and there’s nothing left to “discover,” (a description of the outlining process I’ve heard from many self-described discovery writers) but has never actually written to the outline, then the writer isn’t giving the technique a fair shot.

The only way for a new writer to determine what techniques work best for them is to try them out, and pay attention to the results, both in terms of quality and efficiency. It’s work, but it’s work that needs to be done sooner or later—preferably sooner, if you want to spend the majority of your writing career working with, rather than against, your own creative process.

***

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

Website: www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

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May 082014
 
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By Elizabeth Coldwell

Whether you realise it or not, it’s all too easy for your writing to fall into a rut.

This might not be so much of a problem if your writing is more of a hobby or a distraction from the Evil Day Job than a career, if you submit to the odd anthology here and there, or if you’re slowly working on that first novel. However, if you’re aiming to make a living from your writing, the pressure to churn out book after book, to build up your backlist and never give readers a moment to wonder when your next novel is coming out, can lead to a certain feeling of déjà vu when you read through your work. Just as importantly, it can also make you forget that, above all, writing is something to be enjoyed. If you’re slogging through the pages, rest assured the readers will be, too.

Even if you don’t notice that you’re in a rut, your editor should. All authors have certain words they tend to overuse, usually without being aware of it, which in the aggregate can dumb down otherwise good work and give it a feeling of tiresome over-familiarity. And I’m not even talking about the dreaded ‘that’ and ‘was’ which so many editors are on a mission to eradicate from manuscripts. Use the same verb three times within a paragraph, or repeatedly refer to your heroine’s ‘wavy, dark hair’ long after this characteristic has been established, and a good editor will flag this up. Some line editors will even highlight these words, making it even more obvious how often they appear—a sure sign you need to start reaching for synonyms.

But even ruthless editing can still leave your readers feeling like you’re rehashing ideas from previous books, whether you’re aware of it or not. So what can you do to freshen up your writing? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Change your writing routine

This might not be possible if you’re one of those people who, due to work or family circumstances, can only allocate a certain part of the day to their craft—but if you’re able to write full time, then do something different for once. Don’t shut yourself away in whichever room you use as your office; get out of the house and write. OK, so the writer with their laptop in the coffee shop has become a cliché, but it can actually do you good to be surrounded by other people as you write. Maybe you’ll see or hear something that inspires a story idea, and it never hurts to be reminded of the many ways people interact in the real world. You might worry that you won’t be as productive as usual, but I can never stress often enough that meeting an arbitrary word count every day doesn’t necessarily make you a good writer.

2) Try another genre

A lot of writers are very reluctant to write in anything other than the genre for which they have become known. They are afraid that by doing so they will somehow alienate their readers, particularly if they write anything other than contemporary romance. Of course, this suggests that perhaps it’s the readers who need to more flexible, rather than the authors, but that’s a whole other topic… However, you don’t need to go so far as to start (or stop, depending on where you’re coming from) writing male/male stories for a change of pace. There are lots of genres you can explore—ménage, Rubenesque, cowboy—that are hugely popular and don’t require you to go too far out of your comfort zone. Or you could try something that will take more research than you’d usually put in, like historical fiction set in an era you’re unfamiliar with. Who knows, you might even learn something…

3) Shake up your cast of characters

If your hero is always the alpha male who has more money than he knows what to do with and women perpetually falling at his feet, try writing about a guy who has to work hard, both for a living and to get the girl of his dreams. (Lord knows it’ll spare us any more dreary Fifty Shades clones…) If you write exclusively from the submissive’s point of view, try putting yourself in the dominant’s shoes (or thigh-high boots) for once. Switching the focus helps keep your writing sharp and forces you to think about a character’s motivation in a different way, which is never a bad thing.

 

Elizabeth Coldwell is Editor-in-chief at Xcite Books, where the titles she has edited include the National Leather Award-winning anthology, Lipstick Lovers. As an author, she has 25 years’ experience in the field of erotica, having been published by Black Lace, Cleis Press, Sizzler Editions, Total-e-bound and Xcite Books among many others. She can be found blogging at The (Really) Naughty Corner – elizabethcoldwell.wordpress.com.

 

 

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May 052014
 
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One of the questions beginning writers ask us most often is: “How do you know if you have captured the love in your characters’ lovemaking, and aren’t just writing a run-of-the-mill sex scene?” 12 writers offer their own thoughts and advice in this unique WriteSex Author’s Roundtable. Each Monday a well-known romance author will discuss the difference between a sex scene and a love scene, and show us how to charge an erotic encounter with romance. Look for personal insights and how-to tips from our participants in this first ever WriteSex Authors’ Roundtable. —Ed.

