Chance of a Second Protagonist

I keep cutting the sex out of my sexy novel. What is happening here? And how am I going to get it back in?

I mean… part of the problem is, it’s not actually a fun rolicking sexy romp, it’s a character piece about bodily autonomy and selfhood, with most of the conflict happening around sexuality. Except that nearly all the sex is coming from a secondary character, who is vital in his capacity as a foil for Our Hero, but the sexy bits are only thematically related to Our Hero’s struggle. Our Hero doesn’t even know they’re happening.

I could roll with that by making him a second protag, I suppose. That is doable; he’s already kind of a love interest, so he’d just need a couple more intimate moments and some more detailed Complicated History with the current protag–and some kind of intertwined/reflective ending. At the mo, he doesn’t have an ending at all.

Which always felt kind of wrong, actually.

But you know what, I don’t like two-protag stories. I like stories that know where they’re going and don’t get distracted by subplots and tangents. Where everything reflects the core story somehow.

But if that’s what I’ve got on my hands, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

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Writing Break

That was a good experiment.

And now we are DONE.

In the end, the fiddle-around-with-random-stuff experiment was a colossal failure. Instead of being free to play and take risks, I ended up doing a grand total of nothing in the last three months. We’re chalking it up to a recovery period and refusing to feel bad about it.

Painful though it may be, I think my best bet here is to suffer through Draft 3 of the thing I was working on earlier this year. Writing it was a six-week whirlwind thrill ride and revising it has been torture. It’s a shamefully indulgent erotic drama that I love to pieces and the idea of people not liking it is paralyzing.

Which particularly sucks because, it’s an indulgent erotic drama, which means most people will not like it. This is a quality of niche genres.

Draft 3 is due by Halloween. It’s only 50,000 words, so that shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Right?

Rose City Comics Haul Reviews pt. 1: Sexy Monsters and Heart-Melting Ghosts

“Coming up Sunday” lol, I am still extremely optimistic, aren’t I?

My only excuse is, I have a ~new boyfriend~, and I’m extremely wrapped up in that whole thing at the mo. He’s as bisexual as I am and it’s delightful. Side note, I had no idea that it mattered, but it really, really does? So, sorry to all of you for allowing my already-terrible scheduling skills to be wrecked. I’m getting better?

That said, I do have some things to say about my Small But Satisfying Rose City Comic Con (mostly) Indie Comics Haul, so to kick that off…

smut-peddler-presents-my-monster-boyfriend-pdf-ebook

the sexy monster anthology

Frankly, I was considering buying this months ago, but I was turned off by the title. My Monster Boyfriend just… sounds dumb. I’m sorry.

BOY OH BOY WAS I WRONG.

I felt really uncomfortable buying erotica in public, so I wasn’t intending to buy anything from, you know, The Smut Peddler–it’s not subtle. But um. I got talked into it. I… allowed myself to get talked into it, actually. Because Noora Heikkilä’s got a piece in this. And, frankly? If I’d paid $30* for just that story, I’d have been happy.

But there were more.

As far as Noora Heikkilä goes, I was swimming in tears by the end, as expected. It was so unspeakably beautiful you guys, like, if I die any time soon, bury me with this book. Just this one. Except don’t, because I want to bequeath it to someone. Which would be… pretty awkward, at first, but they’ll get over it once they realize what kind of magic they have in their hands. This is everything I ever I wanted out of erotic monster stories.

And then there was one about liminal space and loneliness and magic and giant lizard boyfriends.

And one about a short-chubby-smiley girl going to her oozing shadow-monster’s home for the first time and everything is bright and crystal and sharp and the monster carries her so she doesn’t hurt herself and it’s so cute and domestic I almost died, and that was before the sexy part started. This is 100% in my top-five list of shadow-monster erotica, and I absolutely read this one as lesbian, even though (given the anthology’s title) I doubt it’s supposed to be. I’M SORRY I JUST LIKE LESBIAN MONSTERS TOO MUCH OKAY.

For sure, some of the monsters are more humans-with-bonus-features than uncomfortable-feelings-symbolically-embodied, but even if they don’t ping all my T_T MONSTERS T_T feelings, they’re still delightful, and hot enough that I don’t want to talk about it on a blog that my mom reads.

