Friday, 8 June 2012

My Fuck Doll and I

My debut erotica novella 'Dirty Little Fuck Doll' was my life, and every thought during the sixty-seven days it took to write. In this blog entry, I would like to share my experiences and offer an insight into the writing processes I used. I have been asked on many occasions on Twitter, what my thoughts are regarding certain aspects of writing or erotica. Since I am limited to 140 characters on there, I feel that this blog will answer some of these questions, as well as offer a behind the scenes insight into what went in to create this piece of work.

As detailed in one of my previous blogs: 'My Kindle and I', the ownership of an electronic reading device, and the ease at which 'books' can be bought and read discretely set my mind racing on writing a short erotic piece to sell on Amazon. I have written all my life, from short stories to poetry, and even a few pieces for the theatre. But erotica? Well I'd written a few scrappy pieces, more like diary entries if I'm honest. So this would be a challenge, something that I never shy away from. Within about two days of having owned my Kindle, I had downloaded and read two very poorly written erotica stories. My resolve was set, I would write one; and it would be much better!

I sketched out a one page synopsis, made up of half a dozen bullet points with a few character and location notes. Previous writing projects had seen me spend weeks in the planning stages, with 'Dirty Little Fuck Doll' I wanted to use a basic skeleton, around which the story would develop itself. Whilst I acknowledge that it is of major importance to have a framework for my story, I think it's important not to over-plan, and therefore restrict the natural evolution of my characters and their journey. Jackson Pollock said: "The painting has a life of its own, I try to let it come through", I feel the same applies to literature.

My objective was very simple: to write an erotica story that was cover to cover hardcore literary pornography. In fact, I wasn't even sure if it could be deemed erotica! I set out to use rich, decadent and descriptive language; to dwell on those moments, and write them in over saturated colours. You may consider these parts to be 'overworked', but that is entirely intentional. I wanted to write the sex in real-time, giving graphic descriptions of my characters experiences. Most importantly, I set out to write about the sex that I enjoy, the kind of sex that I either have, or have had. I had to turn me on, as the writer it's paramount that I associate with my characters. You must believe me when I tell you that I had a lot of fun writing this!

So, I sat down to write. I have always written my first drafts long hand, I find the words flow better between pen and page, rather than from keyboard to screen. I get lost in my own sentences, writing so fast I can barely even make out my own handwriting. A quick stroke through a mistake, and I'm off again, without the interruptions of errors made more obvious on a word processor. I write everywhere, mostly in my office at home, although I do spend a lot of time in cafes scribbling intently within a sea of fellow caffeine addicts. I find the step away from my usual environment breaks my mood, it helps me to think outside of the sphere of my normality.

My goal, was to let the story go where it needed to go, which sounds straight forward, yet it is anything but. Despite not adhering to a strict timeline, it was imperative that I knew where the characters were going; my time alone with my pen and pad would dictate how they got there. Many people I have spoken to, have told me of their intention to write, yet their difficulty of getting the words down on paper; perhaps unaware of how to start their story, or how to write certain scenes, adhere to a plot etc. My advice, is quite simply: get it down, it's something that I have to tell myself from time to time, when I'm deliberating over a specific; therefore delaying the process of writing. My experience has taught me that it is better to write it, and correct it later, than to get hung up on one small detail. If I dwell on the correct word to use in a particular part of the book, I lose my train of thinking. If I know I need to add a word or description, but don't want to lose my train of thought, I will add lines to the manuscript, and fill it in during one of the re-writes. I also do this, when I know that I need to research a particular location or subject. Writing is one of those activities that you need to be in the groove, some days I can sit and write 1000 words without even lifting my head from the page. Others, I can barely manage fifty before giving up. My advice is that if you are not in the mood to write, don't. Anything you do write in that frame of mind will probably not read as well as the sections where you were really at your best.

In terms of the process of actually 'writing' the book, it took just over three weeks, during which time it was my only consideration. I took Chloe, Mark and Mikki everywhere; both in my mind, and on the pages of the notebook in my bag. Everything I wrote about them, I considered during the day, then wrote it at night. My writing times were a mixture of early mornings, late nights and weekends. Thankfully my adorable hub, has been very supportive of my writing.

Once the first draft was written out by hand, I had the arduous task of typing it all up. I'm not afraid to tell you that typing is the least enjoyable part of writing for me. There were several infuriating moments when I was cursing myself, for my ludicrously bad handwriting, when I had been caught in the moment of inspiration, and scribbled the words down at a lightning speed. However, the practice of typing is in itself a part of the editing process, as I can pick out words that don't work, as well as correcting other mindless mistakes. There is no better feeling as a writer, than to handle the first printed copy of your work; it was a fantastic moment when I collated the pages from the printer, and bound them together.

However, this was where the real work started. The final copy, which is available now as an ebook is essentially the seventh draft. The first being the handwritten copy, the second the first typed imprint. I took that beautiful clean copy of my unedited work, and wrote all over it with my favourite red pen. I read through it several times, correcting the obvious typing and grammatical errors. Once it was done, I typed in the corrections, and ran the third draft. In this section of editing I added some extra descriptions to the locations, as well as adding a little more characterisation. I also began to look at the style of language that was used.

Once this had been typed into the fourth draft, I spent a lot of time fine-tuning the descriptive style. It was at this stage that I looked to maximise the vocabulary used, for example, rather than writing the word 'walk' repeatedly, I would replace it with: 'stepped',' made her way', 'trotted' or 'sauntered'. As a reader, I look to be extending my vocabulary; I expect writers to do the same. There is nothing more tedious than reading the same adjectives over and over again. This probably formed the most lengthy part of the editing process. I quite literally pulled each sentence apart, and rebuilt it. Then, each sentence had to be tweaked slightly to fit in with the rest of the paragraph, and so on. During re-writing the fourth draft, I came up with the name 'Dirty Little Fuck Doll'. Prior to that, I had never really given the project a proper name; I am cautious about starting a book with a particular name in mind, in case it dictates where the story leads; only the story itself should be in control of the direction. That said, I was exceptionally happy with the title, and felt that it suited the book perfectly.

