Thursday, 30 August 2012

Part 4: Sex sells… & Finally!

When I was a girl, scantily clad women were often draped across car bonnets (hoods) to sell the idea that the latest vehicle would make a man sexier, more appealing. Very little has changed, although fewer women are draped over cars… these days.

Advertising can be blatant or subtle and subliminal. And yet I began to wonder if this novel, 50 Shades, was a vehicle for product placement?

Perhaps not intentionally, maybe E L James tried to anchor her timeline so that we, (the reader) would know the story was current. For example: Mr Gray gives his protégé subordinate a MacBook, an iPad and a Blackberry. So that he can keep in touch? Or more ominously perhaps, he can track her as he uses GPS.

But the other question I’m curious about is that this book trades heavily on a previously successful trilogy of books written by Stephanie Meyer. What is plagiarism again?

These characters bear a direct and striking resemblance to the originals and that’s because ELJ started her writing on a fan fiction website. She chose to write her own version of what happened and all that’s missing from her fantasy version is werewolves and vampires.

Bella in Twilight had divorced parents, so does Anastasia.
Edward had access to fast cars, an expensive life style and plays the piano, as does Christian.
Bella is clumsy. So is Anastasia.
Edward’s good looking etc… the list goes on & on. All based in Seattle.

I thought ‘plagiarism’ was: ‘a close imitation…’

It seems to me that this flexibility maybe a result of the publishing industry struggling to survive in these tough economic times and that flexibility means plagiarism is now okay?

Therefore paying homage to a chosen author is acceptable. I wonder what Stephanie Meyer thinks?

Here’s a thought: will this book’s success mean that ‘erotica’ will no longer be stocked on the top shelf at motorway service stations and small independent newsagents?

And finally the reason for writing this quartet of posts – reading this trilogy triggered several thought processes for me and made me more enquiring.

Far from being discouraged I’m encouraged to keep writing because if ELJ can make it – why can’t I?

Tomorrow, I’ll move on to something completely different after this little interlude!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Sex sells… Part 3

...interesting but rather disappointing for me.

Repetition is one of the areas that as a writer I try to avoid.

We, writers, are advised (by editors and many published writers) that our readers do not need to be told over and over again the same information and yet in this book the rule seems to have been ignored.

Therefore I have to ask this question: Is this what readers want? Judging by sales – sadly the answer is probably - yes!

Or maybe its not that simple.

There are passages in the book that irritated me because of the number of times a repetition of the same set of words ‘a hint of a smile’ were used. None of my work has ever survived editing with this many repetitions…

And why did Mr Grey have to have gray eyes? Just reading that line visually feels wrong. And if you believe all you read on the internet it can mean: “Gray is the colour of sorrow. People who favour gray can be the lone wolf type or narrow-minded – or - the Colour Gray is the colour of intellect, knowledge, and wisdom!”

His trousers are pants. Which conjures a peculiar image of a picture in my head but this is American English and it is accurate. There is nothing wrong with referring to trousers as pants but in this type of romance/erotica book it does affect my thought process, especially as I read – I visualise. It creates a wonky image, which I had to readjust.

But worst of all, the amount of ‘blushing’ or ‘flushing.’ I’m sorry but flushing singularly conjures an un-erotic image and for me was the worst offender in the repetition stakes.

Yet I’m not published and EL James is. So what do I know?

Her readership reach has extended beyond my wildest dreams, hopes and aspirations.

So it can’t be all wrong. Can it?

This book should be taken lightly, and accepted as an easy read. Not too taxing, perfect for a day at the beach or alongside the pool. It is easy to put down and pick up later.

If you’re a grammarian then it’s likely that some of the sentence structures will trip you up or leave you reeling but let’s hope the desire to hurl the e-reader across the room is not enacted.

And don’t get me started on similes and metaphors; some terrible descriptions were adopted that conjured up odd images rather than shocking. Personally I would rather not read a bad metaphor.

This story is meant to be read as a fantasy.

It is not real life.

My real concern is that in the wrong hands and if this book is given credence then it could become a weapon of destruction. It could be used in away that I would find dangerous if women lost rights.