***

By Sarah Bella

Ultimately, to me, the difference between a sex scene and a romantic sexual encounter is the intention of the characters. Are they just in it to get their rocks off? Nothing wrong with that, if so—some of my favorite scenes are pure erotica. On the other hand, if they’re looking to bond and grow with their partner, that bonding and growth is where I find the romance.

While the intentions of the characters in an erotic scene may define its level of romance, their overall stories may or may not. You can have a pair of strangers meet in a club and still have a romantic scene in the back hall of said club. In that same vein, a committed couple can absolutely have a sexual encounter completely devoid of romance.

So, then, what exactly do you write into your sexual encounters to define, maintain or escalate their romance? Constant declarations of love? Paragraphs of purple prose? I tend to have my characters turn inward—to focus not just on the physical experience of sex, but all the emotions that accompany it: the closeness they feel, the tenderness, that chest-bursting happiness they can’t get enough of.

In my latest book, Megan’s Desire, Megan finally drops her defenses one night, allowing herself and her maybe-boyfriend Tate to reach each other emotionally in a new and powerful way. Physically speaking, the scene below is 100% sex, but because we are kept intimately apprised of everything Megan thinks and feels, we can see how her connection to Tate grows in those moments:

Megan opened her legs, soft, warm, need, filling her—taking over.  Her fingers traced the ropes of muscle in his arms.  The very nearness of him soothed some primal need inside her.  The maleness of him, meeting some unspoken need.

“You’re so beautiful like this, just waiting for me.” He pressed inside her; Megan relished the slow burn, the ache-quenching slide of him inside her.

He slid his knees beneath her butt and gripped her hips, plowing inside her.

Megan gripped the headboard above her, locked elbows saving her from a bed-induced headache.  The new angle hit everything she needed it to.  She hooked her legs around his waist, heels forcing him in deeper with each thrust.

Tate stared down at her with lust-filled eyes.  Pure, unadulterated emotion rained down on her.  Megan soaked it up, all his adoration, his passion, his belief in her.  He wore it proudly, sharing that secret part of himself with her.

The close, the deep, the very there of him shook her.  This was so far beyond anything she was ready for….

Megan isn’t just in the moment for an orgasm—her heart is broken and she’s looking for healing, for acceptance. She finds that perfection with Tate.

 

Happy reading, ladies and gents.

♥SB

Sarah Bella is a small town Minnesota girl who calls pop by its proper name – pop. She is a multi-published author of romance and erotica who writes both novels and short stories in the romance, mystery/suspense, paranormal and erotica genres.

She loves traveling anywhere south of the equator and finds that a nice dark microbrew can help get the creative juices flowing. When she’s not writing or traveling, you can find Sarah with her nose buried in a book.

Sarah lives in the small town she grew up in with her husband, three children, her cat and her dog.

Find Sarah on Facebook, and her books and stories at her Amazon Author page.

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Apr 292014
 
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One of the questions beginning writers ask us most often is: “How do you know if you have captured the love in your characters’ lovemaking, and aren’t just writing a run-of-the-mill sex scene?” 12 writers offer their own thoughts and advice in this unique WriteSex Author’s Roundtable. Each Monday a well-known romance author will discuss the difference between a sex scene and a love scene, and show us how to charge an erotic encounter with romance. Look for personal insights and how-to tips from our participants in this first ever WriteSex Authors’ Roundtable. —Ed.

***

by Margie Church

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

That’s the difference I see between sex scenes and erotic romance.

I’ve often started my books out with scorching hot sex between people who just met, but to be successful at romance writing you must create an emotional connection between the lovers. If you don’t, readers—who will have picked up your erotic romance novel in search of both those qualities, but find to their disappointment that it contains only the first—will hate the character who “gives in” to someone who has no apparent love for them, and they’ll hate the character who keeps coming back to take it. It’ll be impossible for readers to respect either character or understand why they care so little about each other.

In the opening chapter of The 18th Floor, Alexa and Sebastian have a blazing hot, chance sexual encounter. She’s been lusting after him for months. Little did she know he had his eyes on her, too.

The tricky part of this scenario was making sure Alexa didn’t appear to continue the relationship solely because she had the hots for Sebastian and he was the most adventurous lover she’d ever had—let alone appear seduced into a liason that would end as soon as Sebastian got tired of her. I had to make it clear after that first scene that Sebastian had a heart, and that he respected Alexa’s intelligence and autonomy.

