Using music to pace your story structure

One little way to help you pace the flow of your story is to make a musical playlist. Obviously this doesn’t work for everyone, but this is for those of us who can benefit from this nifty little tool. Pacing a story or a longer chapter it can be very difficult to know how smoothly emotions move from moment to moment. I’ve always used music with different beats of my story, but recently I’ve expanded it to whole sections of my stories. Whether you’re writing a sex scene or the climax (no pun intended) of a fight the emotional movements from one beat to another should function like the movements of a good piece of music. Whether you’re writing jazz or an opera you gotta get that flow. A playlist can really help you shape your story.

Individual stories tend to have a sound. One story of mine is very old school sounds. New artists like Audra Day, Adele, Lana Del Ray are paired with Eartha Kitt and Nina Simone because their sounds are soulful enough to carry the scenes. The music fits with the atmosphere I have created and want to enhance in the editing process, as well. For individual moments I assign a song, so a scene may have a particular vibe that fits “Young and Beautiful” or “My Baby Just Cares for Me”. And often you’ll find these songs are just ones that fit when you really listen. You’ll be driving in the car or washing dishes and the song comes on the radio. Once you have the songs you need put them on a playlist. I use two services for this…youtube and soundcloud, but there are a hundred music services and playlist makers available. If you’re using music already available I recommend MusicBee. You just put in a CD or a USB with your music and upload.

Like scoring a motion picture or a musical the playlist should fit the tone of the overall story. So the songs work together, and then they work for individual moments. Read the central moments of your story with the playlist. You can replay songs for longer moments, but listen for the flow of emotions, of tone, and to make sure the feeling of the scene fits your intent. This little trick can keep your story crisp and constantly moving. Story structure is damned hard, but any little tip helps. Why not let it be a fun one?

Does Poetry Sell?

I’ve been debating releasing a collection of erotic poetry I’ve been adding to for the past…nine years? And as I’ve been thinking about it I  wondered..do you guys buy poetry? I do on occasion, but more and more I have begun to wonder if poetry only sells if you are lucky enough to end up in the New York Times. Plenty of other writers have had success as poets, and poetry publishers.

Nikki Grimes,whose published 50 books over the course of 30 years, had a pretty honest perspective about selling poetry that I find very realistic:

To be fair, if you are a poet, it is highly unlikely that you will become wealthy working in this genre, no matter how well you hone your craft. That much is true. But chances are, you already know that. I would wager that most writers, keen on this particular genre, aren’t looking to make a killing in the marketplace. They simply have a penchant for the lyrical line, and a passion for metaphor. Like me, they pen poetry because they, quite frankly, can’t help themselves. Poetry is in them. It’s part of their DNA. Poets don’t value their work in terms of fiscal weight, and that’s where we differ from agents and editors.

No one alive should ever expect to break bank via publishing. It’s just not how it goes, but you can be comfortable. Besides poetry is about the feeling, the intent, and inspiring others to feel and see in new exciting ways. But here is the catcher. I am a poet who likes to have food and ,ya know, live.

As I’ve researched poetry publishing it is becoming clear that it’s a gamble, no one knows either way how it could go, but ya know what? Don’t act like you’ll make money. Act like you’ll do what you love. That’s…hard to do sometimes.

Still the world would be lesser for a lack of poetry than an overabundance. Poetry, like music, can do things in a line that thousand page novels fail to do in 400 pages not because those 400 pages are ineffective, but because the minimalist nature of a poem can do things in ways novels simply can’t do. In that way poetry offers an exceptional learning opportunity for writers of all kinds…which I will detail in my next post. For now let me say that poetry is incredibly important for writers to read and comprehend. You don’t have to like all poetry, but reading a diversity of poetry can sharpen your skills at conveying feeling, producing imagery, and understanding line structure.

I am proud to say I write great dialogue because I read and wrote poetry starting from 10 years old. Actually maybe even younger I remember reading Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings at some point with my mother’s help. How did poetry help me write dialogue? A good insult should be as sharp as a good poem and just as heavy with the punctuation. A proclamation of love that, I believe, has the most effect can be as simple as one line when you craft to context well. Poetry has done a lot of me as a writer, as a human being, and I know I’m not alone.

