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Five Non-writing Ways Writers Can Write Better

Dreams image 2IMG_0351I’m an obsessive person. Most writers are and often to the detriment of their health. For most writers I know, balanced is not their natural state. For many of us complete and total tunnel-visioned obsession is more the norm. After coming off a very challenging year in which I’ve been forced to find a more balanced way to live, I’ve discovered that while balanced may not be my natural, writerly state, the more balanced my life is, the better I write, and the more productive I am. As counterintuitive as it sounds, I’ve discovered that for me to be the best writer I can be, there are some non-writing things that I need to incorporate into my routine. Every writer has a different list, I’m sure, but these are my top five.

 

Read More for Pleasure. Okay, we writers all know that reading is a great way to improve our P1000885
writing, and I would be the first to give a hearty nod to reading in order to write better. BUT this is not that! This has nothing to do with anything but enjoying yourself. It doesn’t matter what you read, read it for pleasure, read it with your feet up and a nice hot cuppa or a good glass of wine at hand; read it while munching some seriously decadent chocolate. Read it in a boat. Read it with a goat. Read it greedily and obsessively and leisurely, and totally and completely do it for the sheer delight of it. You won’t regret it.

 

kettle bellsBe More Physical. We writers tend to forget that beyond the fabulous world where our imagination meets the written word, beyond the characters with which we eat, breathe, and sleep 24/7, beyond the WIP and the plot problems solved and the scenes unfolding in our head, we are flesh and blood. We’re often flesh and blood with carpal tunnel, stiff necks, horrible posture and bad backs because about as physical as we get when we’re on a roll, when the Muse is with us, when we’re chasing a deadline, is to move our fingers across the keyboard at blinding speed. Physical bodies were meant to be … well … physical. It doesn’t matter so much what we do, but that we move – pilates, zumba, kettle bells, dance, walk, run, bike, row, swim, but move! It can hardly come as a surprise to learn that the Muse likes a fit body as much as we like to write about one.

 

Eat Better: Never mind the notorious one-handed read, most writers could tell you a thing or two Harvest 25 AugIMG00569-20130825-1722about the one-handed write. It happens when we’re in the zone, in happens when we’re facing a deadline. We manage the keyboard with one had while we shove something quick and dirty into our
mouths with the other – pizza, M&Ms, a bag of chips, cookies, donuts, any kind of take-out. We need to eat and we don’t want to take the time to do it properly. But a one-handed write doesn’t have to be an unhealthy one. We can make the choices good for us. It’s amazing how easily fruit lends itself to the one-handed write. I’m a notorious grape-popper. Or even better yet, I have been known from time to time to actually walk away, take a break, fix myself a real meal – something healthy. You’d be amazed how many yummy, healthy things you can fix for yourself in just a few minutes. There are a gazillion recipes out there all over the internet. AND, the great side effect is that when I give myself a break; I come back refreshed and more focused, and I actually write better.


Be Seen in Public:
I tend to be a hermit whenever I can get away with it. I tend to be even more of a hermit when I’m chasing a deadline or when I’m in the zone with a new novel. But, we humans, even the IMG_3633reclusive hermits among us, are social animals and being with other people feeds the Muse. Plus the occasional honing of social skills helps to insure that we don’t forget how to use them. The truth of the matter is that there’s nothing more inspiring than watching and listening to people. People are where the stories come from, and our stories are almost all about people! That being the case, it might be wise to spend some time with a few real ones and not just the imaginary ones in our heads.

 

Pamper yourself: As often as I can, I try to do something for myself that’s deliciously decadent and Sleeping woman reading181340322466666994_IswNAb85_bjust flat out feels good – so good, in fact, that it makes me happy – possibly even makes me feel guilty for being so indulgent. What’s a writer without a little self-imposed guilt? I love long baths with nice bubbles. I love to read in bed – there, you see, I’m actually multi-tasking when I do that. It helps assuage the guilt J What are your guilty pleasures? Be sure to indulge in them regularly. They’re good for your writing. Your Muse will be pleased.

 

I’ve discovered that good writing involves more than just writing. Good writing often involves not writing at all. But as all writers know, even when we’re not writing, we’re still writing, so lets practice a little self-indulgent, decadent, pleasurable, physical, fun non-writing from time to time. Our Muse will be glad we did.