When Sebastian eventually reveals he’s a Dominant, Alexa has to decide whether she wants to discover what that means or turn around and say goodbye. Sebastian makes it clear that he really wants to keep dating her, but that this part of him isn’t something he can just turn off. As their relationship continues, their honesty and visible care for each other makes it easy for readers to like them together—both in and out of bed.

Here’s an except that challenged me to build their emotional connection. It takes place the evening after their erotic meeting at work. Sebastian has called Alexa to confirm she’s going on a date with him that weekend. One comment leads to another and phone sex ensues.

From The 18th Floor by Margie Church:

He cleared his throat, and drew a long breath. “Strength. I have a sexy body with lots of great muscle tone. When I hold you, you’ll feel my power. You can see my stomach muscles ripple when I’m on top of you, between your legs.”

The comment made Alexa’s pussy throb even more. “Put some lube on your hand. I want you to stroke your beautiful cock.”

While she waited, Alexa went to the armoire to retrieve her favorite dildo. There’s no reason he should have all the fun. She slid the seven-inch toy from its silk case and licked the tip, anticipating the full feeling of it inside her.

His soft moan got her attention. “You’re hard now?”

“Yeah, very.”

“Tell me how it feels to watch yourself stroke your dick. Lift it up, show me your balls.”

“Tension…heat building in my balls…my stomach and thigh muscles are tight, like I’m getting ready to jump. I want some pussy.” He hissed, “I want yours.”

Goose bumps pebbled her flesh. Alexa opened a bottle of lube and spread some over the dildo. The light pink toy glistened in her palm. “I’m holding my favorite dildo. It’s all ready to slide in.”

“Are you standing in front of a mirror, too?”

“Yes. I’m leaning forward, spreading my legs. The tip feels cool. I’m so hot. So wet. I probably don’t even need any lube.”

“I wish I was there. My dick is pounding in my hand while I stroke it.”

“Fast or slow?”

“Slow and easy right now. Work that dildo into your pussy slow and easy, too.”

A sigh left her lips.

“What was that?”

“My dildo…all the way in. Feels so good but I wish it was your cock.” She nibbled her lip while she worked the toy inside her. The eyes staring back at her in the mirror were dark pools. Red stained her cheeks. She’d never played this game before and couldn’t believe how much it aroused her.

Sebi continued their erotic phone conversation. “I can feel my cock sliding deep into your pink slit until my balls rest snugly against your asshole. Baby, do you like your ass fucked? Have you ever?”

Her eyes closed as she envisioned his hard body beneath her, his dick stretching her sphincter. “Yes, I like it. Maybe you can fuck my ass while I use a dildo in my pussy. That would rock.”

“Bring your favorites on Saturday. I’ll make your fantasy come true.” Another low moan left his throat. “Spank your clit.”

Shock waves of pleasure made her walls tense around the toy and more difficult to stroke swiftly. “Makes me so wet. Play with your balls. I want to hear you come. I’m imagining you’re standing behind me. Your hips are slapping against mine as you pump into my wet slit. It hurts, and it feels so good. I’m gripping you so tight with my pussy. You can hardly move. I’m getting close.”

“I’m covered in your juices. You feel fucking amazing. You’re so hot inside. Your little pulses start around my dick. You’re getting ready for a big orgasm. I want you on your back so I can come all over your breasts.”

The reader can clearly see these characters like each other and enjoy pleasuring each other. It’s mutual. If they had no emotional connection, they wouldn’t talk this way. In fact there’s likely to be very little dialog. This is erotic romance.

***

Margie Church writes erotic romance novels with a strong suspense element, in keeping with her motto: Romance with SASS (Suspense, Angst, Seductive Sizzle). Never expect the same thing twice in one of her books. She tackles subjects and conflicts that aren’t typical in romances. Life is complicated. People are, too. Marrying those concepts makes her work fascinating to read. Margie was 2011 GLBT Author of the Year, and her book, Hard as Teak, was named 2011 GLBT Book of the Year at Loves Romances Café. She is well-known for her BDSM erotic romances as well.

Margie lives in Minnesota, is married, and has two children. Some of her passions include music, poetry, walking on moonlit nights, fishing, and making people laugh.

Keep up with Margie:
Margie’s website: Romance with SASS
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Amazon.com: Margie Church: Books, Biography, Blog, Au…

Visit Amazon.com’s Margie Church Page and shop for all Margie Church books.
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Jan 142014
 
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By Dr. Amy Marsh

If your writing feels stuck or you’re out of ideas, reactivate your curiosity and your creative juices by conducting a brief sex survey.

