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A NaNo Lament

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 31 October 2014 · 55 views

by Jemi Fraser

'Tis the week before NaNo,
And all through the 'verse
Writers are mumbling, and cursing,
And swearing, and worse.

November is on us,
How'd it get here so fast?
The last time we checked,
Summer barely had passed!

We need time to start plotting,
We need time for a plan!
We need time to develop
Our characters...oh, man!

The outlines are bare
No settings are made,
The backstory's blank
No foundations are laid!

At From the Write Angle,
We writers are tough,
But it's that time of year,
So we're screaming, "Enough!"

NaNoWriMo is calling,
We must heed its call,
So we'll be back in December,
With more posts for you all!

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. She blogs  and tweets while searching for those HEAs.

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How You Can Help Your Small Press Writer Friends – Start by Sharing This Post

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 28 October 2014 · 71 views

by RS Mellette

A while back, Sophie Perinot posted here about how helpful pre-orders are for a published writer. That was way back in 2012, but it's still true today, especially for books coming out from major publishers. The majors have very little patience, so a book that doesn't catch fire right away can quickly fall out of favor. Pre-orders help fight corporate anxiety and give a book better first week numbers. That's a great way to have your purchase do a tiny bit more to help promote the book.

But since 2012, the market has changed dramatically. Small presses and self-published authors play in the same electronic playground as the majors and they are all fighting for the same thing – good word of mouth that turns into sales. Thankfully, small presses have more patience when it comes to building an audience.

Since you're reading this article, you know at least one small press author with a book on the market (me), and probably more. Since you're a nice person you're probably wondering, "How can I help my friends with their book?  I don't know anything about publishing."

Not to worry. In a world full of social media there is plenty you can do to help – and the best news is, you can scale up your participation depending on how much you want to do.

For example:  Let's say the writer you know isn't really someone you know, you know?  Maybe you have thirty-seven mutual friends on Facebook, but for the life of you, you can't remember who this person is. Still, you'd like to do your bit … as long as you can do it from your phone while you're taking a break from work in the restroom. This is easy. If they invite you to like their author's page, do. If they post something about their book, like the post. In two quick seconds, you've done your part.

But let's say you do remember how you know the author. Maybe you went to high school or college together. Sure, you haven't talked to them since then – but fifteen years ago (or thirty… five years ago), you were close friends. You'd like to do a little more to help the author out. What can you do?

Here's the first thing that people often forget to mention:  READ THE BOOK. Chances are, you'll like it. If you don't, you can still politely like their pages and posts. I don't think anyone is going to hunt you down for liking a post about a book that isn't worth the cover price, and you'll still be socially safe when you run into your friend at a reunion.

If you do like the book, then your assistance can scale up again. Go from liking posts to sharing them. A small press book has to sell tens of thousands of copies to be a success on the scale of one from the majors. I don't know of anyone with ten thousand actual friends and family, much less ones that are willing to cough up money for a book. Sharing posts with your friends is the easiest way to have an impact on the number of people who are aware of the title. Hopefully, that awareness will lead to a new reader, and then a new fan.

Still want to do more?  Great!  Post a review on Amazon. Reviews are the biggest way to boost sales, period. Don't worry, you don't have to say much. If you love the book, give it five stars and write something as literary as, "I love this book!"  If you have a Goodreads account, post a review there. While you're at it, copy a link from your Amazon review to Facebook. That way, your friends can click on the link and see your brilliance.

Still want to do more?  You're fantastic!  I hope you're a friend of mine.

Talk about the book with people who might be interested in it. For example:  Say your author-friend has written … I don't know… a Sci-Fi adventure that's good for 6th-9thgraders. You might know some 6th-9th graders. You might know their teachers or librarians. You might have a relative or two looking for good gifts for that hard-to-shop for geeky 'tween. You can be the hero with a single sentence, "I read a book they might like."

