“I am all for putting new wine in old bottles, especially if the pressure of the new wine makes the old bottles explode” -Angela Carter Reading Angela Carter’s collection of opulent short stories, The Bloody Chamber (1979), is like riding an exhilarating roller coaster. You think you can predict the twists and turns of the […]
You never know what you do wrong until someone tells you, or until you do it. That is just how a lot of writing works. Even with critique groups you’re left pulling things apart yourself to figure things out.The broadest question is How to Write? and from there we get How Do I Become A Better Writer (#writelife #writerwednesdays) There’s a reason for that. Writing is a skill that is intuitive and learned, one of possessing talent and crafting skill, one of cultivating your best traits and minimizing your worst. It is easier said than done at almost every possible level. So it pays to spend more time figuring out your weaknesses especially for beginning writers and writers who have primarily written their craft for themselves. Doing the introspection, self-reflection, and criticizing yourself isn’t easy. You have to step away from your work for months if not years to even see how much you have or have not improved. But no matter what we can and must pick apart our writing somehow.
For the last few months I’ve been working on a novel, and truthfully something about it has felt off the whole time. I love the story. I love the characters. I love the central conflict. However something has constantly seemed off. So today I pulled out my book on writing guide: “Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft” (The international edition) by Jane Burroway. I sat down at my desk and began to go through the book. I knew what worked so I stayed away from the chapters on characterization and focused on the other chapters. I reread old notes in the margins, and began highlighting chapters as I reread them. Why? Well the book is pretty damn great for giving you plenty of comparative examples of what to do and what not to do from both published and purely example based writing. It doesn’t speak in absolutes, but pulls from dozens of writers and pieces to give you a concise break down of how to write well, how to write compelling stories, and how to convey theme without sacrificing anything. And I went to the section on filtering.
Yes, I the “show don’t tell” critique queen, have a drastic problem with filtering. Filtering is between showing and telling. For example “She looked out the window and she saw him standing outside her building”, when for the whole paragraph we’ve been in her head so “Outside her window he stood on the stoop of her building, waiting”. Instead of relying on the reader to be smart and follow along; instead of allowing for direct action I present the filters like “seemed”(been using that one alot) “saw”. I don’t just show you what the character sees and that’s a problem. Honestly that is probably why I do it with others. Subconsciously I do know I have a deep struggle with using filters instead of conveying direct action. Why? Honestly it’s a natural inclination, but its also it is the result of careless readers in critique groups. You gotta pick them well people. I spent an hour or two reading the book again, carefully searching for my answer and now that I have it I’m taking action not just by editing, but by rewriting what I’m editing so it is more present, more in the moment, and direct.
It’s hard to be direct as a writer just like it is hard to confront our problem areas directly. I was very lucky that I picked up that book and managed to follow my instincts into what was plaguing me. I didn’t just fall on the page, but I’ve lived with my writer self for long enough to seek out my faults. Why? Because I was in those critique circles to begin with. As much as I did get some perhaps misinterpreted advice in regards to how to clarify who is what and what is in whose view I did get advice. Solid advice and reactions that allowed me to see where I could improve as a writer. Some people really are able to identify those things on there own, but even still other’s input allows you to see how others read. You need that feedback (and you also need to give feedback too because it does make you a better writer, but that’s another subject).
So what’s my point?
Take time to understand your weaknesses, and don’t be afraid to seek them out. Sometimes a writer can be positively wrong about something in their piece. We think the best part is the worst, we think the most nonsensical section is clear as day, and we even second guess out instincts. The only chance you get to know those weaknesses and address them is by digging deep and figuring them out. Get books on craft and read them. Join critique groups. And don’t be afraid to reread your pieces. Most importantly…don’t be afraid to edit. Sometimes out weaknesses are charming and add a particular character. Hell sometimes our weaknesses are so out shined by the good they don’t matter. But no matter what you owe it to yourself to take time to better understand them.
Do you want to know more about filtering? Do you want to know more about my erotica and romance writing? Ask me below, or just share you thoughts on knowing your weaknesses whether in writing or in life. I have plenty of advice both about writing and about life on this blog, and I think so far I’ve shared one thing…for writers both are deeply connected. We gain a lot by talking and exchanging. So go fill up that comment box!
This is excellent!
For the longest time, whenever anyone mentioned “Science Fiction Author” and “African-American” in the same sentence, the only author that came to mind was the late, great Octavia Butler. However, times are a-changing.
