Things To Avoid When Writing Erotica/Love Scenes

I've been lazy and not updated this blog for a while.

I'm not going to apologise, sometimes life just gets in the way and that's ok.

Instead I'll share a guest post I wrote recently for Our Write Side

It's a little guide for anyone who has trouble writing those naughty scenes that sometimes creep into their books. Check it out Things to avoid when writing Erotica/Love Scenes

Discipline

“I’ll write a book.”

You know, it sounds nice doesn’t it? Like something one does to pass the time. A hobby. A pleasure. Maybe for some people it may be just that. As easy as a walk in the park on a warm spring day. No stress, no pressure.

Only it isn’t that. Far from it. Most writers write because they are compelled to do so. Like some junkie drug addict, the need to write something is constantly pecking away at you until you obey.

Writing an entire novel is not a walk in the park. You can chug out page after page, chapter after chapter, but only if you have good discipline.

It is all too easy to make excuses not to write.

“I’m not inspired today,” we tell ourselves.

“I have writers block.”

“The dog ate my manuscript.”

That’s fine if you want to do that to yourself. Go ahead. Keep making those excuses. It won’t get the novel written though, so don’t come complaining to me when you’re three months down the line and no further towards your dream.

How do I do it? I push through those days when I don’t feel like writing. I might only knock out a few hundred words or so, but I write something. Every.Single.Day

It takes discipline, hard work and determination. The self-doubt is always there. The bad days will come and go. The only way to get past them is to write on regardless.

If you truly have a passion for writing then you can do this. If I can do this, (and I’m a generally lazy person) then anyone can.

The next time you find your hand wandering towards your phone or tv remote instead of typing words on your book, then stop. You can play on the internet after writing 500 words. You can carry on the lengthy text conversation with your friends after writing 200 words. You can binge watch The Walking Dead after writing another 2000 words. AFTER. Not before, not during.

Any excuse you may give is petty and pathetic. Do you want to write a book? Then stop giving in to temptation and go write it, because no-one else will do it for you.

Write on! 

GADZOOKS!

I had an interesting conversation recently. A friend of mine finished reading The Machine, and told me he enjoyed it.  He then went on to suggest that I delete every single swearword from the book because he disliked reading them…

I had to take a step back for a moment.

Said I to the man, “so you were ok with the murder, violence, torture, sex and rape… but not the swearing?”

“Yes,” he replied.

I think I might have bitten my tongue at that point.

Ladies and gentlemen, I do not write children’s books. My stories are not for the faint hearted. I (rather unintentionally) broach taboo topics in society within the framework of the plot and characters. They are violent, gritty and while not overly graphic, they are certainly unapologetic about portraying my characters’ lives through my eyes. And yes, they contain swear words.

I am a swearer. I could make a sailor blush with my profanity. Don’t come in the car with me driving if you dislike swearing or you will probably leave the journey feeling queasy. It is part of my world, and part of my voice and naturally seeps into my writer voice as well.

I get it, not everyone likes swears. People dislike the “f-bomb”… to those people I must say, please don’t read my books, they contain swearing, and no, I don’t care if you don’t like it, I will not remove it.

Just be glad I didn’t tell you to f off, the thought did cross my mind.

I am reminded of a great quote by the wonderful Billy Connelly-

“A lot of people say that it’s a lack of vocabulary that makes you swear.

Rubbish.

I know thousands of words but I still prefer ‘fuck’.”

 

There you have it people, the swears stay.

 

Write on!

THAT SCENE

Spoilers below ladies and gentlemen, be warned!

Something happened today. I made my book, The Machine, free for two days, and as a result I had hundreds of downloads and the thing skyrocketed to the number one slot on amazon. I wasn't expecting that. It's frightening to think that so many people now have this book sat in their e-readers waiting to be read. Since it was first published I've had many lovely reviews and comments on the book, but there is one particular part that seems to be divisive.

Let's begin by saying this is not a book for children. I made sure to put a note to say that, along with trigger warnings right at the beginning of the book so there can be no doubt. People of a delicate constitution should not read this book. People who cannot cope with stories that broach the subject of rape, should not read this book.

That said, there is no "rape scene" in this book. What happens is only ever implied and I wrote it that way for a reason. Oddly enough, people don't seem to have a problem with the suggestion of rape, what certain people have a problem with is what follows a short time after. Our lovely Larissa, and her mysterious passenger, Holt, have sex.

