“Ping!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile I was patting myself on the back last week for having a Good Excuse ™ for not writing, and the resulting blog post hid the fact that I was a bit panicky about not writing, I was unaware my brain had sifted into a different mode.

Yes, I was right in the middle of a fight scene.  Yes, it was THAT fight scene: the one with the inappropriately erotic words snuck into it.  I was also working on the second draft of another short story, where I tackle the nearly illegible pen and paper scribbles and try to type them into a coherent story.  Both are highly creative forms of writing, at least for me.

And they fell flat.  Just gone, and hardly missed in the crazy prep for an anime con.  When they didn’t come back on my first normal day for writing, I panicked a bit.  Truthfully, a LOT.

I could feel them fizzing, or burbling, like a  warm pot on the back burner of a stove, waiting for the right time to have a last-minute ingredient added.  I’ve felt this sensation before, so I was soothed, because it comes back, the creative side of writing, when it is ready, and not a damn minute before.  But that still left me stuck in front of blank pages…

Until I realized I had done something unusual to the novel that I laughingly refer to as my Work-In-Progress, despite the fact that I haven’t been able to stand the sight of it in nearly a year.  I had been re-reading it in the evenings, to unwind, instead of my to-read pile.

And it’s rough, and I have made my usual mistakes, and I’ve made eighteen pages of notes for changes over the past year, but I still love the story, and I’m ready to work on it.

You know, being a writer would be a lot easier if we got some kind of notice when our brains sifted to another mode.  I didn’t realize I was IN editing/revision.  There should be some kind of “ping,” or spider-sense, or notice hammered to our front door.  Instead we are suddenly swimming against the current, and struggling.

I’m better prepared for the task, this time, due to research and time spent working on smaller projects.  It seems a less insurmountable mountain, shrouded in thick clouds.  I can at least SEE what I need to achieve.  My intention is to have a ready manuscript for either agent shopping or self publishing by the end of the year, if not sooner.  Time will tell if I am up to the task.

Happy writing, editing, revision, or whatever!

 

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The Low-Budget Writing Program: Part 4 When the Manuscript Goes in the Garbage…

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When the manuscript is going to the garbage can, what do you save?

I’ve been lucky enough to have writer friends who will loan me books they think will be helpful to me. It’s amazing how timely these incidents can be. My observations of synchronicity in my own life make me more aware when my instincts tell me to do things–random things–even when I don’t know why.  Even if I will never know why.

So, I am going to insert a passage from a book I’ve just read, and I’m not going to tell you who the author is, or what the title is, yet.  Just play along, as if it’s your manuscript…

On impulse, I held up her manuscript.  “Okay,” I said.  “We both know there’s a problem and we don’t know how to fix it.  Let’s pretend for a minute that I’m going to throw this manuscript into the garbage.”

She leaned forward in her seat, hands gripping the arms of her chair.  I dropped the manuscript onto the floor beside me.

“It’s gone.  Into the garbage.  You’re never going to be able to write it now.  You’ll never see the characters again.  I want you to think about that.”

I could feel her thinking.

“If you could reach in and pick out just one part of that story, just one thing you don’t want to let go of, what would it be?”

Did you come up with anything?  Instinctually, did you grab for something in your own WIP?  I sure did. Hold on to that thought.

The book I got that from?  “Writing Romance” (Self-Counsel Press, Bellingham, WA 1997) by Vanessa Grant.  It’s written in the workbook style and full of helpful information, and I have found it far more useful than I thought I should.  Since it is nearly twenty years old some of the information is outdated because publishing and the internet has changed, but the Romance genre still has a lot of the same expectations.  Vanessa Grant has a soothing but insightful way of picking apart what makes a good, satisfying story.  She cautions, throughout her book, that anything not working for the entire story must be cut.  (My Sci-fi Romance has some issues I can’t afford to ignore.)

But tucked into that genre specific writing book was THAT little gem.  The Vanessa Grant Garbage Can Test.  Brilliant.   There is a formal exercise included in the book, but I found the narrative  of the original incident far more helpful.  Since my blog is geared for newer writers, like myself, I couldn’t help but pass on that little bit of insight.

WHY are you writing your particular story?  You need to know.  If you lose what is important to you, how can you hope to make it important to a reader?  Anything that doesn’t serve the core of the story will be cut out (and filed away for another story).

Anyway, my own copy of this book will go into the permanent collection of my after-the-rough-draft revision guides.  The rest of the books in that helpful collection are in this article, safely tucked next to the rescued manuscripts that took part in the above nerve-wracking photo shoot.

Back to my revisions.  Good luck with your own WIP.