And, who knows, if the title becomes a household name, and you're at some stuffy cocktail party and that person who constantly looks down his nose at you mentions the title of the hot new indie book they've just read, you can say, "Oh, yeah, the author is a friend of mine, and I helped make that book the hit that it is."

Look for R.S. Mellette's new book, Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand in December from the independent publisher, Elephant's Bookshelf Press.  

R.S. Mellette is an experienced screenwriter, actor, director, and novelist. You can find him at the Dances With Films festival blog, and on Twitter, or read him in the Spring Fevers, The Fall: Tales of the Apocalypse, and Summer's Edge anthologies.  


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Self-publishing, Free, and Flexibility

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 26 October 2014 · 48 views

by +J. Lea Lopez 

Free is a hot topic in the publishing industry. Depending on who you ask, free is:
  • an effective pricing strategy
  • the only way to get people to take a chance on self-published books
  • the reason publishing as we know it is dying
  • devaluing writing and making readers reluctant to pay for good books
  • pointless
  • a way to gain exposure
And a whole host of other things. Everyone has an opinion, and if you know me even a tiny bit, you probably know that I'm going to tell you that none of those opinions are 100% right or wrong. There's often bits of truth behind each person's opinion. Quite often, authors will speak from personal experience, and in that case, I'm certainly not going to tell anyone that they're wrong about what they've experienced firsthand.

I can tell you from the experiences shared with me by several successful self-published authors that free certainly has a place in your arsenal of tools. Depending on the genre and type of book, it can be a very powerful tool. If all (or several) books in your romance series are out there and you're looking for a way to grab some more readers, putting your first book free (and yes, it is still possible to go perma-free on Amazon) could be a great tactic. Especially if each book has a strong hook or lead-in to the next.

If you're not writing a series, can free still work for you? Maybe. Maybe not. But a great thing about being self-published is your ability to analyze, react, and adapt. As a self-publisher, you have to be flexible and know when somebody else's tried-and-true isn't so true for you. Let me share my own experience with a free book as an example.

When I self-published last year, I knew I was going to publish my contemporary NA romance Sorry's Not Enough, but I was worried about readers taking a chance on me, an unknown author. Everybody was talking about the free strategy then like it was the holy grail of marketing tactics. But my book was a standalone. How could I still make the free strategy work for me? I got the brilliant (or so I thought) idea to pull together some of my short stories that had both romantic and erotic elements and package them in a collection. I figured it was a good introduction to my writing and a good lead-in to my novel because each of the short stories had elements you can find in my novel: character-driven and introspective narration, complicated relationships, steamy sexy.  It had to work, right?

I published my collection, Consenting Adults, and included an extended sample of my novel at the end of it so readers would be instantly compelled to go buy it after (hopefully) having enjoyed the short stories. Then I made it free. And then I spent many months trying to figure out if the free strategy was working like it should. I mean, I was getting a few sales a day of my novel usually, and the short stories were consistently ranked between 300 and 500 overall in the free Kindle store and in the top 10 of a couple different category lists. That must mean it was working, right? So I left it alone. Then something happened this year that made me rethink the free strategy for my books.

Sales of Sorry's Not Enough began to decline slightly early this year. I only worried a little bit, wondering if it was just a bit of a post-holidays slump. Sales continued to decline. And continued to decline. As of writing this, I've seen roughly a 60% decline in sales of my novel since the beginning of the year. Most of this year my worrying has centered on how to turn that around, how to increase visibility for the novel, how to entice more people to buy it. That included running price promotions, creating a new cover, tweaking the description and keywords, trying paid promotions on different web sites. Aside from publishing another book (which I'm working on doing), I felt I had done everything I could do and I had to stop driving myself nuts over it. And that's when my focus shifted from the novel to the free short story collection, and it dawned on me.

