Juggling real life and writing deadlines can be tricky, and we don’t always make our best decisions in the heat of the moment.
I haven’t written a word since December. Maybe even November. I’ve tried, but I couldn’t squeeze any words out of this brain. There was a lot going on in those last few months, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise.
Since new year, I’ve been trying to write a story for a submission call. I really wanted to submit a story, but between having guests (including my newborn niece) and never ending virus infections (my kids have been coughing their infections back and forth, all the more easily for sharing their room since before Christmas to make room for our guests), the words have been coming slow. I started a few stories and discarded them after only a few words. Same with blog posts.
The deadline for this call came closer and I ran dry on words. My desperation became so intense that, in a crazy spur of the moment decision that I already regret, I went back to waiting tables. It’s not that I have anything against earning money. I already have a list of things to do with all the money I haven’t yet earned, so long that I have to wait tables for five years to make it to the end of that list. I really need new glasses. I want to renovate my little one’s room. And the bedroom. I want to save up for a trip to Mexico. I want to buy fabric (so much fabric) to sew all the things. And so much more.
One day after I started my new side job, the deadline for the submission call ended, and all I had was one half baked story. But better try and fail than not try at all is my motto, so I put together my submission. Reading the guidelines one last time to make sure I get everything correctly, I realized that I could send in two stories.
With the deadline only a few hours away and one story short (hah), it’s like someone pulled out the stopper. I had nothing to lose, so I sat down, wrote till three in the morning, and sent the second story off to my beta (hallelujah for living in different time zones).
“You need more deadlines,“ my guest tells me, watching as my fingers hit the keyboard feverishly. She’s not wrong, but since the lack of sleep had me finally succumbing to the same virus infection my kids had been fostering for three weeks, I’m not sure it would be healthy in the long run. Because now, I’m really having a fever, and this one sadly is no metaphor.
But I also have tapped back into my writing well and discovered new inspiration. So now I’m thinking I might finally tackle some longer projects. Because one thing going back to waiting tables does is taking some of the pressure off. It allows me to give myself more time to let a story flourish.
Since going professional (sort of), I’ve always felt the pressure of having to publish frequently to generate views and an income, however small. I’ve failed spectacularly at this; I resorted to writing shorter stories in order to publish more frequently, but it took me almost as long as a longer story to write a short story in the end. Now my stories and my writing career have time to grow without the daunting shadow of existential dread looming over me.
I still hate waiting tables, but I do love it when the pressure comes off. And I’ve heard it’s sometimes even helpful to leave the house once in a while to refill the well of inspiration.
Wait, that’s not what you talk about with your mom?
It’s been a few days since I returned home from my little vacation with even more need to recuperate. I brought home a bunch of new story idea and a bladder infection (yay). Now I’m planted firmly atop a heated cherry pit cushion (that’s the German way – hot water bottle or cherry pits. My father in law suggested schnapps). Continue Reading
Lana Fox posted about what erotica should be during dark times, and as I have a lot of feelings about this topic (and also because they were so incredibly kind as to include my response on Twitter in their post), I’m trying to put something into words that I’ve been carrying around for a long time now. Sometimes (all the times, honestly), 140 characters on Twitter are just not enough. (Especially not when I don’t have access to my computer and have to operate Twitter on my phone.) Continue Reading
Apparently it’s the time of personal stories for me. This one needs some content warnings, so here’s your heads up: This essay contains mentions of suicide and drug use as well as graphic descriptions of sex. And there’s a little bit of blood.
Writing erotica is, for me, an exercise in self-exploration. It’s finding the things that push my buttons and examining them. Isabel Allende wrote that “For women, the best aphrodisiacs are words. The G-spot is in the ears. He who looks for it below there is wasting his time.” In my experience, that’s absolutely true. Sex, for me, happens mostly in my mind. My imagination is what fuels my engine. I’m not sure yet if that’s part of my problem or part of the solution. Continue Reading
This will be a bit of a all-over-the-place kinda post. There will be some legal talk about beekeeping, sinful baking, and some book review quickies.
First, I switched projects once again. As I got stuck writing Durwin’s story, I decided to work on something else instead. So now I’m working on a fun romp of a first draft I finished quite a while ago. Editing! Fun! Wow, I really love me some commas. And those over-complicated, never-ending, convoluted sentences! The draft is a mess, and after going through it a first time, I was ready to give up and move on. On the other hand, I had tons of fun rereading it. Which means:
No giving up this time, Jo!
One more day till Nanowrimo.
Tomorrow starts my favorite month of the year, November. The beautiful, terrifying month of novel-writing-frenzy. I’ve failed every single one of my last three attempts at nanowrimo and camp nanowrimo, and yet I am here to try it again. I have too many WIPs as that I should start yet another one, and too little motivation and ideas on top of it. All I have is my basic premise and a cover (because instead of creating an outline or brainstorming plot, I created the second most important thing you need to write a novel: a cover).
