Work in Progress

WIP on a ferry.

“It’s a Work in Progress,” a person says, but what do they mean?

For the handyman, it might be the new light fitting, which is presently hanging, disconnected from a wall.

For the gardener, it might be the new vegetable patch which is presently an oblong of overturned earth in a corner.

It is many things to different people, but none, in my opinion can utilise that phrase quite like an author. Of course, I’m biased—I’m an author, so the manipulation of words and the reader’s thought process are my craft. Let’s look at my ‘Work in Progress’.

Codename: Foxglove. This is presently in excess of 60k words and going well. It is a crime thriller which will see the conclusion of the Beyond The Law trilogy and spinoffs.

Crusader. Another crime thriller, introducing a new protagonist who starts the story as a police detective. The first chapter is written and the second is a group of passages which are not yet joined.

Constance. This is where artistic licence comes in. Unusually, this will be a sequel to a story not yet written. It is to be the follow-up to Crusader. In this case I have passages ready to create the first chapter.

Selena: Sea Nymph. My first attempt at sci-if/paranormal/fantasy, and therefore, I’m pleased that the first chapter is presently in three passages. They’re not yet set in the best sequence and that can prove challenging.

Enough? Not by a long way. I may have ceased producing erotica under my own name, but using my pen-name, Katya Cumming, there are six titles in the wings. A novel, an anthology and four novellas.

Why have so much on the go?

Two words—stress reduction.

When an idea comes to mind, I’m sure many authors continue with their latest story, (the primary Work in Progress), but at the back of their mind they might have the occasional distracting thought about another idea.

It was when this first happened to me several years ago that I sat with a coffee staring at my machine contemplating how to conquer the irritation. “Start them as they come to mind,” I told myself aloud. I never have ‘writer’s block’, and knowing that I have a wide range of projects ready to be addressed isn’t frustrating—I relax in the knowledge that I can go from one ‘world’ to the next on a day to day basis if I wish.

And now, dear reader, you know why I believe that authors can stretch that phrase better than most … after all, whatever the project, it is still a Work in Progress.

Thank you for taking the time to check out my thought. Comments are welcome.

Tom

Sex … In or Out?

You’ve written a great story. Do you need sex amidst the guns, fighting and mayhem, the psychological trauma and mystery, or the tenderness and promises?

When I say ‘do you need sex’ I’m obviously referring to the requirements of the story—not your personal urges. I digress … .

This blog post was born from the need to offer my opinion on a regular comment I see on social media, and if we’re all honest, it’s getting a bit tedious. The comment usually follows similar lines to: ‘… and when I reach a sex scene I move on …’

There is usually a bit more to it, but in essence, we have two main areas to address.

Question 1 – Is the reader a prude, or simply someone who knows when a sex scene could have been done more tastefully—if it were needed at all?

Question 2 – Did the author make a mistake by getting carried away, drifting from the primary genre, thus adversely affecting the plot of the story?

The answer to Question 1 is not as simple as it sounds. For some readers, if an author goes beyond: ‘… she stood with her back to the door and raised an eyebrow …’ it’s too much. For others, it’s frustratingly brief, and they want to at least know if one person is wearing matching underwear and if the other person is wearing underwear at all.

Now, Question 2 throws up a whole new dilemma. As authors, it is not simply a personal choice, but in my (humble) opinion, it is our duty to remain true to our craft. No, I’m not getting high and mighty because I’ve written more than two books—I’m simply telling it like it is. The reputation of indie authors is being destroyed from within by some people with low standards. Those of us who work long hard hours and go beyond the first draft must persevere to produce the best we can.

You cannot refer to yourself in your branding or promotional material (of whatever level) as a thriller writer if you have the main character kill someone and then for the rest of the book he/she beds every other person in the ‘adventure’. You can dress it up, or undress it if you wish, but one of the aims of any author should be to focus on the job—in this case, a good story based on the primary genre.

I write a wide variety of genre and among them is erotica. I may allow a kiss or a caress—even partial undressing in some stories but graphic, no-holds-barred sexual activity is kept for my erotica.

If an author writes thrillers, westerns, sci-fi or other genres there ought to be sufficient time invested in character development, dialogue, imagery, pace and the accurate choreography of action. Any mention of sex will usually be incidental, except, of course, for romance, some paranormal and fantasy where it may go further.

An author who writes erotica is not out to shock—they are aiming to indulge their readers in the type of material they sought. This is not to say that character development and those other ingredients I mentioned earlier are not required in erotica—they are just as important. The erotica author must avoid sex becoming the ‘story’; an opportunity to be self-indulgent with repetitive and meaningless scenes of gratuitous carnal jiggery-pokery (mainly pokery).

In my ‘mainstream’ genres, there may be terms of endearment, a kiss or an embrace but they are strategically placed. Occasionally, in my erotica, there is less need for such romantic overtures, activity or subtlety. The characters might be more interested in mutual physical gratification than an emotional rollercoaster ride but there will still be character development and the activities are created with a purpose. It depends on the story.

I believe the author should strive to be faithful to the principle genre and whatever extended subjects it entails whether it be an action-packed or psychological plot, and plot or character-driven.

If you’d like to see ‘erotica’ as it once was, read ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’. Like most other genres, erotica has moved on and readers are no longer satisfied with what was once considered shocking—people want to envisage themselves in scenes which will (in most cases) forever be a fantasy. With the greatest respect D.H.Lawrence, move over my friend.

I’m a great believer in the use of metaphor if it spells something out clearly. I’ll summarise with two questions to authors who are trying to work out if sex ought to be highlighted in a story?

Would you wear flip-flops and boxing gloves to run a marathon, or perhaps mask, snorkel and flippers to ride a bicycle?

Let’s be honest—if it doesn’t look right, it doesn’t belong.

Thank you for reading, and any comments.