Archive for the 'Tips/Advice' Category

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 by Sasha White
BDSM fiction

There’s been a lot of talk about BDSM in fiction lately so I thought I’d talk a bit about writing it. I think the most important thing for readers, and writers, of fiction with BDSM elements in it is to remember is there’s one undeniable truth about BDSM – there is no real standard. Each relationship is different, and there are all levels. Which means, when you reach for a BDSM book, you can get something that only contains a few ‘play’ elements, or something that is full on lifestyle, or S & M. Just because two books fall under the BDSM label does not make them even close to the same. Just like not all paranormal romances have Vampires, or Werewolves, some have psychics, some have witches or fey. The big difference here is that when If you buy a paranormal a romance you usually have abetter idea of what you’re getting buy reading the blurb. With BDSM, it can be a bit harder to discern that way because many of the differences within the genre can be subtle.

Example: My first novel BOUND has what I call BDSM elements. The heroine has fantasies about being dominated by the sexy security guard she works with, but it’s fantasy. However, as the two get closer, she finds herself really enjoying the whole submission thing. That story is written in the POV of a non-lifestyle character. WICKED is about Karl, who is a lifestyle Dominant. Some people would automatically think that means there’s plenty of whips and chains and bondage in this story, but thats not true. There is some, but Karl calls himself a “gentle Dom” and the story reflects that. He’s not a sadist- although he will deliver a blistering spanking if he thinks his girl deserves it- he just enjoys controlling, and caring, for his women. Two different levels of BDSM fiction.

For more insight into the various levels of some great BDSM fiction, look back to Eve Berlin’s Guest post here at Genreality (Not sure what happened to her cover images)

Cherise Sinclair writes some great BDSM fiction stores. The Masters OF Shadowlands stories are all set around and mostly take place with in a club atmosphere, and there’s some very well done kink scenes. Personally I’ve never thought any sort of ‘puppy play’ could ever be erotic, but she managed to do that in one of her stories (I think it was Make Me, Sir)

Joey Hill’s Nature of Desire series is unparalleled -in my opinion- when it comes to male submission. Give Natural law a try, and you’ll be hooked. Now, beyond the kink factors of these stories, (or the plots) the differences are also about what is more true-to-life. Joey Hill’s stories are fiction. but when you read then, there’s a realism, an honesty, to them that shows some true varieties of the lifestyle and BDSM. My own BDSM stories lean toward realistic as well, but the elements tend to be lighter than hers. Cherise Sinclair’s books are a bit more fantasy-ish. Her doom’s seem to be a bit too-good-to-be-true, and almost psychic in the way they read their subs. However, she is clear to state at the start of each book that the stories are romantic fantasies, and encourages people to remember that in real life, Safe, Sane and Consensual is a must, and that communication is key. These are just some examples of the variety that’s out there.

Personally, I enjoy BDSM fiction. I enjoy writing it, and I enjoy reading it. I love it because there are so many levels, and varieties, but also because really good BDSM fiction is not just about the sex, or the kink. It’s about the mind, and the emotional journey of the characters involved, and to me, thats what all good erotic fiction is about.

Friday, March 23rd, 2012 by Diana Peterfreund
Writing Battle Scenes

Today’s blog post comes from a question in my email box:

A asks (edited some for identity’s sake):

I am a budding writer myself, and attempting to complete my first novel.

I know that you have written very tense and bloody battle scenes, and I am now stuck writing the great final battle in my book. Do you have any advice for me?

First of all, congratulations on closing in on completion of your first novel. That’s an amazing achievement and you should be really proud of yourself. I wish you the best of luck as you finish it, edit it, and begin your path to publication.

Okay, on to the advice portion of our show. Yes, I actually do have some advice for writing battle sequences. (I know, right? I’m in such a weird Jane Austen headspace right now, what with trying to promote my new novel, that I almost forgot I’ve totally written multiple books about bloodthirsty unicorns and crossbows and claymores! The closest my latest heroine gets to a deadly weapon is when she hands a servant a pair of garden shears.)

Off we go.

