Writer’s Block? Try Writer’s Berlin Wall.

Writer’s Block? Try Writer’s Berlin Wall.

(Note: I am frustrated and venting.)

I don’t like the term ‘writer’s block.’ It’s an icky term. It gives us this mental image of a blob of half dry concrete perched on that handy-dandy box of ideas that roosts inside the creative center of our brains. While this might feel accurate, it is in no way helpful. It makes it seem like this very easy process of removal. Just pick up a sledgehammer, or a local martial artist, and give it a good whack.

japanese-girl-breaks-bricks-with-forehead

(I feel like this could be a useful skill during the apocalypse)

I know, I know. There are a lot of websites out there that tell you that writer’s block is a lie. That it’s something your brain just made up and it doesn’t actually exist. All you have to do is keep writing and you’ll be fine. Or my favorite “If writer’s block is staring you in the face, write about it.”

Yeah…no.

Let’s put some things in perspective first.

Three weeks ago my book came out. (Go check it out)  So far it’s done better than I expected for a first time publication. It hit #3 on the mystery and thriller genre, and #5 on the shapeshifter/paranormal tag. Overall, on Amazon at least, it rests at #7435. I was pleasantly surprised, even though I found a typo or two when I went back and re-read it.

efb5431c91d587f5a6bcc998994d86d7

(I hate commas.)

Yeah, that’s pretty accurate to how I feel since the work went through myself, a very talented editor, and several friends. I was fairly sure that it was free of errors. But hey, I can’t fix it now.

Then a very dear friend told me that I’ve been really hard to get a hold of lately. “You’ve been so focused on writing, I feel bad trying to get your attention.”

And then the spouse says, “Well, I can’t really ask you to do anything. You are always working.”

There was a hurricane. Flooding in the downstairs. And money demands from the IRS. My kitchen was a mess and my spouse kept trying to clean everything…which sounds great until I felt so guilty about not cleaning that I couldn’t concentrate on anything. This eventually turned into me getting into a snip fest with pretty much anything that walk into my line of sight.

Isn’t creativity grand?

7x5yy5g

(I assume each of these actors tried writing a screenplay before filming these scenes)

So let’s look at the list we have here.

  • Feelings of creative inadequacy
  • Guilt for alienating friends and family
  • Anxiety over household chores
  • Hurricane over which I had no control but felt like I should
  • Money issues
  • Household tension

 

Wow, those all sound like anxiety inducing events. Maybe there is some kind of correlation between anxiety and disassociating from your creativity, which may or may not feel like the literary equivalent of hair in the drain. So the nay-sayers who don’t think that writer’s block is real can sniff decade old draino and stop telling me that what I, and thousands of others feel, isn’t real.

Dreams Coming True

Dreams Coming True

I did not always want to be a writer. I have, for as long as I can remember, been a very avid reader. Growing up my family didn’t have a lot of money. We didn’t have cable, or internet (yes, there was a time in which the web was something that the average person didn’t have), but we did have a library within walking distance of two of the apartments I lived in. Books were my primary form of escapism and entertainment.

Who am I kidding? Even with a heavily utilized Netflix account, they still are.

That being said, I never really thought about being a writer. Up until I went to high school I was pretty sure I was going to be a super hero. In my teen years I thought I was going to be a Broadway actress. As I was neither bitten by a radioactive butterfly, nor did my Thespian pin get me any insteps for the theater world, I turned back to my first love…books.

I’d like to say that writing was my first thought. It wasn’t. My first thought was editing, but comas and I were never really friends. Then I thought of being a librarian, but a library science degree eluded me…because I discovered studying criminology….and then anthropology…and then…okay, you get the idea. I loved to study.

I took creative writing on a whim. I thought that it would be fun, and a way for me to deal with my on again off again relationship with depression. It worked. I also discovered a passionate outlet for that imagination that wanted to be a super hero, a theater star, a glob trotting anthropologist, or a law enforcement officer. I discovered that I loved to write.

I know, me and a hundred thousand other amazing people want to be writers, and plenty of them wanted to be writers for far longer than I have. But it’s been my dream for almost eleven years now, and I am living it.

I am happy to announce that Foehammer: A Paranormal Crimes Division Novel by Lorena Black will be coming out later this year.

foehammerfinal

 

How to Write a Sex Scene

How to Write a Sex Scene

I am a ghost writer. This means where someone has a scene (or a story) that they don’t want to write, they ask me to do it for them. In college this would have been called an ethics violation to the Cod of Conduct, or fraud. In the wide world of professional literature, it’s called freelancing.

Neat.