Free wasn't working for me. In all of my fussing with Sorry's Not Enough, I never paid attention to the fact that free downloads of Consenting Adults were still pretty steady. There's been a slight decline since the beginning of the year, maybe 15% or so, but nothing like what I've seen with my novel. My free book was not pushing readers to my paid book. And that's what it's supposed to do. That's the whole point of the free strategy. Obviously it was time to rethink that strategy.

I knew these things for sure:
  • Consenting Adults has great innate visibility thanks to my keywords, description, and categories (and magic, because I swear sometimes it all just feels like magic)
  • When you search for "erotica" in the Kindle store, Consenting Adults is the top result
  • It had a consistent download rate of several hundred a day when it was free
  • People who downloaded it for free were not going on to buy my novel
Because of that last point, I felt confident that having the short story collection out there for free was not doing me any good. That was the whole reason I'd put it out there for free to begin with. But could I make money with it? Would people pay for it? Or did they only want it for free? Based on those first three things I knew to be true, I decided that maybe some people would be willing to pay for it. I decided that even if no one bought it and the rank plummeted once it switched over to the paid lists, I'd wait to see if it negatively affected sales of my novel to further test my guess that it wasn't pushing people to the novel anyway. And if only two or three people bought it every day, that's still more money than I was making from 400 free downloads a day.

Consenting Adults switched over from free to paid this past weekend, and so far, people are still buying it. Not 400 people a day, but enough that I'm cautiously optimistic that this was the right decision. So what's the lesson for you self-publishers out there?  

Free is a tool. Use it wisely. Flexibility is also a tool. Use it to take calculated risks and to kick free to the curb if it doesn't work for you.

What are your experiences with free, either as a reader or an author?

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5 Tips for Fleshing it Out

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 13 October 2014 · 45 views

by Jemi Fraser

Last month, my post talked about 5 Tips to Trim Your Writing. This month, I'm tackling the opposite. With my current rewrite, I attempted to plot (kaboom!) and ended up with a shorter story than I expected (15k shorter).

So, now I'm focusing on how to flesh out a story without padding it. Some of the things I've discovered:

Fleshing it Out Tip #1 -- Emotions

This one I'm having a blast with. I write contemporary romance, so it's all about the emotion, but I think that's true for most stories. It's the emotions that pull me in and make me gobble up those pages, no matter what the genre is.

Delving into the character's emotions helps the reader connect and makes the writing much more interesting. For me, plot is obviously important, but it's how the characters respond to the plot that intrigues me. So, show that!

Fleshing it Out Tip #2 -- Show, Don't Tell

Another fun one, and very connected to #1. Telling removes the emotion. Wasn't it Mark Twain who said, "Don't tell me the old lady screamed, bring her on stage and let her scream"? Looking for those telling words/sentences in the draft helps me find places I can strengthen my story and make it longer/more compelling at the same time.

Fleshing it Out Tip #3 -- Dialogue

Connected to #2! I love dialogue and tend to include a lot of it in my writing naturally, but there are still places I find where I can have my characters really showing...by telling. Dialogue infuses the story with life and lets the readers hear your characters talking. It also gives the reader a visual--and mental--break from narration, thus increasing the pace of your story.

Fleshing it Out Tip #4 -- Description

Blech. I'm not an especially visual person or writer. My descriptions tend to be focused around the emotions of the characters. And I'm not a fan of reading paragraphs of description either, so I tread very, very carefully when I do this.

For people, I sprinkle in the description. A mention of hair colour by another character here, a comment about height there. Nothing obvious, certainly no looking in the mirror and offering up a self-evaluation. For example, rather than saying my character is short, I'll have her drag a chair over to reach something off a high shelf.

For places, I don't mind stringing a sentence or two together to anchor the reader in the setting, especially when it's a new place. I try to focus on what the character would notice, and only on what is relevant to the story.

I'd rather leave most description up to my readers, but I'm learning I need to include those anchors and let the readers fill in the rest.