There are several reasons I included this, let's start with the physical issues. Larissa is artificially "enhanced" with tremendous healing capabilities from the exposure to the anthonium. As such, any physical issues her body would suffer from after the rape heal almost instantly. There is a suggestion also that she has enhanced ability to cope with extremely stressful situations as well - though this is never obviously stated. These elements do seem to be overlooked by those who don't understand the scene. Perhaps they don't understand the plot at all. Who knows?

Secondly, and most importantly, and in fact this is my main reason for starting this discussion as I feel it is important. There is a misconception that when a woman has been raped, she must curl into a ball and retreat from the world for an arbitrary amount of time. She must cry, and suffer and mourn her experience in an appropriate fashion. The moment a woman does something outside of that expectation then she is frowned upon. This is all part of the ‘rape culture’ that is being discussed heavily these days. Notice that the focus is still put upon the victim after the fact, the judgement is applied to her and everything that she did leading up to and leading on from that pivotal moment.

The reality, ladies and gentlemen, is that most women just get on with life. Life doesn’t stop because a woman has been raped. Yes of course there are repercussions, most people don’t go through something that awful without it affecting them somehow, (and it does affect Larissa) but I will always vehemently disagree with the notion that a person could not go on to enjoy a sexual experience after a rape. Some may be that deeply affected of course, but when you look at the sheer numbers of women who are victims of rape, doesn’t it seem absurd to suggest that all of these women simply stopped having and enjoying sex afterwards?

I’m no statistician. I can’t tell you how many women are raped each year and of those, how many stop having sex, and of those who don’t stop having sex, what the average amount of time that passes between a rape experience and a pleasurable sexual experience is. But we’re not talking about statistics. We’re not even talking about real life. We’re talking about a character within a book.

Now don’t get me wrong. If someone has suffered an ordeal in real life and struggles to read books that deal with that subject, then that is perfectly understandable. That is precisely why I put the warnings at the beginning of the book. I have no intention of purposely upsetting people.

Larissa is a character who is artificially enhanced physically and a strong-headed ass kicking woman mentally – even if she doesn’t seem like it at first. Yes, Larissa can have sex with Holt after she has been raped, and yes she can enjoy it. If you don’t like it, then that’s fine – this is not the book for you. Move along, thanks for stopping by.

I have no doubt that despite this message, a few people will read the book and not make it past that scene. They may leave bad reviews because of that scene. I’m expecting it, but most of all I think it is important that something like rape and all of the issues surrounding it be included in literature. The more we shut it out of society and shoot people down for talking about it, the more we perpetuate the issue.

I won’t ever apologise for writing that scene and the one that follows. In fact the more I think about it, the more convinced I become that it was the right thing to do. I’d be interested to know what other people think. Feel free to comment or ask me anything you like on the topic.

Best wishes

THE OPINION

“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are incapable of forming such opinions." – Albert Einstein

 

This week I have faced a new challenge in the world of an author. Opinions.

It has been said that opinions are like assholes, everyone has one, and all of them stink. Just so you know, I can see the irony in writing a blog on opinions – blogs in themselves are generally the opinion of the writer. I get it. But indulge me if you will as I have reached an important conclusion that matters to anyone who is just getting started in the literary world.

On Sunday I got a disappointing review. I felt a bit down about it (as I am allowed to do). On Monday I was subjected to a spot of bullying. On Tuesday a lovely lady told me I have a unique voice, and a fearless writing style. Less than six hours later I was told the technical aspects of my writing suck and I should take a creative writing course. Across all of those days I had a large group of people who were immensely kind and made me smile through it all.

A writer cannot win.

This sort of thing doesn’t seem to improve as you gain notoriety either. Look at JK Rowling who recently earned the ire of the Native Americans who didn’t like the way they were included in her book (this is the same group of people who frequently complain about never being included in anything).

When you open your work and yourself up to public scrutiny, then you are actively inviting in everyone, including the batshit crazy people who get off on trolling and launching personal attacks. There is no comeback for them, they have no notoriety, they can sit behind a computer screen laughing manically while they pick their noses and scratch the fleas in their groin and it won’t affect their sales or future because they don’t have one.

The author, on the other hand, is expected to take such things with a smile. Like water off a ducks back. Never mind that you spent years working hard on your book and invested your own money into putting out the best possible product that you can. Those things don’t matter to anyone but you. Who cares that your work is like your own child, and when you see someone say nasty things about it, it hurts and you feel like rushing to defend it? No, you’re not allowed to do that.

I’m new to this whole literary world, and I’m learning as I go. I am making mistakes left and right – but guess what? I have a right to do that. I have a right to fuck up, and then learn from it and correct my behaviour in future. That is the mark of an adult. People who go out of their way to attack me and be mean and a bully - that is the mark of a child.