 

51ZkDJKFJEL

the sweet, gently morbid love story

oh

my

god.

As soon as I finished this book, I spent the next ten minutes or so just… hugging it. In my arms. And sighing a little. Any book that makes me feel warm and soft and a little bit teary-eyed, especially if there are dead boys, and they are in love with living boys, and they mask their feelings in friendly teasing about cute girls (without the slimy tang of misogyny), AND there’s just a teeny-tiny bit of extremely engaging plot holding the relationship together, gets a spot on my shelf.

Also, I spilled coffee on it and you 100% cannot tell. I appreciate that in a book.

 

*If $30 makes your eyes pop, check out the digital copy. It’s just as good and half the price.

Coming Sunday Soon: Comics Reviews pt. 2: Mini-comics, micro-comics, art books, and Volume Ones

Rose City Comic Con!

Rose City Comic Con (Saturday edition) was super fun, but I am an absolute dork and didn’t charge my phone the night before, so I have no pictures. I’m so sorry! Instead, have the three four chance meetings that really made the day.

First, Nightmargin ❤ She made such a beautiful game and I only hope my being an absolute starstruck fool didn’t put her off too much, because all I wanted to do was give her some fanart, but I don’t know, is that weird? Seemed fine. She smiled and gave me a sticker and I also bought some pins, so, I’m going to go with “weird, but fine”.

Second, C. Spike Trotman of Iron Circus Comics. Who published Letters for Lucardo. Which I could not love more. Which I don’t get to fangirl over very often, because it’s an extremely sexy monster comic and the social circles where you can fangirl over sexy monster comics are, ah, uncommon. But that’s Trotman’s whole game, you know? So she didn’t mind and I had a good time and I bought another sexy monster comic and my GOD I love this publishing company. Quality monsters. Excellent stories. Very sexy.

Third, “The Mann” aka Sylvia Mann, artist of these absolutely bizarre snailcat stickers that I bought at a cat café like… three months ago. I have one on my computer! I have one on my art supply case! I bought a print and now I have one in my bathroom! I had no idea she was going to be here and it was so cool to meet her! I hope she knows how much I love these cats because I love these delightful slimy gross bodyhorror cats.

Fourth, some rando on the train. It’s not often that randos who talk to me on public transit aren’t A) unwelcome and B) creeps, but there I was, riding back to the park-and-ride with an armful of nerdy posters, when a guy standing an appropriate distance away casually asks if I was just at Comic Con, and muses about how he’s always thought about going but never did. I told him he should totally go. We chatted. He didn’t ask for my number. It was delightful.

Other than the massive headache I gave myself by neither eating nor drinking until like 2pm, it was a good time, and I got so many comics and so much art and quite a few enamel pins and I tell you, the “Copics 101” panel I attended changed the way I use markers forever. 

Coming up on Sunday, after I read + process them, I will be reviewing (mostly gushing over, if we’re honest) my comics haul. Prepare yourselves.

Writing Break

I finished a novel a few weeks ago, and I’ve barely been able to write anything since.

It’s frustrating. I want to write, I’ve got dozens of stories waiting to get worked on, but I open one up and start typing and just immediately get bored.

Is this choice paralysis? Is this “I’m intimidating myself b/c I just finished a really solid second draft and now everything else looks like garbage”? Is this “I have real-life Things happening that are about to change my core themes in a pretty major way”? Is this just how I always feel at the beginning, and it’s been so long since I started something new that I forgot?

I don’t think it’s possible to figure it out. Most likely, all of these things are happening all at once, and I can’t really do anything about it.

I mean, I could just push through it. Lay down a wordcount goal, pick a story, and hammer out words until I’ve got more story. I’ve done that before. I ended up with word soup.

So, I don’t know.

I know you can’t wait for inspiration to come to you. It never will. That’s not how inspiration works. But I’ve tried writing without inspiration before, and… it kinda sucks? I don’t really want to.

I know I’ll get through this. I’m a writer; “not writing” is not an option. It’s really more a question of how to get through this faster.

I have a ghost of a plan. That plan consists entirely of consume as much media as humanly possible.