These can give you so much more than numbers—but only if you make sure every question includes an “other” section for open-ended comments. By inviting qualitative data, you’re sure to garner insights, feelings, and surprising facts about sexual practices and lifestyles. Choose a topic that’s unfamiliar or enticingly new to you, and you’ll be surprised by how much you can learn from a quick, ten-question survey. You might also be surprised by how much fun it is to collect data that no one else has ever seen!

I’ve used Survey Monkey to research everything from the sex lives of people with Aspergers Syndrome to objectum sexuals (people who form intimate relationships with objects). I’ve also studied people’s concerns about semen taste, beliefs about female orgasm, and most recently, the practices and attitudes of erotic hypnotists and their subjects. Some of these surveys have provided me with material for non-fiction sex columns, blogs, and journal articles.

This type of informal research can be a key part of my work as a sexologist—but it also has the potential to be an enormous creative boost to writers. There have been many times when just one sentence in the “other” box has revealed a key conflict or aspect of a sexual relationship, behavior or orientation; any one of these provocative comments could provide a story or character idea.

Let me show you what I mean. Here are a few examples of open-ended comments taken from my survey of objectum sexuals, later published in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality:

“My least successful relationship was one with a soundboard at a church. I was kicked out of the church for being OS because they claimed that I ‘had the soundboard in my heart, and not Jesus.’”

“We are very intimate in the bedroom, we spend a lot of time in bed together, but my pants usually stay on. Our intimacy is very above-the-waist, i.e. kissing, hugging, licking, etc.”

“I’m fascinated by steam locomotives since my earliest memories in different ways. So I can say, this is my oldest love…. I was fascinated by the machinists they are working together with the engines like a perfect team. Railroad is a world full of dreams and fantasy, I have identity with. It is a very complex and perfect world of different emotions.”

Objectum sexuality may not be your thing, but the above comments could certainly suggest many different kinds of erotic scenarios and stories!

When I conducted my semen taste survey, I was surprised to get responses from not just one, but three! people who identified as zoophiles. There certainly could have been a story or two there, however possibly not one that would be published or sold unproblematically on, say, Amazon!

Instead, consider the story trajectory suggested by this comment: “Good taste at beginning of relationship; bad taste now.”
Or just imagine using an evocative, specific detail like a “Dr. Natasha Terry sex shake recipe” sipped by two or more lovers. (I’m sure a good internet search will reveal the ingredients.)

It’s entirely possible, of course, to make up things like this—but what a bonus to find them just handed to you by an anonymous survey respondent!

A free account on Survey Monkey, with a ten-question format, can provide you with more than enough information to get your creative wheels spinning again. Survey Monkey has many question formats, so it is possible to ask several questions within a question, and to include the comment boxes.

On your first page, describe the survey and be honest about why you are conducting the it (e.g. “writer’s curiosity”). Be sure to add “you must be 18 or over” and warn respondents about sexually explicit questions or content. Make sure you also have a question that indicates consent (or not). Be sure to keep your survey completely anonymous and confidential, and let would-be respondents know this. Do not collect names or information that could be used for personal identification.

I recommend taking advantage of Survey Monkey’s design tutorials. You might also want to create a few practice surveys that you can take yourself, just to see how they work. If you feel comfortable about this, ask friends to take the practice surveys too, and get their feedback before beginning actual data collection. Tell them to create bogus responses—not real ones—because what you’re looking for here are design glitches. Later, delete the practice surveys and bogus responses. If friends want to take the real survey, ask them to NOT tell you about it. You want to preserve their confidentiality, too.

Once you’re ready to launch your survey, think about how long you want to keep it open for responses. You’ll also want to consider how to let people know about your survey (social media and internet networks are generally great for this).

Finally, once you collect your data and close your survey to data collection, read all of the individual surveys as well as the summary of responses. See what emerges for you by way of story ideas and character or setting details. If you like numbers, using filters and “compare” features can give you cross tabulations that might also suggest something of interest. Even demographics can be revealing and surprising when combined with other data.

I’ve only used Survey Monkey, but you might want to look at a few other online survey companies to get a feel for what is right for you with regard to price (pick “free” plans) and ease of use. If you chose a plan with a price, make sure you can cancel it after a month or after your data collection and analysis ends.

Have fun!

 

—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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Jan 112014
 
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By Jan Graham

There’s an old saying my grandmother used to use: a change is as good as a holiday. I’m not so sure about the truth in that statement at the moment because I’m on a holiday vacation and trying to write. It’s not really working for me.

