Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Monday, October 28, 2013
Saturday, October 26, 2013
by Jean Roberta
Synchronicity (defined as “the coincidence of events that seem related, but are not obviously caused one by the other”) usually seems to be at work in my life. Lately, I’ve noticed that several bloggers have written about the factors that change writing (especially sex-writing) from a thrill into a chore or a duty.
Once a writer has managed to fight off the inner censor for long enough to write a few sexually-explicit stories or even a novel, this work is usually posted in a public place where readers can comment on it. When the writing goes public, the writer is advised to promote herself/himself as well as the work, to write something new, to follow current trends in order to find and expand an audience. The advice (or the pressure) never ends. If zombie romances are currently fashionable, why doesn’t the writer pose in full zombie drag, including fake oozing wounds, and post their portrait on Youtube, with links on Twitter and Facebook? Why doesn’t the writer write a series of zombie romances? Doesn’t s/he want to be successful?
As a reviewer as well as a writer, I can see a difference between erotica which seems commercial (written for a specific market) and erotica which seems like amateur work in the original sense: written for the love of it. Some commercial stuff is written with great skill, and so is some amateur work. The difference in tone doesn’t necessarily have to do with sloppy grammar or unbelievable sexual gymnastics.
To give an example of commercial erotica, I have reviewed several anthologies from Cleis Press and have been proud to see my own stories in several others. There is nothing wrong with Cleis productions; au contraire. The paperbacks always have slick covers with eye-catching, tasteful photographs on them. The stories inside all seem carefully copy-edited. By now, there are dozens of these books, usually on specific themes. As a reviewer, I know I will always enjoy most of the stories in a Cleis antho, especially if they are written by contributors I recognize. These writers are professionals. When I see the name of Erotic Writer X in the umpteenth Cleis anthology in the past five years, I hope that s/he is not approaching burnout.
Some of the novels and anthologies I have reviewed have been put together by on-line groups that first gathered as amateurs, lovers of the genre and the craft. After much on-line discussion and mutual critiquing, the group decided to produce a book for the wider world to read. Sapphic Planet, an anthology of lesbian stories self-published in 2012 by a writers’ group of the same name, is a case in point. As a contributor, I couldn’t review this book myself, but I loved several of the stories by my fellow-contributors when I first saw them. Several of these writers are fairly prolific; they could be defined as both amateur and professional in different contexts.
An example of amateur work which I could and did review is the anthology Literotica (2002), a gathering of stories from the website of the same name. Both the group and the anthology have been dismissed as rank amateurs, but IMO, this is exactly why some of the stories in this book are unusual, intense, quirky and brilliant. I was taken aback by a few of the pen names in this volume and the 2009 sequel, Literotica 2 (“Dirty Old Man” “Whiff,” “KillerMuffin,” “jfinn”) and I can only hope these writers went on to write under more professional names, for lack of a clearer term.
Here in the Erotic Readers and Writers Association, probably the best-known amateur member (in the best sense) is Remittance Girl, who has openly stated that her goal is not to make a profit from her writing. Her invulnerability to market forces is exactly what gives her work a certain integrity which seems rare in any genre.
And of course, ERWA itself gave rise to an anthology, Cream, edited by Lisabet Sarai and published by Running Press in 2006.
Here are some questions I have been chewing on for some time: how is it possible for a writer to keep the enthusiasm and the recklessness of an amateur even after crossing over into the ranks of professionals? And where is the boundary between amateurs and professionals? (For instance, I have at least 100 stories in anthologies, not including two out-of-print single-author collections and one that just came out on September 1. However, my writing time still has to be stolen from the time I spend on my teaching job in a university as well as the “free time” I have to spend with family and friends. Does this mean I am a writer who teaches on the side or a teacher with a writing hobby?)
