My Writing Year – 2020

Intended publications were two novels and an anthology of short stories which were all underway, plus another anthology which was either going to happen or not, depending on submissions from fellow authors.

How did the year work out with my target?

 

Light at The End written during 2019, kicked off my writing year and by the time I’d read a couple of reviews I was glad I’d made plenty of notes. My experimental post-apocalyptic tale spawned a sequel. I had other projects on the go so I continued, as usual, spending a couple of weeks on any one book. The first part of Light at The End was out in January, so it took a few months for the sequel to appear. I was so caught up in that particular ongoing story that I was compelled to make it a trilogy. My post-apocalyptic world deserved my writing time.

I wasn’t too concerned that I might leave other projects behind while I worked on novels. Due to the rest periods that I give my manuscripts between edits, it allows for time to be invested elsewhere.

Top of my pile, of course, was Czech Mate, a standalone espionage thriller which had already been through the wringer with beta readers over a year before. I got as far as ten chapters using first-person POV, but it wasn’t working for me, and neither were some of the scenes. I changed direction with it a few times and then one day it started to gel when I added two new characters. Okay, it still took several full drafts to get it where I wanted it to be, but that’s part of our job as authors.

Time after Time was another new venture, an ‘invitation’ anthology. I had six original stories lined up and I was hoping for at least six from other authors, all on the theme of ‘Time’. I was delighted to publish with submissions from nine other authors—one of which was the foreword. Nineteen stories all told … .

My other collection was my latest individual effort, Shadow: and other stories. Story titles changed, the book title changed and so too did the cover. Twelve original tales for those who like a coffee-time or bedtime read. (No erotica–it’s catered for elsewhere).

Surely I had time to produce more than those?

You’re quite right—I did, and on some of those days when I needed to escape from the intensity of a post-apocalyptic world, a thriller or short stories, I offered my services to Katya–the ‘character’ I created to continue writing erotica in the background. Katya’s latest venture is a two-part novel called Secrets.

You might wonder how the ‘Katya’ stories have been produced so regularly. Many have been in my files for years as failed short stories or as multiple passages which until recent years didn’t inspire me to continue. If truth be told, when I set out into the world of creative writing I never envisaged myself producing erotica.

As usual, I enjoyed plenty of reading. Mainly it was indie books, but I also read a few paperbacks and reviewed those books which warranted good feedback. By the same token, I started but didn’t finish something in the region of ten indie books. There were a variety of reasons but for the main part, it was poor writing, poor formatting and lack of time spent by the author producing the work. I don’t permit time to read shoddy workmanship when I personally put in so much effort to create worthwhile stories.

I performed beta reading for several authors and as always was gratified to be told that I’d helped. I know what it means to be offered ‘guidance’. Feedback is the lifeblood of the author. Negative feedback is as important as positive feedback which I believe all writers must appreciate. Any writer who doesn’t pay attention to negative comments in the process is blind to their own issues.

Apart from reading and writing did I do anything else to improve my catalogue?

Yes, I redesigned several of my covers. I went on to produce my personal design for those which had previously been created by a professional. Those were Ten Days in Panama, Amsterdam Calling, A Taste of Honey, and the BTL trilogy.

Apart from all of the above, in October I cast aside my professionally-designed author website which I’d kept going for about ten years. I built a new website myself from scratch. Ironically, the total cost of my new website equated to about the same as my first one. I kept my domain name www.tombensonauthor.com

My writing was my priority throughout the year, as it should be but I gained a sense of accomplishment having dealt with all my covers and creating a new website.

Next year’s targets will be in my next blog post … in January 2021.

 Thank you.

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.