So why do we let it go so under appreciated? Why do people hesitate to spend $5 on a book of poetry that could effect them as deeply as 400 pages? Times are tough for many people. Yet even still there is so much we could do if we embraced poets more.

No one should ever expect to get rich off of writing. If you read those “I made a Bajillion $$$ Writing Ebooks” articles and believed them I’m sorry. There’s a reason a ton of those articles reference Stephen King or J.K Rowling, and not hundreds and hundreds of other writers. There’s a million of us. Yes, some are better than others, but this field must be about passion. Whether you write to market or no you must display some kind of passion because $$$$ doesn’t just fall into your lap; because you may write 30 good books before ever making $500; because so many authors haven’t been “discovered” until after their deaths. Writing is a cold hard mistress, and I’d say poetry holds a steel tipped whip.

But we can make it softer.
If we consume each other. If we’re willing to take that risk and buy a random book of poetry, if we’re willing to say our emotional and mental labors are worth something.

We have to create and contribute to the market as both buyers and writers. We have to recommend books and poets to build excitement and appreciation for poetry.

 

Check out my two releases:

Suffer too Good and Dirty Honey on Amazon.

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Knowing Your Writer Weaknesses

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!

Music: Depeche Mode’s The Things She Said.

 

 

Editing Chapter One: How to Writing?

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.

 

 

How to Write Erotica…to Make Money.

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.

4cbc60bcafc44f1d0ac51c17b1096681One 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.bd3e17b7cbb1c79da420d8791a491847

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”.

don_t-be-a-slave-to-writer_s-blockThat’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.

getmore_clients_become_more_you_value_yourselfYou 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.

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Wattpad and the Problem of Writer Community

If anything will make you a better content writer and a better writer in general it is interacting with other writers. Reading the works of others and having other others read your work elevates you to another level. However the biggest and most common issue a writer faces is getting feedback. Now that’s a broad way of putting it because feedback is buying your books, views, shares, comments, etc. But in this case by feedback I mean what people enjoy or dislike(in a constructive respectful matter). While there are people who write perfectly well in a vacuum even they could stand to gain from interaction. With all that being said…most writer’s communities suck and unfortunately it is in part because of selfish writers who constantly want to take and never give. Two weeks ago I started using Wattpad and the frustration I have always felt with others began to become clearer. The selfishness of fly-by-night writers who steal into writing communities demanding without ever wanting to give is underscored by communities that are swamped by so many fly-by-nighters that all work gets buried.

So how do you get involved?
Now, my opinions may change, but over all they can only change if the community standards change. Wattpad specifically needs more forums that are better organized in order to connect writers and readers more directly. They also need a search system that is at least on par with FanFiction.com, and can separate newer and older stories…BUT more importantly a can be searched on views in order to give everyone a chance to be seen. But wattpad isn’t the only problem.

The problem is us.
Writers keep acting like we can be selfish  and that if we just market we’ll find readers, reviewers, and beta readers. Marketing is important along with everything else, but you can’t hope to get  anything when you don’t give. Writing communities don’t work if writers don’t actually invest in stories they don’t write and participate in not only dissecting their own work, but other’s. You learn so much by reading and talking no matter how introverted you are. As a teenager I thought I was an excellent writer, but after years of workshops I look back fondly at my work while muttering a “Thank Hera” under my breath because I am SO MUCH BETTER. I am not unique.

Critiquing, sharing, and discussing writing exposes you to a wide range of styles, ideas, and concepts that you can dissect in terms of why it works, why it doesn’t, why you like it, and maybe why you do not. The bottom line is when you exit your vacuum you not only learn, but your brain gets going. You learn how to pull apart your own stories and you also learn what other people pick apart. In essence a group of writers or just readers like Wattpad connects  you to your audience. That is one part why community is important because your writing friends can become your buying friends. Not just because they know you, but because you’ve learned what works in your writing and what works for real people and not just for you.

And yet somehow all of these communities suffer the same problem. Some would say it is accountability that’s the problem. Well, everyone is accountable…only to themselves. Somewhere in writing programs and reading classes we never taught people to value interacting with writing and the writer. Yet this is what keeps writers in business and going because who reads more than writers and creators? If we don’t support each other who will?

So I challenge you now to find writing communities.

I challenge you  to not just read, but review and comment on other authors.
I challenge you to help that friend whose writing a novel or poem, by reading and giving honest thoughts about it.

