31 May 2011

A Writer’s Guide to Being Sexy

…in your writing. Sorry, I can’t help you with the real thing.

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 bring the sexy back with this series on sexy writing.

Today we’ll talk about 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. Stick to one, maybe two 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 above mentioned 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 words to use (try not to blush):

  • cock
  • tits
  • ass
  • breasts
  • dick
  • pussy
  • clit

C*nt has become much more mainstream of late, but I’d be careful with it. I won’t even type the actual word here, and I won’t say it. I just don’t like it, and that’s a personal preference. But of course, if it fits the character you’re writing, it may be appropriate. Use it sparingly, at your own risk. 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 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 the least 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. 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, c*nt 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. Next time I’ll discuss realism when writing sex, so I hope you’ll stay tuned!

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

30 May 2011

Round Robin Blogvel

It's a blog tour! It's a novel! It's a Round Robin Blogvel! The witty and talented Michelle Simkins came up with this idea of a traveling blog novel and has recruited 17 other writer-bloggers in addition to herself to write it.

And, lucky YOU, readers - I'm one of them!

There will be a chapter by a different writer every week, on their own blog. Michelle, since she is the mastermind of it all, is going to write the first and the last chapters. The blogvel is called Skeleton Key, and chapter one is live, RIGHT NOW! You can see it on Michelle's blog. Chapters will post each Monday on the appropriate blog. Click the Blogvel tab at the top of this page to find the schedule and blog links. I hope you'll follow along and leave your feedback!

26 May 2011

A Writer’s Guide to Successful Blogging, Part 1

Last night on Agent Query Connect, we had a fabulous chat about successful blogging. It was so awesome it inspired me to create a series here to recap the discussion and touch on some of the topics we didn’t get to cover.

We spent a good deal of time talking about branding. Your blog is a way to develop your brand as a writer. It doesn’t so much have to be about you as it does have to say something about you. It should give the audience a sense of your personality (because Voice is not just for manuscripts and queries anymore, it’s for blogs, too!), it should have content that will make people come back again and again, and it should not – I repeat, NOT – be one giant advertisement for your book(s). After all, how many times would you visit a blog where the posts only say things like “Buy my book!” or “Read this review of my book!” or the thinly veiled “Here’s some advice on writing… and see how I put it into practice by BUYING MY BOOK!” I mean, seriously.

Your blog should have some sort of theme, focus or niche that it fills. It doesn’t have to be super-narrow in focus, but you want some cohesion. Utterly confusing randomness is not a good idea. If you blog about your current book one day, rant about your in-laws another day, post a political manifesto yet another day… well, there’s nothing for your audience to rely on. They’ll never know what to expect from your blog. While you might think that’s a good thing (Yeah! I wanna keep ‘em guessing! That’s fun!) it can get old real quick. My time is precious, and I don’t always have a lot of it, so instead of reading your scattered blog, I’ll end up visiting other blogs where I at least have some idea of what I’ll be getting.

So how do you begin to develop your brand via your blog? Newer writers especially may be thinking they have nothing to offer the blogosphere. I’m not a writing expert, I just started! I’m not published. I’m still learning. What the heck would I blog about? For starters, never discount your position on the path to publishing. (Ooh, love that alliteration!) There are plenty of people who are at similar levels, or not even at your level, who would love to hear about what you’re learning, techniques you’ve picked up along the way, etc.

Of course, there’s no rule that says as a writer you have to blog about your journey to publication. Many do, but there are other aspects. What are some social issues you tackle in your stories? (Bullying? Date rape?) Or more concrete events or ideas that you write about. (Does your main character love classic cars?) Also, think about your non-writing life. What are some other passions or hobbies you have? (Music, food, etc.) What’s a unique skill set you have? (Can you solve any crossword puzzle in ten minutes flat? Can you sing?) What’s your day job? (Graphic designer? Teacher? Bartender?) Do you know a lot about a random topic? (Are you fascinated with kitschy art?) Use these answers as a starting point for finding your unique take on what would otherwise be just another writer’s blog.

