Aug 192016

I have spent the last two weeks working on a four issue script for Faustus’ wonderful Gnosis College. Now that I have submitted the script for the second issue, I can spare a moment to talk about things.

When Faustus first approached me to write a four issue arc, I was thrilled and also intimidated. It is a new kind of writing and four issues at twenty-eight pages each for a total of one hundred and twelve pages of panel-by-panel breakdowns seemed a bit overwhelming. That is funny to write after putting out a 10,000 word interactive alien abduction story but hey, new things are inherently more intimidating.

So I did what I always did when I have a big task and I break it down to little tasks. First, I did a very broad outline of what happens in these four issues. Once I knew what each issue would have to cover, I broke it down even further. I sat down and figured out how the first issue would cover the things it needed to cover. Then I broke that down even further, assigning number of pages for each story part. After I had that in mind, I could deal with each page by itself on how it fit into the bigger story.

It still took me awhile to get the first issue together. The really interesting thing about comic script writing where a page gets posted to the public every day is that I want the reader to be able to keep up if they are reading it day-to-day. To do that, I have tiny little arcs that happen on each page. This also creates tiny little cliffhangers for the reader to look forward to the next day. If the reader waits until the whole thing is published and reads it in one sitting, it should have a natural flow of things.

To me the biggest challenge of comic script writing is this constant feeling of compression. With twenty-eight pages, every page and every panel is precious. I find myself writing two pages, looking at them and realizing they can be one page if I cut out stuff that doesn’t add to the story. In the first draft it might feel important to show a character move from point A to point B in four panels but the reader can fill in most of that journey in their head in just two panels or even one. It is something I am still learning and I think I am getting the hang of it.

My advice to anyone doing comic script writing for the first, second or third time is to keep writing. Staring at the blank page isn’t going to help but once you have words on the page, your storyteller instincts will kick in and tell you what needs to be fixed. At least that is how it was for me.

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Aug 012016

I have begun work on a four issue script for Dr. Faustus’ Gnosis College. It is a bit daunting to work on so I thought I would go over what little I have learned from the process so far.

First of all, the biggest difference from my usual writing to script writing is space. Usually I can write for as long as I want until the story is finished but with a script, every moment is precious. There are twenty-eight pages in a script and the pages themselves are posted one at a time. My story has to fit within those pages and more importantly to me, the individual beats of the story has to be contained in a single page.

I was pretty intimidated by this at first. My sloppy solution that works well for me is to write the last page. I put down where I want the issue to end and then I work backwards. I write my entire outline in this manner. In every case, I found I had too much story for the pages and I started sniping like mad. At the outline stage this isn’t too bad as I am cutting summaries of pages as opposed to entire panel layouts.

In a few cases, once I start writing the actual script, I find myself with extra space. This doesn’t happen often but when it does, it is a glorious moment. It is easier to add content once your outline is written than it is to cut content.

As a visual person, my biggest mistake in script writing is showing every little thing. If I have a character go into a room, my inclination is to write them approaching the room, entering the room and standing in the room. It was a big transition to realize I could just have the character in a walking pose inside a room and it conveys everything that my three panels would have. Plus, it is a lot less boring that a full page of someone walking into a room.

Speaking of writing characters walking, it was a huge change of mindset to understand that my script was essentially a letter to the artist. I couldn’t just say it was a rundown house, I had to be explicit in what I thought a rundown house looked like. Same with the characters, what they wore, their expressions etc. Anything I imply won’t make it to the page. I need to be clear on every little detail that is important to me.

At the same time, if I was an artist, I would go crazy if someone told me every single little thing to draw. That is why I make sure to give the artist room to improvise. If I don’t care too much about what a rundown house specificall looks like, I write something like this: “The house looks deserted and kind of trashy. Less of a haunted house and more like a house where a killer stashes dead bodies.”

I am still learning the process but I will say I enjoy it a lot. I highly recommend that even if you don’t have an artist to draw it for you, go ahead and work on your own scripts. It forces your mind to work differently and to creative types, that is always a plus.


Nov 132015

I learned an important lesson a little too late in writing my alien abduction chose-your-own-erotica story today. It might be too late for me but I will share it with you so you can learn from my mistakes.