In the months that I’ve been doing this I can tell you 95% of my work is romance, and more often than not, I’m writing the naughty scenes. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. More often than not I am getting $80 or more to write 3k words about a couple of characters doing the horizontal tango. But it has me thinking, why the hang ups?

trying-to-flirt

Yes, I know that America is the strangest mix of prude and sexually obsessed. I know that we are weird about it, but many of my clients come from India, Thailand, Canada, and Australia. So, it has little to nothing to do with the location.

The fact is, I have  no clue why an author can write the most heart-wrenching death scenes, pick apart the psychology of watching a thunderstorm, and get gloriously visceral with battles…but can’t write about bumping uglies.

Ugh, I hate that term, but I’m using it anyway.

So, below I have a step by step process, and some tips, for writing a sex scene.

 

lets-do-this-ucas-gif

  1. Make sure the scene is necessary
    • I think one of the main hangups that any author can have is trying to force a scene. I know that a lot of us believe that we HAVE to show the sex between two (or more) characters, but that’s not always true. Sit back and really think about whether or not you NEED to show the scene. Don’t just write it because everyone else is, that’s going to make the scene feel forced.
    • How do you know it’s needful? Just ask yourself the following:
      • Does it add something to the story?
      • Does it reveal something important about the characters that cannot be shown in another, more natural, way?
      • Is it appropriate to the intended audience?
      • Does it further the plot or turning point?
  2. Plan
    • Even if you are a pantser, you still take the time to think over a scene before writing it. If you have evaluated (and possibly reevaluated) that a steamy scene needs to happen, sit down and think about the characters involved. How would they approach sex? Everyone does it a little differently, and in a way that is most comfortable to them.For instance, If you have a heterosexual scene between a submissive male and an aggressive female, don’t suddenly switch their personalities because the clothes come off. Yes, some people who are submissive out in the world are more aggressive in the bedroom, but you better be prepared to back up the switch and still make it sound natural to the character.
    • Things to think about:
      • This is where those five question words really come into play (who, what, where, when, and why…the how is pretty much the entire scene.)
      • Who are the characters involved, and how to they feel about one another?
      • Is this encounter sensual, languid, comforting, aggressive, or something else? The ‘flavor’ of the scene is very important for picking word choice. There is a huge difference between taking ones clothes off, ripping ones clothes off, slithering ones clothes off…you get the idea.
      • What is so important about this scene? Let’s take out SubMale and AggFemale from earlier. Let’s say they’ve been friends for a long time and he has been having a lot of self confidence issues since his last gf left him. The importance of this scene is his confidence boosting. Keep that in mind throughout the scene.
      • Where is this taking place? Yeah, this is important. Where should matter. Don’t just have them couple (or trio, or quartet) in the bedroom because that’s where the sex happens. Bedrooms are great when you want the scene to have safety and confidence. But if these two characters have been angling to get into the skirt/pants/spacesuit for some time they are probably going to hop ion whatever semi-private, mostly horizontal surface they come across.
      • Why. Okay, this one is the biggest one. WHY is this scene happening? Is this the moment when two characters turn to each other for comfort? Have they been holding back from going to bed with one another? Should they be here? Why are they having sex? This thought needs to be an ongoing theme for the entire scene. It should impact your words and the characters action.
  3. Organize
    • Sex, in real life, is messy. I’m not saying that makes it bad, sometimes messy is awesome. What I am saying is that people don’t plan out an encounter before it happens. But you are an author, and your characters are in your head. You need to think about your characters sexuality before you write the scene. Re-using my submissive male/aggressive female couple why is the male a submissive person? Is it just his last break up? Because in American society guys are encouraged to be aggressive sexually and socially, so what in his background makes him more prone to a more docile approach? Perhaps he grew up in a highly feminist house, or perhaps because he was bullied or picked on as a youth.

      In counter, our aggressive woman, what formed her sexuality? What does she like about being in command? What about the situation appeals to her, and how emotionally attached is she, if at all? Think of all of this and more, for a while. Let the thoughts simmer, maybe jot some notes down, and then:

  4. Write it all in one, uninterrupted, sitting.
    • A sexual encounter is one thing that flows into another. I’m not being metaphorical here. Sex is a singular act made of many motions, like a dance. In order to get that flow, you need to write it all in one go. Throw yourself into that scene as much as possible. Don’t get too distracted as it unfolds, just let it all happen.

      I would say that this is the most important rule for writing a steamy scene.

  5. Leave it alone for (AT LEAST) a week.
    • You are going to be very tempted to go back and read what you’ve done. Don’t. Right now it is still too fresh. You either think it’s perfect, or you think it’s crap, and like any rough draft the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. You need to leave it alone.

      Once upon a time, while I was working in the grand world of fast food I was writing a love scene between two of my characters in between taking drive thru orders. I got home and immediately wrote up the scene, certain that it was the best thing I had ever written. I, being the tech genius that I was, lost the file a while later.