Author Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu was born in the United States to two Igbo (Nigerian) immigrant parents, and currently resides in the suburbs of Chicago. She is the author of numerous novels, shorts stories and essays. Booklist calls her first novel, Zahrah the Windseeker, “A welcome addition to a genre sorely in need of more heroes and heroines of color.” VOYA adds additional praise, saying, “Okorafor-Mbachu creates an outstanding science fiction/fantasy novel complete with exotic creatures, a magical forest, and children with superhuman abilities. The author describes the country of Ooni, its creatures, and people as if she has seen them all firsthand.” Zahrah the Windseeker was shortlisted for a number of awards, including the 2005 Parallax…
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Originally posted on Rebirth of Lisa: Calling All Indie Artists!? I have decided to start a new feature on my blog called ‘Indie Shine’. This will begin in February 2017!? ?The purpose is to shine a spotlight on individual indie artists. It doesn’t matter what your chosen field is as long as you are indie…
There’s nothing worse than reading a romance book and coming across some idea or notion in the text that makes you roll your eyes and disassociate from a character. The nature of romance and erotica is deeply tied to projecting and emotionally relating to the characters in a book. There’s just something about that fact that can make coming across certain views or elements in a story become an instant turn off. The other night I was reading an erotic romance where the female lead is a bartender and basically every few pages near the beginning she brings up the fact that she’d never date a man who’d order a cocktail or anything except beer. Call me a whiny liberal if you want, but that snuffed my interest in her or him. I’m reading the book purely for research purposes now. It was such a good and thorough turn off to me that I never realized how much stuff like that affected me. For the author it was a simple fact of the character and supposed to make the handsome protagonist a down to Earth “man’s man”. To me it was traditional propaganda at best and a sign of utter weakness in the male main character at worst.
Well, to me a man who is comfortable in his masculinity is more attractive than anything else. We’re supposed to accept the female MC’s view and see him from that angle. His ordering a beer puts him outside the realm of other “hipster” men, and yes the author uses that description. For the author this detail was important, and important for the main character for excellent reasons. She’s a bartender. Makes sense. In this book his earthy masculinity is represented by beer. It killed my interest and my libido because while I fully admit certain feminine traits turn me off when they’re very present in men…my notion of a “real man” orders whatever the fuck he wants. Further I don’t backdoor insult men who don’t fit that notion whether they wear nail polish (which is a major personal turn off ) or work on trucks and think of appletinis as girly drinks. I physically cringed as I read because of this one thing, which came up a few times early on.
In a book designed to tease, titillate, and entertain this one element altered my ability to enjoy it. The male lead and female lead became emblematic of what I rebel against. A lot of people have told me “Oh just shut up and read and enjoy”, but why would I if there is an element and an attitude in the work that I don’t enjoy. The male protag ordering a beer is the main thing that solidifies the female protag sleeping with him. That’s the crutch, and for a woman who sees masculinity as being about comfort, and being attracted to more traditionally masculine men as in no way needing to undermine other expressions of masculin this makes a difference. This makes me say “Wow this chick seems like a douche bag and this guy isn’t as attractive as he was.” . And as, to paraphrase a quote from Downton Abbey, as my world comes closer and the notions of “real men buy beer” slip away this will be a more common reaction. Hell plenty of women prefer hipsters who do craft beer than to the corona lovers of the world. A confident man who can order a cocktail and not give a shit about what anyone thinks tops a man who thinks cocktails are girly.
It’s a silly thing to harp on, but it seriously had an affect. It pulled me away from these characters, made me like them a bit less, and most importantly turned me off. And maybe this is coming from me because my 60 something year old, ex-cop, private security, former bouncer father who carries a gun everywhere has never hesitated to order a cosmo. Maybe it is because I’m a progressive liberal who has friends across the gender expression spectrum. Ultimately it doesn’t matter because you bet your sweet hiney that I’m not a rare case. Because even those who keep reading and think it distasteful have pulled away a little. It isn’t about political correctness or forcing conformity. It’s about the fact that this writer made one of the most important choices in the mainstream straight romance genre, which is how you construct the male romantic protagonist. She not only included this, but centered these beliefs about masculinity at the core of his appeal. And while that’s her choice the fact is it didn’t work for me, and I suspect it turned off others because it wasn’t just the female protag saying “I like a traditional guy who drinks beer over cocktails”. It was holding up the romantic lead by that fact juxtaposed with the inferiority of men who have ordered her cocktails.The ever changing social norms and standards affect what people are attracted to and as writers when we put something like real men drink beer on the page we’re committing an idea and saying “We’re willing to turn off those people who disagree” and I’m certain the author didn’t even think about that. For her this made her male romantic lead strong. For me it made him week. It made the female lead pedantic and hypocritical…honestly a little sexist. And undermine the think I find most attractive in men (but can never seem to land in a partner myself, sorry, but love ya beau!)…confidence.
Her entire notion of masculinity and the romance leads romantic appeal had the exact opposite affect that she intended and as our society evolves it will be interesting to see because I’m not alone. I’m not a minority. And when an author makes choices like this they have to be aware…you might just dry a reader up like an old Virginia ham. You’re not going to forget that metaphor any time soon.
How do you edit the first chapter of your story is a question every fiction writer asks, and it is a question I’ve done my share of struggling with. However I think I’ve found the most important bit of advice when dealing with the beginnings of any story, and even any non-fiction piece. Whether you’re doing chapter one or the opening paragraph of an essay, you are doing a fine balancing act. You have to give as much information as possible to the reader without overwhelming them, but also ensuring they’re following along with everything you say. The opening of your story, regardless of genre, will sink or swim your novel. While I don’t claim to have perfected the opener, I do claim to have worked at working around and through common mistakes authors are prone to make. And so I’m going to offer the best advice I’ve ever heard for editing chapter one of a novel, advice I was reminded of by the lovely Stephanie London via her youtube channel.