An interactive story has branches but often these branches come back together to the same place. Imagine a story about investigating a haunted house. The first option asks if you want to check out the first floor, or go up the stairs to the second floor. if you pick the first floor, the story branches into the kitchen, the living room, etc. Eventually after checking those places, you will have the option to check out other first floor rooms or go up the stairs.

Now what most writers would do is if you pick going up the stairs, then the writer will link you to the same choice as if you decided to go up the stairs at the beginning of the book. You would then follow the story along that one path. That is what smart people do.

Dumb people like myself felt the need to make even similar choices different. I felt that readers on multiple read-throughs would get bored reading the same passage about going upstairs multiple times. My solution was to write a different going-up-the-stairs scene for each time the option came up. That way it never gets boring.

The problem is that I ended up writing what is essentially the same scene, eight fucking times, without any real significance between the eight. I may have changed up from where you were when you decided to go up the stairs, but when it came to the stairs themselves, it was pretty much the same. When I realized this and tried to add more variety to the stairs, didn’t create a difference worth mentioning. this is especially true for the reader who on their 3rd, 4th or 20th time up the stairs, probably won’t be paying that much attention themselves.

The only thing I ended up doing was really hating those fucking stairs.

So my advice to future interactive fiction writers is to feel free to recycle previous choices you have written and only skip recycling if you have something important that is going to be different.

Jun 152015

I’m in a weird head space right now. I am reading a book on futurism involving human transcendence, accounts of “true” alien abductions and a book or two about magical practices. The effect has been to make me think a lot about how programmable the human brain is.

A reoccurring theme in the magic books is that before a person can do any real magic, the safe thing to do is do a banish ritual. This is to clear the magic space of outside influences so that the forces you invoke are the forces you plan to invoke rather than whatever was hanging around. Think of it as the magical equivalent of sanitizing your kitchen area before you break out the raw cooking food.

As I read this I was thinking about how sometimes I have trouble starting to write. It is a problem a lot of my friends have talked about. Once we start writing we are good but often that first word of the day can be the hardest. It can be due to inertia, it can because we are thinking about bills, health or whatever our last spouse fight was. Sometimes it is just damn laziness.

The common cure I read was to make your writing into a habit. Set a certain time, place and moment to write and stick to it. The concept is that your brain will enter a writing frame of mind when certain triggers are met like the time and place. I think it is a pretty good method.

My problem is that my brain can be pretty chaotic. I can met physical appointments pretty easily as I have proven with my workout regime but when it comes to making my brain be creative, that is less easy for me to control. I got anxiety, I got depression and sometimes I am just cranky. I guess you can call this a lack of discipline but for whatever reason I find it hard to tell my brain to do anything.

But what about a little writing-distraction banishment ritual? Instead of creating a physical environment that my brain will hopefully respond to with a certain mindset, what if I create a mental environment?

What would that look like? According to what I have read on visualization techniques, it would be as simple as closing my eyes, a short breathing exercise followed by a statement of intent. I might visualize an ideal area for my creativity. I may invoke some sort of inspiration like a favorite writer or perhaps erotic performer. After verbalizing what I want from my writing and my goals for the day, i would open my eyes and give it a try.

Let’s see how that works.


Mar 062015

519nYX5uJ2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_This week I finished the six volume set of The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny. It is a massive collection as it includes every single short story he wrote as ell as every bit of poetry and quite a few novellas. It took me over three years of off and on reading to finish the set because I knew that once I was done, I would have no more new-to-me Zelazny to read.  Now that I have finished it, I just want to express the debt I owe to him as a writer.

I have always been a storyteller but I never had the patience to write. Most of it came from reading too much Tolkien and Tolkien knockoffs that overwhelm the reader with details, facts and trivia. Every time I sat don to write something, I felt this tremendous pressure to first explain the world, the characters and each and every oddity before I took one step with the plot.

That is madness of course but as a teenager I just felt that was the way it had to be.

Then I came across Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber. I was enchanted with the story because it is simply quite awesome. Magic, parallel worlds, romance, courtly intrigue, war, family problems and swashbuckling humor just enthralled me as a teen. It was the perfect book for a time in my life when I felt so terribly alone and close to despair. It gave me hope as only wonderful meaningful entertainment can.

