Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Escaping the Writing Doldrums

I suppose we all get stuck there at some point. A combination of real life and a heavy workload have left me becalmed for what feels like a couple of months now. That’s maybe the thing that frustrates me the most about my writing. I’m fortunate in that I never have any shortage of ideas. There’s a black pool of sludge at the back of my mind that spits out new and ever more inventive pieces of depravity at regular intervals.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the actual process of setting words to paper (or typing them onto a screen), I’m painfully slow. I’m a chiseller. Each word has to be painstakingly chipped out of stone rather than flowing freely from my fingers.

Okay, sometimes the words flow freely and it’s a wonderful thing.

And then there are the other times...

It’s almost like a natural lifecycle of the creation process. At the beginning the idea is fresh and new and I thrash out the first few pages in a burst of excitement. Then it depends on whether I can ride that crest of excitement to the finish or not. I’ve started a number of stories thinking, ‘it’s only a quick one, 3,000 words at most, it’ll only take a couple of days’, only to see those stories balloon to around 4,000 words with the ending still off somewhere in the distance.

Then it starts to get tough. I start to get antsy. The story’s too long. There must be too much padding in there. I get scratchy. Doubts set in. Is that the correct grammar? Maybe this sentence would be better, or this one.

That’s the worst by the way, getting stuck on That One sentence. By the time I’ve got it down to my satisfaction, I’ve invariably forgotten what I was going to write next. Cue another lengthy pause while I try to remember what that sentence was supposed to be, because obviously it was perfect and much better than the alternates I’m thinking of now (it wasn’t, I just think that). And then, yeah, the whole thing grinds to a shrieking halt. I look at the clock and realise an hour’s gone by and I’ve written a couple of lines.

I think it’s mostly impatience. I want to move onto the next idea. The current idea is fully formed, a solved puzzle, I just haven’t got round to committing the actual words to the screen and until I do it’s clogging up the pipes. Normally I can get round this and beat distraction behaviour by having another story become my distraction behaviour. It’s fine unless I’m around a deadline. Then I’m stupid and tell myself I should only be working on the one story, and then end up getting nothing done as distraction behaviour sends me off to play computer games or randomly surf the internet.

I’ve got two stories holding up an overdue third collection (and other projects!). They’re good ideas, but they’re also complicated and they’re at that point where scratching out each paragraph seems to drag out longer and longer. It was the same for “Arachne’s Web” in my first collection (out next month if you’ll excuse the shameless plug), but I dragged it over the line and was ultimately pleased with how it turned out. It’ll be the same for this pair I’m sure.

So, has anyone else experienced the same? How did you escape your own writing doldrums?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Self Publishing Revolution

Selena Kitt has set up a blog for eXcessica authors to post their experiences in the world of ebooks. My first post went up today, which I'll also include right here...

A Second Bite of the Cherry

Times change and when they change, they often change fast.

I’m M.E. Hydra, writer of twisted succubus tales, and what’s happening for me at the moment is the fulfilment of a dream. I imagine a lot of people have the same dream. They want to write and they want that writing published and out there for people to read. Too often those dreams end up dying alone and forgotten in the slush pile of an uncaring publishing house.

When I first started out I was very sceptical about Self-Publishing. It seemed like...well, cheating. Sure, you could go to a vanity press, dump a wad of cash and then see your words in print, but did it really count? Who would read it? Who would want to buy it? How would you know if you were any good or not?

That was an important distinction for me. I didn’t just want to be published; I wanted to be published because I was good enough to be published. So I did the obvious thing every budding writer does and researched how other writers got to where they were. My genre of choice was Horror. I started out a Sci-Fi and Fantasy junkie, then moved onto Horror and never really left.

A lot of horror writers—Stephen King, HP Lovecraft, etc—all followed the same path. They wrote short stories, shrugged off the inevitable barrage of rejection slips, got their work published in the small press magazines, then the higher profile magazines, before finally landing the book deals and cranking out novels.

I tried the same and at the start it seemed promising. Sure, I picked up a ton of rejection letters to start with, but I’d been warned to expect that. I dutifully filed them away, learned what I could and focused on honing my craft. It paid off and I started to get acceptances from small press magazines, although some of those magazines were so unstable they folded into oblivion before the publication date.

Then I smacked into a wall.

The problem was moving up to the next level. A friend of mine had similar ambitions, but in Sci-Fi. He took out a year’s subscription to one of the premier UK magazines for science fiction short stories. One year later and he’d seen only one story written by a writer not previously published in the magazine.

This is not a fault of the magazine, or any of the anthologies that were floating around at the time. They’re in the business to sell copies, and stories by established and recognised authors are more likely to do this. The flaw in my route became apparent. To get there, you had to already be there.