I also have the firm resolution to keep this story as free of smut as possible (which means I will allow myself between one and three sex scenes but not a single one more). I haven’t written nearly as much this year as in the years before, and every single story I wrote was erotica and bursting with smut. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I love writing sex, and I’m pretty good at it. But I need to make sure I haven’t unlearned to write anything else. So my nano story is going to be my practice-piece. A story to reconnect with storytelling beyond carnal desire. Continue Reading
When I told my grandfather that I am writing romance, he made a face and said I should rather write something real, and serious. As if stories concentrating on love and relationships aren’t real and something you shouldn’t waste your time with. It’s an opinion about genre fiction you get to hear all the time, mostly without having asked for it. It’s so entrenched that I still felt I had to apologize for writing it when I had long realized that those are the stories I’m drawn to. I end up writing them over and over again. It’s also the stories I have been reading all my life, so no big surprise there.
I was ashamed of reading romance all my life, too. The cheesy covers sure were no help in lessening the stigma. Each time I got a new one at the railway station kiosk or the supermarket, marked down in price for being remaindered, I fixed my eyes on the floor and avoided to meet anyone’s eyes – especially those of the cashier – at all costs. But the thirst was real, and I needed a new romance novel every few days. I still have them all, cluttering the lower shelves of my bookcases. They’re hidden behind more *respectable* reading material. For some reason, I don’t manage to get rid of them. I haven’t bought a new romance book in a while, but that doesn’t mean I don’t pull out some Christina Dodd, Amanda Quick or Eloisa James once in a while and reread my favorites.
Those books made me feel when nothing else could. I found comfort in stories of feisty heroines fighting for their right to love and to live like they wanted. I found strength in their defiance, and, let’s be real, I discovered more than one kink between the pages of paperback love. So why should I be ashamed of my love of romance? Why are the words about love and two people finding each other and overcoming their differences and conflicts lesser in worth than other words? Lesser even than other genre fiction like Sci-Fi or Crime? Sure, not every genre novel is a literary gem, but that doesn’t mean that the genre as a whole is trash. I still think that Anne Golon’s Angélique series is among some of the best books I ever read, and it was marketed as romance for lack of a better label.
Romance novels aren’t just about love and, well, romance. They’re about women, and for women, and that’s probably the thing that makes them *less* than your average fiction written by the average white male dude. Sexism is as strong in publishing as it is as anywhere else – just take a look at Young Adult fiction.
It’s no surprise, I think, that it’s my grandfather criticizing my choices in the stories I write. He’s someone who certainly never even touched a romance novel and judges the genre as a whole by its cover. I found the opinion so deeply ingrained in myself that I defended my writing of romance to a former – male – lecturer from my university with the apologetic words of “Someone has to write it.”
“I know,” he said. He, for his part, is an unapologetic, avid reader of romance.
I’m still working on emancipating myself from prejudice. Now that I accepted my fate, so to speak, accepted that stories about love and overcoming conflict are not only my jam in reading but also the thing I write most passionately about, I had to do some soul-searching. I had to face the root of my hesitance and my prejudices and question their origins. Once I became aware of the systemic sexism in the publishing industry and the underlying devaluation of women’s words and stories, I refused to let myself feel ashamed for it any longer.
I’m no longer apologetic of my writing, and I no longer hide the covers of the books I read.
I developed a bit of a condition here… I’m still on my daily wordcount goal of 300 words, and after I had a bit of a slump, not writing a word for several days, I began to count anything into my wordcount out of sheer despair. Blog posts. Emails. Everything. Then I started a short story that has lingered in my head for a while now, but even this didn’t get the juices flowing. Then I decided to write something that haunted me.
You know how you can develop a so called ship? I didn’t know what this meant until I entered tumblr and somehow slid into the depths of a fandom. Well, I know how it felt to ship a character with another, but I didn’t know there was a whole terminology for it (yes, I googled “OTP” – it means One True Pairing, just for the record). I didn’t know this could happen with my own characters. I mean, sometimes it’s intended to happen (writing romance without a ship is not a good idea), but in my case, it’s not. These two characters can under no circumstances end up in any relationship whatsoever, especially since one of them is the villain (yes, my antagonist is also a villain, happens to the best of us) and the other one is the hero of my story. They’re opposed in insuperable conflict that ends with one of them dead. But I ship them so hard. So I decided to give me some writing practice and write my own fanfiction. Let them get hot and steamy with each other without any intention of ever – ever – including it in the book (let alone let it see the light of day). Without any intention of even fitting it into the story.
And suddenly, I write 3000 instead of 300 words a day. Might be that this is without merit, since it’s written with the specific premise of never seeing a printing press. Perhaps I waste my days. But I don’t think so. It gets my creative mojo flowing, and I try to incorporate some writing exercises. I think it’s not the what you write everyday that is important, but the that you write everyday. (Uh, sorry for any deadly grammatical sins I committed here). The more words you produce, the more likely it is there are some gems among them. And if not, it’s still easier to work with already written words than to produce brilliance from scratch.
And it helps me to free my head from any haunting shipper feels that could invade my story. They’re all packed up now, neat and tidy, in their own folder. And hey, if you never write just for your own fun, why you’re doing this at all? Yes, being a writer includes seeing writing as your job, but what good is it if you have absolutely no fun in your job? Right, you’re likely going to quit or develop a serious stress disorder.
So, have fun, stay positive and write your own fanfiction.