Elementary to Erotica – my journey so far

Kindle Edition Normalised Pages - Sept.

Like the Kindle Edition Normalised Pages, writing is a life of peaks and troughs

I am always keen to learn about a fellow author’s route, from those tentative steps of composing a first piece of work, to first publication and beyond. Irrespective of age, or experience, the early days are the most difficult, as they are with most ventures.

An introIt’s good for a writer’s morale to take stock occasionally, but publicly like this. It’s also self-marketing, but we can’t hide our light under a bushel, because therein lies obscurity.

My story may not be awe-inspiring, but I’ve reached another stage with my latest release.

Now is a good time for me to take a look back.

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In 1992, following a military career of 23 years, I next took up retail management, which I did for 20 years. In the mid-90’s I started to write my military memoirs. It took over two years and the writing was abysmal. I abandoned the memoirs, and over the next few years I wrote short stories for my own amusement, not knowing anything of the required discipline.

In 2007 I wrote a rhyme whilst on a coffee break. A colleague told me I should join an online poetry site. I did and I wrote 700+ poems in three years, but felt the need to do something more.Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2

I read short stories and books on how to write them, whilst I practised. I took out a subscription to a national writing magazine. In 2010 I won a competition and had my story included in an anthology. Poetry was left behind, as I spent every available minute producing ideas to create short stories.

I joined a website and a local writing group and learned much from having my work critiqued. I’d long had a yearning to write a novel, but felt it was beyond me. My first novel was inspired by a fellow poet on the other side of the world. We’d reviewed each other’s poetry and kept in touch. I’m delighted to say that our friendship has remained firm and we continue to support each other.

Ten Days in Panama - the cover 2904In December 2012 I published ‘Ten Days in Panama’, a romance-based thriller. I knew it wasn’t great, but I had introduced aspects of the thriller, and I knew I had to write something more exciting. It was a steep learning curve, just as it had been with short stories. I used the manuscript ‘rest’ periods as a time to continue writing short stories.

In October 2013 I published ‘Beyond The Law’, a crime thriller about a vigilante in Glasgow. During breaks from my novels, I honed my 12 best short stories to create an anthology. In May 2014 I published ‘Smoke & Mirrors and other short stories’.912FmvSHzYL._SL1500_

When I read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ I was disappointed in the content. I got the impression that the author had a good idea, but minimal knowledge of her subject. I am amazed at the success of that series.

I had experimented with writing erotic stories, but they’d never been seen. I thought back over my life experiences and decided I had the knowledge and imagination to adapt them and create a variety of scenarios. In June 2014 I published my second short story anthology ‘Coming Around and other erotic stories’.

Amsterdam Calling - the cover 260714My work on thrillers continued. In July 2014 I published ‘Amsterdam Calling’, a psychological thriller. Since moving on from poetry, my practice had been to work on more than one project simultaneously, so my next book was at an advanced stage.

I published ‘A Taste of Honey’ in December 2014. It was another vigilante story, but this time about a rogue female detective – in the US.

From late 2014 into early 2015 I had a handful of private messages asking if I’d ever considered writing an erotic novel. These were not random queries, but from folk who had read my erotic anthology. Just as I had with my poetry a few years before, I sensed a challenge, but once again, a challenge I relished.A Taste of Honey

In September 2015, I completed the final draft of ‘Give & Take: A Tale of Erotica’. It has sold almost daily since publication.

Give and Take - the final coverIf my first attempt at an erotic novel receives positive reviews, I will be happy to produce a sequel. It has two reviews already.

Whether or not I find success in the world of erotica I’ll continue to write thrillers, but there is escape in writing contrasting genre.

I would suggest to any writer who feels the urge to try a new genre – do it. Don’t let anybody hold you back with their opinions. You owe it to yourself – and your readers.

In November 2015 I aim to publish ‘Acts of Vengeance’, the sequel to ‘Beyond The Law’.Beyond The Law - the cover 2904

One of the greatest things we can all do as indie authors is to support our peers. Try to read other indie authors, and provide reviews. Make an effort to read widely in genre – it really does pay dividends.

Another good idea is to do as I’ve done here, and produce an occasional update on progress. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written one book so far, let people know you are out there.

As always, I thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. Feedback is always welcome.

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Creating Anthologies

What is an anthology?

