Sloan Parker: What I Learned Writing Two Erotic Romances

My guest blogger today is friend and all around great author, Sloan Parker. Isn’t she a cutie? Sloan has written two fantastic novels. The first, More, is a m/m/m menage that i adore and reviewed back in June (check out “You Need More” in my blog archives.) The new novel, Breathe, i have just begin, but even in the first few pages a reader understands that the book is unique, challenging and amazing. Because i’m even newer to novel writing than Sloan, i asked her to share some of what she’s learned in creating these two fabulous works. Read her post, and then hurry to Loose Id to buy yourself a couple of holiday presents. (And look below for a really yummy present from Sloan.)


5 Things I Learned Writing My First Two Erotic Romances
by Sloan Parker
Thank you to the lovely Tara for inviting me to her blog today. To say thanks I’d first like to share one of my fav m/m pictures.

 

Isn’t it great? Now that I’ve set the mood to talk about m/m romance…

Tara suggested I share a little something about writing my first two books, MORE and BREATHE. I’m always happy to talk on the subject of writing (Tara, you may be sorry you got me started). In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the craft of writing, the business of fiction, and what kinds of stories I want to write in the future.

 

Writing More and Breathe (both published by Loose Id) were in some ways very different experiences for me, but each helped me refine the process for how I work best and the types of stories I enjoy writing (erotic, passionate, suspenseful contemporary love stories). 
Here are five things I learned along the way:
1)      The sex comes easily for me (so far, anyway).
A few years ago (after many years of failed attempts writing romantic suspense) I found my way to erotic romance and m/m romance. A spark flared to life inside the creative part of my brain, and I began writing with renewed passion. Writing the sex scenes in More was one of the easiest parts of working on that book. When I started my next story, I was concerned that writing the sex in More was a fluke and that I’d find myself struggling through it in my other work. Thankfully that wasn’t the case. Breathe is a less erotic novel, but the sex scenes came just as easily (yeah, cheesy pun intended). With any luck (and hard work…yes, another shameless pun) I’ll continue to find the sex flows as effortlessly as it did for More, Breathe, and the three shorts I’ve written.

2)      Editing one manuscript (with my editor) while writing the other was not as difficult as I’d feared.
If I wanted to have a successful publishing career, I was determined to learn to effectively handle jumping back and forth between different phases of projects. Surprisingly, this went well for me. Maybe it had something to do with focus. I can be extremely focused on the task at hand. Just ask my partner how many pans I’ve ruined trying to make dinner while writing. Or how many times the smoke alarm has gone off before I noticed the food in the oven had been charred beyond recognition.

3)      Emotion is key and the emotional state of each character greatly affected that character’s voice.
More was written from one person’s POV, Luke Moore’s, while Breathe was done in alternating POV between Lincoln and Jay. At first Luke wanted to avoid anything emotional. He wanted to get laid, nothing more (or so he thought). He had been hurt once, and he wasn’t about to go through that again. That seriously affected his outlook on, well, just about everything. In Breathe, Lincoln and Jay were emotionally raw from the first page. Both unable to let go of their painful pasts. The POV characters of each book looked at the world in very different ways, and those emotional elements dictated so much of the story, including the character’s voice, the way he communicated, and of course the sex (where, when, how, how often, etc.).

4)      Nerves take on a new meaning with book two.
I found myself with a completely different set of nerves while writing my second book. I had signed a contract for my first book. I was about to have people reading my work and possibly asking for more. Would Breathe measure up? Would it be of interest to the same readers as More? Was the sex hot enough? What about the theme, style, story, and characters? Were they too similar? Too different? All new questions for me. Which brings me to the next thing I learned…