At heart I’m a feminist. And I find it a worrying trend that this book could if the media runs away with itself, and twists it out of perspective, then women as a group in society could be pushed back centuries and loose all the gains we have made in recent times.

I’ve no desire to be a subordinate. Nor a dominatrix. Unless it suits my character…

Ultimately I have to take my hat off to EL James because there can be no denying that this women has succeeded in a tough industry.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Sex sells… Part 2

It didn’t take me long to read 50 Shades of Grey. I’m a fast reader. And this is an easy book to read. Definitely a light summer read in my opinion. E L James has successfully window dressed erotica sufficiently for it to be a huge hit in main stream publishing.

This book has apparently made soft porn more acceptable. Especially as the national media has dubbed it ‘mummy porn,’ an oxymoron if ever there was one. Now adopted as a sales pitch!

And perhaps at the end of a hard day being a domestic goddess, when the shirts are ironed and the kitchen floor is washed, then maybe a little light reading can restore the equilibrium of an exhausted mother and restore her energy levels turning her into a bedroom diva?

It seems to me that by leaving out crude or direct terminology and specific sex related words this book has appealed to many more readers.

Women have talked about it openly perhaps more openly than they would normally, to other people outside their usually group of friends.

Also this book has rattled the bars of the established writers who have thrown their hands up in horror, some with good reason. There are aspects of this book that have been heavily debated in other media’s, namely: Grammar and editing, just to name two topics.

Have you read any erotica recently?

I ask this because if you have you will know that there are many more badly written pieces available to read alongside others works that are far superior and excel. I know this because I’ve shared, discussed, some of the ‘how to not to write a sex scene with other writers.’

Many writers find it hard to write sex scenes. Preferring to gloss over the event. Perhaps because their own personal sensibilities come under scrutiny. It can make some writers squirm to share such delicate intimacies.

I’ve read several articles and heard snippets of programmes and various sound bites about this runaway success, ‘50 Shades, trilogy,’ and there has been an almighty fuss.

You see I’m looking at this from a different perspective, literally a different point of view. (As an aspiring novelist) I don’t have daughters to protect. However I do have nieces and I wouldn’t recommend they add this book to their reading lists, until they are old enough.

However the two eldest nieces are discerning readers, they will make their own decisions and not be swayed by advertising, both have very high expectations of their reading material.

Luckily I’m older and wiser. I’ve been round the block. And I believe my views about sex are liberal and liberating and not kinky or perverted. Make of that what you will because again it very much depends which side of the fence you sit to view this topic.

I decided to read ‘50 Shades’ so that I could form my own opinions and not rely on other peoples judgements. There will be no spoilers here as I see little point in giving away the content.

The speed of book sales has been astonishing. I have to admit that I’m envious of E L James achievement!

She has completed her novels which are selling supremely well. She has established a wide readership that appears to be loyal to buying all three books. And these readers have recommended her books to friends, mothers etc. ‘a personal recommendation is often regarded very highly.’

And if I put all the hype to one side and pay attention to the simple fact that she has managed to write a trilogy of books, whilst working full time. I must acknowledge - this is no mean feat. I know I’m battling to write mine.

E L James publicised her original work via a fan fiction platform which ultimately led her to secure her fans, her dedicated following, her readership, a publisher and the success she currently enjoys.

So I have to conclude that building a platform prior to publication can assist and work for an unpublished author!

To top off her remarkable success Hollywood is talking about producing a film… Seemingly her success is unstoppable.

Tomorrow I’ll attempt to tackle the content…

Monday, 27 August 2012

Sex sells! No kidding…

So what is it that E L James has achieved?

Well in my opinion she has achieved that which I desire most…

A Best Selling Blockbuster of a Novel.

Which is Top of the Best sellers chart - both here in the UK and USA and abroad in other countries.

This author now inhabits a new territory alongside other successful women like : J K Rowling & Stephanie Meyer - because love or loathe them, these three incredibly successful women, have achieved herculean successes in a business that is notoriously hard to break into, let alone succeed and out sell all others.