      I was crushed. I was certain that this scene was the most evocative and emotional thing I had ever written. It haunted me because I had lost it. About two years later I brought it up to a buddy of mine and she gave me the weirdest look. “You mean the one between (character A) and (character B)?”

      “Yeah! Do you remember it?”

      “Yeah,  you sent it to me. I think I still have it.”

      She sent it to me that night and I re-read it and nearly gave up writing altogether because after two years of being enamored of the memory, I realized that the scene was….okay. It wasn’t terrible. There were some good lines, and the characters were good…but the scene was a solid B at best.

      What I am getting to is that you need to take time away from all your writing before you edit, but I think emotional scenes (which you sex scene ought to be) need this the most.

  6. Edit
    • This is a step that doesn’t need a lot of explanation, but is still important. Make sure that the scene matches the characters, their actions, their word choice. I’ve found that sex scenes are the hardest places (for me) to distance myself from what I like, from what my character likes. So make sure that you didn’t just write out your own dark fantasy, but rather stayed true to your characters.

 

Thank you for reading! I hope that at least some of this has been helpful. If you have any particular problems, thoughts, or ideas leave a comment and I’ll do my absilute best to respond! Happy writing!

NaNoWriMo- Day 25

Soooo….someone please remind me to contact Bethesda and inform them that releasing a game I’ve waited on for 7 years during the month of NaNo is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

image

For my non gaming friends out there I am referring to Fallout 4, the most recent installment of Bethesda Entertainments ridiculously popular post apocalyptic setting. While not without it’s faults, the game is phenomenal. There is so much content, and awesome stories, and amazing characters! It even does this really neat thing where it tells me just how long I’ve been playing when I save.

I’m a frequent saver, by the way; and because I am I can tell you that I have spent over 57 hours playing this one game in the past week. Yup. There is a good chance that I’m not going to make my writing goal because Bethesda didn’t bother to push back their release til December or something.

Because, you know, it’s definitely their fault. It certainly can’t be *my* complete lack of willpower, right? Right.

Anywho, my word count stand at just shy of 35,000 words. Tonight I am making fish sticks and tater-tots for dinner and I don’t have to cook tomorrow. So, here’s hoping I still have a chance, even if it’s a snowball vs Hell type of chance.

NaNoWriMo- Day 10

Last night I went to my very first NaNoWriMo event. I was that elusive mix of anxious and excited that set your stomach to doing weird things, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I miss other writers.

It’s not just that I miss telling people about my own work, though I certainty love to do that, it’s about watching them divulge theirs. There is a passionate spark that enters the eyes of a person who is wholeheartedly in love with their imagination. It’s a beautiful thing for me to see.

So I was dropped off at the Library (I don’t drive, one day I’ll tell you about the time I drove through my garage; not into…through.) and asked the gentleman at the information desk where the write in was going to be. He told me to follow him. I was twenty minutes early so I wasn’t surprised that he had to unlock the door for me.

The room was roughly the size of a classroom with that multicolored carpet that can camouflage any spill short of red. There was a modern overhead projector and a podium. A series of tables and chairs were tucked neatly away in the far corner. I didn’t want anyone to have to wait so I went ahead and got everything all set up. I pulled out some desks and some chairs. I was proud.

I got my laptop out, set everything up. I was the shameless over-achieving over-eager student. All that was left was to sit there and wait.

…and wait.

…and wait some more. Somewhere around four a clock and older pair came in and asked if this was “Room D” I told them I wasn’t sure. They did that sort of laugh you give when you are sure someone is being stupid on purpose and left. I thought it was a little weird.

They came back a few minutes later and the female of the pair asked if I was there for the “Nana writing thing” I said that I was. No one else was here yet, but I got the room set up. They pushed another desk out saying that they had gone all the way upstairs and looked there. I said I was sorry.

Then she asked when the teacher was going to get there.

“I don’t think there is a teacher, at least not one that I am aware of.”

“Oh, you’re sure this time?”

I was a little confused and I’m sure it showed. He tugged on her sleeve and said, “Come on, let’s go back upstairs.” I could hear them talking about me as they left. Suddenly I was seven years old again and friendless on the playground. I thought about following but ultimately decided that my ego couldn’t handle whatever they were serving.

So I sat and waited some more. No one else came. I decided to try to write on my own. Honestly, I didn’t manage much. After a while I gave up and closed everything up. I put the desks and chairs back, but I left the florescents humming in case someone showed up two hours late.

Having little else to do I wandered the library. I find something therapeutic about seeing all the books on shelves. It’s heartening to know that every single one of them was where I am, scrawling out their first book. But they managed. I’d like to think that I will too.

I found a few to check out, and while I wandered upstairs to take a look at the paperback section I heard them. The older couple had taken up a circle of chairs and were playing host to the few others who had come for the NaNo Write-In. Apparently they were in a writing group from the area. I stood there for a moment, looking at them, feeling completely and utterly left out.