1) Read a lot of action scenes. Read action scenes in your favorite books. Read action scenes you really liked in books that weren’t otherwise your favorite. Read the ones that were most clear to you, the most compelling, the most riveting. Read them even if they have absolutely nothing in common with your battle scene.

2) Study them and analyze what worked for you and why. Then steal the crap out of those techniques.

When I was writing Rampant, I did this. I thought about the action sequences that I remembered most vividly from books. Here are two of my favorites:

  1. Any Quidditch match in the early Harry Potter books.
  2. Any hunting scene in Jean M Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear book and sequels.

Now the latter makes a lot of sense for Rampant. After all, those scenes tend to be about humans hunting large ungulates. But it’s also more than that. As I analyzed what I loved so much about these scenes, and why they stuck with me years after I’d first read them, I realized that they almost always focused on Ayla’s decisions and feelings during the hunts. Ayla gets high off hunting. She truly, truly loves it. There is violence and terror, but there’s also a very strong sense of urgency. If she doesn’t succeed, it’s highly likely that she and/or her companions might starve to death. (I especially like the scenes where she learns to hunt alone in Valley of the Horses.)

Astrid is in a similar situation — not hunting for food, but also really, truly needing to kill the animal she’s hunting, or risk dying herself. As Auel did with Ayla, I made sure to focus the sequences on Astrid — her feelings, her place, her motivation, and her urgency. I’m not a huge sports fan, but I love to watch a game when I’m cheering for a team or a player. When I write my battle scenes, I’m want my readers cheering hard for my protagonists and, through that, to follow along.

Okay, so, Harry Potter. I know some people love sports fiction, but I was never a big fan. If games were described in books, I usually skimmed. Until I met Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling described Quidditch in the most fascinating way possible. I remember way too much about all the minute details and movements and points scored in every Quidditch game in the series. For some reasons, those scenes always held me riveted (even if, as I wrote about in my recent essay, I found the game to be a flawed sport in general) When I went back and reread those scenes, I was drawn right back in. (In a way I wasn’t necessarily with Rowling’s battle scenes or even the challenges at the Triwizard tournament.) What was it about the Quidditch matches?

Quidditch has nothing to do with hunting unicorns, obviously, but one thing I noticed as I analyzed it is that Rowling was exquisitely clear about who and where her players were, and what they wanted and were doing — even in the 3-D world that was the Quidditch pitch.

You could see the whole field and you could see how the action of some Beater down below was going to affect a circling Seeker elsewhere in the game. It was brilliant. So that — as disparate as it was from unicorn hunting — was also something I could use to make my writing stronger. You might find there are submarine fights or Orc invasions or Ender Wiggins Battle School matches or whatever else that really pushed your action scene buttons as a reader. Take that. Study it. Steal the methods and make them your own.

When you do, you may find your big points to hit are somewhat different than mine. From what I did above, I got:

1) Focus on character emotion, goals, conflicts, and motivation. Yes, seeing hte big picture is grand, but battles can’t all be crane shots.

2) Make sure the reader knows where things are and how they connect. You don’t want them to get lost in the action.

Additionally, I advise:

3) Use your senses. One thing you might learn from all this “stealing from your favorites” stuff is that when characters are involved in action, they go all primitive. Their senses all heighten — they see things, hear things, smell things, notice things.What would people notice in your battle sequences? Where are they? What time of day? What’s the weather like? What’s the state of the ground, of the air, of the people? What does it smell like? What does your clothing or your weapon feel like in your hand? What can you hear, before the battle, during the battle? Ask yourself those questions, even if they don’t make it onto the page. Your writing will be more vivid if you know.

4) Make sure injuries and losses are real. I hope you’ve never been shot or trampled or burnt or bludgeoned before, but try to think about exactly what those sensations are like. I was very concerned in Rampant that my characters weren’t getting Hollywood wounds — you know, the ones where they were shot in the shoulder, but didn’t even need to pause for a breath. When the girls were injured, they were injured. Sometimes down for the count. And old injuries would bother them, too. They had magic on their side, of course, but there were plenty of ways they could get hurt where the magic couldn’t save them. (And when the unicorns knew that, they could concentrate on those methods.) When people get hurt, ti’s not G rated.