Being a writer is a constant learning process. You never quite reach mastery, someone will always be on hand to point out a flaw, a minor imperfection in your work or your approach to marketing it. I am a far better writer than I was ten years ago, and a far worse writer than I will be in ten years’ time. I am the best writer I can possibly be at this point in time and to all those who think that isn’t good enough – ok, point taken, stick with me and I’ll get there.

I have been lucky enough to have a bunch of really good reviews on my books, and only one or two bad ones. Guess which ones have taken up most of my time and energy? It sucks, but I’m learning to let it go. I will always be happy to take objective criticism from someone who wants to help me learn and grow, but I think I’ll always struggle to accept the real nasties who get a kick out of leaving bad reviews for the fun of it.

For now, I have shed my delicate outer layer that ripped and tore to shreds at the beginning of the week and exposed the thick leather skin beneath. I won’t say its unbreakable, for surely if you were to stab at it repeatedly with a knife, it would suffer somewhat, but really for a person to go at someone with that level of intensity is much more a reflection on them than it is damaging to me.

Everyone is of course entitled to an opinion. Please remember, that I am also entitled to ignore those opinions, or even to tell the opinionated to stick it right back up the stink pipe from whence it came.

Beware new authors, it’s a nasty world out there full of vindictive jealous people who want to hurt you for no good reason at all. Thankfully, there are a far larger number of decent, kind people who will fight on your side and happily hold your hand through the dark days. Focus your energy on those people and you can’t go far wrong.

And to think, all this comes from writing a book.

 

Write on!

THE ART OF THE BLURB

I have recently been offered the opportunity to write blurbs for other authors in exchange for a fee. Now don’t get me wrong, I jumped at the chance, I mean who doesn’t want to get paid for their writing? But it got me thinking just why is it so hard to write a blurb?

To start with, let me explain, the blurb is that bit on the back cover of the book that gives you a little peek at what the book contains (or the short introduction paragraph that you see provided for an ebook). It is not a summary per se, and certainly not a synopsis (which is another evil piece of work). Its purpose is similar to that of the cover - to capture a reader’s attention and draw them in. To give away a little clue as to what awaits inside the cover. Therein lies the difficulty. When you have a full length novel, filled with amazing world building, detailed characters and an intricate plot, how can you be expected to extract just a tiny piece of that beautiful masterpiece to present as representational of the whole?

It’s hard, believe me. I’ve done it myself four times now and I sit there staring at the blank paper thinking “Why? Why must I do this horrid thing?” but there are a few tricks you can use to overcome the moment of despair.

1)      Pick a character (or a couple of your main characters) to mention and consider their traits - e.g. John B knew his habit of collecting newspaper cuttings of serial killers would get out of hand one day, little did he know just how bad a habit it was.

2)      Consider including a mention of the setting of your book – e.g. Sam J spent his life riding the rails on the steam locomotives

3)      Include a hint at a hurdle – a situation that your characters are faced with in the book

4)      Try to keep the blurb below five hundred words, any longer and you risk waffling with information that although no doubt important, is not pertinent to the goal of the blurb.

Also go and look up some of your favourite books on amazon and read the blurb that is presented for them. Figure out what works and what doesn’t and see if you can apply the same formula to your own work.

If all else fails, then you can always pay someone else to do the work for you… I can think of at least one person who offers such a service ;)

https://www.facebook.com/NiteOwlAuthorServices

 

Write on!

PLOTTING FOR NON-PLOTTERS

I do not plot.

That felt like some sort of confession, like I were admitting a guilty secret. Ok so it’s not as bad as telling you that I have some dead bodies stashed under my patio… I don’t… honest. Moving along.

I have tried to plot several times and found one main stumbling block in using this method, the minute I plot it stifles my personal creative process. It feels like the fun has been drained out of the writing when you set specific targets to reach. I enjoy writing for the same reason that readers enjoy reading – the ride and the journey. The discovery of secrets, the unveiling of character traits and the arc they all follow. It’s as entertaining to learn these things as a writer, albeit that the payoff takes a little longer due to the time taken to physically write things out.

If you are a writer who plots vigorously, then I applaud you. You can do something I cannot. This blog post is for those of us who have tried and failed or who just can’t even get their heads around the idea of plotting.

What I have found - being very far into two different series of books – is that the further I go along, the more I feel I need to plot (just a little bit). It’s very easy to lose track when you’ve built a complex world full of rich characters who all have separate agenda’s, so for me, there comes a time when I have to make a bit of a plan.