I read other Zelazny books and went to college, dropped out of college, got married and settled into a depressing factory worker life. The internet came along and I read tons of erotica before the itch to write my own came. I found myself aching to write but all the teenage hesitations came back. I wanted to explain the characters, explain the setting and explain the relationships all at once. Quite frankly I couldn’t even imagine what the first sentence would look like.

So I cracked open a Zelazny book. I don’t remember which one. I just opened it and read the first page.  Knowing Zelazny, the story simply started.

So I simply started writing as well. When I had questions, I looked to see what Zelazny did.

This would have worked with almost any writer but for luckily I was a huge fan of a master story teller. Reading the collection these past few years just reinforce that notion. Zelazny weaved magic, science and character so tightly into a world of wonder. Some of his stories have so much emotion that they leave you grieving yet almost every story has a touch of whimsy and humor. The average Zelazny story has more ideas than most novels.

I also saw the progenitors of a lot of my own characters. There would be no Vaquel without Dilvish. There would be no Blastpants without Merlin. There would be no Erishella without Kali. There would be no Samuel without Corwin.

There would not be a Shon Richards without Roger Zelazny.

The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny are highly recommend for any fan of fantastic writing. The collection also has many essays by Roger’s friends as well as a lot of behind the scenes writing from Roger himself. I can’t imagine a more important set in my library.

Aug 062012

During the very first season of Survivor, I thought it would be a good idea to do a weekly erotica story about a reality show where contestants get eliminated one by one.  The competition would be some sort of sexual contest, one I never got around to deciding.  I even flirted with the idea of letting the readers vote on who they wanted to go to the next round.  Like a lot of ideas, the logistics of the whole mess intimidated me and I never did it.

Over a decade later, I have a different opinion on the whole idea.  One, I would get rid of the voting and audience participation because story-by-committee is often shit. Agatha Christie proved ages ago that eliminating characters one by one is golden without having audience participation.  So let’s chuck the voting and just slowly get rid of characters.

Second, with all the reality shows we have now a days, it is very easy to imagine some illicit network hosting “America’s Next Top Slut”.  Back in the days of Survivor and American Idol, I was obsessed with presenting a competition with a theme but nowadays, people are programmed to buy into any elimination contest.  If people can accept cooks, barbers and freaking garbage pickers to compete and slowly being eliminated, a bunch of horny women almost seems logical.

The trickiest aspect is how to present characters without giving away the winner in the first chapter.  I find that I write my best sex stories from the point of view of one character at a time.  If I tell the story from only one person’s point of view, it is not unrealistic to expect her to be the winner.  If I pick a new character every chapter to tell the story, then there is the chance that the reader won’t get to know any character well enough to care who wins.

My attempted solution will be to rotate between three characters.  We will see these character from the audition process to the finals.  Other characters will be eliminated but the reader will know these three are the ones to watch.  Much like any reality show, after the first few episodes you know they could save a lot of time and mass eliminate everyone except the few with talent. 

The other tricky part I think is to really use all the gimmicks of the reality shows.  That means confessional interludes where characters talk directly about their experience, snotty judges and maybe a Tim Gunn type who comes in and tries to support the characters.  Also, I need a host and I need a catch phrase. 

It is amusing to me that I have barely thought about the competitions themselves.  Those are the least of my concerns as I am sure I can think of ten of them off the top of my head the next time I am stuck in traffic.

My bigger concern is that title.  “America’s Next Top Slut” is nice, except I have “The Magnificent Seven Sluts” coming out this year and that is one slut title too many.  I would go with Porn Star instead of Slut, except I am sure there was a real life version of that, and Porn Stars need a lot of skills not really related to sex.  I need a word other than Slut and I will bet that will take me the longest to come up with.

Jul 182011

This weekend I finished the first draft of the Violatrix novel. That is some sort of a record for me. By my sloppy notes, I think I started writing on June 23rd, and I wrapped it up on Juy 16th. That is less than a month with 16 chapters to show for it. Not fucking bad at all.

It helps that I spent a year thinking about this story. I had a rough idea for a bdsm starship and way back in August 2010, I made my first attempt at an outline. I still had the Island Princess book to finish, and then I had inspiration for Pusse’ and Cox and wanted to act on it. The Violatrix was the project I kept punting on, thinking I would get to it later. After punting it a few times, I began to wonder if I really wanted to write it.