5) Have a plan. I know this is anathema to many writers, but I think when you’re planning out a battle sequence, some choreography is going to go a long way, even if it’s just knowing what are the big points you’re going to hit — who dies, or how, or who wins, or what finally turns the tide for the victors, or etc. Get an idea of where you’re going before you get in there and the fur/arrows/nanotech weaponry starts to fly.

Good luck! I’m off to see The Hunger Games — which, if it’s anything like the books, is going to have some amazing action sequences!

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 by Sasha White
Q & A with Sasha

I put out a call on Facebook and twitter yesterday for suggestions from people about what topics they’d like to see me write on. I got quite a few responses, so I decided to just do a Q & A post.

* * * * *

Robert asked “What and if there are, what are the rules when writing about sex?”
I’m not a big fan of “rules” when it comes to writing, so I’d like to say there aren’t any, however, that would be lying.
I guess the first rule is the one you see in almost every call for submissions. Basically don’t write it if it’s illegal. No bestiality, no incest, no rape, no under age sex. Things like that. Publishers, and readers tend to frown on them.

My own personal rule for writing sex is know your audience. If you’re target is a men’s magazine, don’t focus on romance or deep emotional aspects, focus on the physical aspects more-the pleasure, the fantasy aspect that would make it a one-handed read for the audience of that market. Ditto for erotic romance. Your main audience is made up of women, so when writing for that market you must develop the emotional aspects and keep the heat. Make sense?

Eden Bradley suggested. “Your take on self-publishing? 
I think self publishing can be a good thing, for some people. It all depends on the person. Not everyone likes to deal with covers, and finding editors, or formatting, and uploading…there’s a lot of work that goes into self-publishing something. It can be rewarding, but it’s not simple. The same can be said for sticking with just writing and submitting to a publisher (be it electronic or traditional). What is right for some is not right for others.
I enjoy self-publishing some of my stories, but I don’t want to do all of them that way. Sure the higher royalty is nice, but man, it is a lot of work, and it really does take time away from the actual job of writing.

All-in-all I think self-publishing is best thought of as a tool for writers building a career, and not a career in and of itself.

(For a post I did a short time ago on Real Number in self publishing, click here. )


Laura Lane had a couple suggestions for me. (thank you, Laura!)
1) How about the pitfalls of publishing & what u wish someone had told u b4 you started writing?

I wish someone had warned me to take care of myself better. That physical health does/can effect creativity. Maybe then I would’ve worked harder to stay in shape, and saved myself a lot of pain (mental and physical). I’ve tried to share bits of this before in posts like this one: Tips for being healthy & Productive.I also wished someone would’ve told me that everyone has doubts, and not to freak out when I have my own. One of my previous posts talking about this aspect of things is here: Doubt Demons.

2) How about why you write in the genre you do?

It’s gonna sound crass, but I started writing erotica because thats where I could make some money. I’ve been a fan of reading it for years, and when I took a writing course my mentor asked if I’d ever written it. I replied ‘No.’  I’d wanted to be a travel writer, and the thought of writing fiction, a novel, was in the back of my mind as a ‘someday’ sort of thing. He asked me to writ an erotic short story, so I gave it a shot. When he read it he told me that was where I was gonna make my money. He said I had a very ‘salacious imagination’, and it turns out he was right.

That said, i continue to write it because I enjoy it. The more I dug into writing it, the more I enjoyed it. Sex is such a basic need, one we all share, and human sexuality fascinates me.

Alex Van Tol asked How do you manage the constant flow of ideas? Do you force new ones away while you stick it out w/ the old? New ideas are so shiny…
Sadly, I’m not one of those authors who always has a ton of ideas for stories. I actually can get stuck pretty often. That said, there has been a time or three when I was working on something that another idea has popped into my head and done it’s damnedest to seduce me away for some fun times. When that happens I go. Yes, I willingly trail after the tantalizing sparkly new idea and indulge in the fun-for a time. I’ll give myself a day to get as much of the shiny new idea down (and it really is amazing what you can get done in a day when your focussed) and then I set it aside and get back to the work. Because the work needs to be done, and you can only play hooky for so long before the real world of deadlines comes around and kicks your ass.