We make the communities we want to live in. Earlier tonight,and not to get political, I was watching a program and a conservative radio host was laughing at the thought of basically any celebrity or anyone with a platform using it. It was whining. It was grandstanding. And I’ll be real conservative republicans have a very nasty habit of assuming everyone to the left of them is insincere and/or weak. Nothing I or anyone to the left of them is real, which is bullshit. But I bring this up because his point was that no one gets to make their community. In his eyes you don’t get to challenge, change, or make a statement about culture. It’s a very dangerous mindset no matter who you support or what you believe. It is dangerous because our communities support us emotionally, economically, and intellectually. Humanity is interacting. Writing for all the solitary hours we spend with a page and our thoughts…requires interacting. Communities inspire writing. Communities inspire you to dream bigger and do better. No one is an island and we all need to do better by each other, by book stores, by bloggers, and by ourselves by engaging with each other.

So I have one last challenge for you…engage more, have fun, and do better by yourself as a content lover and creator. If you do this you may discover stories, authors, and friends that will enrich your life in ways you can never imagine. Please, support each other because if you don’t who will support you?

The Real Problem with Cliches

Cliches aren’t an inherent problem. Shocker. I know. You’d never expect Rosie to say something like that, but it is true. Cliches are not an inherent problem in writing or life. The problem with cliches is twofold sincerity and whether or not they’re boring. A cliche fails when it feels insincere. Let’s put it another way your partner can say “You look great”, but you’ll usually be able to tell when they are really serious or just spouting platitudes. Why? Because there is a difference in tone. Whether your reading a book or a blog you can tell the difference between someone writing passionately and with more than a passing interest to get a concept out.

I say this because I think there are a lot of writers who like the idea of writing and the concept of telling a story, but who don’t want to dig into what they’re writing enough to make it feel authentic. You pick up a book or read someone’s story page and your met with an obvious love of the concept of a character or a relationship, but the writer hasn’t made the story worth your while. They love the idea of this handsome young lad sweeping this girl off her feet…but there is actually no relationship between them except for the writer telling you so. They never have serious conversations or bond beyond steamy scenes, and even if your’re left with a bit of enjoyment you can’t quite believe in their relationship.

Plenty of blogs and stories that I started have not been finished for that very reason. They’re concepts with no depth, and that’s how you fall into the cliche. You don’t sound sincere even if you sincerely want to tell your story. D.D Griggs and I talked about this the other day. Whether you are writing non-fiction or fiction there are cliches and themes. She writes self-help books, and 70% of them are similar or have similar themes that are cliches we can all spout to a certain degree. Writers like her put those cliches into a context and a way of living that is incredibly important, but we’re all familiar with self-help stereotypes of conferences, yogis, and hippies. Most people can tell you one common philosophy in self-help, but neither of those things are inherently bad. What makes a self-help book succeed or fail is a matter of someone liking the author’s style, but more so it is a matter of whether that author is speaking from a place of sincerity and belief. That’s what keeps those cliches from being a problem.

When cliches become a problem is when they’re boring and don’t feel genuine. A blogger talking about “the power of positivism” and working out won’t grab your interest if they are just issuing copy-pasted ideas to their audience. If they don’t let you in to who they are you don’t feel like you can trust them because all you see is surface cliches. The same thing happens in fiction. If you have a book about a werewolf romance that is just paint by numbers it may make money…but it won’t make you an audience for the next book. It won’t get you the sort of repeat readers you want because the readers can tell you aren’t in it and you’re not giving them anything interesting. By that same token, someone else can write the exact same plot (and people do this and do it well) but they make the characters more sincere and write with more passion. They try to keep the story interesting and their readers see that. In blogging and ebook writing I see a lot of people just regurgitating what they think will get them blog follows or downloads, and then I go to forums of people upset and complaining about not getting sales. Well, you aren’t giving a unique product. You give something that is pain by numbers…and so have hundreds of thousands of others, which has hurt the market in many ways all on its own. These writers just don’t see how the cliches aren’t what hurts or helps a story or blog or what have you. It is a matter of how something is written and the tone that allows readers to connect.

Cliches can be powerful tools not only when you subvert them, but when you embrace them with the intention of making them interesting and bringing somethign new to the table with all the sincerity you can muster. This not only applies to the page or screen, but to how you talk to people as well. I hope you keep that in mind when writing holiday cards this season or are getting ready for New Years.