It’s a lot like Russian dolls. You start with the big picture, you know where you are up to this point and you may have a general idea of where you’re going. Plotting the journey is simply a case of putting aside the big doll and picking out the various smaller dolls, painting them bright colours until you get to the very smallest of details. Once you have worked down to the small level all you have to do is start packing it all back together again.

For me, I start with a new document and a set of bullet points. I will share some of the actual notes that I had on my new book The Pirate by way of example:

·         Have Holt explain his affection towards Rebecca

·         Bring Imago back

·         Walk through the jungle

Now these are very basic notes of things I wanted to achieve. I added to the list as the story progressed and crossed things off when items were completed to my satisfaction. It was not extensive plotting but it served a purpose. Now I’m up to book four of the series I’m finding my simplistic approach needs expansion and I have tried to do the full on chapter by chapter plot approach. You know what happened? I stopped writing it afterwards. Now I will get back to it – I need to get back to it – but plotting took all the fun out of it. It’s like writing out your own list of spoilers.

My advice to those of you with complex stories who aren’t plotters but you feel the need to do something to hold it altogether, try the bullet point list to start with and work your way up from there. I believe you can still call yourself a ‘pantser’ even if you do this, we’ll just keep it our little secret ok? Like those bodies…

I kid.

 

Write on!

The Pirate

I'm letting someone else do the work today as I'm off to get a lovely tattoo so I don't have time to write a blog post, (yes I'm opting to have someone spend hours sticking a needle into my flesh repeatedly over writing... yes I'm odd)

Anyway, I have had the loveliest early review of The Pirate. Check out this blog and all the nice things they said:

https://storiesforcoffee.wordpress.com/2016/02/17/the-pirate-by-e-c-jarvis/

 

 

You can preorder your ebook copy of The Pirate here, 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01BO319EW

 

Themes

I recently completed a five thousand word short story for an anthology. I used to only write short stories until last year and since then I’ve really only written novels so it was interesting to go back to writing shorts. It is certainly a different discipline, you have to cram everything in, keep the interest, build character and have a well-rounded story in but a few pages. Something I’ve noticed in short stories that take them from being merely a glimpse into a small scene and turn them into a more complete story is theming.

By this, I mean when an author introduces certain themes in from the very beginning and subtly keeps them up throughout, it helps to tie the story together. For example, the short story I just completed was about a fireman (the guy who stoked the fire of a steam engine) who is on a journey which ends with him flying off on the back of a dragon. Throughout the text I have several themes in place. The colour black – the fireman is coated with soot, the people on the train are all dressed in black and the dragon is a black beauty. Also the theme of fire is prevalent though not profuse. Finally there are themes in dialogue, the instructions that the engineer barks at our hero at the beginning of the journey are the same words the fireman uses to command the dragon at the end.

Now I’m not saying that I’ve written the best piece of literature in the world here, but I’ve had good feedback from it, and I’m as sure as can be that the theme’s therein are a large part of its success. The trick is to include themes without making them obvious. You can’t simply keep repeating one concept, themes need to be weaved into the narrative subtly, they need to be seamless to work.

You can take this approach and apply it to novels as well, keeping themes spread throughout a book helps to tie one chapter to the next, one character to another and to bring the whole book together. A good example of themes in books – specifically in character – is the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, drugs and alcohol are consumed frequently by our hero. The theme of justice through use of intelligent deduction rather than heroic muscle power, Holmes does not rush around town beating up the bad guys, he outwits them at every turn.

Alternatively, if you prefer a more modern example then let’s look at Harry Potter. Arguably the largest themes in the books are love, family, and death. For a more subtle theme, consider that none of the Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers last more than one year in their post.

Themes are important in stories and the very best writers will include them without even knowing they’re doing it. It is easy to go overboard though, so take heed.

Write on!

The Underdog Genre

When I began writing my erotic romance book,  I started it for no reason other than I had this story in my head that wouldn’t go away. I viewed it simply as an exercise in writing with no intention of writing a whole book, let alone a series, and certainly wasn’t considering publishing. Well here we are several months later, the first book is out, the second is half way done and the series will be a trilogy – this damn story just will not go away.

What I have learnt since embarking on the next phase after the first draft was completed – you know the phase no-one tells you about, the networking, the marketing, et cetera – is that erotica is generally looked down upon by the literary elite. I tell my authorly friends that I’m publishing an erotic romance and watch their noses screw up in disgust. I know why. There are lot of badly written books in the world, especially when it comes to erotic works. It is very easy to write a bad erotic book with one dimensional characters (and that’s being generous) and a non-existent plot. Add to the fact that erotic books – in spite of having a humongous audience – are still seen as a guilty pleasure, a naughty taboo, something people just don’t admit to reading. Most writers who do publish erotica do so under a pseudonym. So for me to stand up and proudly announce that I’ve written one and stuck my name on it in big letters, people look at me like I’m mad.