Fleshing it Out Tip #5 -- Character Arcs

This one is more complex than the first four. Here, I'm looking for the pace of how my characters are growing. I want them to slowly learn to change, have strategically placed AHA! moments, and obstacles tossed in their paths to have them second guessing their realizations. This is another instance where I find Scrivener invaluable. I can colour code, or use the side bar, or make another file to put side by side in order to track the arcs. Then I can spot where the arc needs some help, tweak a scene here, add a scene there, throw in another obstacle, or three.

There are many more ways to flesh out a story (adding in a subplot and looking for plot holes to fill in come to mind), but these are the 5 I'm working with. Any tips to add? Do you like fleshing it out or do you prefer to trim?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. She blogs  and tweets while searching for those HEAs.




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Life of the Postpartum Author

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 27 September 2014 · 51 views

by S. L. Duncan

I’m not here to name names. But if you ask any recently published debut author, perhaps plying them with an adult beverage, they might fess up. So far, everyone I’ve talked to has admitted to feeling the same way, or has experienced some level of the darkness that creeps in. To borrow from the medical world (and a fellow YA author), it’s simple postpartum depression. 

Yeah, I’m working through some stuff right now.

My book, THE REVELATION OF GABRIEL ADAM, released August 12thof this year. It’s been a whirlwind of all the things you’d expect from a book release. Interviews, industry reviews, book signings, release parties, giveaways, and even a book festival. The gauntlet. For me, it was a good two or three weeks of newborn book-related excitement.

And then, well, nothing really. Nothing after years of building up to a moment. After hitting the highs of getting the agent, getting the publisher, and getting the book onto a shelf, the drop-off of perceived excitement for your work after your book birthday is sudden and steep.

I shouldn’t say there’s nothing to do. There are reader reviews and the struggle to get reader reviews.  If you’re not big five (and sometimes even if you are), a lot of grabbing the world’s attention will fall on your shoulders. Learning to sell a book is like learning a foreign language. It’s daunting and unless you’ve got a guide or someone to teach you, it’s a series of mumbling, inarticulate gestures.

It’s a wonderful time for doubt to seep in. I’ve found myself to be surprisingly sensitive to this sort of thing. I once thought of myself as a rock, able to brush off criticism. I’m now second-guessing everyone and everybody. Mostly, though, I’m second-guessing myself and my ability. This came in tandem with the first bad review.

Worse than doubt, realitysets in. I’m saying reality, but what I mean is jealousy. Because the reality is, other authors that I consider peers are doing fantastic out there and they are doing it faster than I am. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited and thrilled for them. But a question keeps popping up in the back of my mind that calls into question my ability to tell a good story: Why not me? I'm fully and totally embarrassed to be admitting this. 

Very few authors hit escape velocity with their book and break into a place where public awareness and interest has an expanding upward trajectory. Movie deals. New York Times attention. Keynote appearances at book festivals. This is super, crazy rare. But starting out, in the back of our minds, even if we understand the near impossibility of hitting this mark, the potential of doing so is still on the board.

Until it isn’t.

For a good two weeks after my book release, I found myself in a dark place, creatively, consumed with how my book was doing. Hourly check-ins at Amazon’s Author Central. Looking at other debut's bestseller rank and comparing it to my own. Google searches. Constantly checking my Goodreads page. That's obsessive behavior. My reviews have been very good, but those readers that didn’t connect resonated louder than the ones that did. Having a mood that swings in direct relation to how the public embraces my work is not a healthy way to live.

Looming over all of this is a book deadline for the third book in the REVELATION SAGA. So, add to all of this, one heaping scoop of anxiety.

What’s weird is that all of this is happening during what, outside-looking-in, was joyous time. I got Published. Don’t think for one second that I’m not thankful for that, or that I take it for granted. Trust me, I don’t.

In the past few days, I’ve had – if you’ll excuse me – a bit of a revelation. (Mumbling, inarticulate marketing gesture – check!) I remembered why I ultimately write: for myself. I tell the stories I want to see told. All these other things? These doubts and distractions? They are on the peripheral of the art itself. Do I appreciate when someone likes my work? Sure. But I’ve realized that appreciation does not validate me as an author. Nor does criticism make my work less worthy.

