Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Lurve Scene

Kat is determined to get us all into trouble with the latest question for the blog chain.

How do you feel about love scenes? As a reader, are you put off by the gratuitous? As a writer, do you shy away from spelling out the down-and-dirty? Or do you write until your computer lights a cigarette?

That's right, we've talked about romance and we've talked about love, but now it's time to go there. Kids, it's time to talk about s-e-x.

I love that Kat asked about our feelings about love scenes from both the prospective of a reader and as a writer, because for me they are very different. It is kind of the same way I feel about fried foods. Now like most people with working taste buds and no history of heart disease, I love french fries, fried mozzarella, and believe in miracles every time I eat a fresh from the conveyor belt Krispy Kreme doughnut.

However, as much as I enjoy the distinctive taste of foods cooked in hot fat, I refuse to fry at home. Not in a fryer machine and not in a deep pot with a thermometer attached. It's too messy and too dangerous. Not to mention the health risks. Wait... are we still talking about frying food or did we switch back to sex?

As I've mentioned before here I am a fan of the romance genre. I first discovered romance novels towards the end of my middle school years, and if it wasn't for the sex scenes in them who knows when or where or how I would have eventually filled in the gaps in my sexual education. You see I grew up in a house that not only lacked HBO but any kind of cable television at all. And I went to a Catholic school up until eighth grade where when we did have our boys and girls separated sex ed classes their information was so out of date that the film reels (yes!) showed us girls how to attach our sanitary napkins with belts that kind of acted like garters.

Sex scenes aren't merely for educational purposes though. In the best written romances they should work in much the same way as a musical number in a Broadway musical does. It should advance the plot, reveal character, and entertain.

So when I wrote my first novel and it was a romance novel and it came time for the sex scene of course I wanted it to be good - I wanted it to be great. And it was. Probably. In the alternate universe where I actually wrote it. Yeah, there was sex in my book, but it was closed door - as in I wrote the before and I wrote the after, but the in-between was left to the reader's imagination.

And I think that is just the type of writer I am, because when I tried to write the in-between or when I even thought about writing it, I started shaking. Not with fear, but with a terrible awful case of the church giggles (these, of course, are the giggles you get at a time place when you are absolutely NOT supposed to be giggling, and this then causes you to giggle all the more).

I have a terrible time taking myself seriously sometimes, especially when something is very serious, but at the same time - if you look at it from a slightly different angle - very very silly. And sex scenes can become incredibly silly, incredibly quickly. Even at the very basic level of dealing with anatomy - you either get flowery and euphemistic and that is unintentionally hilarious. Or else you are very technical and sound like a stuffy textbook, which is once again hilarious.

I don't think it is possible to write a good, believable sex scene when you are giggling and snickering behind your hand like a sixth grade boy (no offense to sixth grade boys, but c'mon guys, you know how you are), and since I cannot at this time summon the necessary gravity, for now I'll leave the sex scenes to those who can.

So what about you? Are you a reader of sex scenes, a writer of them, both, or neither?

And if you love reading about love scenes, continue reading with Sandra and Cole.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

It's blog chain time once more and today's question is brought to us by Sarah.

what has been the most unexpected part of your writing journey up to this point? What has happened that you could never have predicted? Has it been a help or a hindrance?

There have actually been lots of unexpected parts to my writing journey, but maybe that's because I didn't have a whole lot of solid expectations starting out. Even though I've always known that I wanted to be a writer, I'm not a sit down and write down time specific goals type person. Instead, I use the "well let's try this" method of living my life.

That's how I ended up getting a BFA in theatre instead of the english degree I'd originally intended on receiving. And when I realized that might not have been quite what I wanted, it was off to film school in California - the other end of country from my hometown of Buffalo, NY. I met my husband and we both earned MFAs in Film and Television Production, but finding a job in the LA industry was tougher than we'd expected so when he got a job offer in Tennessee - I didn't even hesitate. Sure, why not - let's go for it. Once settled down South with full health insurance benefits my husband and I saw an opportunity to join the great "let's have a kid" experiment. And because we never do anything halfway, we had two (not at the same time though. gah. I shudder at the thought.)

Okay, but this is supposed to be about my writing life. And that big paragraph above this one is just about my life life. Well that's because my writing life has always happened in between my life life. And I really only got serious about the writing part of my life in between having those kids. That's when I started my first novel, not even knowing it was going to be the first novel that I actually finished. So that was kind of unexpected. It was the fall of 2007 and my son was four months old. By December I finished it and by the Spring I was itching to send it out into the world.

This is where the really unexpected part comes in. I had no idea how much there was to learn. Or how much was involved in the "trying to get book published" process. Going into it, I figured it would be similar to putting a worm on a hook, casting it out to sea, and waiting for the fish to bite. Okay, so I know nothing about fishing, and I knew nothing about getting published. But I do now. Well, the publishing part - still not real clear on the ins and outs of fishing.

At first it was mind boggling how many resources were available out there FOR FREE to anyone who had the ability to Google and then read until their eyes bled. And I did read until my eyes bleed.

I hunted down every agent blog. Every editor blog. Every writing forum. Everything ever written on how best to write a query and how best to write a synopsis. And how not to write a query and synopsis.

I found a crit group, and realized got some good feedback.

I wrote a query and then I rewrote it five hundred thousand times. And then I rewrote it again.

I found out what books were trending hot. I found out not to follow trends.

I learned about blogging and leaving comments and started my own blog and hoped to one day get my own blog comments.

Sometimes I would remember to blink, and then I would read some more.

I entered agent contests and read about what to do when you get the call, and what to do if more than one agent is interested - even though by this point I was packing poor novel number one away and starting work on novel number two, because I had also read that this is what you are supposed to do.

I learned the difference between New York publishing, online publishing, and self publishing.

I read success stories and felt envious and wistful and more determined than ever.

I found Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Dear Author, Book Smugglers and lots of other great review sights that added to my pile of books to buy or get from the library and I read those too.

I cross referenced agents on QueryTracker and AgentQuery and felt like Santa Claus writing his list and checking it twice.

Yes, several times I purposely Googled something along the lines of, "authors who were rejected a million times and then went on to become kiss my a$$ rich and famous."

I learned about publishing contracts and edits and the whole process that goes into making the books that end up on the shelves.

I read agented authors saying that it didn't get easier after having an agent, and read published authors saying it didn't get better after being published, and thought "well that's just frigging great."

And then one day I got to the point where I'd click on a link to an article on how to write a better query, and realized... hey, wait, I already knew this. I've done this.

At that point I could've printed myself out a BS in Writing degree to hang on my wall. I didn't though.

One, because that would be lame and a little delusional, especially since I don't have the actual diplomas I have earned hanging on the wall.

And two, because I don't think my education is complete. I'm not anywhere near to how obsessive I once was in my online agent, blog, and forum following, but having that time when I was really plugged in was a huge help in getting closer to my writing goals. At the same time it was also a hindrance to my having any time to do some actual writing, which is why I've cut down significantly (child #2 in the "let's have a kid" experiment didn't help with the time constraints either). Overall though, time spent learning the business has probably been the most important unexpected detour I've taken on this writing journey.

That's it for this unexpected post. But there are more surprises to be had! Go find them with Sandra, Cole, and the rest of the blog chain.