But guess what folks? I’m not. I approached this book as with any other. I began first and foremost with the characters. I’ve said before that the thing readers connect with in a book is the characters. Not the plot, not the worldbuilding, not the situations – the characters. I didn’t even start to think about sex (even though there is a sex scene right at the beginning of the story), until I knew a lot about who my starring people were. Then followed the plot, which is born from the characters and their needs and desires, then the worldbuilding and so on. The sexy parts of the story are entirely relevant to the plot. This – I hope – is what takes my work, and any other good erotic story, and sets it apart from the plethora of ‘bad’ erotica out there.

Additionally, my approach to the actual naughty bits was considered. I avoided the overly graphic descriptions, any that you might spot are sparsely scattered and carefully placed. You can write erotica without being vulgar. Neither do I sugar coat it, I call a spade a spade, nobody gets ‘deflowered’ the sexy parts are sexy.

Am I still glad to have stuck my name on it? Absolutely. I stand by the work. I’m not ashamed of it in any way shape or form and if you think I should be then you are the one with the problem, not me.

Here’s to good erotic literature. It is looked down upon, sneered at and thought of as the underdog genre. Pushed to the darkest corner of bookshops (if at all) and condemned as poor writing for horny housewives by literary snobs who secretly like a good hard hump just as much as anyone else. Don’t discount erotic work without first reading one of high-calibre, and if you don’t know where to start, I can make a good recommendation ;)

Check out the look inside feature and see if you get hooked…

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01FCAVCQI

Write on!

JOB COMMITMENT

Do you, author, take this concept – writing – to be your future career? I now pronounce you doomed to spend every waking moment dreaming about writing, wishing you could write and complaining on social media about being unable to write.

There is a huge difference between writing as a hobby, being a ‘casual’ published writer and being a full-time professional writer.

I have yet to reach the last of those positions but I have gained a large number of friends who fall into each of those categories and from speaking with them and doing a bunch of research I have narrowed down a couple of things that can help to move a person from hobbyist to professional. So here we go:

Writing is a commitment

The degrees to which one needs to commit vary, but, as with almost any other trade, you won’t see results without putting in the effort. You cannot hope to have success on the back of just one book. It may work for a select few, but for the rest of us being prolific is the best chance for making a success. You wrote one book? Great, now write two more, and so on. You don’t get to rest up after the first small success, you have to push and push. All day, at every free moment. When you’re not writing, you should be researching – building marketing techniques – networking – looking up publishers… e.t.c. Sound like hard work? Guess what sweet cheeks, it is. Look at the successful writers in the world, did Stephen King stop after the first success, or did he keep writing and releasing books? JK Rowling was working on the Harry Potter series for a good chunk of her adult life – and still is. You don’t get to kick back and wait for the royalty monies to roll in or you will fade into obscurity. Writing is a lifestyle choice, not an easy route to financial security. You can only get so far on half-assed effort. Success comes when you fully commit and never back down and even then there is no guarantee. You have to first write for a love of writing.

Product quality is key

I can categorically tell you that writing is not a ‘get rich quick’ profession. You can’t simply spew verbal slurry onto a page and then doodle a book cover and hit publish – well technically you could do this, but you won’t make any money from it. You are competing with millions of other books in existence. In order to stand out in the crowd you need to have a polished product. This involves investment in both time and money. A book must be well edited. A cover must be eye-catching and appealing. The blurb must be enticing. People will make a snap decision about whether or not to purchase your book based on these key things so if your book is lacking you will not make a sale. If you’re not self-publishing and are going for a contract with a publisher then these elements are still important (save for the cover). If you can’t afford to splash out on editing or cover art then you can still publish regardless but be prepared for poor reviews and low sales.

I still hold onto the dream that one day I might sell enough books to quit my job and write full time, but I have already committed my mind to the task. There’s nothing wrong with writing as a hobby, but when you chose to take it to another level it’s an eye-opening experience.

Write on!

WRITERS BLOCK?

First blog of 2016 and I’m rolling out the big guns. This “issue” has affected virtually every writer who has ever existed at some point in their writing experience. It’s upsetting, distressing and can leave you in a rut for months if not years.

Do I have a solution?

Not directly, BUT, I would like to offer a different perspective. Thinking about it a different way has helped me to get through these moments a lot quicker.

The majority of time wasted in writing involves us making a decision.  I came to a full stop the other day when I had to name a new character. I wasted over an hour trawling through my facebook friends names and baby names and name generator sites until I got the answer. That’s a whole bunch of time wasted on one small issue. It would have been easier to stick a placeholder in and keep on writing.