To borrow a legal term, those things are not relevant.

Lawyers call their profession the practice of law. I like that. You’ve come to FTWA looking for advice and counsel on how to get published or how to better your writing. But all we can offer is what we’ve learned from our own victories and defeats.

In truth, we’re all still trying to figure it out. We’re practicing authors. My freshly squeezed advice is this: remember why you write and stay true to that.


Unless you are writing to get famous. In that case, you may be in for some disappointment.

S. L. Duncan writes young adult fiction, including his debut, The Revelation of Gabriel Adam, in bookstores everywhere. You can find him blogging on INKROCK.com and on Twitter.


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On Genius and Perseverance

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 19 September 2014 · 51 views

by Matt Sinclair

This week, the MacArthur Foundation announced its annual cohort of fellows who do amazing things, often in areas that are far afield from most people's day-to-day life. You probably know them as winners of the "MacArthur genius grants," and they probably know themselves as incredibly fortunate and I wouldn't be surprised if most of them think they are unworthy of such accolades. They're just doing what they love doing.

I have met at least one of these geniuses. I had no idea who the man was who stopped me on the sidewalk in Pittsburgh back in 2006 or '07. He'd either seen my name tag dangling from a string around my neck or just figured a guy in a suit was heading to the same conference center he was aiming for. Regardless, he asked if I was heading to the conference on philanthropy and I said yes.

We walked and talked together. He was a documentary film maker and he'd been invited to discuss some of his recent work, which had been funded by a foundation. To be honest, I don't remember most of what we discussed. He was simply an articulate, interesting person I met at a conference.

In September of that year, while editing a piece on the MacArthur Fellows, I happened to see his face among the previous winners. His name is Stanley Nelson, and he never mentioned the prize. Even now, I'm amazed to discover that I've seen and been impressed with his work after meeting him without remembering who he is and that our paths briefly intersected.

What does a chance meeting with a person I've not spoken to again have to do with writing? Probably nNothing in and of itself, but everything when you get down to how we write.

Originally, a person wasn't "a genius." Rather, it describes the guiding spirit who instills those leaps of insight that characterize certain individuals. A person has a genius -- at least that's how it used to be described centuries ago. Writers call it their muse. I suspect "agnostic" writers call it the product of their hard work. Call it what you will.

The most amazing people I've met have all had at least one thing in common: they had a vision of what they wanted to accomplish with their life and put their all into making that vision appear. Writers. Painters. Doctors. Lawyers. It really doesn't matter what they do for a living; who they are and what they do imbues nearly every aspect of their lives.

And what of the rest of us, those who have not yet caught the eye of the secret nominators of people with genius? Well, I for one will keep writing. I don't know how else to approach life any other way. How about you?





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Sudden Realizations and Other Misnomers

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 03 September 2014 · 42 views

by Matt Sinclair

I recently attended a wake for a high school classmate who passed suddenly and way too young. As often happens, the wake became a bit of a reunion with other old friends and dredged up memories good, bad, and potentially litigious.

Later, I thought I could probably write up a short story inspired by the experience. So many scenes could be played: conversations with old classmates in the receiving line; meeting the widower and his sons; waiting for old friends outside the funeral home; drinks and storytelling afterward. Presumably, almost any adult could relate to the situation.

Of course, the universality of the situation has its appeal, but it also is a trap. It's too easy to retell the same story that everyone knows, to scrape the dirt off the same old bones, so to speak. Then again, perhaps you use the death of a friend as part of a novel in which the protagonist is propelled further to some epiphany. It might even be believable if written well.

But doesn't it all seem a bit too convenient? Not the death of my friend, of course. That's a family in the midst of real pain and sorrow. I imagine being the child whose parent died during the summer and starting high school without that rock you took for granted to keep you stable. What if the child's parents had been living apart and now the school year starts in a place with no established friends. What was the relationship between the parent and the child during the separation, and how has it changed?