When you’re writing you feel the pressure to get everything just so because you want to be clear about who, what, where, and why. However, the dangers of exposition are many. Since I’ve been an active member of scribophile I can tell you that I’ve seen my share of wonderful tales bogged down by the exposition fairy. That little butthole flew through the window and just refused to leave from the moment the story began. The exposition fairy encourages telling not showing and harkens back to the way we most naturally tell stories, orally. But away from the oral tradition you have to put people in the story. You have to give them a front row seat, and if the exposition fairy is guiding your hand at every other paragraph, or god forbid every other sentence, the reader will be stuck in the back of the theater.
So how do we deal with this?
Well, truthfully it will always be tempting to have it happen unless you are a minimalist story teller. Fans of grand epics and sprawling worlds fall prey to the exposition fairy most of all, but everyone can be a target. To that end, you have to write smart. BE vigilante of your own bad writing behaviors, and then keep writing. MAke notes, and even make minor changes but don’t edit constantly while your writing unless you truly benefit from it or it has to happen. Then once your opening is written you have to do this one super important thing. This is the thing that will make all the difference in the world….
Go back through your opening and highlight every ounce of exposition.
Reread and highlight. Whether you print it out or do it digitally, go through and highlight everything that is only there for exposition. What lines only serve to explain what isn’t shown? You may wish to use different colors for exposition related to different characters or events in order to keep track. Sometimes I mark exposition important to the plot with stars or sidebar comments so I know why they’re their and that they matter. If your opening is mostly color coded and coated then chances are you need to tighten that sucker up. You will most likely need to rewrite the whole thing. It isn’t enough to disguise exposition in unnatural dialogue. It isn’t enough to excuse why its there because it is there for a reason. It isn’t enough for it to be there to help your readers understand. If it isn’t furthering your theme, your plot, your characters, and bringing people into your text then it isn’t working. I say to do this because you need to see how much explaining to the reader you’re doing. Seeing it visually becomes a lot harder to justify or overlook. Does this mean all exposition is evil? Not at all, but there are ways to pace exposition and present it that are vastly superior to walls of text that may not enrich the story.
By doing something as simple as highlighting expository text you are increasing your ability to keep the story in action and moving forward, which will keep your audience engaged.
Churning emotions bubble forth,
Too much silence in the noise,
Colorful only because of yearning,
Pulses pounding turns to pressure building,
Thudding, laughing, with the beat of blood,
And the heat that pierces through much and mud,
Leaving him and I and us together,
Breaths speeding in unison,
Bright red, yellow like wheat, and black like ravens,
With that subtle sort of blue that highlights the dark,
As scream through our hearts,
As the crowd listens.
As the sweat stains sheets and clothes and sofas,
As they laugh.
As they die.
Everything stark in perfect clarity,
Super heightened superficiality,
Fuck it and enjoy it.
Means everything, but ignore it when
The Light Comes Up And
The city is full of empty noise,
But for a moment there is an excited silence between,
The spaces between the pulses.
The spaces between the buildings.
The silence between the screams.
So What Is The Difference between Love and Hate?
This has been on my blog banner and book listing page forever and it must be baffling to you all if you’ve paid attention. Well It’s a series I began writing shortly before starting this blog. So I wanted to explain what that series was originally going to be and what it is now, as well as talk about how our story plans can mutate into completely different creatures.
The original idea behind The Marquess series came from a story titled Come At Night. The blurb:
After years apart, Marquess Angela, the dusken beauty of the old world, and Lord Rion, a handsome boon to the new world, are drawn together again due to Angela’s loss of her husband’s estate to his siblings. With both their spouses recently dead they choose to eschew the formality of propriety and take comfort in each other. However, years of bitterness and unhealed hearts have taken their toll. Old wounds don’t heal quickly…then again if the choice is freedom or regret Angela knows her choice. Will she truly be able to make it or is that, like Rion said, a self deception?
Now Here is the (current) novel blurb for Come At Night
If I asked you to do the unthinkable and uncertain to save yourself…would you?
After years apart, both their marriages end in tragedy, and life throws them into a net of old magic and politics Marquess Angela and Lord Rion find themselves tangled up in each other again. Is it fate that brings them together or the cruelty of the universe’s limited imagination? With few allies and an old love burning in her heart Angela makes a choice that will threaten her family, her reputation, her faith, and her life. Vows of love and devotion make for beautiful sentiments in her eyes, but she is no one’s fool. However, wisdom can only take her so far when all she craves is freedom, but perhaps that is just another cage. As for Rion, he has tried to mature and be more than family rebel, but as he wraps himself in a woman who reminds him of his rebellious youth he must choose between his beliefs, his heart, and his family. He made this happen, but is he truly ready for what true love will cost?
So what do we have here?
What we have is the hardest part of writing erotica…not turning it into a well rounded story all the time. However, it isn’t really a problem when you turn it to your favor. The original series would be pseudo-dramas around the Marquess and her sensual experiences as she and Rion fall further and further away from convention. It was mostly sex driven.