Rather than write a brief history of the word and its meaning, it is to all intents and purposes a ‘collection of artistic works’ which have a common theme, style, or other general pattern. Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2

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Anyone who knows me and this blog, will be aware that in early April 2015, I wrote a post specifically about anthologies, theme and genre. I’ll provide a link to that article at the end of this post. I will also create a dedicated section on my main blog menu for anthology-related articles.

 

On this occasion I’d like to introduce my latest idea, which has been underway since earlier this year.

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What is this new plan?

I’m basing my idea on the theory that the best stories are written by creating a first draft, leaving it aside, bringing it out again at a later date to edit, leaving it aside again, and so on. Using that system, it might take me around two months to produce that one short story.

Now, when that one has been filed away for the first time, I can look at another story. I write the first draft and file it away. Perhaps it has taken me a few days in both cases, to get those first stories written before filing my efforts.

Let’s say that it’s now about ten days since I wrote my first short story, and both the first and second tales are ‘resting’. I could now start my third idea for a short story.

Using this method, by the time I find myself filing my fifth or sixth story, I could feasibly pull out my first one again, and take a look at it. When I’ve read it, and edited it again – I would then file it as ‘second draft’. I then take each first draft in sequence and take it to the next level. During the process I might find the inspiration to add to the collection.

Once the collection is underway it’s important to annotate each title with ‘first draft’, ‘second draft’, and so on to retain control over the work in progress. There is no need to worry about the resting period for stories, because I’ve found that the longer they are left alone, the fresher they look on the next read-through.

In theory, each story will have a minimum of three weeks between drafts, but in most cases longer, which is a good thing.

Slow and steady is the way to work.

Not What You Thought*

Will it take a long time to produce the finished collection?

Yes, of course it will, but anybody who aspires to be worthy of the title ‘writer’ or ‘author’ must have the patience to continually chip away and polish work until it is honed to the best it can be.

 

If it takes months – it takes months.

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How will I keep my ideas fresh during the process?

This is where the second part of my plan comes into play.

For some time, I’ve been working on my next two anthologies – simultaneously. I have one collection featuring military themed short stories, and another collection featuring science-fiction themed short stories.

No, I may not be a recognised sci-fi writer, but I’ve written a couple in the past, and I feel I can produce sufficient variety in the genre.

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Is there any other way I can maintain a fresh outlook on the construction of my two anthologies?

Yes, I’m also working on two novels simultaneously. For some people it may break the rules, or test their resolve to work on more than one project, but I find it works for me.Image (23)

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How do I write two stories at once?

Simply by using the same method I outlined earlier in this article. I took several weeks to get my next thriller up to first draft, and then when that manuscript was put aside, I started work on my first attempt at an erotic novel.

When the erotic novel manuscript was filed away, I pulled out the thriller again, and gave it another rewrite. Both novels are now at fourth draft and resting whilst I read and review for a while.
Yes, I will no doubt write a short story during that time too.

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Are there any tips here?

Yes. If you’re in the early stages of whatever type of writing, be it short stories or novel – you must learn to take time away from the manuscript.

I know from personal experience, that for a novice in particular the work in progress (WIP), is an all-consuming aspect of life. It soaks up time that realistically should be spent away from it. We must learn to allow our WIP to rest, or ‘breathe’ occasionally. It does help.

My two favoured methods are, to read, or to start writing something else. It helps to let your other work rest properly without interference. It also stops your primary WIP becoming a ‘task’. It should be a labour of love, not simply a labour.

Until my most recent work I’ve only ever used one person as a beta reader, but I would suggest at least three other pairs of eyes to have a look at work before hitting that publish key. As I’ve said before, I don’t have any relatives or ‘friends’ to read my work, so it pleases me that any feedback I receive will be genuine.

The people reading your work to give feedback prior to publishing, don’t have to be writers, but I believe in my limited experience of such things, that it helps if they are. They have a keen eye for issues. A non-writer is more likely to simply enjoy the story.

If you have short stories of a reasonable standard, whether or not, you do, or do not have an anthology of your own, it’s a good idea to increase your platform with a guest appearance in somebody else’s collection, or in a compilation by various authors.

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When will I be publishing my next work?Image (25)

I’m hoping to have my debut erotic novel, Give and Take, published in August / September 2015.
A target date for my thriller, Acts of Vengeance, is now around October / November 2015.

My two anthologies are building steadily so there will be no rush to complete them and publish them. They will appear when the time is right.

Do I have any short stories apart from those appearing in my own anthologies?