The Low-Budget Writing Program:

  1. Butt in Chair
  2. The Monster in My Manuscript
  3. Take Over the Literary World!
  4. When the Manuscript Goes in the Garbage…
  5. Fear is the Mind-Killer
  6. Grammar and Punctuation and Bears! Oh, My!

“What if?” Genre and the Storyteller

“What if?”

“What if dragons existed?”  If you are a writer, you have probably written Fantasy.  “What if we could genetically engineer dragons?” Now you’re edging to Sci-Fi.  “What if someone was secretly making dragons?” Sounds like a Mystery.  “What if they killed to protect that secret?” Ok, a Murder Mystery. “What if that dragon was also part human?”  Paranormal.  “What if the chip implanted in the dragon’s brain controlled the change?” Cyberpunk.  “What if it was funny how it was always the worst timing?”  Humor.  “What if I fell in love with that dragon-human?”  Romance.  “What if the sex was…”  Ok, now were looking at Erotica.  (Somehow, I always end up there.)

“What if?”  The great question every writer has the urge to answer.  I think most people have that question on their mind at times, but it is the storyteller who picks at it, explores it, turns it inside out and upside down. The medium may change; keyboard, paintbrush, instrument, or something completely different.  My current medium is words, and I am still learning the feel of them.  What words will help the reader understand the questions I am asking.

“What if?” is the question.  The only question.  Genre is just the flavoring; an easy handle to sort it, and to quickly find potential readers.  Genre is slippery, and constantly changing, from moment to moment, and person to person.  The words to describe stories have changed their meaning.  You can look them up in the Dictionary (and I have), but the battle to define genres is hot and messy and confusing.  Sub-genres have bread more sub-genres, like bacteria dividing. (How does that song go?)

“What if?” is the catalyst.  The Hero never leaves home without it.  It is the constant companion.  It is the writer’s companion, too.  The part of the mind that can’t resist banging things together to see what happens.  Did you make a hole, a mess, an ending?  Or did you make something new: an idea, an element, or start a brand new person?  “What if it was both?”  The results can be unexpected.  Proceed at your own risk.

“What if?” I could express my worldview in my writing?  It’s joys and sorrows, pain and pleasure, hope and despair.

“What if?”

Genre in Fiction: A Writer’s Search for Clarity

Genre is on my mind a lot lately.  I have to make some hard decisions about my manuscript, and decide what path to take in the revision.  The decisions I make now will directly affect the promotion of the book when it is ready to self-publish.  I have to choose carefully so my  future readers will be able to find me, and so I don’t give potential readers the wrong impression about my book.  Lets take a walk through my mind…

Some genres have to do with the setting, like Science Fiction, Fantasy, Modern, and Historical.  Add the more recent sub-genres like Alternative History, Dystopian Future, Paranormal, Steampunk, Cyberpunk, & and you end up with a place for the story to take place.

Other genres have to do with the plot, like Mystery, Romance, Horror, and Adventure.  These can be subdivided into other genres like Crime or Epic, although Epic could have more to do with length than plot. This is the path the story takes, and each genre has certain expectations placed on it by the readers.

Still other genres seem to be about the voice or tone of the story, like Literary, Young Adult, or Erotica.  There are also descriptors that are less of a genre and more of a flavor, like Gritty, Hard, Military, Sport, Steamy, Cozy, or Warm Hearted.

These lists are by no means complete, just off the top of my head and hopefully enough for you to get my point.  Humans like to slot things into categories, but the single word genre is often woefully inadequate to describe most books.  So we play mix and match, and get things like Cozy Mystery, Paranormal Romance, and Young Adult Fantasy.  But we also get Gritty Fantasy, Steampunk Romance, and Literary Adventure; which could work, or be a total disaster, depending on the writer, and the reader.  (Has anyone tried Cozy Horror?)

My opinion of my own manuscript’s genre has shifted as I’ve written it, from Science Fiction Romance to Erotic Science Fiction Romance, simply because I can’t seem to ‘look’ away from the sex scenes.  It interests me, how the two characters navigate a new relationship, including the time they spend in bed, whether it’s talking, making love, exploring some aspect of their sexuality, or contrasting the way that their cultures and species are different.  They spend time outside of bed, of course.  They both have friends, family, and jobs.

To get a better handle on the expectations of the readers of Erotica, so I could mesh it with the other genres I’m using, I did research.  What I found was a lot of people equating Erotica with porn. I keep hearing “Erotica doesn’t need a plot,” or “Erotica is just sex,” or “I don’t read Erotica, it’s trash.”  And a lot of handcuffs, but not enough feathers.  I’ve been very confused, since I didn’t realize there was such a negative perception to the word Erotic.