I’m not sure what it is; perhaps the change of location, not being at my desk where I’ve trained myself to sit for hours each day and work or maybe it’s just to quiet here, surrounded by the sounds of nature rather than inner-city horn honking and hustle and bustle. The thing is, I’ve always told myself it would be easier to write if I didn’t have the city’s background noise distracting me, which seems to be a fallacy as well.

My choice of destination seemed perfect. I’m staying in a lovely home in the picturesque Blue Mountains of Australia. It’s quiet and serene, and the only noise throughout the day is the chattering of native birds. I had viewed my time away as more of a writing retreat than the traditional sight-seeing getaway a person imagines a vacation to be—and after five days away, that’s not proving to be the case.

I keep telling myself that taking time out to relax and do nothing is a good thing. I mean, we can’t write continually, at some point we need a break or we burn out. I’ve noticed, though, that I feel guilty not writing. This thought has been weighing heavily on my mind and I’ve started to ask myself why? Anyone in a regular job gets holiday leave, and I know from experience that when I had what’s often referred to as the evil-day-job, I didn’t experience any angst while taking time off. I never worried about the work piling up on my desk or whether I should go back to the office because I had work to do. So why should it be any different now that I write full-time?

It amazed me how many authors in writers’ forums and facebook groups commented, over the Christmas/New Year break, that it was difficult to make time to write amid family celebrations, travel, even vacations from evil-day-jobs which had seemed so promising with their string of relatively uninterrupted days. The challenge of writing during what might otherwise be considered “break time” appears to be a widespread phenomenon in the world of authors.

So it’s time to share the lesson I appear to be learning while tucked away in my mountain retreat:

I need to be nice to myself. I need time out to just chill and do the things I enjoy, like sitting in a comfy chair and reading or lying on the couch listening to music or watching movies. I’ve been taking long walks, experiencing my new environment, going out and meeting new people as well as catching up with friends I haven’t seen for ages. I don’t do those things at home. I try to tell myself I do but, in fact, taking time out for me is a rare occurrence. I sit and write, I occasionally go and visit with friends, but my main objective is to stay at home and work. I refuse initiations to social activities with the excuse that I’m working. Thinking about it now, I work seven days a week, with little time to experience everything else life has to offer. Even if I’m not writing, I’m thinking about it. I’m plotting, I’m promoting my work or I’m blogging. Most of what I do at home involves my work.

I really have turned into a boring creature ☺

The search for balance is an ongoing theme in my blog posts—balance between work, social media and publicity, focused writing and exploratory writing. That’s all well and good, but I need to add “kindness to myself” into the mix. I’m confident that if I do, in the end, it will only make me a better writer. Here’s why:

Inspiration for my writing often comes from meeting new people. I don’t write books about the people I meet or know, but interacting with others helps me with character development and many other areas of my story telling. Socializing offers a perspective that’s different from my own—and when you have multiple characters in books, you need multiple perspectives. I write contemporary erotic romance, so staying in touch with what’s happening in the world, what people think about current issues and what’s trending in society all add to the authenticity of my work. By locking myself away, I’m doing a disservice to myself and to my readers.

Having said that, time alone to do the quiet, solitary things I enjoy also gives me a writing advantage. If I’ve taken time out to be alone for a while, I’m more relaxed when I go back to the keyboard to work. If I spend that time reading, for example, I get to see the construction of a story from another author’s perspective. We all have a different voice when we write, and there’s an advantage to reading work written in a voice other than your own—again, it’s a new perspective.

The other thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been away is that taking time out gives me a physical advantage. At home, even with a carefully selected ergonomic desk, chair, keyboard, you name it…I often collapse into bed at night with parts of my body aching, I’m always readjusting my position as the day progresses, trying to ease an ache in my neck or arm. Over the last five days, I haven’t been plagued with sore shoulder and neck muscles, or aching wrists from constantly tapping away at the keyboard. At home my eyes often feel dry and sore—but here, they aren’t; I’ve given them a break from staring at a screen all day. Dare I say it…my body feels relaxed.

I don’t believe in New Year resolutions but I do believe in setting goals to improve your life, no matter what time of year it is. So my goal for 2014 is a simple one: aim to achieve balance in all things—not just a balanced work life, but a balanced life.

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Jan 032014
 
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By Marissa St. James

 

If you’ve chosen writing as a possible career, be prepared to be constantly challenged. Some challenges will be frustrating, and try your patience, but if this is what you really want to do, then the majority of the challenges you’ll face can only help you improve your craft. There’s a great deal to be learned about this medium of communication; in fact, you should never stop learning. The best thing you can do is read as much as you can. Mysteries, romance, science fiction…the genre doesn’t really matter. The goal is to read for pleasure—and while you’re at it, you’ll be learning a great deal about writing. You’d be surprised by the things you can pick up when you least expect to.