Bigger decisions need a different approach. Consider you have put character X and Z into situation A and we want to move them to situation B. A and B might be a universe apart physically and/or conceptually, so the journey between the two needs to be seamless. The trouble comes when we don’t know how it happens. So we sit and stare at the screen and then go waste time on social media whining about writers block. None of which is going to help you fix the problem.

If you’re a plotter, the answer is easy, just keep writing down options and ideas until you find the one that fits best and then go write it.

For me, the only way I get out of this is by forcing myself to write. I’m not much of a plotter. I’ll make vague notes about certain key points that I want to hit over the course of a book, but the rest is pure flow. The solution is virtually the same, stop worrying about the how and just start writing. If the first thing you try doesn’t work then don’t be afraid to delete and start over. Frustrating as it may be, it’s part of the process, a necessary evil.

Once you know WHAT you’re writing, the block will pass.

 

Write on!

2015 – QUITE A YEAR

Twelve months ago this website didn't exist.

Twelve months ago, I didn't exist as an actual writer – I was merely a concept, someone who wrote a bit now and then. Now look what’s happened.

It’s strange the twists and turns life throws at you, but it’s true that you get back what you put in. Writing is hard. Writing novels is a commitment and the only person who can truly keep you on track is yourself. Life will get in the way, all day, every day. Distractions, frustrations, setbacks and utter disasters. But like anything, the only way to get through is to push on, carry on regardless. To open up that word document, or scrivener file, or pick up the pen and continue putting words on the page. Some of them suck. Others may be great. Only one thing is for sure, if you don’t write, then you don’t have anything.

In the last year I have written four novels, published one, the others are all in the pipeline. Considering I had no experience of any of this a year ago, I like to think of that as a success. But it doesn’t end here. You want to know the secret? I just kept writing. No matter how tough things got, no matter how much I hated what I had written, no matter how hurt I was when life got me down, the writing remained a consistent occurrence every-single-day.

So if you have something that you want to achieve in the coming year, be it writing or any other endeavour, my only piece of advice is to keep at it, because if you quit then you lose.

Best wishes for 2016

And write on!

KEEPING IT FRESH

My current work – Desire and Duty was intending to be a one shot novel. The Machine was also originally just one story. When I got half way through Machine I realised the story couldn’t be contained to one book and the series will probably expand to a fourth. Now I’m near the end of Desire and Duty I think this will be a series too. Writing a series of books is great, you get to revisit characters over and over and put them through new trials and tribulations. The problem is how to keep it fresh.

Writing is not a restrictive process. The only limit is your imagination. Rules can always be broken provided there is a need to do so to further the story, the trick comes with making changes appear subtle and not falling into the trap of looking like an author who made up something to get out of a rut. It also helps if you don’t rush to put out the first book too quickly, so when you introduce new ideas in book two or three, you can go back to book one and make small adjustments and hints at things to come later. That leads to a more seamless transition and the readers will be more accepting of the new things later on.

For example, in the Machine the character the Cleric and his illusory skills were a very late addition to the story. He ends up being very important at the end and in the following books, but there was no mention of him for at least two thirds of the book. So I went back over and added him into some beginning scenes just in the background, never really doing anything, but just a presence with a hint of something different and interesting about him.

If any of you are working on a series, then I’d love to know your thoughts on how you keep it fresh or what your tricks are for introducing new ideas/characters/concepts into a well-established world that you’ve created.

And because it’s that time of year, Merry/Happy Christmas (or whatever doesn't offend you) and Happy New Year. Let’s hope for great things in 2016. xx

Write on!

DEBILITATING SELF-DOUBT

A lot of writers are introverts. I speak as one of them – in the extreme (no offense but I much prefer my own company to that of almost everyone else on the planet save for two special people and my cat).

It’s an interesting trait of introverts to be very self-aware. It’s almost a disability in some respects, you become conscious of yourself at all times, you give pause to the myriad of possible outcomes for each choice you make, especially in conversation, to the point where you end up saying nothing because you can’t decide on the most suitable comment. Underpinning this is a fear. A fear of failure and of judgement in the negative. Add an unhealthy dose of anxiety and occasional severe depression and you end up with an interesting cocktail of a psyche. It’s a wonder I manage to achieve anything sometimes.