Judging from current laments, becoming a published writer often begins a long slide into conformity, numbness, distraction, and eventual writing burnout. I really don’t want to get there, and I am alarmed when fellow-writers I admire send distress signals from a place further down that road. Writing about sex, in particular, seems to require a certain continuing amateurism to retain its authenticity.
My own way of trying to recover the thrill of the sport is to withdraw temporarily from the world of published work, including the latest on-line piracy and the latest decision by a major book distributor to “disappear” any title that might be defined as “obscene” according to deliberately-vague legal standards. For a limited time, I don’t care about any of that.
For a few precious minutes in “the zone,” I care only about the characters who show up in my mind when I clear some space for them and ask them what they want. Inevitably, they want pleasure in some form. In most cases, their feelings about each other are complex and ambivalent. Their feelings are a catalyst that suggests the beginning of a plot. Will the characters (at least the one who speaks to me the loudest) get what they want? I need to find out.
The rest of the world can wait.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Writing isn't like driving or cooking. Not for me. It seems to only get harder as the years pass. I don't mean making up stories to tell, I mean the craft side of it.
I'm trying to tell a story.
A story is a plot, a series of events.
It should be simple enough to write it, but it isn't. Not anymore. Maybe the problem is having too many options, or perhaps it's an excuse not to write. But what I'm learning is that there's no such thing as simply telling a story. I have to know how to tell it.
My first mistake, it seems, was picking the wrong main character. Events are facts, but those facts are seen from a certain viewpoint. Originally, my main character was the murderer, but how can the events be a murder mystery to the killer? They know who dun it. Not a lot of mystery there.
So I got a better main character. But I'm still working on their compelling reason to figure out who the real murderer is. I hope that will come out as I write and I can fix it in the rewrite. For now, it's a bit nebulous and nebulous leads to weak writing, so I'm not happy with that.
My second mistake is my always mistake, meaning I make this same mistake every time so you'd think I'd know better by now but apparently I don't. And that mistake is: I start way too far back and take a long lope toward the inciting incident. I'm trying to put that inciting incident closer to the beginning, like in the first chapter.
It used to be that I could just sit down and write. I miss those days, although I suspect I'm a much better writer now. But why is it that every other craft seems to get easier with practice while writing just gets more difficult? It's my inner critic, I know. I want to write well. I can't figure out how to balance that painstaking and time-consuming drive with the pressure to spin out work as fast as I can.
I have no answers here. What is like for you? Is it getting harder?
LATE ADDITION that has nothing to do with my post, but have you seen this visual associative thesaurus? So cool!
Posted by Kathleen Bradean at 11:49 AM
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
By Lucy Felthouse
Eek, I've only gone and signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)! I had no intention of doing it, until I saw someone post about it. Then curiosity led me to their website, and before I knew it, I'd signed up. And now I've signed up, of course, I've got to give it my best shot.
50,000 words in a month is probably not a lot for some people, and probably tons for others, but I'm somewhere in the middle. I don't write full-time, but I do run my own business working from home, so I can juggle my schedule around writing when necessary. And I think in November, it's definitely going to be necessary. I don't work weekends, so my 50k will have to be done on weekdays. It's still doable at 2.5k a day. In fact, on really good days I've written well in excess of that. But to do it every weekday for a whole month... well, let's just see how I get on, shall I?
I'm currently in the process of finishing up other projects and also planning for the novel I'm going to write for NaNo. I've been researching it for the past couple of months, so I figure NaNo will give me the push I need to get a good chunk of it written while the research is still fresh in my mind. And who knows, by the end of December, perhaps I'll have something ready to send to a publisher. Watch this space.
And, in the meantime, if anyone needs me, I'll be the one hiding in the corner, panicking.
Are you NaNo-ing, too? Here's my profile - come friend me: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/creativewriter1985
Monday, October 21, 2013
By Lisabet Sarai
I managed this, to some extent, with my last novel Rajasthani Moon. I undertook this project solely for my own amusement, as a challenge to myself: how many sub-genres could I combine in a single book? In a sense, I was thumbing my nose at the erotic romance establishment, which so loves to slice and dice, categorize and label, every story. So I let my imagination run free, and I didn't censor myself to please my publisher. I even included some F/F interaction, generally considered to be the marketing kiss-of-death in traditional erotic romance. If it turned me on, I put it in and damn the markets.