50 Shades of Grey has got women talking...

Women travelling to France by train openly read and talk to each other, as they travel south armed with a holiday read, as this book has acted as an ice breaker.

In airport lounges across the globe young, helpful daughters can probably embarrass their mothers as they announce in clear innocent tones, ‘I’ve found that book you’ve been looking for mummy… 50 Shades...’ As another mother dies a little inside wishing Smith’s didn't have such a large and easily accessible stand, whilst admiring her daughters growing reading ability and confidence.

So what…

As an aspiring novelist I would like to have a similar success!

And the importance of this book can not be over rated. This book has succeeded where others may have experienced far less success. E L James has connected with her readers. Given them what they want, apparently, in these tough economic times, these readers have parted with their hard earned cash.

Whether this book is well written or not seems to be irrelevant to the vast majority of her readers. Many of whom, it appears, do not read that often or frequently or broadly.

Therefore E L James has succeeded where other novelists may have failed; her readers buy her book and read them. How else could they continue to recommend it?

Several of my friends have recommended I read the book. However the furore in the press led me to think that maybe it was a book I could forgo & I would be none the worse off.

The tumult turned into a huge media hype. Mostly it seems aimed at denigrating E L James’ achievements.

I sat down and read 50 Shades of Grey last week.

More about that in my next post…

And have you read it yet, from a commercial perspective?

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

What underpins your story?

1a solid foundation laid below ground level to support or strengthen a building.
2a set of ideas, motives, or devices which justify or form the basis for something:

I’ve been struggling to complete my novel(s) - Why? If I knew the answer to this question then I could solve the mystery myself.

I love writing. I write because I want to capture an idea that has floated into my conscious mind. Sometimes I wonder if I’m running on empty, perhaps this is why I’m struggling to complete my novel. Again I’m not sure.

I do get distracted and I like to think that I write about different things and yet I know that most of my writing ideas are along similar themes. I write about people and their interaction with the world.

People who have read my work or heard me read it have said that my writing is often charged with emotion.

Short story ideas keep surfacing and I find it far easier to capture these ideas.

For me a short story should be a piece which captures a moment in time. To me, as a writer, there’s completeness in writing a short story.

And sometimes if I’ve portrayed that moment well, the reader may be left wanting more than I have to offer. But perhaps to a reader my short story is more like a taster…

I want to enter one of my newest short stories into a competition and yet I fret that it is not long enough and that it might be too emotional for the judges. At 770 words it is definitely a short story.

So far six people have seen this story; each reaction has been the same. Shock!

It means that I’ve achieved a false sense of security and then delivered the unexpected. The shock factor has not been liked, because it has turned the story on its head, twisted a moment and knocked it out of shape.

Often my short stories do not include a twist, its not my forte. However the response to the latest twist has grabbed my attention. The hard work begins now as I revise my short stories and try to find the missing twists, add them/it to the story so that my work turns the readers head.

I was at the beach last weekend and stood for a while to watch a man build stones into towers, not quite as simple a task as it sounds. He had an immense amount of persistence. Each stone was selected with care and consideration and then positioned and placed, one atop another. If he rushed the stones collapsed and scattered. He was patient the reward was obvious.

So maybe I just need to persist.
Keep writing.
Keep entering competitions.
Keep submitting my work.

Friday, 10 August 2012

How has your week gone so far?

I think setting my list of goals set at the end of July has helped me to keep my focus and prioritize my workload and time this month.

I’ve managed to complete the private project that I put at the top of my list. I’m currently waiting for the return of the first printed draft from the publisher, which I will use as a proof document. I used Lulu publishing, because I found their system very easy to complete the print process.

And now that this project is almost done I can move on to other tasks, especially as I’m fired up to get another short story published. So that has become my next focus for this balance of this week.

But this morning I distracted myself, by sorting through old papers on the pretext of looking for documents! It happens… little tricks that take me away from the main task but in doing so it reminded me to print off hard copies of recently written work to add to my file of short stories.