Fiction.

Non-fiction.

Fanfiction.

Cartoons.

Film.

Paintings.

Everything.

I don’t know where inspiration is hiding, but i’m going to find it and I’m going to catch it and I’m going to take it home.

And I’m not going to beat myself up about stagnant writing in the meantime.

WTF, Workplace: Health Edition

<Trigger Warning> Encouragement of restrictive eating follows. I’m railing against it, but I’m including direct quotes from the thing I’m railing against. </Trigger Warning>

I participate in my workplace’s health initiative. I do this purely because it gives me free money, and take great pleasure in doing whatever the fuck I want while checking “Yes” on all the “Did you do the thing?” questions. You want me to walk 50,000 steps in a week? Sure, I’ll tell you I walked 50,000 steps in a week. I might have. I walk a lot. No way in hell I’m interrupting my life to count it for you, though.

Want me to be TV free for a week? Way to try and take my wind-down activity from me, workplace. Yeah, I was totally TV-free this week. Netflix doesn’t count.

Eat a healthy snack? I mean, I have a disordered eating problem, so literally anything is healthy as long as I’m approaching that elusive “enough calories to live” moment.

Speaking of disordered eating problems.

Speaking of disordered eating problems.

This week’s challenge was this. If my “problem” was a full-on “mental illness”, I’d be having an episode right now. Lucky me, I’m just pissed.

Bonus Challenge: Check Your Condiments

How To Do It: We hate to see health-conscious people ruin a perfectly healthy salad by dousing it in dressing. This week, focus on what you put on your food to make sure your decisions are as healthy as possible.

Why You Should: Proper, healthy nutrition is a delicate balance, and the key to achieving success is taking stock of everything you eat. That includes condiments — ketchup, mayo, salad dressing, and even too much salt can take a dish from healthy to fattening in no time. For example, a single tablespoon of mayonnaise has 90 calories. This week, swap those empty calories for hummus, which is only 27 calories per tablespoon. Trading creamy salad dressings for olive oil-based ones will also save you plenty of calories.

First, we’re going to talk about that bullshit with “ruin[ing]” things and “tak[ing them] from healthy to fattening”. I’m a little emotional about this, so hold on to your hats.

What the fuck are you idiots thinking? I don’t even have an eating disorder, and this is upsetting for me. For someone who’s just trying to get a free $15, and has an eating disorder? Sure, they could just not participate in this week’s challenge, but, uh, they’re still going to read the challenge rules? And they’re going to want that reward, and restricting is much, much easier than being healthy under normal circumstances, let alone when you’re getting paid for it.

Health really is a delicate balance. Blanket encouragement of calorie restriction as the be-all end-all of health? The nuance-free equation of fewer-calories with more-healthy? That is not delicate or balanced. That’s smashing a warhammer on one side of a see-saw.

Okay, so, I’m going to pretend that too-many-calories is a real problem, just for this post. It’s not, but we’re going to pretend. That assumption in place: it is wildly fucked up that my company is so invested in making fat people eat less, that they completely disregard people whose health absolutely depends on them eating more. Sure, there’s more fat people than anorexics in the world, but: disordered eating causes immediate health problems, which become more serious quite rapidly, while “continuing to be fat” carries a risk of developing problems sometime in the nebulous future.

(Quick note: I don’t actually believe that last thing. Obesity and risk factors are complicated.)

IMO, immediate development of fatigue/lethargy, difficulty making decisions, irritability, anemia, inescapable cold, depression/anxiety, food obsession, not to mention all the symptoms of active eating disorders (like, for example, debilitating muscle weakness and  the highest death rates of any mental condition (source: NIMH)), are combined way more of a problem than “might develop diabetes at some point”. And I’m pissed with my workplace for having a bullshit “health initiative” that doesn’t remotely take individual variation into account in any way. Way to go, guys.

Furthermore.

Furthermore. And this deserves its own blockquote.

“the key to achieving success is taking stock of everything you eat”

So um, I don’t know if you know this, but if you are taking stock of everything you eat, you by definition are exhibiting disordered eating behavior. Is… is that healthy? Does my workplace seriously think that disordered eating behaviors are healthier than being fat?