As writers, we wade through story ideas most every day. Sometimes we pick a shiny one up right away, but more often they wash over us without our ever realizing it. Only later, usually when we're writing, do we net a few of their larvae in the shoals of our subconscious mind and help them germinate into a flash of inspiration. And we often never know who to thank for those ideas, those "sudden" glimpses of what is possible.

What inspires you? Do you memorialize your past, present, and future "yous" and those who've walked with you along the way?

Matt Sinclair, a New York City-based journalist and fiction writer, is also president and chief elephant officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, which recently published Battery Brothers, a YA novel by Steven Carman about a pair of brothers playing high school baseball and about overcoming crippling adversity. In December, EBP will publish Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand by R.S. Mellette. Matt also blogs at the Elephant's Bookshelf and is on Twitter @elephantguy68.




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5 Tips to Trim your Writing

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 01 September 2014 · 22 views

by Jemi Fraser

Many beginning writers end up with enormous word counts. (If you want to check out my story, it's over on my blog today).

Trimming Tip #1 -- Adjectives & Adverbs

Cut. Cut. Cut. Sure you need a few adjectives, and sometimes they enhance your prose, but be careful! I'm not an especially visual person or writer, but I was floored when I first learned this tip and realized how many adjectives I had in my draft. Nearly every sentence was sprinkled with writerly words that screamed AMATEUR!

Ditto the above advice for adverbs. It's a little easier to edit for these though. Use that handy-dandy Find tool (CTRL F) and search for 'ly'. We all know not all adverbs end in ly, but many do, and this tool makes it easy to spot them. It also takes you out of the flow of reading the story, which is very important when editing. Often replacing your verb/adverb combination with a stronger/more explicit verb makes your sentence stronger.

Trimming Tip #2 -- Cutting Scenes

Whole scenes. As you're editing, ask yourself about the purpose of the scene. If it's not moving the story along, not increasing the tension or the conflict or the stakes, bring out the sword and slash away. Painful, yes, but maybe you can keep some of them as bonus content for visitors to your website. (Make sure the quality is high, after all, there's a reason you're cutting in the first place!)

Trimming Tip #3 -- Filler Words

We all have them. Some of them are more obvious than others. Once I feel pretty good about a draft, I dump my story into Wordle and eliminate all the proper nouns (right click then delete). The bigger the word, the more times it appears. Then use that CTRL F tool to help you find and eliminate as many as you can.

Some words that often appear as fillers:

just, suddenly, again, eyes, look/looked/looks, seemed/seems, feels/felt, smiles/smiled, really, very, maybe, quite, started to...

Trimming Tip #4 -- Qualifiers

Eliminating words and phrases like 'a bit', 'a little', 'sort of', 'seemed to' 'felt like', can all make your writing stronger and, as an added bonus, make your characters less wishy-washy at the same time. If someone's mad, let him/her be all the way mad!

Trimming Tip #5 -- Echoes

This is my Achilles' heel. As the self-proclaimed Queen of Redundancies, I've literally cut thousands of words by eliminating phrases and sentences where I'm repeating information already provided. Trust your readers not to be idiots, they'll get it the first time. (<-- Which is a great example of a sentence including an echo!)

Trimming the fat out of that draft will do nothing but enhance your story. Don't be afraid of that delete key. If it helps, imagine Legolas or Aragorn at your side, sword in hand, as you slash your way to a stronger story!

Do you enjoy the Slash 'n' Burn rounds of editing?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. She blogs  and tweets while searching for those HEAs.

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Writer’s Block: Is it all Just Crap?

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 26 August 2014 · 68 views

by +Denise Drespling


I might be unique in the world of writers. I do not believe in the existence of writer’s block. Oh, I know the days when you don’t want to write, or feel like you can’t, or the idea just isn’t right, or you’re so frustrated with your novel that your finger itches toward the delete button. But there’s one solution to the myth of writer’s block: write.