Now, it is a socio-political drama about how Angela and Rion struggle with falling further and further away from convetion and begin to question if there is such a thing or not. In novel Angela is the dark skinned descendent of the native peoples of their nation and Rion is not. she is borderline pagan, traditional, and seen as a remnant of a savage age and people. Not all dark people are viewed this way, but the general feeling is the invaders did a service by showing the natives “the right way of living” and slowly intermingling. The darker you are, the older your bloodline, but that carries no weight. Yet, Angela is very modern socially and is essentially a socialist, as was Rion. He drifted away from socialism and became more involved in his family obligations, but it never sat right with him. He feels that until Come At Night he spent his years acting foolishly, and is now trying to set things right. Unfortunately he is just as impulsive as he was…and Angela often gets swept up in that.
How the hell did I get that from a series of sex dramas?
Simple really. I made Rion and Angela characters and people. I defined the problem between them. The original idea began with the image of this long raven haired man standing in the doors of a balcony, a man with eyes that ached and burned. The sensual images of him and the woman he loved gave rise to the knowledge there was more to them then sex and lust. They were deeply complex figures with pasts together and who were driven apart. I wanted to know more, so I began exploring them in the hopes of making the sex more rich. Really I followed the path of The Demon’s Bargain by weaving sex and emotional intensity in with complex story lines. I realized the series may be closer to Outlander or Game of Thrones more than anything else, and I couldn’t stop. Angela and Rion do everything right and everything wrong. Their principals compromise in the worst places and they bring out the bad in each other that your heart breaks because you see the good they bring out. They are two people striving for what may be unobtainable, but they try.
Once you give characters that much depth you’re pretty much boned in keeping it a short story. How can you when you know the characters so well and you find their journeys of love and loss so damn compelling? You just can’t. It feels like a crime and an intimate crime at that. On one hand it is a good thing because Romance novels sell better than erotica. On the other hand wow now I have to write more…but I was going to write a series now everything is just longer and that gives you more time to fall in love with these characters as I have.
Have you ever had a story or blog or article exceed your expectations or original intentions? Is it a boon or a burden?
In the depths of the old wood, where the trees dripped tears over the toppled stones from the mountain, Mal sat beneath the willows, clutching the totem in her hand. It’s word ivory etchings still held the shape of a Field Spring dog. Her father said it held the power of the old ancestors, but she sensed no faint hum through her skin nor the pull upon her spirit. All that reached out to her was the winter frost through the long arms of the trees. When did everything turn so cold? It seemed as though she’d been walking along the southern shore the day before. Asan, with his rugged good looks, swept her up and into the water as though they were children and not soldiers. The war seemed so long ago, but it’d been merely a year. If everything felt like it’d just happened did that mean Mal was getting old? She sighed and hoped not. Grey did not go with her sun blessed complexion. Grandma might have gone silver, which flattered her ebony skin, but Mal took after her father’s people. “Least of my worries.”she muttered, as a large wet drop splashed across her head, making her cringe.
A short time ago she’d been the source of much strife in the life of her lover, Asan. He defended her like a noble knight defending a fair maiden, though Mal had never been fair and Asan had helped her cease being a maiden long ago. Yet what plagued her was his defenses of her character and person. They were flattering and yet they seemed to inflame parts of her just as much as her attackers, her detractors. Asan’s spirit had been right until they revealed the truth. It ached and cut in such a silent way. In bandaging he just cut deeper, and how could she say why? Would it even be clear?
“I thought I’d find you here.” Asan’s voice, deep like the ocean and just as soothing, came from behind her, and she sighed.
“I needed to think.” She turned her head to see him trudging up the hill wrapped in thick a thick wolf pelt and carrying a dense green blanket. She must have been gone longer than she realized. She looked upward and the sun had just moved past the mountain peek. It’d been hours. Asan came and sat beside her on the stone and wrapped the blanket around her shoulders. A slow smile crossed her face and she remembered all the reasons she loved him. For his parent’s and sibling’s sakes she wished she did not. “How are things at the house?”
Asan’s shoulders tensed ever so slightly before falling, and then with all the irritation and disappointment a son could have when his parents disapproved he sighed.
“My mother calmed father and Bretlynn down. Rynhold is…civil, but displeased.”
“I got that from the yelling.” She managed a small smile, but it felt more painful than humorous. Judging by how he rubbed his knees and he hung his head in shame it looked as painful too.
“I’m sorry you had to deal with their horrid behavior. I had told them of you, but…I didn’t expect-”
“They assumed it’d be less part of me, but my magic is as part of me as my hair, my eyes, or my voice. But I think…I think they expected to talk you out of…of us.” The words hurt as she spoke them, and part of her felt foolish for it. She’d been a mage her whole life. Sequestered, belittled, threatened with things that no person should have to suffer. The rejection by Asan’s family wasn’t even the worst of her life’s horrors. Ha. They should have taken lessons, but their scornful eyes spoke of beliefs more seated than prejudice. Those eyes ,so like Asan’s in their almost golden beauty, told her their beliefs were faith. They’d never see it for what it was. They’d never admit their irrational consternation for her daring to exist. People like them never did.
“And I love every part of you!” He misunderstood. She never doubted that for a second though she had plenty of reason to. He was vigilante of those who could move energies beyond their world, but he’d long outgrown their fear. However, did that truly make enough of a difference? Did he truly ever understand? They’d come here to announce their engagement and he had never expect his family’s ire.
“I believe you…but could they?” she said. He looked taken aback, as though he didn’t expect her to be so blunt. She felt so tired, but what else could she do but make him see things as they truly were. “You were raised by those who fear magic and who see me as cursed-”
“I don’t care that you’re a mage.”