I mean… yeah, they do. I can’t really argue with the literal text of their health initiative. That is what it says. And that’s why this sort of thing bothers me so much. It makes me ask, who is writing these things? Who is in charge of this health initiative? Does blanket prescription of “Pop Science Health Behavior of the Week” to thousands of people actually sound like a good idea to any actual health professionals?

No, seriously, does it? Because it sounds like a terrible idea to me, and I’m kind of afraid that an actual health professional is in charge of this, and does think this is a good idea. Because they are wrong. And I have no way of looking up who is running this initiative.

No easy way.

I’m no investigative journalist, but I’m seriously considering trying to figure it out.

“Don’t edit while you’re writing!!”

This is one of the most ubiquitous pieces of writing advice, but I’m starting to think it’s not entirely helpful. Not for all of us.

See, I have a really, really hard time with first drafts. I’ve scrapped almost all of the novels I’ve ever written, because by the time I’m done with the “first draft”, they’re such a mess I can’t fix them. Maybe 10% is actually usable. Maybe someone else could whip them into shape, but I can’t. It’s too much. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. It’s discouraging, too, to look at something you thought was a coherent novel and see four or five different novels in there, and have to tease out which one you actually wanted to write, knowing full well that the re-write is just going to end with an entirely different set of unrelated books tangled together and you’re going to have to do it again and you don’t know if it’s possible to ever actually stick to one storyline all the way to the end.

Sticking to one thing is a problem for me, okay?

But I did something crazy recently. I started re-working an old piece this February, planning on a ~25,000 word piece with a very simple, single-thread plot that was driven entirely by angst.

I ended up with 40,000 words of solid novel with multiple plot threads and a very strong subplot that doesn’t really tie into the plot very much, but supports the theme so strongly that the entire story falls apart without it. When I hit 40k, I thought I’d gotten in over my head, but when I read it, it… actually made sense. Sure, it had weak spots, and some inconsistencies, and the conclusion was a total fabrication and needed serious support work, but it made sense. It was all the same story. Not five different ideas loosely wrapped around the same setting. Just one. After a beta read that kicked my ass, it bumped up to 50,000 words, and I’m pretty sure Draft 3 will be even longer.

I’ve never made it to Draft 3 before. I’ve never made it past Draft 1.

I did a lot of things differently on this one. For one, I didn’t force plot. I let the characters carry the story, and dropped plot twists on their heads when things got boring. For two, I added a whole lot of side characters, so that emotion could be carried through conversation instead of endless angsty monologues. For three, I went back and edited in the middle of the writing process.

What?? my writing teachers are all saying. You’re going to derail yourself! You’ll never move forward that way! You’ll get caught up in minutiae!

Yeah, well… I didn’t?

When I hit a character moment that completely contradicted the main character’s personality in the first half of the book, I went back and fixed the character’s personality immediately. Same events, but I took my cringing coward and turned him into a terrified but obstinate fool. It blew up my wordcount. He created conflict, instead of just getting pushed around by the plot, and entirely new scenes emerged to deal with the backlash. But the book didn’t get derailed. Once I was done fixing his “coward” scenes, I went right back to where I’d left off and kept going.

The setting started out with wagons. Halfway through, I decided cars would be cooler, and went back and eliminated all the wagons. Some characters gained dimension because of the kinds of cars they had, or whether or not they hired a driver. The story didn’t get derailed.

There was an attempted-seduction scene that started causing problems, because later on, some characterization happened that made it really clear that this attempted seduction? Can’t be attempted. If the MC attempted to seduce this person, sex would happen. And it was really, really important that it didn’t. Reworking that took a while. But I had to figure out what actually happened before I continued, because “doesn’t attempt seduction” isn’t good enough. I had to know what process he went through to decide not to. And yeah, it turned out really, really important later on. If I hadn’t known those motivations? That “later on” would have been an unfixable mess. Not to mention a total waste of time.

By the end of that 40,000 word first draft, I could have immediately sent it to my beta reader. No edits. I mean, he wouldn’t have been super impressed with me if I’d done that, but it would have been readable. I’ve never had that before.