Next week I’ve promised myself I will lay out my novel and start to pick over the framework and work out where to go with the plot. Even if I only establish that I need time to reflect and a place to store all my papers. Little things will come to me and the next thing I’ll do is write.

I accept that writing a novel is a major task and not easily accomplished. So it will need dedication and application, therefore from 13th August I have to get my head down and write…

I have set myself a daily target of 1000 words on day 1 and 500 words on day 2 and so on for the rest of that week. I think this will let me break down the daunting aspect of the task at hand whilst increasing my word count towards the final goal.

How will you break down next weeks tasks?

Oh the excitement, whilst I have sat here typing this post the post lady has delivered the book of my Dad's poems! Can't wait to see how they look in print.

Monday, 6 August 2012

No strings attached…

When you were a kid… what did you watch on telly?

I remember hiding behind the sofa. I was terrified. ‘Dr Who’ was real. The Yeti’s walked along the London underground tunnels. I was afraid. I have a grainy grey and white memory of a scene when the army tried to defend London. It was too authentic, so I hid. This episode aired in 1968!

However: Thunderbirds, Stingray and Captain Scarlet were no where near as scary as Dr Who. Just listen to the soundtracks on You tube.

Stingray ‘Anything can happen in the next half hour.’

5,4,3,2,1 ‘Thunderbirds are go.’

Captain Scarlet ‘The Mysterons, sworn enemies of earth!’

Despite the passage of time these soundtracks hold a special place in my heart and even though these shows had few special effects compared to today’s block busters… I wanted to be Destiny Angel, or Lady Penelope or Aqua Marina.

These shows were marionette puppets; make believe with visible strings and wobbly scenery. Interspersed with close up shots of genuine hands and occasion shots that felt realistic. But we all knew that how ever spectacular the rescue attempted by International Rescue, the Thunderbirds team weren’t going to arrive in real life.

The storylines convinced the younger version of me. And I would happily watch these old series with my young nieces and nephews, (given an opportunity) to transport them to time when the world seemed a different place.

But is it? We all still want the same things. Don’t we? Good to fight evil. Goodness to triumph and win the day? The message hasn’t changed, has it?

My characters for my novel need to be convincing. There needs to be a protagonist and an antagonist. One of them needs to be a baddie who finds redemption. Now that’s sorted… I just need to settle down to write my blockbuster. If only it was that easy.

Which series did you love watching when you were a kid that you would re-visit now?

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Action plan update

So far so good… I’ve edited two short stories this weekend and rewritten the documents but I can’t share them until I decide what to do with them now.

One story I want to submit to a competition and the rules are very clear.

My work can not be previously published or printed. So that rules out posting anything on my blog that I wish to submit elsewhere to be judged.

Next decision is simpler. Do I send my work to a paying submission or a free competition?

I didn’t go to writing group… *smacks own hands* and I’m not sure why however I did make myself sit down and review my two short stories so perhaps subconsciously I wasn’t ready to share my work with others.

Not found a copy of '50 Shades of Grey' as I’ve no intention of paying for a copy yet if I can get one buck-she, must ring hairdresser on Tuesday!

Hope your weekend is successful.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

August Action Plan

What made me think this was a good idea?

The plan looks a bit daunting even to me but if I get some of these tasks completed I shall be extremely happy.

A personal project: to publish a book of poetry written by my father.

Short story submissions to competitions – find three + submit work.

Draft Anthology of my short stories – 1st edit.

Rewrites of short 4 stories that need a bit more oomph!

Novel: get word count up to +60K.

Post one spot a week minimum – try for two (need inspiration + focus)

Find a new writing course for the autumn to inspire me.

Go to writing group.

Letter writing: Keep friends + family abroad up to speed with news.

Ether Books: Submit one short story…

And finally read more…frequently.

I’ve tried to persuade myself to read, '50 Shades of Grey,' to see for myself what the furore is about, and so that I can form my own opinion. My hairdresser, (bless her) has assured me I need to read this book! To date I remain unconvinced but me thinks it might be a good idea to see why it has been so successful.

Anyone out there that follows me, do you have an opinion on 50 Shades of Grey?