It’s also a good idea to invest in books on writing. Most books deal with the elements of building a story: character profiles, dialogue, point of view, setting, plotting, etc. Fewer of them address the technical side of writing—grammar, spelling, and punctuation—besides the usual reminders to check for typos. I do touch briefly on a couple of elements many writers have a hard time with in my book, Doing it Write: Putting the Final Polish on Your Manuscript.

This column deals with these technical aspects of writing. While it’s meant to be a guide for a final polishing, it can also be used to avoid mistakes while you’re writing—you don’t have to wait until your story is finished. My philosophy as an editor has always been to help a writer make their work the best it can be. I’ll be the first to admit I can be a very picky editor, but in the long run it’s paid off for others. I hope this information will help you as well.

 

Every story is made up of sentences, each one leading into the next. Sentences convey thoughts, and to be understood, every thought should be well constructed. Sentences convey action, emotion, detail and direct/indirect thought. They can be narrative or dialogue. We can express ourselves through our characters, breathing life into them.

Sometimes we’re in a hurry to write down our thoughts before they vanish into oblivion. This is when we forget about structure—and that’s okay, because once you lose that great sentence in your head, it’s gone forever. Your first draft is meant to get down all your ideas in some sort of logical order. The second draft is for making improvements, corrections and additions. A final draft is for polishing and refining. We’re going to deal with the second and final drafts, assuming your work will be done in three versions.

If you make a habit of writing proper grammar to start, it’ll cut down on the time you need to find and correct errors and typos. Such a habit is hard to establish since we tend to write the way we speak—but once enforced, you’ll find writing comes much easier to you.

One word of caution here… When you go over your manuscript, be careful not to over-edit. Too many writers end up editing their work to death. The final product may end up nothing like what you originally started out with.

To begin with basics, sentences usually come in three forms: simple, compound and complex.

 

SIMPLE: contains a subject, verb and predicate.

John stared at his wife.

It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Short sentences are best used to emphasize a point.

John stared malevolently at his wife. Mary ran.

Out of context, we don’t know what’s going on or how scared Mary is, but we don’t need a lot of words to explain her fear. The previous sentence says it all.

Keep the very short sentences to a minimum. Too many will make your work sound like choppy grade-school reading, and it eventually becomes annoying. You don’t want your book to become some reader’s ‘wall banger.’ Your best bet is to vary the length throughout your work.

 

COMPOUND: has more than one subject and predicate.

On the other hand, try not to make your sentences too long. Overly long sentences tend to contain too much detail, and by the time the reader gets to the end of it, they’re probably staring at the sentence and thinking, “Huh?” They’ve undoubtedly missed the point you were trying to make.

John flipped through the colorful pages in the magazine, then he tossed it on the table with the others.

There are two complete sentences in the above example. It can be broken up and a little more detail added, or left as is. If you’re going to leave it as is, then you’ll want to omit the pronoun ‘he’ since it isn’t necessary, except to add to the word count. (That’s another topic to tackle with a subsequent post.)

John flipped through the colorful pages in the magazine. He tossed it on the table with the others when none of the articles caught his interest.

Now we have a pretty good idea that John is bored. If you have a long descriptive sentence, try breaking it up into two or three smaller sentences. The description will be more palatable, and the reader will get more out of it.

The worst descriptions I’ve seen written are when a character steps into a room. The writer often thinks they have to describe every stick of furniture, every color, every texture. If the room is important to the story, then a complete description may be necessary for the reader to get a feel for it. The description can also be broken up to fit the scenes as needed. Here’s an example of too much detail in long sentences:

John stepped into the small office. The thick dark brown rug was a color match to the wall paneling which covered all the walls from floor to ceiling. The old oak desk was huge and took up the space in front of one of the walls. Behind it, was a comfortable looking high-backed leather chair that sat close to the desk in front of the hidden window. Covering the single window, dark velvet curtains seemed out of place. The only light came from a small lamp sitting on a cabinet in the corner of the room.

Here’s one way it could be handled to make it more interesting.

John entered the small office. The color of the thick rug seemed to creep up the walls to the ceiling. He felt as if he’d stepped into a box. It was hard to tell where the rug ended and the paneling began. The huge oak desk looked old, compared to the new leather chair behind it. John moved closer to the desk and looked up at the window. He resisted the urge to tear down the dark velvet curtains and let in some light. A small lamp gave off a soft glow in one corner, but cast more shadows than it lit the room. A feeling of claustrophobia overcame him. He stepped back, ready to bolt, but froze when he sensed the presence behind him.