Picture this

Someone asks you how your day was-

My extroverted friends will say something like this: “great thanks! I achieved loads and had a good chat with a friend for hours, she told me she’s pregnant isn’t that wonderful…”

The introvert will run through an internal analysis: (internal musings) “my day was mediocre, nothing much happened. I can’t say that because it will sound dull, but I don’t want to make something up because I won’t come up with something believable and then I’ll have to remember the lie. I could mention the fact that the coffee machine is broken but they may assume that by me mentioning it, that I was in some way responsible for it, so I’ll just forget about that.” - an uncomfortable silence fills the space between the questioner and the introvert until finally they manage to say “fine thanks.”

Why am I mentioning this? Because that state of hyperawareness and over-analysis is pervasive. Especially when it comes to writing. We read and re-read and doubt, and judge and condemn our own work with reckless abandon. It’s never good enough. After all, how can someone who can’t even engage in a casual conversation without bringing themselves to the brink of a meltdown, possibly write anything of worth?

I’m a published writer. I’ve had inexplicable success with my writing, and yet I still doubt my ability. I still read what I wrote yesterday and think it’s awful and wonder why I bothered. That self-doubt is debilitating and depressing and the spiral continues until we either give up or learn to ignore it to some extent.

Of course, I’m sure the rare breed of extroverted writer does this too, so if that’s you, please don’t think I’m excluding you. Oh dear, now I think this whole blog post is not good enough, people won’t like it and they’ll think I’m talking shit. And they’ll be right because I do talk shit. I should just give up this whole thing…

Write on, it’s the only way to escape your own craziness for a time.

 

 

HOT AND BOTHERED

Ok, let’s talk erotica.

Book three of the Blood and Destiny series has been ceremoniously shoved in the hands of the publisher.  So, today I’m picking up on my partially written erotica story. It’s a fantasy set in a made up version of the Victorian era in a world called Kienia. We follow Lenora, the Emperor’s wife, as she embarks on a quest to get knocked up after realising her husband is plotting to bump her off because she hasn’t given him a child (of course he doesn’t think for one minute that he could be the problem). Doesn’t sound like a very romantic premise for an erotica story does it?

It’s different, granted, from the myriad of erotica books out there. The knock off versions of 50 Shades, the repeating themes of a dude who suffered some trauma leaving him unable to love until he finds this one special girl and blah blah BORING.

 I wanted (as ever) to write something a little different. A story from the woman’s perspective where sex is arguably, her only tool against oppression. It’s about a young woman learning the boundaries of her sexuality. A woman in a male dominated society where the place of the woman is simply to breed and look pretty. Naturally she is far more than that and so she embarks on a red hot journey to regain control of her life, and along the way lots of hot and horny things will occur to get your blood boiling.

Will it sell well? I don’t know and I don’t care. I don’t write to make sales, I just write for the love of it. I also feel it’s good to have a different perspective. The market is flooded with repeating tales because people write what sells. There’s no integrity in that. Did I just say an erotica book can have integrity? Sure, why not?

Am I writing to pleasure myself? (pun intended). Naturally, if one writes a comedy and doesn’t find it funny then it will not be funny. If one writes a drama and doesn’t think it dramatic then it isn’t. So it only makes sense that one should find oneself all hot and bothered when writing an erotica, otherwise you’re doing something wrong.

Underpinning all the sexy scenes my focus is on the two most important elements of any book, character and plot. I’m enjoying writing it and I hope the readers will enjoy it twice as much. Here’s to whatever floats your boat or gets your blood pressure up, and never look down on an erotica novel, they sell well for a reason ;)

Next week I may tease you with a section from the book, but only if you’re good.

 

Write on!

DETAILS AND COMPLICATIONS

You know what I most often get stuck on when I’m writing? Details. I don’t mean details within a scene, how it looks or what’s going on. I mean thematic and plot details. Allow me to clarify with an example:

character (a) has problem x, y, and z,

character (b) needs to do 1, 2, and 3,

character (b)’s item 2 conflicts with character (a)’s problem x and z

if I allow character (b) to achieve item 3 then that will screw up problem y for character (a)

This is an oversimplified version of what I’m talking about, but you get the gist.

Now, I know there are programs in the world that have been designed with issues such as this in mind, that writers can use (*cough*, scrivener, *cough*) but I don’t need/want a computer to resolve things like this for me. I have always simply done it in my head. That was all well and good for a short story, novella or even one whole book. As I near the end of the full length trilogy, it’s becoming trickier to keep a tight handle on everything.

That’s the thing that plagues writers, we introduce all these elements into our stories, all these layers of conflict which makes for an entertaining read (we hope) but are a nightmare in reality. It’s like having a bunch of beautifully crafted kites in the air at one time while a hurricane blusters past and you try in vain to not let your strings cross and keep all those creations from crashing down into a tangled mess. It’s exhausting, frustrating and sometimes depressing.