Friday, October 18, 2013
I haven’t written a new story in almost six months. Not that I haven’t had a few fallow periods since I first started writing fiction seriously sixteen years ago, but the break in the flow this time around has inspired me to listen to an inner voice that is usually drowned out by the word-rush of my latest story project.
Who am I writing for?
(Yes, I know, it should be “For whom am I writing?” but my inner voice is not particularly interested in proper grammar!)
“For my audience, the bigger the better”—that’s the first simple answer that comes to mind. Or “for myself,” which feels fleetingly self-empowering and bravely feminist, but doesn’t ring totally true. To be honest, although no work I’ve ever done has felt so personally expressive and revealing as fiction writing, from the beginning the driving force has been my desire for validation through publication. While an audience is implied, the images of success that come to mind are acceptance letters, contracts, books or journals to hold in my hands. Oddly no readers are in sight.
I publish, therefore I am a writer. That was my creed. Always an eager student, I immersed myself in how-to-get-published books of all kinds, scribbling notes on how to write a cover letter, how to hook an editor, sure-fire techniques of the selling writer (throw a lovable character into trouble, then deeper trouble to keep the pages turning). I’m not sure if any of this advice actually affected the stories I wrote, but it did reinforce my sense that ultimately I wrote to please an editor and, stretching endlessly beyond her, a faultlessly wise literary establishment.
Over the years, I eventually did get published—with over 160 credits to my name right now. Damn, even my cruelly judgmental inner voice has to admit that’s some form of validation. Yet, what inspired me to write before now seems a barrier. Perhaps it’s because I know too well what publication, after the first rush of pleasure and pride, means. Promoting your work is an endless, soul-draining task. Nor do the writing experts allow for resting on your laurels. Everyone knows a truly successful writer must produce a constant stream of novels to establish her brand and a deep backlist for new fans to explore. At this level, success is, of course, married to profit rather than a mere byline. But in order to make cartloads of cash in the gold rush of self-publishing, you must above all be savvy about what sells.
Trapped as I am in an attitude that has apparently given me what I wanted, when I think about writing another novel, I feel bored rather than inspired. Experience (or rather, feedback from editors over the years) tells me every chapter has to have a sex scene. The story or vocabulary can’t be too complex. My book has to fit into a well-oiled slot in the store (none of this genre-busting nonsense) and it has to be excitingly fresh, yet reassuringly the same as every other best-selling erotic novel out there. This is what “they” want from me. I ignore their desires at my peril.
But at long last, what I’d like to call the “real” writer inside me is saying enough. Enough of reading the market and second-guessing editors and thinking these skills are enough to satisfy my heart, mind and spirit. Write what fascinates you, she tells me. Write sex scenes only where they belong in the story and only at the level of explicitness that feels right, because sometimes suggestion is far sexier than a blow-by-blow. Write only for yourself at least once in your life. At the very least, the experience will teach you lessons you will never learn if you’re always looking to others for your reward.
It all sounds pretty sweet right now.
I can’t guarantee myself I’ll have the courage to do this, but after months of indifference, I’m finally getting excited about writing again.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman (recently released as an ebook) and a new collection of short stories, Mammoth Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Posted by Garceus at 12:30 AM
Sunday, October 13, 2013
|Justine by de Sade, the first two editions were in 1st person, |
the final version in 3rd.
Now, you're asking yourself why this question might not pertain to other genres equally. Of course, POV is always significant to the reader's experience of the narrative. But there are both historical and cognitive reasons why it is of greater interest to erotica writers than it would be, say, to murder mystery writers.