The character’s reaction to the furnishings, and the room itself, add more interest to the scene. Sentence length and type is varied.

Another point you want to minimize is the use of prepositional phrases. ‘In the house,’ ‘out the door,’ ‘after the fact,’ ‘beyond the horizon,’ When too many are written within one sentence, it can set up a sing-song pattern that quickly becomes annoying. There are better ways to express what’s going on than in a series of prepositional phrases.

All the paths in the garden were lined with colorful flowers.

The garden paths were lined with colorful flowers.

Both sentences say the same thing, but the second one is more concise and far less annoying.

 

COMPLEX: uses clauses to add detail. The biggest mistake writers make, beginners in particular, is starting almost every sentence with a clause.

Dismayed by Mary’s frequent absences, John began making phone calls to locate her. Playing innocent, Mary’s best friend pretended not to know where Mary was. Taking matters into his own hands, John decided to hire a private detective.

The flow of the scene is quickly broken up by too often using clauses to start off sentences.

John was fed up with Mary’s frequent absences, and began making calls to locate her. When he called her best friend, the woman answered his questions without telling him anything. John slammed down the phone in a fury. There was only one way left to handle the situation—he had to hire a private detective.

Once in a great while, it is necessary to start a sentence with a clause to keep the flow going. When you get the hang of using clauses properly, you’ll develop a sense of their place within a story.

I should make mention here about sentence fragments. Like short sentences, they should be used very sparingly. A fragment is missing the verb, and is more like a long clause with no life of its own and a purely contextual purpose.

These three types of sentences are the basis of all writing, whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, office reports, or even letters. Learning these differences is half the battle.

This deal was worth a great sum of money to John’s company. He had ten minutes to get to his client’s office. When he finally arrived, the secretary glanced up at him. Too late.

 

From Marissa St. James’ Doing it Write: Putting the Final Polish on Your Manuscript, Copyright © 2006 PageTurner Editions, available at Amazon.com for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for Nook and iTunes for Mac-based devices. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Guest columnist Marissa St James writes sweet romance. Her books include Lady in Black and Other Tales of Paranormal Romance, The Legend and the Laird, Liberty’s Belle, and many others. Find them all and keep up with Marissa’s writings and doings at www.msjbookshelf.blogspot.com and www.marissastjames.blogspot.com.

 

 

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Sep 282013
 
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By Mykola Dementiuk

In many of my stories there is a character in some movie theater, watching a film and feverishly masturbating. At a certain point the character explodes in ejaculation and for all intents and purposes he actually is having sex, perhaps alone with himself—but sex out in the open and who the devil cares! Even (or especially) with the flickering lighted darkness surrounding him, he wants to be seen, as so many do. These men hover about in their anonymity, shielded with their overcoats, or simply ejaculate in their overheated pants and rush away afterwards. But I wanted to be seen. I’d just lower my pants and begin the heady manipulation that would take me away from reality. An entry into a Times Square/42nd Street movie theater was always just like that, someone jerking away as you were jerking away too. We were in the movie house for the same reason, wanting sex; if masturbating openly was the closest we got to it that night, that was fine.

Many of the tales in my books of short stories and novellas, particularly Times Square Queer, revolve around someone eventually masturbating, either in desperation to find someone to help the process along or satisfied to do it himself. And Times Square/42nd Street was ideal for that: the street was a total nirvana, sex permeated the sidewalks, you could sense the masturbating activity before you even entered the movie house—the rabidly horny sex, men with men, men with hookers or men simply masturbating. That’s why I loved the entire scene and for a few years I became a denizen of the movie house world and didn’t know of any other. Many of my stories, “The Wet Skirt”, “Eighteen Today”, “Trio at the Movies”, “The Masturbating Idiot” amongst many others, clutch the 42nd Street world the way you would hold on to your penis as you tried to ejaculate. The sensation was always that: Bliss! Peace! Perfection!

But it’s over now and a pity that 42nd Street and Times Square have been changed so much, their former atmosphere of hot steamy sex never to be reclaimed or recaptured again. It’s like watching some faded old Burlesk films, racy comedies of old Forty-Second Street lurching and speeding into prostitution, transvestitism, pornography, on and on, going headlong until it was slammed shut and disappeared from the scene, with only internet photographs to take its place. Now you can masturbate in the safety and privacy of your own little home through the comfort of computers. What rot! What a rip-off! But that’s what we have, just a Masturbating Idiot standing and doing it by himself in some imaginary movie house, stroking, stroking, stroking…

Gone are those days never to return. And I suppose that’s progress, but when in olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking…that’s when I feel my hardness growing stiffer and once again I’m back where I want to be, going Whump! Whump! Whump! huddled in some sleazy movie theatre with a slew of masturbating men surrounding me and each one fascinated and mesmerized by what they see on the screen, or what they imagine they see, as someone is looking and inching closer to a seat near them.