Still unsure? Would you like a few examples? Of course you would! Shout out to some of my Agent Query Connect peeps: here are three blogs that have voice and a brand that you can count on time and again.
  • Ink Rock – This brand-spanking-new blog belongs to Stephen L. Duncan (Twitter: @stephenlduncan), who started last night’s AQC chat down the road of defining your blogging niche when he described Ink Rock for us. In his (paraphrased) words, his plan for Ink Rock is to become the Anthony Bourdain of the literary world. Who wouldn’t love that?
  • Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire – Anyone who’s gotten to know Mindy McGinnis (aka bigblackcat97 on AQC, @bigblackcat97 on Twitter) can tell you that she is spunky and a ton of fun, and her blog reflects that personality. She has interesting interviews and great writing advice and insight, and chances are you’ll laugh more than once while reading her blog.
  • Greenwoman – Michelle Simkins (Twitter: @Green_Woman) was in our AQC chat last night and was worried that her blog wasn’t focused enough. To which a bunch of us chimed in with “We love your blog!” She is a self-described “writer, knitter, gardener, radical homemaker.” And she’s funny! (Search #queenofhashtags on Twitter for even more fun.) And you’ll find little bits of all those things on her blog. EDIT Jan. 2012: Michelle's new Twitter handle is @MichelleSimkins, and she's now blogging at http://flowersandfbombs.wordpress.com

15 May 2011

Changing Tides

I feel like most of my posts recently have been of the "update" variety in recent weeks. My apologies. I'm trying to do better, I swear! But the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of changes that have kept me away from not only Jello World, but From the Write Angle, my friends and crit group at Agent Query Connect, and my writing in general.

First, my husband received an unexpected promotion at work, which came with an unexpected transfer across the state. It was only about two and a half weeks from the time we learned that he'd definitely gotten the promotion and his first day in the new place. So in that short period of time we had lots to do. Get our house ready to put on the market, and get me mobile.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, or if you know me personally, you may be aware that I've had a slight phobia of driving for a while. I never learned to drive when I was a teen, and after a while I had resolved to never learn. There was a lot of fear surrounding the act of attempting to control a motor vehicle for me. You can read a little about it in my May 2008 post, Facing Down the Fear. That was when I first tried to learn to drive. Needless to say, it didn't work out very well, and I did not get my license at that time.

Last October I renewed my permit to try again because I would need it for a job that I had started. It went a lot better this time around. When we learned of my husband's transfer, it became evident that I would be here for several weeks on my own while he went on ahead to start working and to find us a place to live. Suddenly I had a deadline. Not only did I need to get my license ASAP, I needed a car of my own. And guess what? I got both! I got my license on May 3rd, and we bought my car the week before that.

It's surreal. I'm twenty-eight years old and I'm experiencing a whole new level of freedom. I'm able to drive myself to and from work now, and my husband doesn't have to worry about me being here on my own because I can do everything for myself. I don't have to depend on anyone else to get around. When the move is final, I'll have a wealth of new job possibilities because I won't be restricted by distance.

Since my husband is already on the other side of the state, I've been taking care of a lot of things around the house. Paint, new carpet, major cleaning, and packing up stuff that we don't need to keep in the house at the moment. The house goes on the market this week and hopefully we'll be able to sell it quickly. Everything else has been going so smoothly, so hopefully this will also.

Okay, enough of that! One thing I do want to mention is that fellow writer and FTWA crew member Robert  Lewis is also blogging for the new Macmillan site Criminal Element. Even if you don't read/write crime or mystery, you'll enjoy Robert's current series of posts, Bar Noir. Parts one and two are up, and part three will be up Sunday. The old book covers pictured in the articles is reason enough to read. He uses a story to discuss pulp fiction writers - which really isn't a genre I read, but his voice has spunk and panache, and makes me want to read some of the authors he mentions. Be sure to check it out, and be on the lookout for other posts from him!