Write anything. It can be bad. It can be horrible. It can be completely irrelevant to what you should be working on, but you know what? If you’re writing something--an.y.thing--you’re not blocked. Don’t give in to the myth. Don’t let your fear tangle you up. Take your blank page and stuff it (full of words).

On an ironic side note, the day after I wrote this post, guess what I found in my inbox? Two emails from two separate writing blogs, both about writer’s block. Okay, universe, what are you trying to tell me? At first, I actually considered changing my post. I thought, maybe I’ve just been lucky and haven’t suffered from writer’s block. Maybe I’m not being sensitive enough to the dilemmas of my wordly cohorts. Then I read the posts.

Nope. Not a believer.

The thing is, they talked about issues like not having ideas, not being inspired, not having the energy, even having too many ideas to focus (I might suffer from that occasionally). They talked about great solutions: get exercise, use writing prompts, unplug, free write. I’m sure they all work well.

But here’s the thing. That’s not the same as not being able to write. That’s not being able to write well. So, let’s call it what it is. Not writer’s block. It’s writer’s sludge. It’s when all that comes to your mind is crap and all that comes out is crap. Hot, stinky, crap. Like a pile in the corner that the kitten just left. Oh, wait. No, that’s my living room. (Anyone want a kitten?)

Writer’s block, as most people refer to it, is just an excuse. Trust me. I’ve used it. It sounds much more important and sympathy-inspiring than to just admit, I don’t feel like it. If you’re having issues writing, you’re not blocked, you’re sludgy, and you don’t have to be.

Being in an MFA program is a different type of deadline than a publisher or employer breathing down your neck to get it done. It’s the difference between being paid for your writing and knowing that you’re paying for it. I’ve been in the place where I had an assignment of 15 pages due and the last thing I wanted to do was to jump into that world with those characters. But, I had to write, so I wrote something I hated. It was awful. All 15 pages will likely be trashed. I could have claimed I was blocked, but in reality, I was being lazy and bored.

The point is. Those crappy pages led me somewhere. They led me where I knew I didn’t want to go, but they also pointed me in a better direction. Even if you have a deadline where you can’t turn in crap, you can still write the crap first, then make it shine later.

Nora Roberts said, “You can fix anything but a blank page.”

Yup.

Write something, then visit the land of what ifs (which is, btw, also the name of my blog because that's where I spend my time):

Suppose there’s a man crossing the street. What if he trips? What if he bumps into a woman who is/turns out to be the love of his life? Or his ex who broke his heart? What if he found something on the ground? What if he realized he was on the wrong street? What if he got hit by a car?

See. That took me two seconds, but gave me infinite directions to take a story in. Depending on how far you are in your story, you won’t have quite as many options, but there are always options. Go play with them. Before you know it, you’ll have something worth keeping. And if it’s not worth keeping, you’ll know that, too.

Your thoughts? Do you see this, or am I just full of crap? ;)

Denise Drespling is the author of short story, “Reflections,” in the Tales of Mystery, Suspense & Terror anthology (October 2014) and “10 Items or Less,” in 10: Carlow’s MFA Anniversary Anthology (April 2014).

Hang out with Denise at her blog, The Land of What Ifs, or on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Goodreads, or Instagram.



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A Writer's Guide to Getting Your Sexy Back

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 24 August 2014 · 36 views

by +J. Lea Lopez 

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To clarify, the sexy you're getting is for your writing. Sorry, I can’t help you with the real thing. Or maybe I can. But that's not a discussion for this space. Ahem. Focus, please.

Whether you’re writing hardcore erotica, sizzling romance, or just a single scene requiring some Tab A into Slot B action, I’m here to help you put your sexiest foot forward. We're going to focus on the language of the scene.