I believe that there is magic in sparkly new ideas, and you should follow them and let the magic shine, but I don’t like getting my ass kicked. So… indulge, but only for a set time.

* * * * *

I really enjoyed doing this and would love to do it again, so if you have any questions for me send them in. You can do tweet it to me, post it on my wall on Facebook, or simply email me.

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Sasha White
Doubt Demons

Persistence is what makes the impossible possible, the possible likely, and the likely definite. – Robert Half

I’ve had several conversations in the last week with other writers that surrounded the subject of doubt demons, dealing with stress, and career paths. I’m sure part of it is that January was fast coming to a close, and if they’re anything like me they’re thinking… “Damn, time is just whipping by…again.” and if others are like me they’re thinking maybe they need to revise their goals for the year. But I think the other part of it, the bigger part, is that we’re writers, and no matter how much you write, how many sales you have, or how well your last book did, we still have doubts.

It’s funny because I know me and my friends fight these demons off to somewhat regular intervals, and I often hope that someday I’ll get to that point where I don’t doubt my skill/talent/or drive anymore, but I doubt it. Yes, there’s another doubt. 😉

Because it seemed to be such a prominent topic of conversation I figured I’d share some thoughts of my own, as well as some that I’ve seen elsewhere that have stuck with me.

Carrie Vaughn’s post a while back called A NYT Bestseller has a meltdown really hit home with me, not just because of what she said, but because of who she is. I’ve been a fan of Carrie’s for years, and think she does a fabulous job on every Kitty novel, as well as her other stand alone’s.

The truth of it is, we all have doubts, and it’s not always a bad thing. Doubts are very bad, when you let them cripple you, or worse yet, stall you altogether. Doubts are bad when you give in to them and let them take over. But I believe if you acknowledge them, and consciously work to run right over them on your way to the finish line (whatever that is in your case) that they can be a both of a good thing because doubts mean we care about what we’re doing. That we’re not just churning out the same thing again and again in some sort of formula that once worked and we think will work again.

Like most things in this often crazy business, doubts are all about how you use them.

If you want more reinforcement that you’re not alone in having self doubt…check out this articles, that quote’s some pretty well-known authors voicing their doubts, and gives some great advice for dealing with doubts.

I’m going to leave you today with a couple of steps from a post I found on romance writer Kelly Wolf’s blog
1. Keep writing. You won’t want to, but you can. It’s all in your head. Really. Just do it.
2. Read a book on your craft.
3. Write some more.
4. Check out blogs by your favorite author or other writers with information on your craft.
5. Write again.
6. Read. And then read some more. Remember why you love books.

Want to read more… click here 12 Step Program for Writers Doubts by Kelly Wolf.

Monday, January 30th, 2012 by J.A. Pitts
Stranger than Fiction

If you’re an artist, one of the key things you do is observe life around you.  It’s second nature.  With your eyes wide open, there should always be plenty of ideas and characters for your work.  As a writer, I observe some of the wackiest shit you can imagine.  People are illogical and inconsistent to the point of madness.  Just look at the folks running for president this year.  They pander to the moment, to the funders, to the specific crowd they are standing in front of at any particular moment.   Anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see the fallacies and the out-right personality shifts.

Oh, you’ll find individuals who have a fairly strong narrative in their real lives, those who try to live by consistent values and appear logical from one moment to the next.  But I promise you, there are going to be moments when you see people do something so illogical that it will make your brain hurt.

As a writer, this is the stuff of dreams.  If you are writing comedy, then the election season is  your goldmine.  Or was that tragedy, I forget some days.  Regardless, you should never be short on characters, motivations or reactions when you write.  If you don’t believe me, take your favorite writing device and casually stroll through a department store or better yet, grab a beverage and sit in the food court of your local mall.  Within ten minutes you’ll see enough to fill a novel with secondary and perhaps, main characters.  It’s better than television most days.