That might be a bit hard for readers to understand. As a writer, I can love the idea of a book I want to read but it might not be something I want to write. I’d love to read the erotic adventures of Irene Adler for example, but the thought of writing Victorian mystery erotica is just beyond my ability. It would be too much work for it to be fun. I began to fear that maybe I was subconsciously avoiding the Violatrix.

The best cure for a fear is confronting it head on. I gave myself a buffer of five stories to post on Wednesdays so that I would have 5 weeks of no excuses. I adopted the attitude that writing a first draft that could be revised later was better than writing a first draft that was perfect the first time around. I gave myself permission to make mistakes as long as I was just writing.

So I wrote, I wrote and I wrote some more. The speed required fast decisions. I completely deleted a science character I had in mind because I recognized that he was a personal indulgence on my part that did nothing for the story. One character got red skin because everyone looked a bit too human for my tastes. Another character became part of a royal family.

Often when I write a novel, I go through a phase where I can’t stand the story anymore. It is because I am so deep inside the story that I see all the flaws and failed aspirations and no longer see it as a story. I think it also just comes down to exhaustion. I didn’t reach that with this story and that is amazing to me. I am sure I will during the revisions but to escape the first draft still fond of it is new for me. I like it.

Another amusing side effect is the havoc that writing this fast played on my ending. On the Violatrix, the crew are the ones most likely to kill each other. I didn’t want to fall into the Star Trek trap of eight invincible crew members. I want to shake the cast up with every story if I write this as a series. I had a list of characters to die and by the time I reached the end, I had a new set of characters in mind. I think the speed writing turned the story into an audition. By the time I reached the end, I knew who just didn’t click as a character and I never wanted to write again, and I knew the character that was so interesting that they had to die to complete their story arc.

Now it’s time to put the book away and work on other things. Like that pirate anthology which I really need to put the finishing touches. Shit, I also don’t have a story for this Wednesday. At this point, the idea of someone else writing that short story would be my idea of porn.

“Oh master, I will be your slave and do anything you want! do you want a blowjob? How about anal? Should I call my sister?”

“Slave, write a short story and make it funny. This I command.”

Jul 052011

After twelve days of writing, I am at the mid point of my Violatrix novel. Holy shit. How did that happen? Who knew that not having a job would give you so much writing time?

Part of my success came from just writing the damn thing. I keep writing, even when I am not 100% confident in where it is going. I can clean it up in the second draft. The important thing is that there is no second draft without a first draft, so I keep writing like a mother fucker.

The other part of my success is that I built up a buffer of short stories for posting on Wednesdays. I am really understanding how much time goes into just thinking of a concept for a short story much less writing it. I have been averaging a chapter a day where as my normal story average is 1.5 stories a week.

Which makes me wonder if the time involved in writing short stories for free is time well spent. The short stories become testing chambers for my ideas and the novels are my ideas refined and expanded, but when I post a story and get that tiny amount of comments on it, it makes me wonder if I should have just spent that time making a book where I get some tiny financial reward. It is certainly on my mind.

Of course, halfway done with a novel is still not done. I got to write and I am going on a 3 day trip this weekend so that will certainly kill my momentum. The upside to writing this fast is that I have not become sick of the subject matter or the story itself yet (I’m looking at you, Island Princess). I just want to record this happy moment of novel writing bliss while I still love the story.

Jul 012011

I am elbow deep in writing my Violatrix novel, which is a funny coincidence because one of my characters is trying to get elbow deep into another character.

Since I have nothing sexy to share with you, I will share some writing wisdom.

Hands down, the most inspiring thing I have read in ages about writing is 25 Things You should know about writing a novel (or how the lunatic writes a book) You need to read this. I already knew most of these but never have I seen it so well articulated. It is like the crusty bitter writing coach I always wanted. It is written by Chuck Wendig, who to my knowledge is neither crusty nor bitter, but he may be my new messiah.

I worshiped at the altar of Chuck Wendig until he wrote this other article Strangling Mermaids: More writing myths that need to die. Now I hate him because I am so jealous of this article. Fuck, I have been thinking it for years but never really put it all together.