But when I write about that time, I recreate it in my head—and for the duration of the story I am back there. That is why, when I write, I often return to the lost era of Times Square’s queer culture of the 1970s–80s. In that sense, memories often inspire, infuse and set off my work. Does they ever do that for you? If not, next time you are stuck and don’t know how to get started, try recalling a magical, sexual moment in the past and see where the writing takes you.

 

Mick (Mykola) Dementiuk is a two-time winner of the Lambda Award, and his collection, Times Square Queer, was a finalist for the 2012 Bisexual Book Award. Visit him at http://mykoladementiuk.com/

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Jul 202012
 
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It always stuns me how many writers and aspiring writers don’t read, don’t read very much, or used to read but don’t read any more. This includes writers who have had some commercial success.

For commercially successful writers, the “excuse,” — as if they really need one, which of course they don’t — is often one of two things.

First, successful writers often say they’re simply too busy to read books that aren’t their own.

Second, when they’re working on their own fiction, anything they reed tends to creep into what they write.

I’m going to add a third reason I’ve discovered in my own years as a published writer: if you read one friend’s book, you feel like you have to read every friend’s books. When you have thirty friends who write 3-6 books a year, well, that’s enough to make reading seem like a chore just on its own. There’s a reason that many professional fiction writers I talk to say their favorite part of the work is “research.” Calling it “research” gives you license to read what obsesses you at the moment, instead of feeling obligated to read all those books you long ago told someone you’d get to eventually.

In any event, there’s no point in my badmouthing the reading habits of writers who are getting published regularly and/or getting paid for it and/or having a satisfying creative experience. I assume they’re doing something right — by which I mean something that works for them creatively.

So I’ll contradict my headline directly; you don’t have to do anything to write, other than write. You can write a novel without ever having read a novel; I’m sure there’s some jackass out there who’s done it and rocketed up the Amazon best-seller lists. But if you’re a beginning writer, ask yourself this: why would you want to? If you aren’t in love with books, why do you want to waste your time writing one of your own?

I see it this way: Writing is a bit like conversation. You know those people who talk and talk and talk and talk and talk, and never listen? The ones who missed the “conversational turn-taking” part of child development (it’s sort of a package deal with potty training)? The ones who blather on about stuff  they don’t actually know much about — or anything about — but it’s so much work to contradict them that you end up just staring blankly at them and/or faking a heart attack? The ones who  never let anyone else get a word in edgewise, or when they do let you get a word edgewise, you can actually see the clockwork thingies going tick-tick-tick behind their crazed, dinner-plate Michele Bachmann eyes as they plan their next mini-rant for whenever you quit talking?

Aren’t those people annoying?

If you said “no,” then maybe you’re one of those people who never tires of hearing his or her own voice. In that case, mazel tov and keep writing. It’s certainly a common trait of writers, in my experience, that we have shitty filters. Oftentimes conversational turn-taking isn’t our strong suit, so, okay…whatever.

But if writing and reading are like conversations, it’s not just “politeness” that dictates you should shut up once in a while and let someone else talk to you. It’s psychologically meaningful to experience the words of others. And if you’re the sort of person who likes to write stories, then the more stories you experience, the easier and more fun it will be to tell them.

One of my favorite writers, Lester Bangs, said something about speed freaks that applies even more to writers: “Anyone who talks that much has to be a liar or they’d run out of things to say.”

The thing is, when you’re writing fiction you’re starting by being a liar; if you’re not making stuff up then you’re doing it wrong. But there’s supposed to be a narrative truth shimmed underneath the wobbly table on which you’re building your house of cards. It helps if you have a regular and positive experience of what that satisfying narrative feels like.

If you can’t find time to read because you’re so busy writing…mazel tov. But when those words run out and you need to clear your head, don’t listen to the crazed, book-hating devil-hippies who tell you to do something dangerous like meditate. Don’t listen to your psycho, anti-intellectual fiend of a so-called “doctor” and hop on the elliptical trainer or the treadmill.

Not without grabbing a book first.

If you want to be a writer, all you absolutely have  to do is write.

But I can tell you from experience: you’ll probably enjoy it more if you also read.

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