 

Writing Good Sex

 

Dreams image 2IMG_0351As a writer of erotic romance, I’m always trying to analyze the ways in which sex strengthens story. I’ve
been very vocal in my belief that a story without sex is like a story without eating or breathing. Sex is a major driving force in our lives on many levels that I’ve dealt with in many blog posts. Because it is a major driving force in our lives it must also be a major driving force in story. Sex is a powerful way to create conflict and chaos in a story. It’s a way of allowing our characters to interact on an intimate level. And it’s one of the very best ways to cut through our characters’ facades and get an honest look at who they are when their guard is down and they’re at their most vulnerable. With that in mind, I’ve decided to share a few points that I always find helpful when I write sex scenes. For me, going back to the basics is always a great way to sharpen my skills. And I love to share the things that work for me.

 

Three occasions not to write sex

 

  1. While writing children’s books
  2. While writing the definitive work on antique saltcellars.
  3. When you’re not a writer, you’re a bricklayer. Even then …

Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss

Three important reasons to incorporate sex in your writing

 

 

  1. Sex adds tension.
  2. Sex adds depth and dimension to a story, and gives it more humanity.
  3. Sex adds intimacy and transparency to the story and helps the reader better know the characters.

 

Three big no-nos in writing sex

 

  1. Sex should never be gratuitous. If it doesn’t further the story, don’t put it in.
  2. Sex shouldn’t be a trip to the gyno office. Technical is NOT sexy.
  3. Sex should never be clichéd or OTT. (unless it suits the story)

 

Four suggestions for writing better sex scenes

  1. Write sex unselfconsciously. No one is going to believe it’s you any more than they believe Thomas Harris is a cannibal.
  2. Sex scenes should always be pacey. Too much detail is worse than not enough. Sex should neither slow nor speed up the pace of the novel. It shouldn’t be used like an interval in a play. It should not serve as filler to bolster word count. It should always keep pace with the story being told.
  3. Approach sex in your writing voyeuristically by watching and learning from your characters. Their personalities, emotional baggage and behavior traits will dictate how they have sex and how you write it.

america-artist-art-paintings-prints-note-cards-by-howard-chandler-christy-nude-women-reading-approximate-original-size-18x16

  1. You should always be able to feel a good sex scene in your gut. I’m not talking about wank material, I’m talking about The Clench. It’s a different animal. The Clench below the navel is for the sex scene what the tightness in the chest and shoulders is for the suspense scene.

 

The power of good sex can drive a story in ways that almost nothing else can. Good sex can be the pay-off for a hundred pages of sexual chemistry and tension, but the pay-off is even better if it’s also the cause of more chaos, sling-shotting the reader breathlessly on to the next hundred pages and the next.

(This post from KD’s Archives of cool stuff)

 

Creative Sex

Writing pen and birds 1_xl_20156020(From the Archives)

 

Sex and creativity are often seen by dictators as subversive activities.

Erica Jong

 

My husband knows I’m always looking for interesting articles about sex. He sent me one the other day about masturbation as a treatment for restless leg syndrome (It’s orgasm that actually seems to help. The means is optional.) This led us to an impromptu discussion of all of the other benefits of sex. Sex is a good sleep aid, sex can help with weight loss, sex can improve skin, hair and nails, just to name a few. The jury, however, is still out on whether sex is an aid or a deterrent to creativity.

For the nay-sayers, abstinence has long been touted as a way to focus sexual energy for creative purposes. On the other hand, a study at the University of Newcastle-on-Tyne and the Open University showed that professional poets and artists had almost twice as many sex partners as other people. The study also showed that the number of sex partners increased as creative output went up. The conclusion drawn was that the more creative you are, the more sex partners you were likely to have.

I’m sure that’s a simplification, but I wonder which came first the sex or the creativity? Is it the creative force that makes us horny, or is it being horny that makes us creative? My guess is that every writer, poet or artist would answer that question differently. However, I don’t think there’s any denying the close connection between the creative force and sexuality. Nor do I think that’s particularly surprising. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Freud was right. It IS all about sex. But what I’m not sure of is that we really understand just what sex is all about.