Even once you got there it didn’t seem so rosy. The horror section in my local bookstore was starting to look a little anaemic. Outside of the big names, who are admittedly massive for good reason, there was little in the way of fresh meat. Where were the new writers?

Then there was no more horror section. King and Koontz departed to the K section of general fiction and I browsed bookstores less and less often.

The message seemed clear enough. If I wanted a future that involved being able to eat and pay bills, then it probably didn’t involve writing horror books.

And that might have been it. I’d given it a shot and it hadn’t panned out. Time to move on to other things.

It was finding online sites like Literotica that rekindled the flames. I went back to basics, wrote some short stories, posted them and—encouraged by the positive feedback—wrote more. That feedback is invaluable, as is knowing there are readers out there enjoying your work. In this respect the internet is a fabulous opportunity for new writers. The old routes don’t work anymore, but writers still need a training ground to hone their art. Online story sites can help with this in a similar way to receiving a good review for a story in a small press magazine. They can also reach a much larger audience. Yes, it does involve giving some of your work away for free, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, if you can’t get people to read your stories when they’re up there for free, you sure as hell aren’t going to get them to pay for them.

And now I’m here, with a collection of my short stories coming out in October, a second collection scheduled for next February and a third collection nearing completion on my hard drive. I’ve held the print versions of the first two books in my hands already, and it’s a wonderful thing I can tell you.

What happens next I don’t know. I’m happy to get a second chance to finally do something I’ve always wanted to do. Not many people get to rescue a dream from the scrapheap. I might sell well enough to consider taking it up full time or I might only sell a few copies. Either way, it’s still more than would have read them had the manuscripts been buried in a slush pile somewhere.

The times are a changing. They barred the gates so now we’re climbing over the walls

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rosa and Verdé need your votes!

It's the 11th Annual Literotica Reader's Choice Awards and Succubus Summoning is up in the Erotic Horror category. Actually, two chapters of Succubus Summoning (113 and 114) are up, which is a little awkward.

If you like the series and want to show your appreciation, then please vote here. 114 is probably the best choice to avoid splitting the vote as it's the end of the first story arc.

I haven't forgotten the 201 arc. It's just that pesky real life thing gobbling up my time. Must write faster!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Win a Kindle 3!

Excessica is running a Scavenger Hunt to win a Kindle 3 and other goodies. You can read about the details here. The kindle will come pre-loaded with a collection of e-books including my very own "A Succubus for Christmas".

To enter you need to find the little scavenger hunt graphics. One of them is buried (okay, lightly covered in some fallen leaves) somewhere on this blog. Happy hunting!

Hehe, now I bet you're glad I only post something like once every week!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Of Succubi and Incubi

A question I saw on Twitter (that I'm too technologically feeble to work out how to answer there):

@manyeyedhydra What would, in ME Hydra's world, happen if a Succubus tried to feed off an Incubus? Surely the Inc would be able to last.

Some fairly epic fucking is my guess. Bring a camcorder, make a fortune from the porn industry... (hello, plot idea!)

Hmm, so what would happen? I'm not really sure.

If the demons were soul eaters would they even be interested in each other? I can imagine a world setting where incubi and succubi had no interest in each other because they couldn't feed off each other. (you can put the camcorder down, two demons doing nothing is not going to ignite the porn universe)

My succubi tend to be semen vamps. They make you ejaculate over and over until you run out of bodily fluids and die. How to fit an incubus in a universe that works like that? He's at a disadvantage. They fuck, he comes, she swallows, he comes, she swallows, he comes, she swallows, repeat until...he dies. Alas poor Inc, you do not work in this faux-biologically realistic setting.

Unless we get creative.

Get a woman excited and she'll get wet. Give our Inc a cock that also doubles up as a sponge or mouth for absorbing this... ahem... wetness and now we have a feeding mechanism that makes an attempt at suspension of disbelief. They fuck, she gets excited, he absorbs, she gets excited, he absorbs, she gets excited, he absorbs, she finally runs out of fluids and expires.

Now our Inc can fight!

And the winner is... whichever demon is individually more powerful in the hierarchy in use for the current setting I reckon. They fuck, the more powerful demon makes the other come themselves to oblivion (camcorder overheats and blows up at this point).

There's a hot story there.

Incubi aren't absent from the settings I write about, I just don't get round to writing stories about them because:

a) I'd rather write stories about sexy femme fatales.
b) There are already approximately a zillion animes featuring girls being raped by demons.
c) I'm really really bad at writing from the female POV.

Yeah, it's mainly c). Maybe someday, when I'm more confident in my (limited) abilities as a writer. There are some hell-space tales that need to be told...