Especially this bit,

Does that mean I’ve never been surprised by my characters? Of course I’ve been surprised by my characters. But I don’t attribute it to them being real. Instead, I high-five my subconscious mind and say, “Nicely done, part of my brain, I approve of your decision.” I mean, it’s not like comic book writers are like, “Yeah, I don’t know why Superman just took a Kryptonian Super-Shit on Hawkman. It’s just, hey, that’s Superman. I don’t control him. That crazy motherfucker does what he wants. The underwear on the outside? His idea.”

So yeah, check out Chuck’s blog. Leave him offerings and sacrifices.

In vanity news, Darius Whiteplume wrote a wonderful review of The Colette-Ashbee Collection which he liked. I have been writing for ages but it always blows my mind when someone I know happens to like my stories. I am especially happy to see the Colette-Ashbee book get some love because it contains a novella length mystery story and I was always curious how it stacked up with other mysteries. I don’t get much f for books so there is often that niggling doubt.

With my new found free time, I have gotten around to organizing more of my stuff. Like any blogger, I am compelled to share this with you. I started a Tumblr called “Stuff That I Own” where I discuss stuff that I own. It also gives me a chance to discuss artists and creative types that I have dealt with as well as less than honorable sellers. Since I can’t invite all of you to my house to show it to you personally, this Tumblr will have to do.

Finally, I leave you with my latest audio obsession, the supernatural Lykke Li.

Jun 272011

Star Trek has taught me that the proper number of officers required to run a spaceship is somewhere around ten people. Battlestar Galactica taught me that number is more like three or four, but quite frankly, that is boring as shit. The more command officers that a story has, the more possibilities for conflicts and alliances. When you write porn, the more potential sexual partners, the better.

So after writing up the cast for my Violatrix spaceship, I had nine characters. That is quite a few characters to deal with right away. I worry about the reader getting overwhelmed and confused. Since it is also science fiction with some non-English sounding names, the potential of confusion just gets higher.

I soon understood why most Star Trek movies only focus on two or three characters while the rest of the crew gets snappy one-liners. It is hard to divide out attention equally. I notice that Star Trek novels tend to give the crew equal shares of the plot, but I suspect they can do that because they are not introducing anyone to the reader. When a reader of Star Trek picks up a book, he already knows who Spock, Kirk, McCoy and even down to the minor characters like Sulu. The reader knows these characters. In my book, I have to introduce everyone to the reader for the first time.

My strategy was to create a sort of relay. I start with Character A as the focus. We see things for A’s point-of-view and what A has to deal with is Character B. So we get to know A from A’s perspective and we get to know B from A’s perspective. Then the next chapter is told from Character B’s perspective and they interact with Character C. This continues as we meet new characters. The character just met in the last chapter becomes the relay to the next character. And since this is a sex book with people plotting to kill each other, it gives a lot of characters some nice one on one time.

I loved this idea so much that I decided to make the entire novel follow this format. I might have nine characters but we deal with two or three at a time at the most. I considered myself a genius.

Well, right up to when it just doesn’t work. This format hijacked the plot. I was trying to fulfill the demands of the gimmicky format rather than the needs of the plot. I spent a week trying to make it work before I realized something terribly important about brilliant gimmicks. It is only brilliant if it actually fucking works.

So I have decided to use the relay gimmick only up until the characters are introduced. I do think I will keep with sticking with one character’s perspective through the entire chapter as I think that is the only way to write, really. I feel that sex has to be experienced through the eyes of one person at a time, as the uncertainty of what the other character’s motives, likes and desires is a big part of sex.

Interesting enough, even giving attention to all the characters hasn’t prevented the fact that some characters are just inherently more interesting. Some characters right now are interesting as far as how they are obstacles to other characters. I also found that the most sympathetic character really helps move the story along. I use to criticize Star Trek stories where the minor officers get little air time but the truth of the matter is that maybe they just don’t add that much to the story. If a character wants to be a bigger part, then they got to be fucking worth spending time with.

So, what have I learned last week?

Gimmicks are only brilliant if they actually fucking work.

Lots of characters are fine but they need to be character you actually give a fuck about.

Star Trek writers had it harder than I thought.