My Dirty Little Secret

Title roped you in, didn’t it? Hah, you think it’s a smut article because I write romance. Well that’s not the case today because my dirty little secret is only dirty because I’m a writer, and this is one hefty confession.

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I hate conflict.

Hate it with a passion that cannot be rivaled. In my personal life, I avoid it like the plague. Won’t go near it, no thank you. I don’t care if I’m right and I have a signed affidavit confirming my opinion. Not even if God himself came down and stood as my witness would I engage in a debate or dive into a fight. Nope, not gonna do it. But I will warn you, if you mess with my children, I will chase you to the gates of hell and chain you there. Okay, so there is one thing that will push me into action, but besides that I’m content to take the easy path and stay out of any and all forms of conflict.

Why is this a dirty secret? And what does my intense dislike of conflict have to do with writing?

It has everything to do with writing because at the core of every story is the conflict driving the motivation of the characters. This is where my growth as a writer has taken a hit. It takes every ounce of courage for me to throw my characters into a situation where they must fight to come out stronger.

I’m not like the rest of the Muses. I don’t like to torture my darlings. Even if they tell me that’s where their story is heading I’ll redirect them and point to a clean page saying, “Look, there’s a nice quiet pasture with pretty flowers and bright sunshine. Come join me for a glass of iced tea and some fresh cookies!”

This behavior is contradictory to what is expected of me as an author. There is no growth for the characters, no motivation, no sweet victory to achieve if there is no conflict to overcome. So in my avoidance, I have failed my characters. They deserve to struggle, to fight, to taste the intoxicating nectar of triumph, or endure the humbling pain of defeat.

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I remember the different types of conflict in literature from my high school English classes. (Don’t get your feminist panties in a bunch…I mean man as in a person in general, could be male or female.)

Man vs. Man

Man vs. God/Fate

Man vs. Technology

Man vs. Self

Man vs. Society

Man vs. Supernatural

Man vs. Nature

But my problem still stands. I naturally avoid conflict. So how do I train myself to challenge my characters and myself by diving into a story and throwing in a healthy dose of “oh man I’m so screwed, how am I gonna get out of this one” mentality? I just don’t think this way.  I know I’m not being realistic when I avoid it. Reality sucks and there are constant challenges we face on a daily basis. Maybe I’m too nice? My heart hasn’t twisted and shriveled like some of the blackened hulls of muscle I’ve seen lying around this place. By the way, that was totally a compliment my fellow muses. *grins* Thumbs up for being sadistic mothers/fathers who like to torture their creations.

I guess this is just part of my journey as a writer. Conflict…you and I need to have a long chat. I can’t write without you. And you, well, you intimidate me in ways that make me want to curl up in the fetal position and sob for days. Thanks for that.

Do you have any advice for me? How do you deal with writing conflict?

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My Writing Process

Hello, darlings. I know some of you may be curious as to my writing process. So I’ve decided to give you a glimpse behind the curtain.  Chris’ post yesterday on  pantsing versus plotting also gave me some ideas of what to include in today’s post. So hang on, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

How do I get my ideas? Oh gosh, from anywhere and everywhere. Anything could trigger a story idea in my mind. Normally I write them down in a notebook or on the closest piece of paper…I’ve even written ideas on paper towels and scrap paper. Pictures often give me great fodder for a story if I’m stuck for an idea, and I often like to do writing sprints with short prompts.

The writing sprints. These have been my savior when it comes to reaching a daily word count deadline. I will find seventeen things to do other than write if I’m left to my own devices. So this is where I enlist my fellow writers to push me. I’m quite fortunate I have a great network of writers, both here at the Sarcastic Muse and other authors from my publisher, who are always more than willing to write with me on Skype. Yes, Skype. We link up a video call, set the timer, and write. The goal is to write as much as we can on our project in fifteen or twenty minute intervals. We don’t compete, but we do encourage and motivate. These sessions have become one my writing staples. I find I’m more productive when I have someone to write with. We push each other to reach and surpass our goals.

Now for the big question, do I plot or do I fly by the seat of my pants? I don’t think I’m either to be honest.

Here’s my process when I start a new story.

1. Idea. Prompt or photo. Whatever sparks a story. Check.

2. Writing sprint. Get something down on paper to hear what the characters sound like and what they want. If they’re talkative, I run with it. I won’t stop to do any plotting at this point because I’m still uncovering the characters. This can go on for up to five thousand words. At that point, I realize I need to get some organization.