“And that’s the problem!” She jumped to her feet, nearly slipping on the rocks. He started forward, grabbing her arm so she would not bash her head in on a rock. She stepped down to the ground and turned to him. “You love me, but do you see me?”
“Of course, how can you doubt that?” Asan sounded so hurt and it stung her to hear it, but she had to be honest.
“I ask because they can’t and perhaps you couldn’t, or wouldn’t, see them.” Mal began rubbing the back of her hand nervously. Her heart thudded against a cage of anxiety that began to creep up her throat, and squeeze in on her vocal cords. “How could you not know they’d act this way?”
“I-I…thought they’d be better.”
“That they’d see you, as I do once they got to know you.” His fingers slid down to her hand, squeezing gently. Mal almost pitied him for his naivety, but that feeling only heralded a wave of slow burning irritation. She rubbed the bridge of her nose and took a slow breath to steady her nerves.
“I am a mage. A witch. An arcane warrior.” Her eyes fell upon his face, and all part of her yearned to do was study his olive skin and run her fingers and lips across his stubble. Not for lust or love, but to pretend the world didn’t matter and none of this mattered. But it did. It made all the difference to their future. “Do you not see that?”
“Of course I do,” he said.
“A-and you love me in spite of it?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said. Asan looked so confused and Mal could tell he knew she had a point.
“But here is the trouble I need you to love me , not in spite of, but in part because my magic is what makes me…me.” Mal slipped her hand from his grasp, and with it she felt herself slip further away from him. They were boats out at see and the ropes that bound them together were slipping, the knots couldn’t hold, and soon? If they were not careful they’d vanish in the fog and hold nothing but parts of a rope of old bittersweet memories. She didn’t want that. She didn’t want to lose him, but she’d be damned if she did her and him and his family a disservice by ignoring it. Perhaps selfishly, she’d rather break his heart than pretend that this didn’t bother her or did not matter. “You must love me fully or not at all in this case. You need not love magic, but you must love the magic that is in me, what I can do with it, and appreciate the joy I take in it. There are things couples can look past, but somethings must be loved to and not in spite of. If I loved you in-spite of your faith in the All-Father and could not find any respect or beauty for it, what would you say?”
“I..I do not know. I would have to think on everything.” Asan spoke softly and slowly. In his eyes wheels turned, as the thoughts and words connected to find meaning. He wasn’t a slow man by any means. She’d seen him put fools in their place with perfect words, so sharp they might as well have been a sword. But he had this habit of ignoring that which hurt to acknowledge, or bounding around the issues to avoid confronting what life demanded. If only she could be the same. But then again she would not be herself.
“and for you to understand what my magic means and to see what my magic means you must see me as a person, a woman, and a mage. You can’t section off the parts of me you like all the time. Everyone does it. We ignore our lover’s favorite books, or distaste for foods we love. But there are parts of us so important to our lives and who we are we must take a stand.”
“But what does it matter? How do you know the difference?”
“The difference is your family greeting me as your temporary lay versus your future wife.” Cold. Curt. and made them sound so unfavorable. She didn’t like to be that way usually, but it felt somewhat good.
“That’s unfair!” he said.
“But is it wrong?” To that she received only a heavy silence, pregnant with fears he didn’t want her to speak and words she feared she’d have to say.
“No.” His eyes fell to her feet. “Shit.”
“I say all this because for you to bring me here, to be hurt, by them…for you to be so ignorant of their prejudice-” he voice began tremble, and her throat grew tighter, hotter. She felt the threat of tears as images of the evenings arguments blurred in her head. They wished them the worst. They called her everything but a monster. Oh they thought her nice, but her magic damned her more than rudeness ever could. “How could you not think about that, or at least warn me of it, unless you were pretending not to see?”
And to that Asan had no answer. To that his mouth hung open as he tried to bring forth excuses, justifications, and rationales. Yet Asan could not lie through logic, through truths presented by someone he so dearly loved, and his spirit crumpled. Many would call her over sensitive, would say it shouldn’t matter, would say she made a mountain out of a mole hill. Asan had always acted better than that. He did not disappoint. If he did maybe it would have been easier.
“But what does your magic matter? What does that have to do with you as a person, as a woman, as my wife?”
Mal let out a dry chuckle, and folded her arms in front of her chest with a roll of her eyes. He still did not want to get it.
“Magic informs who I am. I am a woman mage. I like being able to cast spells, I research magical artifacts, I grew up cloistered in a mage sanctuary. Magic is and always will be a part of my life and a part of my life that defines part of my core identity. If we have children they could be mages. Their mother will be a mage.”
“I know that! Don’t think I’m a fool,” Asan said.
Mal sighed, letting her arms fall to her side. She wanted to just run off to some warm quiet corner, and sleep.
“No child should be told in ways big or small that “Your mother is very lovely except…” “Your father is wonderful but only….” I will not have it be so. I’d sooner raise children on my own than have that be so. ” Now, the tears began to fall down her cheeks. A sob racked her chest and the suddenness of it shocked her. She turned away, wiping her tears so he could not see. Crying in front of people wasn’t something she did. From the corner of her eye she saw his shadow move and he stepped behind her. He let her cry as he wrapped his arms around her, and maybe he had begun to understand. Maybe he had begun to see her pain. “It was minor to you. My magic was to be ignored, but I don’t want it ignored or even loved. I want it accepted.”