Yes, I have short stories appearing in my blog menu under the heading Short Stories. I also have short stories making an appearance in mixed author anthologies like:

Whitby Abbey: Pure Inspiration by English Heritage (various authors),

Christophe’s Farewell and other stories by the Inkerman Writers (various authors)

Out of the Shadows by the Inkerman Writers (various authors)

The Last Waltz (an audio anthology) by the Inkerman Writers (various authors)

Not What You Thought and other surprises by Paul A. Ruddock (includes guest authors)

You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology by Ian D. Moore and friends (various authors)

Book cover - You're Not Alone*

Thank you as always for taking the time to read my thoughts, theories and opinions.
Comments and feedback are always welcome.

If you’ve enjoyed this topic, you may find my earlier post on anthologies interesting:
Anthologies: theme or genre based?

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V … is for Value

V[1] is for value. In writing terms it is also for vanity, vocabulary, voice, viewpoint, visual, and a few other very useful words, but today I’m looking at value.

Once again, I’ll use my own situation, which will make it easier for me to explain, and perhaps easier for a fellow writer to understand.

I spent a considerable time on both of the novels I’ve already got out there as eBooks on Amazon. I’m conscious of the fact that I’m a relatively unknown author. Like anybody who writes, I’d like to make money from it, and feel a bit more professional about the whole thing, but I’m also realistic.

How about an example?

I know a local writer, who we’ll imaginatively refer to as Mr X, who has two thrillers on Amazon, using the same route as me to sell his work, via e-publishing. I read his first book and wasn’t impressed by certain aspects of it, so my review wasn’t glowing. I sampled the second book, but even the first five screens were enough to warn me off. I didn’t buy it.

That author has a lot of self-belief, but I think he’s confusing effort with ability. I also know he wants something for nothing. By keeping my ear to the ground I know that there are not a lot of sales going his way.

You may think I’m being a bit bitchy, but please consider the following question.

Would you spend £4.99 ($8.00) on an eBook written by an unknown author?

For me to do that, I’d have to be impressed by the blurb and the sample reading. Mr X books are not value for money in my humble opinion.

Why do I believe Mr X is wrong?

Until we become recognised, even in a small way, we should be considering:

1.  The value for money for our prospective readers (customers).

2.  The value of our prospective readers (customers) budget for spending on books (eBooks or otherwise).

 3.  The true literary, and monetary value of our writing in comparison to an established author’s work.

4. The true value or merit, of our early works.

5. The value and credibility of our name as an author if we aim too high, too early in our aspirations.

Now, having listed those, I know there could have been more, but I feel that my short lists are more effective, because they both help my blog readers to focus, and to use their own imagination.

How do I deal with the value issue?

For any out there thinking, ‘this is all about his writing,’ and ‘why does it matter how he does it?’. I make no apologies. Anybody with a basic knowledge of our craft, will understand the marketing issues inherent in our solitary world.

We must employ self-promotion, as much as it goes against the grain at first.

To put it succinctly, although I use my techniques, and my book titles to create examples, it doesn’t follow that I believe I’m the best to give advice.

Okay, for any critics out there, that was my version of a disclaimer. I hope it was enough, because my big pitch about value is imminent.

How do I price my eBooks?

I maintain a reasonably low price for my eBooks, which is about half the price of the ones mentioned earlier, published by Mr X.

Why do I do that if they’re selling better?

Value.

 1.  I’m confident that all my new readers get value for money.

2.  I’m confident that I’m not asking much of a price for somebody to give my writing a chance.

3.  I know I’m not a household name, so I don’t try to compete with them (yet).

4.  I know my method is working, because I designed my own covers to start with. Sales of my eBooks have now paid for two of them to be designed professionally. That will I’m sure be a fresh investment.

5.  For me, the true value of patience, hard work, and not being greedy is simple; I am my own ‘brand’.

As soon as this post is published online, I’m putting together the final formatting for my first collection of short stories, ‘Smoke & Mirrors and other stories’. I’ll come back later and add a live link, plus of course it will have a place on my main menu here at Tom Benson – Creative.

There are 12 stories in the book, and it will be going out at a low price, because not every story will appeal to every reader. For now, I’ve designed my own cover, but that will change.

This latest venture I believe provides value to my prospective readers (customers), because of the variety of tales from an unknown author.

It provides value for me, because perhaps there will be those that enjoy my style and follow up by buying into my novels.

What price are you prepared to pay in £’s or $’s to try out a new author’s work in eBook format?  

My sincere thanks as always for putting yourself through this literary quagmire of fact and opinion. I’ll be back tomorrow with ‘W’.