Now at this point I do two things, I outline and interview the characters.

3. Character interviews. I have two interview sheets I use for each character to get a sharper image of the hero/heroine/villain/etc. Most of the questions are unnecessary and the details won’t make it into the story, but it allows me to have a conversation with the character in my head. This can sometimes be a huge pain in the ass, depending on which character it is.

4. Outline. I like to have a general direction for the story. So I will do a basic outline. First, I ask myself two questions. What is the conflict? And what are the characters’ motivations? Once I have these, then I can start filling in the gaps in the storyline. Most of the time my outline has a rough sketch of chapters and scenes listed. For each scene I will put who is in that scene, what needs to happen in that scene, and whose Point of View it’s from. I do this for the whole book to keep myself on track.

This is what I was talking about when I said I’m not a true plotter or panster. I give myself enough detail to give a direction for the story, for the conflict, the plot and subplot, what needs to happen…the rest, I wing. If I reach a scene and the character takes me in a new direction, I listen. I’m not bound to it by blood. If I ignore the characters, the story will suck. That is a guarantee, at least in my case. It’s their story, so I listen to them. In my mind, writing is a partnership between the author and the characters. They talk, I listen. Simple as that.

5. Finish the damn thing. Self explanatory, don’t you think? *giggles*

6. Shove it in a file and ignore it for three months at least. I do this because at this point, I’m too close to the story. I won’t be able to see any of the major adjustments I’ll need to make to improve it. So I set it aside for as long as I can and then come back to it. Also at this stage, I may send it to a few trusted writer friends and get their honest feedback on the rough draft. I do this to get a basic idea of how much I need to shift and the amount of editing the story will need. They know not to worry about grammar, syntax, etc. Their only focus should be on: is the story cohesive? are the characters three dimensional? what is it missing? inconsistencies? major issues?

7. Edit. I’ll save this for another post…my editing process. Ugh, that’s a whole other mess.

I’m not saying my way is the right way, but it’s the one that works for me. 🙂 So, now that I’ve given you a glimpse into my writing process. What are your thoughts? Any questions? Comments?

Thanks!

Go Ahead, Make My Day…

Sorry, I was channeling Dirty Harry there for a moment. I don’t really have a post planned for this week. I’ll be honest, half the time I’m not exactly sure if what I write for these posts actually makes sense, so bear with me while I plod along in this general direction.

Since Jen and I are the only two who write romance here at the Sarcastic Muse, I’ve decided to propose an opportunity for you, our readers,  to ask us questions or suggest topics you’d like to see discussed here from a Romance Writer’s perspective.

I’m not a master of marketing, an editorial wizard, or a proficient writer. I’m never confident in giving advice, probably because my thoughts and experiences lead me in different directions than most people. We all have different tastes, desires, goals, personalities, etc. I can offer my experience/opinion and hope that it touches someone in some way.

That is what I strive to do here. I offer my two cents. Take it, leave it…whatever moves you. ❤

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What questions do you have for Kirsten S. Blacketer, Historical Romance Author?

What kinds of topics are you interested in seeing me tackle?

Do you want teasers or book reviews?

I try not to discuss my books on here too much, but if you have questions about my books, I can address those as well.

So go ahead, send me your questions, suggestions, topics, and ideas. I want to write what interests you, our wonderful readers.

~Kirsten

The Romance Stigma

When someone discovers I’m a writer, I find myself  bracing for the inevitable question.

“What do you write?”

If you haven’t realized this by now, I write romance. Is this a bad thing? No, I certainly don’t think so. But I get the feeling sometimes people frown upon my choice of writing stories that slide neatly into the romance genre.

Romance itself isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I’m aware of this. I don’t judge those who prefer literary, non-fiction, fantasy, or horror, so why all the negativity toward my preference for romance.

“Oh, it’s unrealistic.”

“You must be so lonely you need to read romance to make up for not having a boyfriend.”

“You like reading all that smut.”

Seriously, we’re going to go down that road?

First of all, I’m happily married. Reading romance does NOT give me a delusional image of what a relationship should be like. It does NOT make me wish for something outside of my marriage. It doesn’t make me love my husband less, in fact, it makes me love my husband MORE.

As an avid reader of romance, I’ve become aware of several things.