5)      Readers have varying opinions on what makes good fiction. My conclusion: write a book I’d like to read.
The best fiction (no matter the genre) is infused with passion — the author’s passion for the story and characters. If I stop and think too much about what people will think about my next story, if anyone will buy it, if I’m going to please or displease my readers, I’ll lose that passion. I want to balance what readers want within the genre with what I want to say. The way I hope to do this is to put my reader hat firmly in place and write the kind of story I’d like to read (and then hope it works for my readers too). Thanks to my publisher and the readers of More and Breathe, I hope to continue to tell the kind of emotional, erotic love stories I enjoy reading.
Related to #5, I have a question for you readers out there. Do you think you can tell when an author writes a book they were not as “into” as their other work? Do you think you know when they are writing in a genre that isn’t one they normally write or read? Can you tell when they have passion for their story? Feel free to comment with your thoughts or any questions you’d like to ask me. I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks again to Tara for asking me to do a guest blog. I had fun sharing about my writing experiences. 

I WON NaNo!!

On November 26 at 1:30 pacific time, i wrote word 50, 285 and put a The End on the first, very rough draft of Androgynous Dreams. After a lot of editing, this book will be the sequel to Genetic Attraction which come out January 4th. This book tells the story of Caleb Martin, brother of Jake, who is struggling with what he wants to do in his life. Though a rising soccer star, he feels compelled to serve the world.

While trying to make his decision, he meets a beautiful man who is as pretty as a woman, and an adorable tomboy who, though he thinks of himself as gay, he just can’t resist. He doesn’t know how complicated his life choices can get until he meets his androgynous dreams.

January will be editing month and i’ll let you know how it’s going. Meanwhile, i’ll share the excitement about the release of Genetic Attraction. :  )

Plotting & Pantsing Under the Whip — NANO

I’m slightly more than halfway through the first NaNo i’ve ever done and have reached over 60,000 word on the sequel to Genetic Attraction (coming out Jan 4) called Androgynous Dreams. I’d say “can i hear an Amen?” except there’s still a long way to go, though i do feel a teeny bit confident i’ll make it. I even like the book — i think. You see, normally when i write, i go back and read quite a lot. That doesn’t work for NaNo. For one thing, it takes too much time, for another, too much editing is kind of against the rules.So, i think the book is working but i’m not sure and won’t be until December (or whenever i finish 50K words, whichever comes first).

I’ve learned something really important to my future life as a writer. I can comfortably fit 2000 words into a day, even when i’m pretty darned busy. Not everyday, but a lot of them. And those are days that still include sleep, food and maybe even exercise — as well as the day job. A cool discovery.

Here’s what i think is working for me, NaNo-wise. I thought about the plot a fair amount before NaNo began. Then, on a veteran NaNoers advice, i actually wrote down a list of scenes. I haven’t looked at it since, i must confess, but i have a good memory and that semi-outline is helping me stay on track. Thats the plotting part.

The pantsing is most of the writing, but as i go i solve problems. For example i realized two key issues — i had one too many coincidences in the plot and, as usual, i didn’t have enough conflict. I solved these problems in the walking around staring time of day. You know, when people are talking to you and you’re not answering? Or when you’re supposed to be sleeping. I solved the problem i think successfully by combining the two issues. I got rid of the coincidence and made the event (one hero showing up at the home of another) a deep manipulation by a villainous person. Bingo! I had conflict. Now my second hero is a tool of a bad guy and we have to see how he gets himself out of it.

So if you’ve never done NaNo, i’d suggest giving it a try some year. I have friends who say their life is NaNo and they don’t need the push. For me, who loves challenges and rises to occasions, it’s been a blessing so far. Even in the face of having my release date on Genetic Attraction moved up to Jan 4, having to do all the edits in a few days rather than weeks, having one of the busiest work schedules ever, and needing to plan all the promotion for my book release, NaNo has kept me writing. So far, so good. What’s your NaNo experience so far? (BTW, the photo is for inspiration)  :  )

How to be Creative

Have you ever tried to solve a problem, write something, paint something, you think and think, but nothing comes? Then you take a shower or go for a walk and suddenly, flash, there’s a great idea in your mind? You try to get it down before it goes away and partly succeed? You have had an experience of your higher mind, what yogis call the Buddhi, and it is the place that inspiration comes from. In the Buddhi, ideas are whole, complete, but then they must be filtered through the lower mind which is the place of words so the ideas get chopped up into pieces.

