novel writing

A Cheeky Way To Improve Any Story

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page. 

Her m/m erotic medical thriller Roughing It is out! This book is a sexy cross between The X Files, The Andromeda Strain, and Outbreak. Read her short erotic story Babes in Begging For It, published by Cleis Press. You will also find her new novel No Restraint at Amazon. Enjoy a good, sexy read today.

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Opening a novel or short story can be a bitch. Elmore Leonard, author of Get Shorty and other novels, had advised writers to avoid prologues and to refrain from opening a story talking about the weather. Marc Laidlaw, an author who also helped develop the game Half Life, once tweeted the following advice about opening paragraphs of fiction works: The first line of almost any story can be improved by making sure the second line is, “And then the murders began.”

Normally, a writer would not begin a sentence with the word “and”. Laidlaw purposefully included that word because it “gives my use of the phrase an extra florid, self-important note that puffs it up just enough to be suitable for narrative frivolity.” My husband and I had argued about the title for my erotic romance novel Don’t Call Me Baby. He thought I should call it And Don’t Call Me Baby. I didn’t want to partly because that word dangled and irritated me and for the same reason Laidlaw laid out. It ended up not mattering since the book didn’t sell and it’s now out of print, so there’s that. I’d always done much better with my erotic fairy tales, and I’m working on a short story collection of them right now. One of my best-sellers, Climbing Her Tower (erotic Rapunzel), lends itself very well to this exercise.

 

Climbing Her Tower by Elizabeth Black

The warmth of the sun glowed on Rapunzel’s face as she stood before her window, awaiting Mother’s instructions. And then the murders began.

 

I also write horror. This exercise doesn’t work as well with that genre because it’s dark and bleak to begin with. However, when coupled with romance novels, the fun begins. Here are some examples of best-selling romance novels with that particular sentence added to them.

 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.  And then the murders began.

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught up by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. And then the murders began.

True Believer by Nicholas Sparks

Jeremy Marsh sat with the rest of the live studio audience, feeling unusually conspicuous. And then the murders began.

Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 1) by J. R. Ward

Darius looked around the club, taking in the teeming, half-naked bodies on the dance floor. And then the murders began.

50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James

I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. And then the murders began.

Bared To You (Crossfire Book 1) by Sylvia Day

“We should head to a bar and celebrate”. And then the murders began.

Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard

The poet stood next to the bridge and watched as the young woman approached. And then the murders began.

 

You may see the point behind this exercise by now. Many writers, in particular fledging ones, have difficulties with exposition and telling instead of showing when beginning their stories. They ramble about the weather or describing backgrounds or pontificating about a character’s history or inner thoughts without providing a hook for the reader. Without a hook, your reader won’t continue reading. She will get bored and toss your book aside like so much garbage. You need to grab the reader in the first paragraph – nay, in the first sentence. That’s why agents and publishers often ask for the first chapter or first five pages of your manuscript when you submit to them. They want to see your hook. If you don’t have one or if it is weak, that is one reason you likely won’t get that joyous letter offering representation or a publishing contract. You need action and vibrancy to pique someone’s attention.

Sometimes, a writer’s story doesn’t really begin until the third or fourth page. If that’s the case with your story, delete the first few pages and begin your story where the action begins. Not only must you engage the reader from the onset, you must keep that reader engaged throughout every chapter of your book. Books are like fractals. There should be a hook at the beginning and end of each chapter as well as at the beginning of the book. The beginning hook holds the reader’s attention and the end-of-chapter hook encourages that eager reader to continue reading into the next chapter. Clayton Purdom described Laidlaw’s exercise in his article for A. V. Club when he wrote “the sudden introduction of murder provides a contrast with tone-setting exposition or an unexpected development to its more direct action.”

“And then the murders began” is a funny and effective way to get the point across. Watch your reader jump out of her seat with excitement over your works. Don’t let her sigh and become bored with exposition. That way, you’ll both attract and hold readers.

Good-bye NaNoWriMo 2016! I Knew You Well

K D Grace

Well, today’s it, folks! The final day of NaNoWriMo 2016, and it’s been a good one. I’ve loved every minute of it. For those of you who just stepped outside your caves for the first time in awhile, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, the object being – you guessed it – writing an entire novel in one month. I’m an enthusiastic  participant every year that I can manage it. It’s a chance take risks, to write something wild and reckless. It’s the opportunity to take on something I’ve always wanted to tackle but have either lacked the time or the courage.  And it’s not just a dabble, it’s a whole glorious month of taking something risqué out of the writing ideas box and trying it on not just to see how it fits, but how it feels to live with it, intensely live with it, for a whole month. And intense is probably the best word I can find to describe the experience. 

Now that I’m looking back warmly at NaNoWriMo 2016 after trying my hand at science fiction for the first time, what I’m about to share with you may be bordering on TMI, but it certainly won’t come as much of a surprise to most writers. Creativity is a real turn-on. When I’m writing, when I’m in the zone and everything is really flowing, the experience is the hottest thing next to sex that I know. It’s the kind of endorphin rush I’ve had when I’m scrambling up a steep fell or when I’m discovering some exotic place for the first time. And yes, at times those most creative moments are like the best foreplay ever. 

Since I started writing romance and erotic romance, my tagline has always been that Freud was right. It really IS all about sex. I believe that more and more the longer I write. Our sexuality infuses every other area of our life, and in no place is it manifest more powerfully than in our creativity. To spend the entire month of November hole up with a new novel, a novel that’s a total stranger when I pen those first words, is intimidating. But it’s also incredibly arousing in a creative sort of way. I think of it as a writer’s version of Nine ½ Weekscrammed into thirty days, with a chance to get to know a total stranger – one I’m in the process of creating — inside out. Yup! Intense.

For me, NaNoWriMo is about taking risks in a safe container. I know it will last only a month. That’s all! And then the rest of the world floods back in. I’ve always thought of November as a particularly short month. To me it always seems even shorter than February. Maybe that’s because it’s the last chance to breathe before the holiday season hits like a battering

ram and there’s no slowing until January. All I know is that if I’m doing NaNoWriMo, I love, love, LOVE November! If I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, I hate, hate HATE November. In the UK, it’s cold, it’s bleak, it’s wet and windy, and the days are short and dark. Even worse, once November blows in at gale force, I know with that sense of cold deep in my bones that summer is over, and even Indian Summer has had its last painful gasps. BUT absolutely none of that matters when November is my container, and I’m writing furiously.

Oh, and it’s gone by so quickly! Here I’m waving good-bye on the platform with a satisfied smile. I’m a better writer for allowing myself to be so completely seduced by the act of writing a novel in only a month. It might be just thirty days, but what a difference a month makes. 

Oh, and yes, thank you! I did write my science fiction novel – all 95K of Piloting Fury. And yes, it was most definitely good for me.

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Hot Chilli Erotica

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