MORE GENIE PROBLEMS: December 15 Update

First, for my fans: the sample-chapters blog post of More Genie Problems is up.

I’m going to do two things with this blog post: I’ll discuss my writing process, which will be of interest to any writers reading this: and I’ll be telling the world how things stand with More Genie Problems, which will be of interest to my fans.

FOR THE WRITERS: Why do I write soft-core porn? Because I figured out that I got bored writing hard-core porn, a.k.a. “stroke stories.” I need some story along with my porn! Even when I’m writing porn, I want for my story to be as well written as any G-rated book you’d find in a Barnes & Noble.

BUT I’m interested in male-dominant sex scenes (“Me Tarzan, you Jane”) and erotic mind control. Either of these are poison to women-deferential Manhattan publishers. Which means that regardless of the merits of one of my novels, no Manhattan publisher would ever publish the book. Frankly, I’m shocked that John Norman’s Gor books ever got published—talk about “politically incorrect”! I can only assume that John Norman got published because he submitted his books in the Sexy Seventies, before political correctness was invented. That, or perhaps the gender gap between the number of female readers and the number of male readers was not so lopsided in the Seventies?

(Off-topic: Robert Lubrican is a prolific writer who writes male-dominant, romantic, soft-core porn. I recommend him.)

So how do I write a soft-corn porn novel? The same way I write a G-rated novel: I start by outlining.

Novel-writers are divided into two camps: “pantsers” (writers who write “by the seat of their pants”) and outliners. I used to be a pantser, back when I wrote books on speculation. But now that I’m making money with my writing, I work up an outline first. I simply can’t afford to spend several months writing a novel without a plan, only to realize that I don’t have any idea how to get from where I’m at to the nifty ending that I want to get to. So before I type “Chapter 1,” I’ve got all the plot points figured out.

NOTE: I don’t consider the outline to be a binding contract with myself that I can never swerve away from. In fact, there is a scene in Chapter 22 that did not occur to me until I was drafting Ch. 22; that scene wasn’t in my outline. But that scene-idea was an improvement on my outline, so I wrote it into Ch. 22, and I tweaked the remainder of my outline.

FOR MY FANS: Since The outline is the first thing I do when writing a book, and now I’m near the end of the writing process, obviously I’ve finished my outline.

FOR THE WRITERS: I am so glad that I don’t have to write novels the way they did in olden day. In the 1960s, Jacqueline Susann went through five drafts to write Valley of the Dolls—which meant that she typed the manuscript five times from beginning to end. (She invented a system: yellow paper, then pink paper, then blue, then green, then white for the final draft.) As a mass-market paperback, VotD was exactly 500 pages long, so Jacqueline Susann did a lot of typing!

But now, thanks to my computer and Microsoft Word 2010, I type my novel only once; and I retype only the words and sentences that I want to change.

Rather than write a “first draft” as Jacqueline Susann did—in which I draft Chapter 1, I draft Chapter 2, and I don’t edit Chapter 1 or Chapter 2 until I’ve typed out the last chapter of the novel—I use a different approach.

When I draft a chapter, I’m thinking about higher-level stuff: What plot-work this scene must do, and what characterization-work this scene must do. When I’m writing dialogue, I put myself into each character’s head as he’s about to speak: “Okay, the other character just said X or did Y. How do I feel about this? What do I want to say now? What do I want to do now?” If the character has choices how to respond, I have him make the choice that conforms with the outline. BUT my point is, when I’m writing the first draft of a chapter, I don’t think about the wording at all. I write down whatever words come into my head.

As soon as I finish drafting a chapter, I start three Hot Readthroughs of that chapter. I say Hot because at this point, only a few days have passed, and I still remember what I was thinking when I drafted the chapter. In each Hot Readthrough, I cut words, replace flabby words with stronger words, reword clichés, clarify confusing sentences—I try to make the chapter best say what I was trying to say when I drafted the chapter.

After I finish three Hot Readthroughs of a drafted chapter, when I think the chapter is “perfect,” I send the chapter to my alpha readers. They always find mistakes in my “perfect” chapter, and so I tweak the chapter to incorporate their feedback.

I continue like this until I have drafted every chapter of the novel, have done three Hot Readthroughs of every chapter in the novel, and have incorporated alpha-reader comments on every chapter.

FOR MY FANS: Every chapter of More Genie Problems has been drafted, subjected to three Hot Readthroughs, and tweaked after receiving feedback from my two alpha-readers.

FOR THE WRITERS: After I finish my first draft (as I redefine the term), I do two Beginning-to-End Cold Readthroughs. I say Cold because I haven’t looked at these chapters in months, and I’ve largely forgotten what I was thinking when I wrote them. So when I do my first Cold Readthrough of the first chapter that I wrote, I read it almost like you would read it. The difference is that if I find something confusing, boring, or long-winded, I can fix it, whereas you can’t.

What do I do in a Beginning-to-End Cold Readthrough? Besides doing line-edits to my “perfect” chapters, I also look for continuity problems—where I wrote one thing in Chapter 1 and something different in Chapter 20, which I didn’t catch before now because I wrote Chapter 1 and Chapter 20 months apart.

In theory, all of the book’s remaining errors should be caught in the first Cold Readthrough; a second Cold Readthrough should be a complete waste of time. In practice, I always find errors on the second Cold Readthrough.

FOR MY FANS: I’ve finished the first Beginning-to-End Cold Readthrough. I’m about a third of the way through the second Beginning-to-End Cold Readthrough. I expect to finish this up in a day or two.

With this, the writing process will be finished, and then the process shifts to formatting the Word document for Kindle, Smashwords, general EPUB, and trade paperback. This process normally takes four or five days, and then the different forms of the book are uploaded to reseller sites.

But Christmas is coming up, nd that’s going to play havoc with scheduling. Stay tuned for further updates.

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