Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Getting Out There" in the Social Media Sense

I have always written for myself, and I imagined that "one day" I would write for publication, but I didn't think I'd be writing what I'm writing, and I didn't think it would happen until I was older...close to retirement age. But, as luck would have it, I have the chance now, and I'm taking it!

That said, I decided that I need to get organized about it. I have no marketing experience, so trying to "get myself out there" is a challenge. What's more, I tend to be a private person, so I don't care overly much for attention. I am one of those people who loves the story and wants my characters to come to life for my reader because I want to say something...feel like it needs to be said...not that I want to be the one people call on the phone to talk about it. So where to begin?

The publishing company sent me a worksheet to fill out regarding where readers could find me:

blog address
twitter address
Barnes and Noble

The next day, I set up a twitter, Facebook, and Blogger account. I plan to eventually make a website, and I need to make some bios for Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble. I'd love to use all the media, but it begins to take time away from actually writing stories. Striking a balance will be one of my most difficult tasks.

My interests are not ones where I would necessarily share what I eat, who I talk to, where I shop, etc. I like doing things with a few close people. I was in the Peace Corps, and where other people brought pictures of their families to share, I brought pictures of the Chicago Air Show because it was the last big event I went to with my family. Clearly, I am different from most people out there, but maybe it's time for me to move outside of that comfort zone. Certainly for my career's sake, I need to work on my social platform. So, that said, wish me luck!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Beta Readers

So, you've written something, and you think, man, this is good stuff. But, how do you really know? You have to show someone, and whoever you show it to can give you feedback, right?

Well, the person or people who read your story after you write it up and before you send it off are called beta readers.

I don't like beta readers. No, scratch that, I didn't realize how careful you have to be about selecting beta readers. I've written other things than "the little novel," and I've found that I need to be particular about who is allowed to see my work before I feel it is ready for general consumption.

Once, a few years ago, I asked a friend who happens to be a professor in a local English department to look over a creative writing story I put together. This story was one of the first times since I had left school that I was trying my hand at writing something. It wasn't particularly good, but it was okay. I knew that, but I wanted someone to give a little constructive criticism. Unbeknownst to me, she really either didn't want to read it or didn't have time, but she didn't want to say so because she felt that would be rude. So, she gave it to a friend of hers.

I knew the friend, but not very well. I didn't have a relationship with the friend other than to speak to her if we ran into each other, and, on one occasion, when I'd gotten stuck in her town, I'd slept on her sofa. So, I was caught completely off guard when the woman saw me one day and started telling me that she really didn't care for my story and thought I should try doing something else. I was blindsided, and I was hurt by both the friend who had agreed to read the story and by the woman who felt she had the right to tell me her unsolicited opinion. It was a hard lesson.

Now I'm more careful:
1. I want to know the person has a real interest in the story. If you don't like the general concept, that's fine. I'm not offended, but never say you are willing to read a story if you really don't want to.
2. I expect the person to have a working knowledge of proper English. I believe it's my job to know grammar and syntax, but it helps to have other people read a story and notice if I'm reading over my mistakes.
3. I explain carefully who I expect them to share or not share my stories with knowing that if the person is married or in a relationship, they might talk to the other person.
4. I am willing to reciprocate. If the person reads for me, I have to be willing to read the kind of writing they write, too. I really don't want to get caught agreeing to read something I hate. I don't think that would be fair.
5. I am absolutely clear who I want the intended audience to be, so even if the person doesn't care for the story itself, he or she can form an informed opinion about whether or not they think the intended audience might like it. (And then I try to find someone from the intended audience to read it.)

On average, I write my stories, then I print and read them, then I rewrite them. I wait for a week or so, then I re-read them and make corrections. Then, I send them off to my beta readers (the aforementioned cousin and a sister). I expect that I will have to do rewrites when each sends me their ideas, opinions, and corrections. I always try to mentally stay open about accepting their thoughts.

I am learning this process, but I figure to be a good writer, you have to be willing to look at what you can improve and be willing to do it. And, it's important to learn to whose advice to seek, so that when you get it, you can use it to make your story even better.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

My Introduction to Writing Erotic Fiction

So, as I said, I wrote this short novel/novella (henceforth referred to as "the little story" until the title is actually settled on by the publisher) and sent it in to the publishing company, and it was accepted for publication (supposed to be this July assuming all goes well). I also sent it to my cousin who is a very good guy. He also tends to speak frankly. His comments were polite, but to the point.