Maybe it’s just me, but I thought erotic meant engaging the senses related to romantic desire and sexual love.  That’s what the dictionary says. I read things in most books that I consider erotic.  The description of a first kiss, depending on the author, could be erotic, along with the feeling of lying on a blanket with your love interest while stargazing.

So I look down at my 179,194 word manuscript, trying to figure out if I can cut the sex scenes, and revise the character arcs into less racy words, but that…

Makes me want to chunk the whole thing in the trash and go back into fiber arts.

I haven’t yet, but I’ve come close.  Then I look over at the notebooks full of my other stories, waiting their turn to be developed.  They have themes and words in common with my current project.  If I take out the intimacy, I lose interest in telling the story.  This issue isn’t going to go away for me, unless I give up on crafting stories out of words.  I don’t want to give up.  Writing has become my choice of hobby, vice, and meditation.

So, I’m back to figuring out my genre.  Steamy would be misleading about the graphic words I use.  Is there such a thing as Cozy Erotica, or Spiritual Erotica? Am I really going to try to market under “Warm Hearted Hard Core Erotica Science Fiction Romance”?  Shall I add “Strong Female Lead”? How about “Don’t Read This Because It’s Confusing and Mislabled”.

That Damn trash can is laughing at me.

Writer Lost…

 

I finished the beta readers draft of my manuscript about 24 hours ago…

I know what is next, a little tweaking and polishing, fixing the misspelled words that even spellcheck shrugged at, and a half dozen alien slang words.  Then, let it go, into the hands of my trusted beta readers, to tell me what trees I missed while in the forest.  I know, and have been warned, to not cling, to not fiddle it to death.

I feel odd.  Empty and full.  Happy and sad.  Confused and confident.

Word count is 176,427.  Looking at the log, it took 82 non-consecutive days.  Most of the missed days were holidays; even while sick I could put aside some time for it.  The log says I started the rewrite on Oct 9th.  I don’t remember, it just seems like I was always writing it.

My brain feels like it’s a different shape, somehow, even more than when I finished the longhand first draft.  I’m wondering if it could ever go back to the original shape.  Would I want it to?  Will I feel this way after every re-write?  Every future book?

While I’m in this odd state, not ready to edit, not ready to move on to another project, I’m working on the character list/bio and a slang glossary.  May be I’ll look at the synopsis, press blurb, and jacket teaser, too.  One way or another, I will rough edit it and hand it over in a week.  That is my new goal.

Coming soon, the epic Sci-fi Romance, ‘The Contract.’

I hope…

Erotica; Guilty Pleasure or Evil Incarnate?

Why does it have to be one or the other?  Why do we feel the need to hide interest in something so innate?  It’s a combination of biology, emotional bonding, and physical pleasure.  I think there is an element of something more, if you’re lucky, a spiritual bond that transcends the physical world.  Are we really still that hung up on propriety?  On the rules of dead societies?

This week I kept mentally dissecting my manuscript.  What is left if I take out the Romance?  Run of the mill Sci-Fi, with no character growth.  What if I take out the Sci-fi, putting it in a modern setting?  Typical modern Romance, and there’s millions of them.  How about just taking out the erotica, making the relationship more palatable for the average reader?  A story with no teeth, no bite, and no flavor.  The literary equivalent of ‘Fat Free’.  Urg.

This weeks self-help manual, ‘Words Fail Me’ by Patricia T. O’Conner, warns to leave some things to the readers imagination, and I understand that concept, and I agree.  I’m trying to leave story crumbs for the reader to follow, hoping they will have to reach for the next page.  But, for some reason, the urge to keep the sex scenes in the present, and in an unfiltered, raw form is overwhelming for me.

Patricia also has this to say about humor, after a long quote from Monty Python’s dead-parrot sketch.  “If you want to write about humorously about sex or money or the Grim Reaper or some other delicate matter, get out your thesaurus and collect every outrageous euphemism you can find.”  And, THAT is what I want readers to find in the sex scenes; love, sex, and laughter.  I want to write about the secret moments in a relationship; the moments you can’t really explain to any body.  You HAD to be there.

I’m so close to the finished manuscript.  Only three chapters to go.  Word count to date is 159,179.  Daily word count is consistently just above 2,000 per day.  I have worked back into a proper writing schedule, after the Holiday madness.  Hard editing will be happening by next week, although I will be spitting my time by creative writing on a different story arc, just to keep my hand in.

Editing will be a new experience for me.  I have more ‘self-help’ books lined up for that process.  I’m sure I’ll be blogging about that, too.