“I would never tell our children that,” he said, and she believed him.
“You don’t have to say “I hate something” to make it clear. Most people never use the words love or hate, but their words and actions otherwise do enough.” She sniffled, and swallowed, trying to collect herself once more. Another beleaguered silence weighed in, only broken by her sniffling. After what felt like an eternity of melancholy he pulled her tighter.
“I failed you because I didn’t want to believe they’d not understand. I wanted to believe they’d come to the same conclusions I did, but maybe even my own conclusions were short sighted.”
“You’ve never been with someone like me. It is to be expected, but… can it change?”
“I can’t change my family, but… I can try to talk to them and I can try to better accept you. Mal, you deserve everything in the world I can give. It isn’t much, but I’d rather be and do better than live a lesser life without you.”
A warmth slowly ran through her, causing the cage around her chest and throat to retreat. It’d take time until she felt free again, but the release brought relief enough for now. She trusted him, but now he knew her line in the sand. He had to see if he could change and she’d watch carefully.
“I’m going to talk to my father, and he shall either accept us or he shall be a lesser part of our lives…I’ll be sorry for it, but they need to know I won’t let it stand.”
“Don’t destroy your relationship with them, but…don’t expect me to let them walk over me again and discuss me like I’m five seconds from burning down the whole village.”
“Five seconds? I thought it was less than that.”
She let out a little laugh, watching the river flow on as a stray leaf landed on its surface. It bobbed along, twisting and turning with every flow and ebb.
“Oh yes, three seconds from massive destruction is more accurate. Especially on a day like today.”
It’d have to do for now when better people took a lot of work. No one changed in a day. Asan didn’t and she couldn’t expect that of others. Still she couldn’t be expected to let their lesser natures belittle her own. She was a good woman and an even better mage. They could either learn that or they could not. But for now she had Asan and for now she’d try to be happy and push through the bad for some good.
***So definitely inspired by the video game Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the relationship between Commander Cullen and a mage Inquisitor.***
At this point in my career I have been building an audience for my novels and blog, and I am so lucky and thankful that all of you bother to read my work. But one thing you’ll know if you’ve been a reader since the start is that I never pretend my passion isn’t also a business. I love to write. I love naughty bits. So I write about people’s naughty bits meeting and doing naughty things. It seemed rather sensible since I’ve written erotica from the time I understood the sex act. Erotica is a genre that can be lucrative and disappointing without any rhyme or reason. You can find hundreds of articles and books on writing ebooks in the genre with conflicting and contrasting experiences. The variables of success are endless, but for 2017(wow that feels weird) we can prepare ourselves for the best approaches to consistently publish erotica and make some money from erotica. So let me help you by discussing my observations and experiences thus far.
Most people who get into writing in any genre make it a black and white issue as to whether you’re in it for business or in it for passion. Well, why not both? Money ins’t the end all be all and passion doesn’t put food on the table. In my view a healthy about of pragmatic thinking is the difference between well known authors and authors with regular sales versus unknown authors and authors with low sales. I missed the big erotica booms of 2012 and 2013, but I will say you can make sales if you’re crafty, smart, and figure out your strength.
Now first let me cover a few things you need to know before thinking about writing erotica…
Don’t Think This Is Easy Money. It Is NOT.
One of the biggest complaints from people is that so many authors pop up and out after two months. People read these insane articles about authors who quit their jobs and made 20k and more in a few months off one or two books, so they assume it is easy work to make even a fraction of that. They hear the bare bones and decide to become an erotica author to make some cash because it doesn’t seem hard. Partially this is because they assume erotica isn’t “real writing”. But all writing is writing. I personally find article and essay writing (with research included) to be so much easier than erotica. I’ve done both for money and it is night and day with how easy article writing is in comparison to figuring out what is and is not a sexy description. This isn’t an easy or simple field to jump into anymore, if it ever really was. Free sites are your competition, name brand authors are your competition, and putting out consistent stories is what keeps you afloat financially.
Further hundreds of other people probably read those same articles at the exact same time , and got the same idea. The market is fucking flooded and it really is a shame because your books might get buried beneath a thousand stories. Buried beneath a thousand throbbing rods with not escape, so to speak. From my research and conversations, roughly 70% of users tapered off after a month and a half of low sales on the erotica forums. This is constant. A bunch of people come. A bunch of people don’t see that it is work, and they bury those that do, but then vanish. Writing erotica becomes a funny story for buzzfeed or slate, or coffee after dinner. When books don’t sell all those forums, facebook groups, and reddits end up full of inactive users. Amazon, smashwords, nook, and others end up flooded with generally sub-par stories. Meanwhile the authors have tossed up their hands because they didn’t make a thousand dollars in the first month. These are the writers who don’t enjoy the genre, but even those of us who love it can get bruised.