"You write a romantic story, but you do realize your sex scenes read like bad porn? Right?"

Unfortunately, it's true. Yeah, the little story had been accepted, but I think we can all safely assume it was in spite of not because of the sex scenes. I tend to be a technical person. I love everything to be organized and precise, so describing romance scenes is generally not my strong suit. (Trust me, I'm working on it).

Because the little story has now made it to the publisher's editor, I had someone to ask. Thank the muses, she was very helpful. Apparently, there are some great classes put on by writing associations. You take the classes and glean constructive advice. I'm enrolled in one put on by the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers. It's actually called Writing Love Scenes.The first class is about levels of sexuality expressed in novels. Apparently, I write what can, in polite society, be considered mildly kinky erotica. it has a name! Progress.

The next thing I've been doing is reading lots and lots of novels. I've learned a lot of fun things I never knew or, perhaps I should say, I never knew why... For those who don't think romance novels (especially the erotic ones) aren't of value, I have to say, I find them both amusing and educational. Then again, I was raised in the very conservative heart of the country where sex ed is considered erotica.

The other constructive thing I've learned is that you are free to have an "I don't go there list." Apparently, there's a standard one that should make sense to most people: no bestiality, no incest, no rape, no necrophilia, no pedophilia, etc. That's actually rather comforting. I have been assured that publishing companies get this stuff and have to reject it. I pity both the person who has to read the slush pile and the person who found that to be enough of a turn on to write it. But, that said, you can add to the list if something isn't what you'd find tasteful or stimulating.

My standard, for anyone who cares, is that you have to have consenting adults with the capacity to make a coherent decision.

Because my first novel is something of a coming of age story, it does involve a seventeen year old male who gets involved with a guy who is older. Initially, the publishing company was hesitant to let even that stand, but (1) I was willing to change it, and (2) I also explained that given the location the law did consider him legally old enough to consent.

Eventually, when the powers that be read the story over, they agreed to let his age stand because a large part of the story is about the emotional pitfalls of such a young man getting romantically involved with an older man. I think it's something that isn't often addressed in m/m romance nor even in society. Neither character had a malicious intent. Circumstances just arose that they found themselves in the situation.

All in all, the technical skill to write good erotica is a fascinating topic.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Oops, I just purpled my prose

We've all had those embarrassing moments, right?

What is purple prose? I'd never heard the phrase used until I fell down the writing rabbit hole.

Purple prose is being pretentious to the point of distraction. It's like saying, I bought the damn dictionary, and I'm getting my money's worth.

How do you know if you're purpling that prose?

If your description of how your character said yes takes longer than two lines, you might be purpling.
If you can't spell more than half of the words you're using when you type them, you might be purpling.
If your grandma would wash your mouth out with soap if she heard you saying those words because she thought they were naughty, you might be purpling.
If you don't know the meaning of your own words, you might be purpling.
If you have more than five adverbs in a sentence, you might be purpling.
If you forgot whose dialogue you're in the middle of, you might be purpling.
If readers as you what you wrote about after reading what you wrote, you might be purpling.
If, with gentle caress, you add, lightly, those few extra descriptors, lest one forget the sheer emotion you would, in your greatest of hearts, wish to convey, you might be purpling.

So, does that mean don't purple? Nah, just purple with purpose.

Learn a little balance.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Writing Lessons

Sometimes it takes hard moments to break through to your deeper emotional wells. Four months ago, when my father passed away, I went to the funeral. I held it together. I tried to be and do what everyone around me need me to be and do...and then I came home, and I fell apart. Something I found out about my dad that really touched me was that when his nephews had come out to our extended family, he reached out to them. He made sure they knew he loved them. When much of my very conservative family had been and continue to be confrontational, he was kind in his own way.Since then, I've talked to one of those cousins nearly every week. He has become a close friend and confidant. He extended that love and comfort right back to me.

As for the writing, for about a three day period after getting home, I went to my home office and started typing. I wrote, pretty much non-stop, and by the end, I had a little novel. I hit the send button, and off it went to to the first publisher I could find in the genre.It was a m/m romance. The funny part was that I had never read a m/m romance novel. I only know about six gay people in total (open to me, anyway). The story was accepted and is supposed to be published in July.

I'm nervous and excited about being published. I hope I do well, but I wrote mostly because I wanted people to know that there is always a place at the table, and I want them to search for that true love wherever it takes them. I can't see stopping my writing now. So, I guess the journey has begun.