Before the 20th Century, much erotic writing was written in first person and often presented to the reader as a candid confessional. The choice of this voice is significant because it was, in literary terms, the equivalent of the money shot. First person was felt to convey veracity and solicit reader empathy.
Narrative theorists, novel critics, and reading specialists have already singled out a small set of narrative techniques--such as the use of first person narration and the interior representation of characters' consciousness and emotional states--as devices supporting character identification, contributing to empathetic experiences, opening readers' minds to others, changing attitudes, and even predisposing readers to altruism" Suzanne Keen writes, leading to narrative empathy. (1)Certainly confessional memoires like 'My Secret Life," by Walter, strove to create the effect of a confidence being shared between 'men of the world' about the forbidden landscape of sexual experience.
The firmness of her flesh impressed me, whether I put my finger between the cheeks of her arse or between her thighs I could with difficulty get it away; she could have cracked a nut between either. (2)This approach survives to this day, with the same strategy to convey genuineness and confidentiality to the reader in letters to the Penthouse Forum.
She started out by telling me that she loved me, then asked, "Honey, what would you say if I told you that I wanted to have sex with some other guy?"
I was thrilled with the thought, but needing to act like I was maybe too macho for that, I asked, 'Where did you ever get an idea like that?'" (3)
But before you start to think that first person erotica just results in downmarket pseudo porn, it's worth remembering that Henry Miller wrote "The Tropic of Cancer" in first person:
At any rate, I had not yet come to the end of my rope. I was only flirting with disaster. ... I understood then why it is that Paris attracts the tortured, the hallucinated, the great maniacs of love. (4)Interestingly, de Sade's two first versions of Justine were written in first person, but for the final publication, La Nouvelle Justine, he changed it all into third person. (5) Considering how long it is, this must have been quite task. It should tell you something about how important he felt the POV was to the way he wanted the story read.
In an interesting meta-strategy, although the stories in Anais Nin's "Delta of Venus" are in third person, the collection starts off with an intensely first person narrative prologue in which she talks of how the stories came about and how she wrote them, which cleverly assures the reader of the author's personal erotic investment in the work, while presenting the stories as her own intensely narrative sexual fantasies set at a distance to allow the reader into her lascivious world.
She was a very, very clever writer. She gains the confidence of the reader in the same way that first person narratives do, but her use of the third person POV in the actual stories works an interesting magic. First person erotic narratives work very well when the reader finds it easy to empathize with the narrator. Walter, de Sade and, I would hazard a guess, Miller, all assumed their readers would be men. Men like them.
Nin not only set out to write beyond her lived and (perhaps) autobiographical experience, but take the reader into erotic fantasy and position both she - the writer - and you - the reader - as voyeur. Third person narratives allow the reader enough distance so as not to be put off by the gap between fiction, the fictional characters, the erotic fantasy and the reader's sense of self. Moreover, the third person narration makes it possible to present male protagonists without jarring the reader with the reality that the writer is female.
"Now the Baron, like many men, always awakened with a peculiarly sensitive condition of the penis. In fact, he was in a most vulnerable state." (6)Some erotic writers find themselves compelled to tell a story and it presents itself with a voice in which to be told and they remain faithful always to allow the story, in essence, to 'tell itself.'
However, after I'd been writing a while and I began to get stalled on stories that didn't seem to slither off my fingertips with the fluidity I had hoped for, I began to take more notice of POV. I realized that sometimes a story wasn't working because it wasn't being told by the right character. This is what really prompted me to think deeply about POV.
I realized that sometimes my stories didn't have the level of conflict I wanted because I had started out writing the story in the POV of the character who was least conflicted. This gave me a more reliable narrator, but a less exciting story.
When I began to venture into writing male protagonists, I stuck to third person for the same reason Nin did. I wanted to acknowledge my unmaleness as a writer, and underscore the fictionality of the story. But more recently, in stories where I felt I really could truly empathize at a deep level with the male protagonist, I have attempted first person.