I nearly became one of those fly-by-night authors because I burnt myself out, got discouraged, and then sat on my stories for a few weeks. I expected to make $10 in the first two weeks. It took two months. The sales have no pattern other than they sell about the same rate. So how did I get back into it if I was selling so slowly and so little? I realized the stories you hear about are the exceptional ones, and that if I kept going I could make some nice pocket change for myself. The only people who really fail are the ones who got in over their head and assumed they could bulldoze through the erotica market. The people who stick with it, and built an audience of bother fellow writers and readers are the ones who have long term success. Whether they sell a few hundred books or several thousand they kept writing, kept improving their writing, and they acknowledge writing sexual material takes a ton of hard work. Even those who have failed have said to me “This shit is harder than I thought” once they realized they didn’t enjoy it after page one. You can’t do this half assed. You can’t do this for quick cash. Writing is one of the most difficult professions to be in because it is harder than it looks and it is hard because you can’t just write and be assured success. It ain’t easy.
However, if you reorient your approach and intent writing in this genre becomes easier. You have to approach this as a business and all business takes an extraordinary amount of work. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, but even someone who works in a sex shop has to take inventory, be familiar with most of the product, and be able to get people what they need when they come to the store. If you acknowledge this when you begin planning you stories, your persona, and your specialty then you will have a much easier go of it when things are rough.
You have to work at what you’re writing even if it is sex. Chuck Tingle isn’t famous on just laziness. Tingle’s works are parody built on word play, innuendo, and absurdity. Not to mention he is as famous as he is because he was shocking and caught the right attention, but even with that his writing takes work. Crafting the story, building the characters, and molding them in ways that make people turn to the next page (Especially if your book is available on Kindle Unlimited) is key.
And The Sad Truth Is You Will Most Likely Burn Out.
You will run out of words. You will run out of desire. You will want to take a break especially if you make this a full time job. I can turn out four short stories with basic editing in two weeks. If I push myself I could probably do six or eight stories, but that would require 8 hours of writing a day. Writing would not just be a career, but a job of taxing emotional and mental work. Marketing would be another eight hour job of more emotionally and mentally taxing work. I could do it, but the notion that you can easily do it without any stress, and then be guaranteed to make money is sorta flawed. I will tell you what a writer told me when I first got started, “Most authors I know don’t make consistent money until they have upwards of 30 books and stories on amazon”.
That’s a shit ton of writing for months or years on end. Some people really can turn out a dozen books in six months and a dozen short stories to boot. They are a lucky bunch. But you have to have a plan if you burn out. I took a break and focused on romantic stories instead alongside shorter more scene based works like Suffer Too Good and Dirty Honey.
Why? These stories are fun for me, but I’ll get back to this in a second.
Don’t Have Crazy Expectations.
I don’t expect to rent my first apartment with the money I make from my sales, but I do expect my sales to supplement my income enough where I do have an extra $30+ in my account. Not because I’m aiming low, but because I’m just starting out and while I have a ton of novels started I don’t have an editor and have to take time to edit myself. Further I’m just a realist. Some weeks I get sale after sale, my blog facilitates that. Some weeks that other authors say are hot look like chicken turds on my amazon report. Overall you have to realize that you may not be the next big thing, but you may have nice money to pocket regardless. I don’t know about you, but any money is good money.
So how do you get reasonable expectations?
Figure out what your books are worth. People, especially the fly by nighters, think if they just push a bunch of .99 cent stories of $2.99 stories they have guaranteed sales. Here’s the bloody truth, most people will think you’re writing is poop unless you’re doing short stories. What do you think of a book available for .99 cents without any special considerations? It isn’t a promotional event or presented like a freebie out of a larger collection of works. It just is .99 cents because it is. Most people want their money’s worth and a lot of erotica buyers are regular buyers, so while they want a good deal they want signs of quality. Look at the best sellers in your sub-genre and list the three most common prices for short stories, novellas, and novels. If you’re a new writer I’d suggest setting those common prices for a week or two then dropping price by a few cents or a dollar. That way you’re works are technically “on sale” which usually gets attention on distribute sites. I never sell anything over 5k words for below $3 because I put my heart and joy into my pieces no matter what genre they are.
You tell the world what you are worth, and you do it realistically. Don’t be arrogant and don’t try to be Walmart by underselling everyone else because then two things will happen: Other writers will get pissed off and you will have fewer allies(writers also read btw) and you will look bad to consumers. When you price accordingly you can form realistic expectations about how much you’ll make. I have several pen names for different genres of writing and I know exactly what I want to make with every book that is under every pen name.
Do you want to know what the base income I want is? $30 for every two books. Two times seven is 14. 14 books times $30 is $420 dollars. That is an extra $420 a year that I wouldn’t otherwise have. Now, I have high hopes, but let me bring back what my author friend said about authors needing 30 books to break the bank because it matters here. Chances are you have less than 10 buys per book, unless someone randomly picks it up and loves it enough to recommend. Unfortunately even if your book is good the saturated market may bury it. So your book is set at $4.30 with 70% royalty on Amazon which means you get $3.01 from every sale. You have to convince 10 people to buy your books every month. The biggest asset to getting those people is having reviews. Most people will not leave reviews on amazon. Some books do have 1k reviews, but I have searched through 89 pages of erotica and only found a handful. Of course, the more taboo you get the more likely you are to sell but the smaller your chance of reviews gets. It sounds easy but out of thousands of books it is hard. Some of your books won’t find an audience. Some won’t be to go on Amazon or may get taken down for being too “taboo”(because they arbitrarily decide what is, hence why people say the weekend team is a bunch of prudes). You have to have a game plan. A marketing strat. and a strength within that. I blog because I like it and because I realized all the BS about SEO and social media only works now if you have an audience previously. It’s true.