Yes, the basic biology of it’s obvious, but we humans haven’t had sex simply to procreate in a very long time now. We’ve evolved to want, to expect, even to need more from the sex act than just the next generation. Perhaps that goes hand in hand with the evolution of what civilizes us, what sets us apart from our animal cousins — at least in our own eyes. For humans, many of our basic needs have evolved two meanings. First there is the concrete realm in which we’re born, nurtured, thrive, pass on our genes and die. But we develop another level of meaning when we no longer have to use all of our energy just to survive. When starvation is no longer an issue, food and its preparation and presentation becomes art. When keeping out the cold is no longer an issue, clothing becomes fashion, and magazines tell us how we can be walking galleries for the art of clothing. When finding shelter from the elements is no longer an issue, the very homes we live in become an artistic expression of ourselves. Artistic expression, for us, has become as important as function.

But all of these necessities are concrete. Sex is not. In the days of our ancestor, sex was the magic by which two people become three. Today sex is the magic by which two people become one, or by which one person becomes more herself or himself. Procreation has given way to re-creation, on the one hand, but on the other hand, how can an act that has evolved from the very need to create the next generation be rooted in anything but creativity?

How can the process of creating not be sexual in nature? Writing a story is a penetrative act resulting in something larger, something much more alive than the words on the page, than the idea conceived. That’s heady stuff. That’s the writer in full rut. It’s intimate, it’s messy, it’s rough and tumble, it’s voyeurism and exhibitionism and full-on heat. If it isn’t, then there hardly seems to be a point.america-artist-art-paintings-prints-note-cards-by-howard-chandler-christy-nude-women-reading-approximate-original-size-18x16

That being said, anyone who has had good sex, lingering sex, or even remembers a good teenage feel-up
when time wasn’t an issue, and suddenly seemed no longer to exist, will recall that the end was subsumed in the means, the wonder of the act itself, the amazing intimacy with the other. Any writer or artist knows that experience up close and personal. At some point the creative act itself becomes the sum total of existence. The writer’s world shrinks to and expands out from that act, and the end no longer matters.

So how did I get from masturbation for restless leg syndrome to once more worshiping at the altar of the Divine Creative Sexual Force? Well I suppose it’s all just a part of the journey isn’t it? And besides, where else would I be expected to go with it?

 

Paranormal Baddies: Why we Love ‘Em

As I approach the finale of In The Flesh, my online dark paranormal serial, I’m struck once again by waterhouse_apollo_and_daphnejust how much fun it is to write the baddies. In The Flesh is based on a very creepy short story I wrote a long time ago, a short story whose baddie didn’t even have a name. His lover thought he might actually be god! The idea of having a god for a lover, having a lover who is more than human and at the same time way less than human, who like the gods of mythology, considers himself above human law and ethics, never stops intriguing me. I revisited the idea in the Lakeland Witches novels and in the sequel serial novella, Demon Interrupted, as well as several other stories I’ve written. The baddie, of the short story is exactly the reason why I felt compelled to expand In The Flesh. At first, I planned only a novella, but the story was too big for even that, and the baddie opened up a whole new realm of questions to be answered. Just what makes a baddie, and how thin is the line between the monsters and the good guys? And more important still, why do we always on some deep level, want to fuck the baddies?

The best baddies, the ones I want to revisit over and over again, the ones I want to know more about, are the ones who are as intriguing and seductive as they are terrifying. The best baddies, the ones that I love most to read about or watch in the movies, are the ones by whom I’d secretly like to be seduced IF I could get away with it unscathed, which of course is always impossible. For a baddie to really work his magic in a novel, he has to entice the reader into the shadows. There needs to be something about him that we want. There needs to be depth and dimension that are well-rounded and dark enough to balance the hero in the seesaw of plot twists and turns that lead to the Happy Ever After. The best part about writing In The Flesh as a novel is that so many of the characters are ambiguous, so many of them could be viewed as monsters, and almost all of them walk a very thin line between hero and villain. That has made the novel one of the most exciting and fun works of fiction I’ve ever written.

Bernini's Hades and PersephoneI think the baddie has to do more than just make the hero shine. He also has to hold up the mirror that reflects back the hero’s own dark side. He has to elicit more than hate from the reader and the other characters. I think for a baddie to really make a plot sing, he has to elicit our own dark lusts and our own voyeuristic walk on the wild side. The baddie attracts us because he’s brave enough, bold enough, not to
care about convention, not to care about what civilised society expects. He’s quite comfortable with his dark side. And he gets what he wants because he doesn’t mind doing whatever he has to in order to get it. Of course none of us wants that for ourselves, and yet all of us want to know, vicariously through fiction, what that might feel like