Now, here’s the trick.

You can’t use that stuff as it happens.  No one will believe it.  We humans are just too whimsical and capricious to be used as is in a story.  See, unlike your day job, your dating life, or even a trip to the grocery; fiction has to make sense.

I can hear some of you out there gasping and examples of fairies and dragons are just popping to mind faster than you can write them down in the comments section of this post.  Yes, we write about stuff that doesn’t exist.  Sometimes we take things that exist and twist them around to be different than what they really are.  But the one thing we also do is proceed with internal consistency.   I don’t care what logic you use, but if you tell me the Bobby turns green on Tuesdays in the first paragraph.  When I see a green skin tone next, it damned well be Tuesday.

See, the characters in your books and stories can be wild men but no matter what their motivations, no  matter what their appetites or fears, they must behave with a level of logic that your readers can follow.

Every action must be aligned with the behavior this character has portrayed before, or ample justification must be shown as to why this individual would suddenly start behaving in a way that is different from what you as the author has shown.

It’s a balancing act.  I’ve critiqued a lot of stories over the years, shorts all the way to novels.  I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve had an author tell me, “but that’s the way it happened.  I wrote that based on real events.”

To which, I have to inform them that real life is too crazy for fiction.  Fiction must follow a logical thread if you want to keep your readers engaged and if you want them to finish reading the piece.

Don’t get me wrong.  Be gonzo, write some avant-garde story that would make your high school English teacher cringe in his cardigan.   But if you do not have the characters act with an internal logic that the reader can follow, you will lose them.

So, be a people watcher.  Eaves drop on conversations and experience the drama of real people from time to time.  It’s where we get our juice.  But when you put that down on paper or pixels, make sure your darlings can follow the bread crumbs back to their first introduction and your readers will gladly follow you into the apocalypse, or the next general election, depends on your threshold of pain.

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 by J.A. Pitts
It’s all about the details

As a writer I make it my business to pay attention to details.  I’ve always done it.  Even as a little kid I would notice things the adults around me would miss.  I also have a crazy scary memory for minutia.  Like the time a friend of my mom’s, Lynn mentioned that she worked with a certain Gail who had a crooked nose.  Weeks later at the bowling alley, Carol and Kim, two women who bowled with my mom, were once again oblivious to my presence.  I was so much a regular to the Tuesday and Thursday bowling leagues that they forgot I was listening.

They were gossiping about how Gail was such a whore and how she probably did things with men, for money.  Kim commented that anyone who worked in “that kind of place” was probably a whore as well.  I had no idea what “that kind of place” was.  Those kinds of details are not important to the story yet.  I’ve learned that.  Those details will present themselves with time.  Even at eleven I knew they were being catty, but I filed the information away and went back to reading A Wrinkle in Time.

Four months later, I was sitting at my grandparents house flipping through the paper after my grandpa had finished reading it.  Deep into the entertainment section I saw series of head shots of young women.  They were strippers and advertising a specific club.  The first picture was a young woman with a crooked nose named Gail and my mother’s friend Lynn was the next picture over.

I looked up at my grandma and asked,  “So, is Lynn a whore as well as a stripper?”

Grandma walked over, took the paper away from me and said I’d have to discuss it with my mother.  I didn’t even know Gail.  I’d never met her.  But the way Carol and Kim had described her and Lynn’s picture next to hers, I was able to put things together.

Events like this have occurred all throughout my life.  It’s amazing to me how many connections you can make if you just pay attention to what’s going on around you.  Writers are voyeurs.  It is our business to collect things and string them together into stories that entertain, enlighten and possibly, earn a bit of coin.

Don’t think as a writer you need to give the reader every detail of a scene, an argument, or a moment of passion.  What the reader needs is a few specific details, the overall feel of the scene, and enough runway to get off the ground.  They can fill in a significant amount from their own imagination.  It’s a balancing act.  How many pieces of furniture do I need to describe to give you the idea the characters are sitting in a diner?  How many specific sensory inputs ground you in the tacky booth with the overflowing ashtray and half empty coffee cups?  Do you need to see the one lonely slice of lemon meringue pie in the class container on the counter?  How about the way the waitress has a stain on her uniform, or perhaps the pungent aroma that greets you as you first walk in the door — that grease and despair, old cigarette smoke and overcooked bacon.

