Monday, 4 August 2014

This blogging lark...

I admit it, I’m a total novice at blogging.

I hardly read anyone else’s at the moment. Yes, I know I "should" if I want to be a writer. It's like tweeting, I guess. But with limited free time, it’s hard enough to concentrate on my own writing and reading and commenting on drafts for writing chums.

For one thing, what can I write about? Blogs are often a mixture of chit-chat, samples of completed or “in progress” work, an interview of some sort with another writer, and plugging already published and soon-to-be-published work.

Hang on...

Writing about my own work? Hey, I can do that.

Writing about writing chums and their work? Hey, I can do that too.

Plugging already-published work? Um, okay, well... look, I’ve not had much published yet. But I’m working on it.

Okay, so I've blown all my objections out of the water, well aside from the restricted time, but other folk manage so I guess I can too. Better get on with it.

So, let’s start with something about my writing...

My “day job” career has involved writing lots of stunningly unexciting, highly precise, specialist technical reports, scientific papers and two academic theses.

Then I had this idea about becoming a freelance journalist, writing about factual things which caught my attention. I’ve had a butterfly mind all my life and just love finding out about stuff. I even remember some of it, too. That’s rather fun and I even had a piece published in our local regional daily newspaper. This evolved into a new and fun direction, as I now occasionally give public talks on various subjects, pitched at a general interest level.

I always had a "don't tell anyone" secret idea about writing fiction, but wasn’t convinced I could write even vaguely-decent dialogue. But when I tried, other people said it wasn’t too bad at it. And not all of them were pandering my delicate ego, either.

One of the commonly-given pieces of advice to anyone wanting to write fiction is to write the sort of story they would like to read.

I might be asked to return my membership card from the “real men club,” but I’ll admit I enjoy reading romantic escapist fiction for relaxation. In my life, romance is (hopefully) associated with the odd moment of sexual intimacy, so stories which include that in the development of the relationship seem natural to me. But a lot of the popular “chick lit” stories are thinner on the nitty-gritty than I’d like to read.

I decided I wanted to write erotica, which I think of as a story which includes sex in some way, shape or form. But I want to write an engaging story in which the characters have a plausible relationship, not just write sex scenes with enough story to set them in a context of some sort. There’s plenty of that around already, so no need for me to add my own efforts.

So, like a lot of wanna-be writers, I just sat down at my laptop with a vague idea for a story and started writing a romantic erotica novel. I still think about returning to that idea and seeing what I can do with it, so maybe one day... Eventually, I twigged that I needed some idea of what I was doing, so looked around on the internet for helpful advice and examples of erotica.

When I discovered the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, I thought it looked like the sort of group I wanted to work with. So I asked if I could play and jumped into the deep end.

I found myself in what is effectively a relaxed and friendly workshop where we can experiment, read, enjoy and discuss each other’s work, and get constructive feedback on what others enjoyed or found didn’t work in my efforts.

The feedback has always been supportive and encouraging, which suits me as I just have to learn everything the hard way. At first, it was about the basics, like tenses, points of view and fixing my rather dull, passive style. In time, it was more about the detail, like developing engaging characters and tension in the story, things which you hope will keep the reader interested enough to keep on reading.

Being British, I do insist on writing in modern-day UK English, which has prompted some entertaining discussions about the differences between the UK and US flavours of our common tongue.

A regular activity in the group is that every Sunday is dedicated to flash fiction and poetry. Their flash fiction is limited to a maximum of 200 words. Ideally with characters and tension or drama which raises and answers a question in the reader’s mind. These are rather fun to write and they present a real challenge in writing snappily and economically. 

A lot of mine are just fun one-off ideas, letting me try things out. But a few have been a seed for something rather more substantial.

I’ve written quite a few with three distinct sets of characters, who are now all niggling at me to let them go and play on a broader canvas. 

One of these sets of characters has developed into my almost-complete-draft first novel, an erotic romance which probably best fits the supernatural category. I’ll write more about that next time, but as an introduction of sorts to the characters, here’s one of the first stories I wrote about them, just under 200 words.

How Dare She

Copyright © 2013, Ian D Smith. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

My neighbour Janet waved as I jogged past, Mags loping along easily beside me.

“Mark, where’s the lovely Maggie?”

“Family away-day,” I panted. “Dog-sitting for her parents.”

Mags looked intently at Janet.

“Beautiful animal. What breed is it?”

“European Grey Wolf. She’s completely tame.”

Janet looked at me in a direct way. “You should’ve said. Dave went off at the crack of dawn. Fishing all day. Want to come round, maybe for lunch?”

“Really appreciate the thought,” I said, “but pretty busy today, setting exams.”

Mags looked up at me and whined.

“I think she wants her breakfast,” said Janet.

“Probably right. See you later, Janet.”

As I took off my running shoes, Mags blurred and became my girlfriend Maggie.

“Bloody tart, coming on to you so blatantly,” she hissed, hands on hips.

“Told you I’ve been fending her off since I moved in.”

“How dare she? I’ll bite her fucking tits off.”

I pulled Maggie onto my lap. “Behave yourself, my sexy were-girlfriend. No eating the neighbours.”

She giggled. “Randy bugger, you’re hard already.”

“We’ve just jogged together for twenty minutes. The whole time, all I could think of was that you were stark bloody naked.”

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