Until next time…

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Reviving Dead Stories: Awkward or Awesome?

The first time I wrote a story with a sex scene I was 14. It was a Full Metal Alchemist fan fiction. The first time I wrote an original piece worth a damn was at age 15. The story concerned a young unnamed woman who encounters a shape shifting wolf(original I know). The wolf isn’t some bad boy though. He’s a teenager like her, but full of cheer and hope for a better world. One moonlit night the unnamed girl kissed him and shy fumbling led to more. Now as I begin my journey as an erotica writer I’ve been forced to ask a question: is it wrong or uncomfortable for my readers if I  revisit those ideas and give them a more evolved form? Is it wrong to plumb my brain for dirty fantasies I drooled over as a minor? Is it wrong to take old stories from my books and USBs and rewrite them as something new? It may seem like a stupid question, but as young people gain access to more technology and we engage in discussions over technology, sex, consent, and inevitably morality we have to begin figuring out these often arbitrary lines of legality and morality.

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To quote myself “Lets not even get started with this ok?”

My natural instinct with creative works is that they are fictional and though they do impact our society we can’t and should not treat thoughts as crimes.  So long as no one is hurt then regardless of our disgust no one should be penalized legally for fictional content creation…though they can be penalized socially. My litmus test has always been “Is anyone being hurt by this?” and I mean that both directly and indirectly. And take notes here because that question is going to become particularly important as we advance virtual reality and robotic technology (we often talk about robots used for sex, but a debate will be around  animal like or childlike robots made for that purpose. This will soon be our reality.). Access to stories, platforms like amazon, and access to the materials necessary to create stories/comics/games/movies/etc. are already complicating our reality. Back in 2014 I remember reading a story about a man returning from Japan who was arrested on child pornography charges because of comics specifically manga as well as this. The characters were written as being the age of majority, but they said it didn’t matter because they saw what they saw on the page/screen. And I get why people reacted this way because they saw what they saw. I have no doubts that some characters are written younger despite their given ages which can be gross and uncomfortable to say the least. I have no clue what sort of manga or comics that the people prosecuted had, and I don’t know how young or realistic the characters drawn were, so it may have really been a case of “I know it when I see it” and even though that’d make me more comfortable part of me hesitates because it’d still be fiction. But I’d still be more comfortable.

But the weird part is basically the choice to prosecute these individuals penalizes artists for their style but more than that it brings up a whole lot of questions. To me this asserts if a person has a young face, or more dramatically has a youthful body and you date them you could be subject to being called a pedo. A lot of people say it is a matter of using common sense to decide what is and is not ok, but it isn’t. I wish it was that simple to separate the wheat from the grosso chaff but it isn’t.

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Despite all the fan service I loved the animes pictured above…now let me tell you a secret. They are both animated versions of The Dirty Pair. One is the original show from the 1980s and the one on the right is from the fan service laden ugly 1990s reboot. The exact same characters are depicted, but the artists had very different interpretations, styles, and quite frankly most people probably wouldn’t think they were the same characters or the same ages(mid twenties). The reboot had them less mature and more cartoonish in personality, so is that enough to penalize it? I’d guess not, but still it might be. Whether right or wrong it can lead to sticky situations. But plenty of people risk arrest for creating characters who are drawn or written in a certain style. It’s arbitrary decision making based on some random person(s) comfort level, and in the case of fiction…depending on the style of the artist the only difference between a child and an adult is height and eye size…and that’s not always the case.

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How old do you think each character is? Chances are you’ll be surprised

I point out the difficulty of this scenario because it is something we’re dealing with now that affects creators both in business and in figuring out how people see their work. The comics/manga examples are far more clean cut than me revisiting stories from my teenage years, and yet they are fraught with ethical, moral, and social questions. Do we assume that any character in a particular style is a child. In the picture about Hiei, the short black haired guy on the left, is the oldest of the core four characters if I remember correctly. He’s just short. Do we assume any character written a specific way is meant to be a kid? I think there’s a reasonable argument for that, but even then I have to admit it becomes “I’ll know it when I see it”. All of these issues of morality, technology, and creation come to the forefront of your mind as a writer, especially when you begin engaging with pieces, thoughts, and characters that have experiences with sexuality. As I said, I wrote sex as 14 year old, and though it wasn’t good…it was there depicting characters who were young and on adventures. And while their or my age was never fetishized…I cannot stop someone from sexualizing it. I can’t thought police people to not find it arousing that I was a young pervert even if I find it gross, but can people be penalized for reading those revamped old stories, fantasies, and thoughts?