1. Communication is the very cornerstone of a healthy relationship.

How many times have I read a romance where the only thing stopping the heroine and hero from finally achieving their goals is communication. I’ll give you a hint. It’s a lot.

Reading romance also gives you insight into things you’d never think to search for in your own relationship, things you should discuss openly with your spouse or partner. There is nothing wrong with being open about your dreams and desires, especially when it’s with someone you are sharing your life, body, and future. It may be the push you need to unleash the sensual self within.

2. Sex is NOT a bad thing, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it.

Whether it’s sweet inspirational romance or hot and steamy erotica, chemistry and sex play a huge role in the story. The same is true with reality and our own personal love stories. So often are we shamed for our enjoyment of sex with the person we love that we find ourselves not enjoying the intimacy that binds us as a couple.

As a writer of what I consider mainstream romance, I often have people call what I write porn or smut. Many of them have never even picked up a romance novel, let alone read one. All they see is that “clincher cover” (you know EXACTLY what cover I’m talking about) and suddenly I’m indulging in my lustful fantasies.

Honestly…most of the books I read only have a love scene if it pushes the story forward. That’s how I write, and that’s what I prefer to read. Does reading romance turn me on? Yes, it does.

I love the idea of love. I’m obsessed with the concept of romance. I’m addicted to sexual tension and the chemistry that pulls two people together. I find it fascinating and beautiful. I am unashamed of my passion for romance novels, both in writing them and reading them. Love and sex are wonderful things, and there should be no shame in exploring them in prose.

I may never write literary prose or the next great American novel. But I don’t care.

I write romance because I adore it, and because the world could always use a little more LOVE.

Feel free to leave your comments below…Thanks for stopping by.

@–/— Kirsten

Fan Fiction as a Writing Tool: Part Deux

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I was supposed to post this last week, but I was detoxing from the awesome weekend I had in Charlotte, NC at the Authors After Dark Convention. That trip sparked a whole flurry of blog post ideas, but those are for later. This week I’d like to get back to discussing fan fiction as a medium for training your inner writer.

How can fan fiction be used as a tool?

The world, the characters, and all the intricacies of the story are already developed for you. Your only job is to use what is already there and run with it. No brainstorming, no world building, no character shaping. Just writing. This presents the perfect opportunity to test your writing skills, to expand them without having to do all the prep work we normally do as writers (well, most of us who aren’t true “pantsers”.)

All of us have read a book or watched a movie/TV show where we found ourselves unsatisfied with the direction of the story, the conclusion for example, or had an idea sparked by a specific scene or character pairing. Run with it. Use that spark of creativity to write a piece of fan fiction. It may just quiet the frustration you had about the show/book, or it could spark an idea that takes on a life of its own.

Once you’ve written it, what do you do next? Well, you could bury it deep in your hard drive or burn it as a symbol of acceptance. You can’t publish it…but you can. As I mentioned in my last post, there are sites dedicated to fan fiction. Fanfiction.net  and Archiveofourown.org are great places to post your fan fiction. Why would you do that?

Feedback. One of the greatest fears every author has is acquiring any kind of critique on their work. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter. Posting it for the public on either of these sites will prepare you for an author’s worst nightmare and most sincere delight. Reviews.

I’ve had two novels, a novella, and a short story published in the last year. I need reviews to market my books, but at the same time, I know I cannot please everyone and there will be those who leave me bad/negative reviews. This comes with the territory of being a writer. You take the suggestions, consider them, use the ones you know can improve your work, and then move on to the next project.

Posting your fan fiction for others to critique can be a daunting prospect, but it will help you hone your writing skills by taking the constructive criticism and suggestions left by readers. It will help you become a better writer, trust me.

Also, putting your fan fiction out into cyberspace will attract fans. These fans will then follow as you dive into publishing your own fiction…well, I know I would. There are some talented writers who only write fan fics. I would buy their book if the decided to take the plunge into writing/publishing their own creative fiction.

Fan fiction allows the readers to see and feel your style of writing, kind of like blog posts. Fan fiction is more fun and less clinical.

If you haven’t taken the challenge, then I ask you this time to write your own fan fiction. Pick a show, a book, or a movie that sparked an idea in your mind and write. Use their characters, their setting, and their world to write a scene as YOU would have written it.

Have a little fun and see where the wonderful, but dangerous, world of fan fiction can lead you.

Let me know how you do. Comments welcome.

Thanks for reading.

Kirsten