We all have a higher mind and access it all the time whether we know it or not. The trick is being able to call on it at will, to get the idea when you need it. There are ways and, as a practitioner and former teacher of yoga for many decades, i’d like to share a few simple steps to creativity:

1. Get all the data you need for whatever you want to create. When i write magazine articles, this may be pages of technical data. For a novel, i do my research and outline my characters. The idea here is to have the higher mind flow by giving it the tools it needs to build the idea.

2. Do something else. Stop thinking about your project to the extent possible. The ideas may float through your mind. Let them, but go for a walk, take in a movie, have a nap, something. Showers are good, so is driving. Your lower mind will be somewhat involved and get out of the way of the higher mind. As you get better at this technique, the break may be shorter  — a trip to the kitchen for a glass of water.

3. With no real expectations, sit in front of your work site — computer, note pad, easel. Gaze at the screen or canvas and watch. Something will flash or float into your mind. It may be words, a way to start the article. It may be dialogue for a book. It may be colors or a motif for a painting. Go with it. It will take you forward.

I have worked with this technique for so long that, once i’m firmly on the right track for a magazine article, i don’t have to do much rewriting. Fiction, of course, is more layered. You come back in waves and add richness and detail.

But try this simple technique and see if it works for you. Let me know.Do you have other techniques for being creative on demand? Share.  :  )

Living in Book World

For the last year, i’ve been editing two novels. These were the first two works of fiction i ever wrote. When i submitted them the first time, the publisher gave me great encouragement but said there were problems with the books i needed to fix. If i fixed them, they would look again. Now, that’s HUGE motivation. Trouble was, i didn’t have the novel writing skills to fully understand what changes they wanted. So i took myself back to school (online) and submerged myself in craft workshops. I’m a quick study, so it became clear pretty fast what i needed to change — and it was a lot! So i did. Deep point-of-view, improved conflict. On scene after scene i went back to the drawing (uh, writing) board and rethought, rewrote. That, plus a sidetrack for some serious health problems, took a year.

So when i started the NaNo challenge this past Monday, i was actually doing the first from-scratch, original writing i’d done in some time. Wow! I forgot. Writing new material is so different from editing, even when the editing is extensive. Editing is serious work while new writing has a definite element of play, and like all good games, it sucks you in. I am now living in book world, that seductive other planet where writers go when they’re creating stories. I took a walk this morning and i couldn’t even listen to my iPod because music has its own story and i wanted to stay in mine. Every word the characters say takes me somewhere. I had decided long ago that my heroine would be working as a midwife in Africa. That’s all i knew. But i’ve been to Africa, and all of a sudden my heroine is talking about the people and the culture. How tall the men are, how they cook.

I’ve written over 8,000 words as of this morning and i’m through the initial part of the book where i was pretty clear what would happen. I had to get my two heroes on stage and then my heroine. I knew how i wanted to do that so the scenes flew along. But now i’m approaching the creamy center, that part of a book where everything gets a little mushy. I know where the high points are — yes, they will have sex soon, but how do i want to get them there? Last night my heroine told me she wanted to go to the gay bar with the hero. Bingo! There’s a fun scene — straight girl who looks like a boy goes to gay bar with gay boy who is oddly attracted to this girl. That’s a fun way to get them to bed. But as i’m doing this, i’m walking around with my eyes glazed in book world. When people talk to me i have to pull myself out of a deep well in order to pay attention.

Book world is soooo fun. Who needs drugs when you’re a writer?

Great First NaNo Day!

I managed to crank over 2300 words by dinnertime my first day, mostly before work and at lunchtime. I’m excited since 1667 or so will do the job each day. I want to get ahead for those days i can’t meet the goal. 


I’ve gotten our two heroes to meet in the Blue Flamingo gay bar and they’re now on their way to a motel and — ah, fade to black. Until tomorrow anyway.BTW, one hero is a soccer player.      : )