But that’s complicated…and this next part is often something we don’t like to discuss but it is true.

Quite frankly, we can’t 100% know what exactly excites someone or what role they are taking in their fantasies. Research finds time and again that some fantasy aren’t of the one traditionally considered the victimizer. Not every sexual thought is going to be safe, sane, consensual, or even possible but people have them…and there is no way to stop people from sharing them. Further why shouldn’t people profit off of fiction so long as it doesn’t give people a step by step guide to illegality? There are arguments to be made, but even still we don’t know what other people think. It isn’t my place to assume your darkest taboo fantasies place you in the role of the victimizer/power-holder/etc. because there is literally no way to know that unless you told me, and even if I did know what does that have to do with you in the real world?  If its just a fantasy, a fun story to read, a fun story to write…than who is anyone to decide that makes me immortal?

Yet I can’t ignore that a large part of society disagrees. What I consider “Playing thought police” is what others call setting standards, and while I disagree with many of those standards I can’t say it is wholesale wrong. Now, this isn’t a matter of people being able to critique and turn their noses up in disgust. It is a matter of wondering what is inappropriate, not in risk of being seen as illegal, and generally pragmatic. So long as a piece isn’t harming anyone then it is generally seen as fine. The problem is deciding when something “promotes” something negative. Hundreds of thousands of people would see my BDSM erotica ,like Suffer too Good or my latest Dirty Honey, and decide I’m promoting anything from insanity to sexism. And I was once told by a room fool of people that sexual submission is an extension of sexism, so this isn’t me over reacting to nothing. Take that and add to the fact that I do have stories I wrote years ago that I find hot, erotic, and would love to rewrite, and we have some difficult questions. I’m pulling stuff from myself, but from my teenage self. Is it wrong because I should ignore who I was or ignore young people having sexuality and only write new stuff? I was a teen, a kid, and I had some of the dirtiest fucking thoughts you can imagine (pun intended), so I wrote some intensely erotic smut that would work for my business now. To some people that can be a problem.

Do young people have a right to write erotica or smut? Is there an inherent problem with anyone, especially adults, reading and enjoying it? Is there something wrong with me writing old sex stories from my teenage years into something else? These seemingly ridiculous questions have to be asked at some point and people don’t because they think the answer is obvious or the subjects make them uncomfortable. But we have to be braver. We have to be honest.

Every writer I know has at least one story or article that they’re written and put aside. I have thousands of notebooks filled with unfinished stories with some great ideas, but they were written at a point in time when I could not do them justice or give them the time they needed. Full disclosure…The Original Story that Dirty Honey was based on was a story I began at some point between the ages of 16-19. Does that make you uncomfortable? If yes…why? Because now you know I had very aggressive sexual fantasies at a younger age? If I liked the story then and I liked the story now, so what does it matter?  Does the story take on added dimension with that revelation? Perhaps yes, but does that make the story disgusting in some way? So far as I can see no. The fact is I am a sexual and romantic being. I’ve always been fascinated by sex, romance, and falling in love. What is the difference between me coming up with the story now or then? Nothing practical or logical justifies a reaction.book-covers-teen-fiction-popular

The aversion some may feel comes from this belief that young people shouldn’t be sexual even though we know they are, and that feeling isn’t logical…but conditioned and arbitrary. I debated over using old material,but ultimately I realized it’d be more criminal to not do so and pretend something drastic happened at 18 and I realized I had girl parts that could be fun and imagine these filthy things. But no one took the adult filter off my brain like all of a sudden the kids have left home and the adult channels no longer need an adult filter. Nah. I’ve been sexual for a long time and there is no reason I should act ashamed of that or not use valuable material because someone might be uncomfortable with realizing I’ve always been me. Life is too short and I am too poor to not look to the things I like and use them in profitable ways. Bottom line: that’s their hang up not mine.

But I want to throw a wrench in here…what about teenage writers?