It is often said that 'literary' works are usually written in third person and, if you take a look at the literary canon, a large portion of them are, but by no means all of them.
I think one of the reasons for the perpetuation of this myth is a legitimate one. Literary fiction attempts to ask the reader to, in a way, be conscious of the writing while reading. It asks the reader to split themselves in two - immersing in the narrative but also always remaining a little distant in order to afford the reader the opportunity to read critically at the same time.
You might think this has no relevance in erotic fiction, but I would argue that there are times when it can be very effective. Say, for instance, you are writing a story involving a paraphilia or fetish that the vast majority of your prospective readers might not share. You want to tempt them to glimpse in at the eroticism of it, but you don't want to assume their compliance, from a literary perspective. Third person affords readers the space and distance to intellectually acknowledge the eroticism of something they might not want to do in real life but might be aroused by in fiction. So, if you want to write a watersports story that is not aimed at readers who you know will get off on it instantly, third person is a great way to afford them wiggle room and allow them to indulge in the erotic descriptions of it without feeling like they're living it personally.
On the other hand, I have at times wanted to intentionally disorient the reader, to prompt that fine line between disgust and lust, and a first person narrative can be much more immediate and immersive for this, forcing them into the world and the scene for narrative effect. In a way, intentionally violating their comfort zone.
Most people who have been writing a long time make POV decisions very consciously. They're well aware of the pros and cons of each voice. If you haven't tried to go against the grain of your instincts yet, give it a try. Even if, after a few attempts, you decide to return to your favourite POV, at least you will have had the experience of wielding the power that the decision of POV can offer you.
1. Keen, Suzanne. "A Theory of Narrative Empathy." Narrative. 14.3 (2006): 207-236. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/narrative/v014/14.3keen.html>.
2. Walter. My Secret Life. 1. Amsterdam: Privately Published, 1888. Web. <http://www.horntip.com/html/books_&_MSS/1880s/1888_my_secret_life/vol_01/index.htm>.
3. T.P. "A Fucking Good Time." Penthouse Forum Online. GMCI Internet Operations Inc., 28 Apr 2013. Web. 13 Oct 2013. <http://penthouseforum.com/2013/04/a-fuckin-good-time/>.
4. Miller, Henry. The Tropic of Cancer. New York: Grove Press, 1961. Print.
5. "Justine (Sade)." Wikipedia. N.p., 18 Jul 2013. Web. 13 Oct 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justine_(Sade)>.
6. Nin, Anais. Delta of Venus. OCR. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977. Web. <http://optimisinglife.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/nin-anais-delta-of-venus.pdf>
Thursday, October 10, 2013
(thanks to WriteSex, where this article originally appeared)
For new writers, the temptation is obvious: after all, if you don’t know something, shouldn’t you seek out a way to learn about it? The question of how to educate yourself as a writer is a necessary and important one, of course, but an often-invisible second question follows: how do you sift through the piles of would-be writing coaches, teachers and other purveyors of advice to find the ones who will lead you toward genuinely better writing? The problem isn’t that there are over-eager teachers galore, but that far too many of them are preaching from ignorance—or just dully quoting what others have already said.
This is particularly true of erotic romance. Now, I have to admit I’ve been more than a bit spoiled by other genres, where you can write about whatever you want without much of a chance—beyond clumsy writing—of getting rejected for not toeing the line, so approaching erotic romance has been a bit more of a challenge. Romance authors, after all, have been told time and time again that there is a very precise, almost exacting, Way of Doing Things … and if you don’t, then bye-bye book deal.
But times have changed, and while a few stubborn publishers still want erotic romantic fiction that follows established formulas, the quantum leap of digital publishing has totally shaken up by-the-numbers approaches to romance writing. Without going too much into it (maybe in another column…), because ebooks are so much easier to produce, publishers can take wonderful risks on new authors and concepts, meaning that they don’t have to wring their hands in fright that the new title they greenlit will go bust and possibly take the whole company with it.