The fifth draft saw some major structural changes, including the ending. I had purposefully not written the last part beforehand, as I wanted to have time to reflect and consider what the conclusion should be. A great ending, will let the book live on in the reader's mind long after they have finished. This is what I aimed for with 'Dirty Little Fuck Doll'; I can accept that it may not be a classic ending, but I hope that it goes a long way to explain why Chloe acts and thinks in the way that she does. I also re-wrote several other sections, as well as altered the formatting.

By the sixth draft, the story was pretty much complete (as any writer will acknowledge, a book is very rarely 'finished', I'd like to meet one who could read through their own published work and not alter anything). I read through it about four times, picking the odd typos up here and there. Once it was finished, I had the seventh draft and was ready to upload it to Amazon.

During the latter stage of re-writing, I began to work on my cover. I explored several options, including to use a stock image, have one of my artist friends create an illustration or just to use plain text. There are some great stock images out there that are really affordable, but there was a niggling thought at the back of my head that told me to keep the book entirely original. So I counted that option out. The illustration was a good idea, I even have a couple of sketches of how it would have looked like. But in the end, I roped my fantastic husband into helping out. The cover image is me, in a pair of my favourite fucking shoes; taken and edited by my husband, under my dictatorial direction. That cover itself is the twelfth version, we kept doing it, and it just didn't look right. I think we spent two entire weekends working on that. People tell you not to judge a book by a cover, but you always do! The added difficulty with creating an ebook cover, is that it has to look good as a cover, as a thumbnail on Amazon, in colour, and in black and white on the Kindle. Rest assured that it is no easy task to create an original image that fits all these criteria.

So, once I had the book, the title and the cover, I was ready to begin the upload process. What an emotional time that turned out to be. You can submit a Word document to Amazon, and their KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) site will convert it into the Kindle format. However, you have to have everything formatted correctly for this to work properly. Whilst it may look ok in Word, any mistakes will jeopardise the alignment when you view the file on a Kindle. Previewing it on a Kindle would be fantastic, but you have to make do with the 'Kindle viewer' that Amazon provide. I wasn't at all impressed with this, it never looked right, even when it was. To me, it always looked like the text was wonky! This itself took about five attempts, as I aligned the title and copyright pages, so the text was in the appropriate places on the page; something that's made even more of a challenge by the fact that you can change font sizes and line spacing on a Kindle. Once I had all this the way I wanted it, I skim-read through the document. There was a moment of absolute despair, when I noticed a line of messed up characters; after spending several minutes trying to work out what had gone wrong, I traced the error back to my Word document, and realised that my cat must have walked across the keyboard! Panic, then I re-read the whole book three times to ensure that there were no other feline additions. Once I was finally satisfied, I clicked 'upload' and waited.

It takes about twelve hours for Amazon to upload your work to their site, during which you will see 'in review' as your product's status. Those were a nervous twelve hours! Quite what they actually review, I'm not sure; but thankfully they accepted it, and on Sunday 29th April, my 'Dirty Little Fuck Doll' was live on Amazon. It turned out to be one of the most emotional days of my life. I had the despair of my early problems, the nervous waiting, the excitement of seeing my book for sale on Amazon, the jubilation of selling several copies on the first day, and the immense satisfaction of receiving two five star reviews almost immediately. Those sixty-seven days of hard work and commitment had been worth it!

Throughout this whole process, 'Dirty Little Fuck Doll' had been my every thought, I committed myself to it entirely. I had a belief in the project that couldn't be broken or compromised. I feel that this is necessary for a writer, I could never have completed it to the standard that I attained to if I were to pick it up once a week. It had to be a part of me, woven into my daily life. At first, Chloe was written as an alter ego of my younger self; but, as the book progressed, she became more like a friend. I would find myself wondering what Chloe might think about certain situations, how she would react to things that happened to me. She became my imaginary friend.

One aspect of this journey that I feel worked very well was the time I took to write it, there were no rash decisions, every word was carefully considered. There were parts that just didn't work, so I would leave them alone, and let an idea evolve over time in my mind. If the solution came quickly, then great; if it took a few weeks, then it was worthy of the wait. If I was unhappy with any aspect of the book, I would not have been able to publish it. It had to be a book that I would want to read.

There are a lot of responsibilities that go with self-publishing, one of which is that you have to promote your own work. I could have easily uploaded my book to Amazon, and done nothing; if I had done that, maybe I would have sold two copies by now. But I didn't, I have worked tirelessly prostituting both myself and 'Dirty Little Fuck Doll' on Twitter. As a result, I have sold more copies of the book than I anticipated, collecting some fantastic reviews along the way. Of course, there has been some negative feedback, but that is par for the course. I love to hear what my readers think, and I hope that they all enjoy reading my book; but if they don't, well that's their choice. I can't say that I've loved every book that I've ever read!

I hope that this insight into my writing practice has been interesting, and encourages you to read 'Dirty Little Fuck Doll'. I am currently working on a new novella, which I expect to release this summer. I had hoped to finish it by the end of May or the beginning of June, but I am not about to start rushing it! I am currently drawing towards the end of the first draft, and will employ exactly the same technique as I used for 'Dirty Little Fuck Doll'. Expect something different though, as a writer I do not want to stagnate, I will always keep my readers guessing, and eager to download my latest offering.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant. Thanks for sharing all of that. And well written, too.