Let’s face it: it’s very easy to write a bad sex scene. You run the risk of clinically sterile language, or the opposite – coarsely pornographic language. There’s also the potential for unintended comedy. I don’t want that to happen to any of you, so I’ve compiled a few guidelines. Note that I didn’t say rules. It’s up to you to decide if/when to use each of these tips. And fergawdsakes, don’t overdo it with any of them!


More descriptors more sexy


Breasts are not made any more appealing when described as amazingly perky, round, brown sugar-colored globes of desire. Really? Would you say that to your partner, or want it said to you in a moment of passion? ‘Course not. You/they would likely burst into a fit of laughter. It's also important to find the right descriptions. For instance, wet is always preferable to moist. Stick to one, maybe two good descriptors, or let the image stand on its own. This also ties into my next point:

Euphemisms are your enemy


If everyone calls it a cock, there’s probably a good reason. Don’t go trudging through the thesaurus looking for other names for human anatomy. Abandon the aforementioned globes and just call them breasts. Or maybe your character would say tits. Titties and boobies are giggle-worthy and should be avoided at all times, in my opinion.

When in doubt, revert to the standard slang, or DON’T NAME BODY PARTS at all. Yeah, you heard me. She let go a breathy moan as he pushed into her. No need to say what pushed where – we already know.
Here are some tried-and-true anatomical words to use (try not to blush):
  • cock
  • tits
  • ass
  • breasts
  • dick
  • pussy
  • clit
  • nipples (not nips – please don't say nips)
  • cunt
Cunt has become much more mainstream of late, but it's not my personal favorite and I don't think I've ever used it. I rarely even write it because it doesn't hold positive connotations for me. Pussy is weird for me too, but I'll take that over cunt. It takes a very skilled writer to use that word in an erotic context and not make me flinch. That doesn't mean you shouldn't use it, though, if you like it. It's just not for me. I think it even sounds awful. Go ahead, say it out loud (preferably when you’re alone – not on the bus or at work). It’s guttural – all hard consonant sounds. Doesn’t scream sexy to me. Which brings me to my last point for today:

Pay attention to sound


No, not those sounds. Yuck. I’ll leave that for another post. I mean, pay attention to how the words you choose for your scene sound to the ear. I don’t know about you, but even when reading silently to myself, I still hear the words in my head, and, to a lesser extent, feel them in my mouth (oh boy, you’re gonna have a field day with that phrase, I’m sure.)

Never underestimate the sexiness of well-placed alliteration. His thumb slid over the sliver of skin peeking out above the waistband of her jeans. That s sound is just sensual, both to hear and to say, isn’t it?
To me, open, round vowel sounds as well as softer consonant sounds like f, h, and l (to name a few) can be the sexiest. The heat of his breath sends a slow shiver from the nape of her neck to her toes. Mmm, sounds yummy, right?

To contrast, clipped vowels and hard consonant sounds often are less sexy. You’d do well to notice that most of your standard curse words have this characteristic – fuck, shit, bitch, etc. I’m not saying there’ll never be a place for an urgently whispered Fuck me! in your manuscript – there is certainly occasion for something like that. Short, hard-sounding words can convey urgency. But an entire scene, or even just a few sentences, full of those types of words can really kill the mood.

Especially use this guideline any time you’re thinking of some anatomical euphemism. As I mentioned, cunt sounds harsh to me. Words like rod and pole don’t sound particularly sexy either, and even invoke painful images at times. Unless you’re writing some sort of BDSM scene, these are not the images you want to paint in your reader’s mind.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you write a sex scene, and I promise you’ll have something that gets the heat level rising.

Do you have any favorite words that you find super sexy, or words that make you cringe?

J. Lea López is an author who strives to make you laugh at, fall in love with, cry over, and lust after the characters she writes. She welcomes online stalkers as long as they're witty and/or adulatory. Kidding. Maybe. Check for yourself: Twitter, Facebook, Blog. Get help with your sexy scene writing here.
 


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