As In The Flesh evolved from a short story to a novel, and the dark villain, though still nameless, acquired the title of the Guardian, I often found him terrifying to write because even in his darkest, most wicked moments, his logic seems to make perfect sense. His passions, lusts and desires seem so reasonable, and even when they don’t, the very conviction with which he believes them to be worthy makes everything he does seem almost sympathetic. Even as I wrote him in all his monstrosity, I found myself wanting to make excuses for him. I found myself wanting to redeem him somehow, and yet is there redemption for a proper baddie? Would they ever seek it out? If I’m being honest, it’s the villain’s darkness I love, and it’s his darkness that makes the fire of the hero and heroine burn brighter. It’s also the darkness that makes them question themselves and everything they believe in.

And that leads me to the true job of the villain in a good read, the villain is there for the hero and heroineIn the Flesh 11880534_1463650103936599_545702979581425574_n to spark against, the baddie is there to help the reader get a better picture of who the hero and heroine are. And the baddie is the knife and chisel that sculpts the hero and heroine into something better, something stronger.

And finally the villain is the reader’s (and the writer’s) voyeuristic walk on the dark side. We can go on that dark journey with the villain and we can go there safely, have a totally wicked time, and be back in time for dinner with the hero and heroine. And the Guardian promises to take both reader and writer on a seriously dark and terrifying, as well as outrageously sexy, journey.

 

There’s a new episode of In The Flesh up every Friday, and on Wattpad as well. You can read it in its entirety by following these links: In The Flesh, Wattpad.

 

 

 

Writing Sex as Magic

waterhouse_apollo_and_daphneMost of you know that every Friday for the past six months I’ve been putting out a weekly episode of a novel in serial form on my blog. And of course, I’m hoping you all know that because you’re following In the Flesh weekly and enjoying each new episode. In The Flesh is a dark paranormal romance, and as is always the case when I write a paranormal story, even more so than usual, I find myself thinking about sex magic.

I’m thinking about sex magic tonight. I think about sex magic a lot, actually. I’m always struggling to get my head around why sex is magic, why human sexuality defies the nature programme /Animal Planet biological tagging that seems to work for other species that populate the planet. I don’t think I could write sex without magic, and even if I could I wouldn’t want to. I’m not talking about airy-fairy or woo-woo so much as the mystery that is sex. On a biological level we get it. We’ve gotten it for a long time. We know all about baby-making and the sharing of the genes and the next generation. It’s text book.

But it’s the ravenousness of the human animal that shocks us, surprises us, turns us on in ways that we didn’t see coming. It’s the nearly out of body experience we have when we are the deepest into our body we can possibly be. It’s the skin on skin intimacy with another human being in a world where more personal space is always in demand.

When we come together with another human being, for a brief moment, our worlds entwine in ways that defy description. We do it for the intimacy of it, the pleasure of it, the naughtiness of it, the dark animal possessiveness of it. Sex is the barely acceptable disturbance in the regimented scrubbed-up proper world of a species that has evolved to have sex for reasons other than procreation. Is that magical? It certainly seems impractical. And yet we can’t get enough.

We touch each other because it feels good. We slip inside each other because it’s an intimate act that scratches an itch nothing else in the whole universe can scratch. During sex, we are ensconced in the mindless present, by the driving force of our individual needs, needs that we could easily satisfy alone, but it wouldn’t be the same. Add love to the mix, add a little bit of romance, add a little bit of chemistry and the magic soup thickens and heats up and gets complicated. I don’t think it’s any surprise at all that sex is a prime ingredient in story. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s any surprise that it is also an ingredient much avoided in some story.

leda Cornelis_Bos_-_Leda_and_the_Swan_-_WGA2486Sex is a power centre of the human experience. It’s not stable. It’s not safe. It’s volatile. It exposes people,
makes them vulnerable, reduces them to their lowest common denominator even as it raises them to the level of the divine. Is it any wonder the gods covet flesh? The powerful fragility of human flesh is the ability to interact with the world around us, the ability to interact with each other, the ability to penetrate and be penetrated.

So as I mull through it, trying for the zillionth time to get my head around it, I conclude – at least for the moment – that the true magic of sex is that it takes place in the flesh, and it elevates the flesh to something even the gods lust after. It’s a total in-the-body, in-the-moment experience, a celebration of the carnal, the ultimate penetrative act of intimacy of the human animal. I don’t know if that gives you goose bumps, but it certainly does me.

(From the archives)

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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