After all this…what makes selling erotica work?
Two things change the game for every writer and chime in via the comments if you have opinions on this:
- The authors of successful stories have the ability to, if not enjoy, appreciate the sexuality and sensuality of both their characters and what the audience likes.
- The author interacts with other authors and books.
Before I say another word let me preface by saying a lot of people assume erotica authors have the same kinks as their characters or experiences….Stop. That’s just not the case. Plenty of “female authors” are men or gender queer people who know female names sell more. Plenty of vanilla women write the kinkiest of bdsm erotica about things they’d never try or talk about in real life except if it is about their books.
I told you I’d get back to this eventually, didn’t I? Here is a brutal truth…you have to have a positive understanding of your writing. I spoke on this previously and have a longer post about this in the works, but here’s the shorter version: Most people don’t make money on their erotica and burn out because they don’t have any positive feeling or understanding about what the hell they’re writing. They start writing about masochism, but can’t comprehend why their character likes it. They start writing about the sensuality of demonic lovers, but find the concept laughable. They make their lead fall for a billionaire, but find the whole idea contemptuous. While you don’t have to love everything you write, you are best served by trying to grasp it. If you don’t there is a very high likelihood the sort of fun or emotional nuisance your story’s sexuality will require will be non-existent.
The second one sounds like two no brainers, right? Most authors are readers and if you read more you get better. Common sense says seek out other authors. But let me tell you that so many people write, but then admit they never read. I’m not talking about the college students who temporarily lose a taste due to having to always read or people who take a bit of a break. These are people who will say to your face that “I’m a good writer, but I hate reading”. They want to master a craft without seeing anyone else work with it. They’re swordsmen who never watch people use a sword. They think they’re excellent writers and don’t need to read, but don’t see how they are missing a valuable resource into what readers like, potential inspiration, and what sells.
Not to mention they go onto those facebook pages, post a bunch of ads, and then think they’re going to get something from people.The only people that visit those pages are other authors selling shit, so the best you can do is also buy books. If you are an author or a blogger who doesn’t interact with other authors or bloggers then you’re not using your resources to the best of your abilities. Other authors will review, beta-read, edit, and promote other authors they’ve established a relationship with. If you never interact with people then you’ve limited you resources and your audience. Seek out writing communities, make a point to be active daily, make a point to offer to help out other writers, and don’t just ask for things in return. Give a little bit and you just might be surprised.
Being involved in communities is part of marketing and writing. Most people don’t do it meaningfully unless something is wrong. I like the website scribophile(thus far) because it requires you to interact by critiquing and reading others works. It forces me to so something I may not otherwise do outside of physical workshops. It exposes me to a wider range of individuals, or writers and books. If you seek out other people you broaden the people who may become your audience. In essence you can give yourself value and learn the value of others, which is all platform building is.
Hundreds of authors will sit there and tell you a thousand seemingly detailed, but ultimately vague notions about how they make a ton of money on selling erotic ebooks and how it is the easiest low involvement job in the world. But I’d rather be brutally honest and detailed so you get solid information and experience from someone who has done the research and is doing her damnedest to sell even when she’s terrible at marketing. Everything you heard about this being easy is wrong. Every story about an author breaking banks with their cash is an anomaly.
My word of warning is that if you think you will be able to pop up with a pen name throw together a story and then forget then you are sorely mistaken. Further don’t bother. I’m sorry to be cruel, and I admit this is even a touch self-serving, but there are a thousand dedicated authors who legitimately should be making more than they are who are buried because some rando thought they ‘d make hundreds in a month without having to do anything but put words on a page and press “publish”. If you are really serious about making a profit then you have to put in the work. If you want to get out a story a month, set a word length goal and write when you can. Have your partner watch the kids, stop playing your favorite video game every day after work, make a meal that lasts a few days for easy leftovers, and make time to write. This isn’t some get rich quick scheme and it is frustrating to see people act like my pursuit isn’t “real writing”, to see awesome authors vanish beneath a tidal wave of one time authors because a bunch of people read Suzy B. Buttholes account of making 30k at the end of 2016.
BUT you can bring in a relatively stable auxiliary income that can be the difference in the long term. If you write with an open mind to kinks you may not share, write with an open mind to the genre at large, recognize that all writing is hard, recognize that it will be difficult, and accept that it will demand a lot of you creativity then you are ready to start making extra income. It will take months or possibly even years, but it can happen.
Do this because you want to do it and your willing to figure out how this works. Don’t expect everyone to just go and buy it because you post ads. Don’t expect it to be easy. Don’t expect to make more than a few bucks a month until you have a catalog. Be sincere. Be honest. Be smart. Be friendly. Make money. The trick to making your erotica sell is knowing your strengths and playing to them alongside being willing to connect with people as more than a sales person. If you keep all this in mind as you pursue this weird world of words and sex then you’ll not only do fine, but you’ll do excellent. Just give it time.