You could describe every barstool and every patron, but how long do you really have before you lose the audience?  The last thing you ever want is for the reader to look away from the page.  Rolling their eyes at the overload of details is one cause for folks walking away from a story.  Flipping ahead to see if anything interesting happens is another fatal point.

So you need to come up with those important details that are critical for the story to connect.  A young woman named Gail with a crooked nose who is a stripper and possibly a whore.  Then later, when you see a picture of a Gail who is a stripper and she also has a crooked nose, your audience will start to put two and two together.  Seed clues along the way, little details and points of interest that will make your reader’s story brain start to click.  They are looking for road signs that will point them to a satisfying connection and a plausible conclusion.

It’s a tough skill to hone.  I know I struggle with it all the time.  Fortunately writing allows you to go back and weave in details as they unfurl in your writing brain.  Unlike the real world, where you may not have the luxury to go back and look for all the right clues; in fiction you not only have the ultimate control over space and time,  you also have the ability to rewrite history so it fits the story’s needs.

We are builders, we artists.  We create something from nothing.  It is a gift and a curse that will haunt us for our entire lives.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t listen to half a conversation in the elevator at work and I fill in the blanks.  I saw two squirrels chasing each other round and round a tree one morning and I store that scene away for another time.  Someday I’ll have a story where the characters are walking through the woods and they’ll happen upon the strangest scene with two squirrels.

But you must keep your head up, your ears open and your mind engaged.  That’s the life of a writer.  We observe and report.   Just because the next story you see from me deals with aliens or elves don’t be surprised to find some mundane details that enrich the story and make it believable enough for you to follow along.

If you do the job well enough, you can turn something simple into something magical.  It’s all in how you put the puzzle pieces together.

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011 by Charlene Teglia
10 Ways to Have a Happy Writer Holiday Season

I love Christmas/Hannukah/Yule, whatever you call it, however you celebrate it, it’s time to let the kid inside out to play. And guess what? If you’re a writer, that’s a vital part of taking care of your creative self. But grownup responsibilities can overwhelm the fun, so here are 10 ways to help make the holiday season happy even for a writer on a deadline.

  1. Eat the Christmas cookies. If you love them, eat them, enjoy them, have them on pretty plates with tea or coffee or eggnog. They come once a year.
  2. Read your favorite holiday stories. I love Connie Willis’ Christmas tales especially, but there’s a world of choices out there. I read The Grinch to my kids yesterday and that never gets old.
  3. Watch your favorite Christmas movies. Make time.
  4. Call somebody.
  5. Write somebody.
  6. Play with your own kids or some in your extended family or friend circle. Busy parents will appreciate the gift of time to shop, bake or wrap unencumbered and the kid in you may enjoy playing with Playdoh, making snowmen, building with Legos, etc. more than you realize. I mean really, when was the last time you played?
  7. Schedule time when you can sneak off into your own world of words. When it’s on the schedule you don’t have to feel guilty about all the holiday/family things you are NOT doing. When work time is up, go be present for everybody else. But make time to be present for you and your writing world and don’t try to do both at the same time.
  8. You don’t actually have to spend all day in the kitchen to celebrate. Go out. Buy premade dishes from Costco. Holidays do not really have to mean a ton of extra work.
  9. Start getting ready early. If it’s too late for that this year, do it next year. Just like you figure out how many words/pages you need each day or week to not be pressured at the end, you figure out how early you need to shop to not end up overnighting everything at the last minute in a panicked rush at the postal annex. If you can’t face the stores on Black Friday, guess what; Saturday will bring the same deals and hardly any crowds.
  10. Remember that it isn’t merry for everybody. Kids in hospitals need books and toys and blankies, families in shelters need gifts and supplies, food banks need food. Check around your community to see how you can help out. Generosity and kindness make us better human beings and better writers.