What’s the solution? I don’t have a simple answer I’m afraid. I tackle it by doing frequent re-reads, going over and over what I’ve already put in place to ensure I remain consistent. Sure, an editor should be able to pick up on places where a writer misses something or makes a mistake, but I don’t like the idea of handing off responsibility for that to someone else, that’s just sloppy and lazy in my opinion.

So, if you’re a writer then feel free to share your advice on how you tackle such complications in writing in the comments, I'd love to hear other peoples approaches.

Write on!

BACK TO FRONT

I’ve been struggling with a chapter in book three for weeks. It’s not like me to get so stuck. I know the action that I want to happen, but for some reason my brain has stopped effective communication with my fingers. I think there’s some kind of war going on between them that they haven’t told me about. It’s like having two naughty children who have declared each other mortal enemies over some small spat and there is just no talking to them.

I’ve tried it all

– I’ve ignored the book for a few days hoping I can come back to it refreshed

– I’ve physically forced myself to write even though I know the words are awful and will need a heavy edit

– I’ve tried reading a new book to see if that will spark the imagination.

None of it has helped.

I don’t want to call this writers block, because as I said before, I know what to write, I know what happens in the scene/chapter, I’m just struggling with the ability to write.

Then I had a mini breakthrough. A small nugget of character dialogue popped into my brain and I know precisely where it belongs, right at the end of the chapter. So I wrote it, leaving a big gap between the linear parts that are done and the bit I’m working towards. All I have to do is fill in the stuff in-between. Now I have that goal to work towards it feels as though a fog has lifted and as soon as I have the time to focus on it properly (preferably without being bleary-eyed from a lack of sleep), I know I’ll be able to move on.

So next time you’re stuck, try the back-to-front approach. Write the end point of a scene/chapter/entire book and with any luck it may clear the miasma of ineffectiveness.

Good luck

Write on!

NANO

Start by doing what’s necessary,

then what’s possible;

and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

Saint Francis


NANO

(Technically NANOWRIMO - National Novel Writing Month)

What a novel concept (laboured pun intended). Tell everyone who considers themselves to be a writer on any level to write a fifty thousand word book in the space of a month. Simple.

Right now there are thousands of people obsessing over word counts every day. They do short ‘sprints’ – five minute writing sessions where the aim is to just get words written. They pat each other on the back for every day they manage to write 1,666 words or more, and commiserate when the target is missed. The goal is quantity over quality and it is neither a right nor a wrong approach to writing, but it is quite unique.

The main goal is to get into the habit of writing every day. It’s a tricky thing to do, even harder than you realise. Writing should be a habit, like picking your nose or biting your nails. It should be something you do without thinking about doing it and the only way something becomes a habit is by repetition.

Am I participating in nano? No. I’ve tried several times and “won” once or twice but it just doesn’t work for me. I’m trying to make a career of writing, therefore my goal is to write as many words as possible, every day, all year round. I don’t work well to arbitrary deadlines. I like to edit as I go, I also like to write something of reasonable quality on the first draft and that’s hard to do when you’re focussing on just bashing out the words as quickly as possible.

But I don’t deny that it is beneficial for some. Cathartic even.

When you think about the idea of writing an entire book, start to finish in the space of a month, it seems impossible.

Is it necessary for a writer to participate in Nano? No. Is it possible? Of course. If you try and fail, you’ll at least have something, every word written is a step closer to an actual book, and a publishing contract and success. Ultimately that is a secret dream for most of us.

So to all you nano’ers, I say good luck, write on.

To all fellow non-nano’ers, I say good luck, write on!

EVIL BRAIN

I had a great idea for a blog, then something came up, life happened I guess and because I hadn’t written my idea down POOF it was gone. But thanks to my lovely brain, I have this little remnant of a reminder. I remember that I had an idea, I just have no idea what the idea was. It’s like some metaphysical taunting thing that my brain does to me on some subconscious level. No matter how hard I concentrate, the golden nugget of wonder just won’t come back.

Most writers have a sort of love-hate relationship with their brains. Some days your incredible brain gives you oodles of good dialog; it unlocks some great plot or can even come up with an entire epic story concept. Other days you’re lucky if you manage to get your underwear on the right way around. Why is this? Who knows.

What I do know is that I really need to start paying attention when I come up with ideas and no matter what, I need to drop everything and write that shit down, because otherwise my evil little brain will forget all about it then laugh at me while I pitifully attempt to think of it again. If you’re a writer, then I can offer this advice to you to. Whatever it is, no matter how small, write it down.

 

Write on.