Fanfiction.net, live journal, Gaiaonline, myspace, Xenga, IMVU, and ,hell, even Neopets were spaces where I found sexual young people who were writing flat out smut if not erotic romances. Anyone of any age could read them. Once upon a time I was one of those teens, and writing was so much happier than my reality. Writing those sexy, romantic, and angst filled stories helped me develop as a person. Getting feedback helped me develop as a writer. Some people would look at those places and see corruption. I have no doubt there are predators on those sites because there are predators everywhere, but that isn’t what this article is about. This article is about navigating artistic boundaries, and what I’m asking is does age negate the right to certain types of art, to profit from that art, and/or affect those creating it?

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A lair of smut and indency and…that aisha kitty is cute

There’s a difference between sexualization and writing sex, which I believe in. However I acknowledge that it is difficult to navigate. I know a woman who published her first book at 17 to rave reviews, she sold the rights while maintaining royalties, and generally could stand to make millions from that still popular book. As I began writing Dirty Honey, I found myself thinking what if that author had written a sex scene in her book? What if there is a book written by a brilliant 16 year old who is able to write with the sort of maturity and care that most adults can’t even do, but they’re story has been hurt by sex?

While plenty of YA books contain elements of groping or “fades to black” or references to candles burning all night…what happens when 15 year old Rosie D. writes sex that is inherently different from 20 something year old Rosie D. ? Content wise I’m a better writer and I write better stories. There is no moral imperative here. Nothing changes, and yet so often we use age to determine what is appropriate not because it works, but because why not. We have to do something to protect those who aren’t mentally matured enough for the sexual world, but even the more tangible aspects of sex and age and consent still have muddied waters. A number of gay kids have been charged with statutory rape because they turned 18 and their current or former girlfriend or boyfriend was a pinch younger with parents who blamed the now-18 year old for “making their kid” gay and forcing them to acknowledge their kids as sexual/romantic beings. It is an unfortunate reality that the laws just can’t cope with, and I don’t know if they ever will be. So how do authors especially young authors navigate this moral mind field?

If a 15 year old was revealed to be a top selling erotica author how would the world react? Probably with calling the kid’s parents perverts, suggestions of child protective services, investigations of abuse, laughter, derision, suddenly rave reviews are redone to point out “childish” aspects of the writing they once praised. It has a sense, but it isn’t logical or reasonable. Yet people would feel dirty, but if that 15 year old held back that book and then published it five years later? Their reputation would be un-compromised and the readers would feel less upset and bothered. That 15 year old might be harassed as well, and perhaps sexually harassed by not only old perverts but classmates and others. But I don’t know how we would handle that. I don’t know how we would make peace with the fact that a 15 year old wrote a mature, sensual, erotic, and emotional sex scene that excited adults, teens, and anyone who got their hands on a copy. I do believe we’d struggle. So often we pretend young people are sexual or capable of sexual thought with any weight to them.

But if that kid waited five years…what would we do? Praise them, share their works, whisper about them in coffee shops, and then see them on Oprah’s Book Club. And then what would happen if that now-20 writer went on TV said “I wrote the story when I was 15. I fully edited it by the time I was 16, but didn’t get the courage to send it out until I was 19”? Once again people wouldn’t know what to think. They wouldn’t know what to say, or how to feel about reading sex by the author’s younger self, but I’d imagine they might excuse in five seconds if the author was charismatic enough. I hope that’s what will happen with my writing.

For me…I have lived a life as a teenage wasteland of sex, and now as a young adult obsessed with sex and candy and whips and things I find the best policy is to look at the piece as what it is before doing anything else before moving to where the piece came from and who wrote it. In erotica the best way to examine our works and to enjoy them is to just accept them and the creativity that birthed them then we can evaluate what they are, how they work, and if they really do promote dangerous ideas for someone to follow through on to hurt people/creatures.

 

Advice to Romance Writers from Readers

Since Kelsey and I started the blog, we have read over 100 books. Our favorites are always the romance stories, but we’ve seen several things that almost instantly turn us off. We’ve di…

Source: Advice to Romance Writers from Readers

This post has truly excellent advice for all writers! We often get so into marketing and trying to build an audience that we toss these things aside, but spending time on our craft is important. While many like myself struggle to find willing readers and editors there are steps we can take to enhance our work, and ourselves as writers.