Do you want tame stories?  Turn back.  Do you want to re-bury Pompeii because the graffiti is too risqué?  Piss off.  The kink in ’50 Shades’ too much for you?  Enjoy the vanilla, and don’t go near Anne Rice’s ‘Sleeping Beauty Trilogy’.  (Seriously, that is some… never mind.)  And don’t wander too deep in the Amazon e-book forest.  (‘A Billionaire Dinosaur Forced Me Gay’ by Hunter Fox?  Sure, I’ll give it a read.) 

As for me, I’m not flinching.  I’m writing the story I’ve been given.  You want a peek at a relationship in the raw?  Real tears, blood, and soul?  The unbearably good stuff you have to keep secret?  The things that make you scream in frustration?  The dance of spirit reaching out, connecting, then cracking dirty jokes in bed?  Life on the edge of a relationship?

I found a map.  I’ve strapped on my writing machete, and laced my jungle boots tight.

Follow me.

 

Writing Erotica; How deep will you go?

First of all, this should be the last time this blog will appear on my personal Facebook page. I plan on having the Danae Wulfe author page up by next Wednesday, and all ‘writing’ posts will be coming from there.  I don’t plan on cross posting.  If you have enjoyed reading these blogs or my other posts, please keep an eye out for the new page.

Word count for the Beta draft is 144,221.  I’m five chapters from the end.  I’m getting excited to finish, do some final editing, make up a few more ‘Sci-fi’ words, and give it to some Beta readers.  I’m noticing my brain seems to be a different shape then when I started. Is this normal?

That should be enough words to keep the Facebook post clean, so lets get down to the dirty bits.  18 and over, please!

Ok, you have decided what kinds of words you are going to use for your sex scene, unless your character decided for you.  (Mine did.)

Now, you have to decide how detailed you are going to get.  Vague descriptions, or as detailed as a sex manual. Maybe somewhere in between?  Are you a nearsighted nun describing something seen through a frosted window?  The average person?  A doctor describing a procedure performed under strong lights? A professional dominatrix paid by the dirty word?

Do you know what?  Doesn’t matter.  No matter what you choose, lots of people will think you are  wrong, and a bad writer.

I’ll admit it, the first time I read a modern graphic sex scene, I was shocked. I kept feeling that I was reading something Not Allowed and couldn’t understand why it was just sitting on a shelf, where anyone could pick it up. It should have been wrapped in brown paper and behind the counter, requiring you to ask for it.  The pictures it made in my head, so… intense. So real. So… erotic.

e-rot-ic  adj.  1. Of or concerning sexual love and desire; amatory.  2.Tending to arouse sexual desire.

The more research I do, on writers, erotica, and publishers, the more I find a subtle-and not so subtle-disapproval for writers and publishers who use graphic depictions, even by those who consider themselves unbiased.  It’s labeled ‘porn’, regardless of the depth of the story, and disregarded as serious writing, BUT somehow makes sales.  Sometimes, LOTS of sales, but that apparently only compounds its offenses.

I get it, as a society we are struggling with our sexuality, both as individuals and as ‘groups’.  We still seem to think we have the right to decide if someone is too slutty, too prudish, too confused or just wrong.  You want to have an opinion? Great. It’s normal for the mind to form opinions based on your experiences. Just don’t expect everyone else to subscribe to your particular flavor of morality.

Books are the ultimate in virtual reality.  In its pages you can explore issues, fears, hopes and fantasies.  They can pose the big questions, in a safe but challenging environment. What bothers you about ‘Tom Sawyer’ or ‘The Color Purple’ or ‘Atlas Shrugged’ or ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ or…

Did I lose you? Possibly, but that’s ok.  It’s a hot button, for a lot of people.

Back to the word ‘erotic’.  The definition mentions sexual love.  So, if I’m doing my job right, as a writer, the description of a first touch, or a first kiss, should be considered ‘erotic’, just as much as the first penetration. Before, during, and after a sexual encounter is an especially open and vulnerable point in a relationship.

Some religions think there are three points that you can touch spiritual enlightenment; birth, sex, and death.  Sex is the only one of those you can normally do more than once. Personally, I believe this is why the sex act changes a relationship permanently, either for good or for bad.

Heck, if I am doing my job, the clenched fist hitting the face of your enemy should FEEL visceral.  (Hopefully, not erotic.)  Also, you should FEEL as if you are piloting the space craft, dancing at the Ball, eating the weird foods, and consoling your best friend. Why should I flinch away from sex?

You’re still thinking about ‘Fifty Shades’, aren’t you?  sigh.

Look for my next blog, Erotica; Guilty Pleasure or Evil Incarnate?  In the interim, leave a comment and we can discuss things…