Because of this freedom, erotic romance can be so much more than it ever was: experimental, innovative, unique, challenging, etc. These are no longer the Words of Death when it comes to putting together a book.
One of the great, underlying tasks of teaching—one I love, but with some reverence and an occasional pang of dread—is challenging the boring, formulaic, way that so many talk about writing (which is also to say that a huge part of the reason I love to teach is that it’s a weird form of revenge against all the bad writing teachers I’ve had over the years). There are, however, far too many writing teachers who relentlessly parrot that erotic romance has to follow a strict formula to be successful. They spell out this formula in stomach-cramping detail: what has to happen to each and every character, in each and every chapter, in each and every book.
This is not to say that new authors should put their hands over their ears any time someone offers up advice on romance writing; there is, after all, a huge difference between a teacher who inspires from experience and one who is just a conduit between you and a textbook. A publisher, for instance, who looks at their catalogue and can see what is selling for the moment—they’re worth listening to. On the other hand, one who sets down unbending rules on what Not To Do and What To Do, regardless of the changing interests of readers or the innovations of writers, is only mumbling at you through the sand in which their head is lodged. Case in point: I once had a erotic romance novel rejected by a major publisher not because of the writing, the plot, the characters, or the setting but because it was about a painter and, according to this publisher, “books about painters don’t sell.” Needless to say, I didn’t let this feedback stop me from sending the book to a different publisher—where it sold quite well.
The A-to-B-to-C form of teaching writing is likened to cutting up a frog: certainly an efficient way of finding out (ewwwww) the contents of an amphibian … but totally useless as a way of creating your own. A good test of a writing instructor, by the way, is how you feel at the end of the class or how-to book: if you’re shaking like a leaf that you might have made—or will make—some kind of horrible erotic-romance-writing mistake, then the lesson was a bad one … but if you leave feeling elated, inspired, confident and ready to build your story into something powerful then, you guessed it, the class was good.
Folks have come to me with questions like “Can I start my story with an email?” “Can I start with the weather?” “Can my setting be in a foreign country?” “Can I write about an artist?” I think you can guess what my answer always is: just write! One, you can always change it later and, two (most importantly) write what you want to read: don’t suffocate your creativity with formulas, set-in-stone rules, mandatory character arcs and Hero’s Journeys, or any standardized thing that isn’t relevant to what’s really happening in your story. Instead, think of writing—especially erotic romance—as creation. Sure, you’re going to make some mistakes, but everyone does. That’s what learning is all about. Taking class after class after class doesn’t write books: you do! Taking class after class after class doesn’t even make you a better writer: you do!
Sure, you should seek out some teachers—especially when you are ready to step into the completely terrifying world of publishing—but don’t think that there is a guru out there who has all the answers, who is the Sacred Keeper of the Great Romance Writing Secret. If they were, wouldn’t they be sitting on their yacht sipping immaculately prepared daiquiris?
The best advice, the best lesson that anyone can give a writer, is the simplest: write. Create stories and books and on and on and on until it begins to flow and the words aren’t words anymore but just notes in a composition, until plot and character and setting and dialogue aren’t separate things but part of a greater, beautiful, whole. Once you can hold what you wrote in your hand—or on the screen—and say to yourself that what you have created is good, then you can study the lessons of how to put it out into the world.
But, until then, do everything you can to keep yourself inspired, enthusiastic, creative, thrilled, and excited about writing—by staying away from the tired idea of formulas … and keep that frog intact.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
|James I of Scotland|
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
By Ashley Lister
La Petite Mort
Books you say? What about Books for sensual readers? What a timely question! I’m so glad you asked.
BOOKS FOR SENSUAL READERS
MARKET NEWS & CALLS FOR SUBMISSIONS
INSIDE THE EROTIC MIND
Describe Your Orgasm: How Does it Feel? Don't be Shy...
BEST IN ADULT MOVIES