I’m a little ashamed to say I cried. Here I am, thirty years old, feeling sorry for myself because the other writers didn’t want me in their clique. Joy.

It Was the Character’s Choice, Not MIne.

I have finished my first draft. I had expected to feel something amazing, a lighthearted sense of accomplishment. I can’t really say that I do. All I can see is this glaring realization that I could have done better. I see is my run-on sentences and cliche descriptions, and varied comma usage.

The Dominatrix and the Beast was supposed to be a quick little short about a woman introducing a werewolf into the pleasures of BDSM.It was supposed to be a practice in just getting something finished. If it were still only that I’m not sure I would find myself in this predicament.

Starting off, the characters were little more than literary paperdolls posed in short conversations and long sex scenes.  There was Claire, the dominatrix of the paranormal and snarky intellectual; and Owen a grumpy wolf-guy who needed some release.

Then Claire just started prodding at me. She demanded more care an attention than I originally planned on giving her, or her story. I hadn’t expected that. I had expected to just jot down some steamy fun times laced with magic and get into the groove of writing everyday before moving on to more ‘serious’ attempts at writing.

Claire did not approve. She wanted to know why she’d chosen this line of work rather than being a paranormal anthropologist, since that is what she’d studied. She wanted to know if her and Owen developed a romantic story or if it was enjoyable business. So, the story became more.

While Owen and some of the other characters (there weren’t supposed to really be other characters, oops) are still rather cliche boxed in ideas rather than fleshed out people (something I plan to fix in editing); Claire is more. I like her and I plan on giving her more page time.

But, I have a first draft. It’s just shy of 22,000 words and it’s in desperate need of editing, but it’s mine. Now, to take a week or two away from it so that I can look at the story with fresh eyes.

Writing 101- Unplugging

In 1947 something beautiful happened. The very first computer was created. Oh sure, it was as large as a two bedroom apartment and that horse who does math could calculate faster than it could…but it forever changed our world. Especialy if, you know, you write.

It took a little while for us to get word processors and programs but god where they great! Suddenly, with just a little practice, we could get the worlds down almost as fast as we could think them. Then the internet came along (and google) and suddenly we could research our books without ever leaving our house.

Also, I’m old enough to remember having to research without search engines. Oh god I do not miss that. Or dial-up. I will offer up my first born to keep from having to go back to dial-up.

Now that I’ve gotten that bit of melodrama out of my system I’m going to get to my point. The computer/internet combo is the single most helpful tool at a writers disposal. It is also the most distracting. You know what I’m talking about. It’s so easy to just double-click the internet browser and bring up your social media site of choice. Or check out what movies are coming out in the weekend. Take a moment to the check the news 0r giggle over that cat video that’s gone viral.

It only takes a minute or two but those minutes add up. Next thing you know it’s four hours later and you haven’t written a dang thing, have you? Oh sure, you jotted down some notes, maybe even a paragraph. But is it anything in comparison to the quantity, nor even the quality, of what you could have done in that same amount of time had you not been checking on the wedding photos of that dude you sat next to in your junior year of high school? Probably not.

So, what do you do? You need the internet for your work, don’t you? You need to be able to look up that random bit of information for that scene you are writing.

Actually, no, you probably don’t. Let me lay down a little honesty, darlings. You don’t need to know absolutely everything right this moment in order to create a great story line.

Need a name for a character? Put a placeholder down instead of popping unto babynames.com. Need to know the average time that a body deteriorates at? Make a note of it and move on. You can italicize it, bold it, or change the font color so you remember to come back later and check. But you don’t need that information RIGHT now.

You’d be surprised how much you will accomplish if you break the habit of opening up your browser every time you have a question. Your memory will get better. Your organization will get better. Your writing will reach brand new heights because you did not mess with the flow of your scene.

Now, here’s the other thing. It’s going to hurt some of you a lot.

Turn the volume of your phone down. Hell, turn it off. No, don’t set it to vibrate. Literally turn it all the way down and flip it over so you can’t see the face. If you have the kind of phone that flashes at you when you get a call or a message…cover the thing up. Leave it in another room.

The world is not going to die if you don’t answer. If there are people in your life who get anxious or frustrated if you don’t automatically pick up or text back when they send you a message just let them know that you are going to be writing for the next couple hours and that you’ll respond when you take a break.

If they aren’t okay with that I would suggest that you review your relationship because that throws up a few red flags.

By doing these few things for just a few hours every day that you can write you will notice a distinct and powerful change (for the better) in your writing. What this all finally comes down to is that the computer is your friend. The internet is your best tool. Do not, however, let these two things rule (and ruin) your creativity. You deserve to be the best writer than you can be.