To me the romance writer has one strong struggle that is hard to work around…writing a good story and balancing the story with the conventions romance readers love. So much of romance is great…but boring and redundant as a writer. As a reader you don’t mind so much so long as it is different enough, but writing is such a different animal. People think its easy, but it is an emotionally and mentally demanding task. Any advice and perspective a writer can get is helpful.

The Distraction of Writing.

Writing can be a very good distraction from life. That can also be a bit of a problem, but right now I find it to be rather enjoyable. When you write it allows you to step away from yourself even if you’re right about you. Your just surrendering to the moment and the act of creating something wonderful. There is nothing more awesome than the exchange of ideas and we’re lucky to live in an age where we can do it from virtually anytime or anywhere.  Since about 2pm I’ve been reading different articles on writing and marketing on different blogs. It’s been very enlightening and I’ve realized that writing is a source of power when used correctly. Regardless of what you write you begin to step away and just go for your thoughts and getting them down on paper or screen. You manage to keep yourself going. Lately I’ve been struggling with my life. I’m not unique. I won’t claim I anything is special about me. I’m smart. I’m talented. And unfortunately that isn’t enough. It doesn’t matter how hard I work or for how long. Sometimes life just doesn’t go in your favor or how you plan. That’s not sad. It is just life, and our goal is to take a step towards what we want with every single day. I got rejected from two literature magizines and the Bitch Media internship I applied for, but does that mean I am bad at what I do? Not at all. What it means is those things didn’t come through. Nothing’s changed and I just have to keep trying. I write. I spend hours on reading marketing, reading in general, and then I spend at least three hours a day writing.

It is a great distraction.

I create worlds and build characters. I make epic action scenes and intensely romantic works that make me smile, and I hope you smile one day. I’ve accomplished a lot in the last two months.  Suffer too Good and Dirty Honey were written and published. I have a few older stories I’m slowly working through. I’ve edited stuff for another author. I’ve been trying to engage more with the world around me and that makes a difference. Depression doesn’t always care, but all of that means something in holding back the tide. I just wish I had a few more bucks in my pocket, but don’t we all.

A lot of times I hesitate in posting these reflections because so often people look at millennials and call us complainers because we should just swallow everything and pretend things are fine. But truthfully I guess I don’t care. If I’m being wholly honest I only care to preserve my image. Yet I will say here I do feel like I’m standing in a realm of possibilities without any chance of getting to move towards any of them. College debt, lack of job prospects, my current job not actually letting me work, and my floundering sales do a lot to damage my sense of self both as a person and a writer. Worse they make me feel unstable. Sometimes I wonder if I should just call it quits. Not because this is hard, but because I don’t know how long I can live with the state of things because I don’t know if anything I’m doing is worth a damn. No one really does know until someone else tells them, and they say the definition of sanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, which sucks because writing is a repeatable practice. The best writers can do is try and recognize that we could be the next Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, or Arthur Miller but never get our break. BUT we could. Any day now someone can swoop in and pick up your book, click your blog, or hear about your journey….and turn you into the next big thing. Someone could find value in all that you do, and that can revolutionize your entire life.

I hope for being seen, read, and loved. Any writer who tells you they don’t want that is a damned liar and you can tell them I said that. We write to connect if not with others than ourselves. The irony of that is that is what makes writing such a great distraction. Regardless of whether I get my big break or make some cash to pay for my studies I will always hold a pen in my hand. So I work on building my character, my life, and my world into a better place and me into a better self. Writing allows me to think both in and outside myself. It allows me a distraction from the crippling doubt and the depression that makes me wish I wasn’t going to wake up tomorrow. When I can’t sleep from the thoughts in my head I distract myself with stories and writing. The worst nights and days are the ones where that doesn’t work, but luckily those are few and far between. In today’s world every person has to be there best advocate, their best friend, their kindest listener, and in world of creatives their strongest mentor. More than all of that we have to be willing to distract ourselves with our writing because that keeps us going. It pushes us to evaluate, to debate, to think critically, and hopefully come to understand our best assets.

As time goes on I hope to find my place in the world. I don’t want to be rich. I just don’t want to stay poor. I don’t want to be happy. I just want to be content. Until I am able to get to a place where those things I want come true all I can do is write and pray for the best. We all must push forward….the problem is knowing where forward is and how to get there. That’s what no one ever tells you.