Hey, where’s my conflict? – on writing solo sex

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It’s a truth universally acknowledged (or it should be), that the things that other people like best are not always the pieces you loved writing.

Little Silver Bullet came from nowhere, and not, all at the same time. Since the Smut Marathon Round 4 assignment (‘One character. One sex toy. No brand names.’) was announced, I’d been percolating a different piece. Not a different toy, I should say – in real life, toys are one of the few areas where I put efficiency and function way ahead of brand – and I’ve been repurchasing this pretty much since I turned eighteen (no, they don’t stock it anymore and yes, I’m worried).

The story I planned to write – the story that, until I decided to write this post instead and until Little Silver Bullet did so well I don’t want to betray it by writing an alternative and asking which people prefer – also featured a bullet vibe. But I’d envisaged an office Christmas party, a solo woman working with a team of extremely sexist and corporate salesmen, and a Secret Santa gift designed to undermine her. I’d pictured her slipping off to the loo in a city bar, and getting off as she pictured them fucking her one by one. The t story would have come straight from my fantasies, but LSB? LSB came straight from my *heart*.

The unnamed protagonist could be me. It is fiction, but I’ve been there, many times. And I think lots of women have. I think that’s why it resonated. It’s not a clever story, it’s just an honest one.

Clever is one way to stand out in something like the Smut Marathon, but writing clever can be exhausting (although that said, the clever entries in this round blew my mind). You can spend so much time trying to think of the alternative angle that you forget to write something that’s true to you. And – I know it’s my bugbear – clever should never override story, in my opinion.

Although I’d written and submitted this piece by the time I attended it, this round made me think a lot about a writing workshop I went to recently, a workshop which I tweeted a bit about but never finished my thoughts on, hence this post.

The theme of the workshop was generating new story ideas and, at the start of the session, we were asked to write down the following things:

  • three names for fictional characters
  • three names of places (geographical places or places in e.g. the home)
  • three objects.

We then had to cross out one of the character names, one of the place names and choose one of the objects and then do twenty minutes free writing with the five words we had left. And … it works. It makes you write.

Afterwards, the instructor explained why it works. It works because all good writing needs conflict (much easier when you have more than one character) and progression (moving from one place to another guarantees physical progression at least). The object is intended to embody whatever the theme of your writing is, although I’d be inclined to say that that’s a optional extra and depends how much you like symbolism in your work.

The Smut Marathon assignment only technically allowed for one character, which makes  creating conflict REALLY FUCKING HARDI, along with many others, decided to interpret this as meaning you could only have one character in the room, participating in the actual masturbation scene, but it didn’t mean you couldn’t mention people who were in your character’s thoughts/fantasies – as it turned out, everything I voted for took this approach.

Lots of the feedback I’ve seen on this round suggested that readers were disappointed that more of us didn’t pick more ‘out there’/unusual toys. I’m happy to admit that I think most, if not all, of the stories that did take this approach were really creative, but I still don’t think it was the only way to do a good job in this round. Think about the sex writing you’ve loved most – it doesn’t follow that you’ll always like anal scenes more than missionary because the former is technically more exciting.

It’s the human in the scene that matters, not the silicone.

 

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How raw is too raw?

This is (another) post about Smut Marathon, but it doesn’t start with Smut Marathon. It starts with a project the other me – the real me – is working on. A novel.

Early in 2017, I finished the first draft of a novel I’d been writing, on and off, since late 2015. This weekend, I was on writing retreat, chomping through a few more chapters of the rewrite. It’s slow going, but writing is slow going, especially when, like me, the reasons why you’re not sure if you ever want this particular project to be out in the world threaten to outnumber the number of chapters in the book itself. Also, I’ve written first drafts before, but a second draft of something? This is new.

I’m a sucker for a creative writing course. I love the company of writers, their passion, their opinions, their willingness to talk books for borderline unhealthy periods of time. What I wanted, desperately, when I moved onto Draft 2 was a rewriting course, or an editing course – was something that would tell me what the hell it was I was supposed to be doing. How was I supposed to know where to start? But also – how would I know when it was done?

It turns out that nobody can teach you that, or, at least, it’s a lot harder to teach someone to rewrite than to teach them to write in the first place. It’s a pretty personal thing – one great editing course I did do, lots of which I’ve put into practice, suggested that, when you  get bored of editing, you should rewrite any bits you know aren’t working from scratch, to give your creative brain a look in.

It’s a nice idea, but it doesn’t work for me. I’m a very linear writer – I go back and tweak, sure, but major rewrites of sections, especially when taken out of the context and order of the whole piece, are a disaster for me. I can’t write scenes and then retrospectively impose a structure.

Another thing I’ve considered, but abandoned, for reasons that will hopefully become clear later in this post, is rewriting from scratch. In some ways, I like this approach. You read the scene/chapter/story/whole fucking draft/whatever, then you go away and rewrite it in a separate document.

The advantage? You don’t cling to anything just because it’s there on the page already.

But my fear? You lose something this way.

So, how does this link to the marathon? In a number of ways, I think.

Firstly, there’s the very sensible tip that Marie sends out with each round:

Start writing your piece as soon as possible after receiving the assignment. Let it rest for a while, then start editing, deleting, rewriting. Never leave it until the last moment to start. 

What’s great about the tip, in my opinion is that ‘editing, deleting, rewriting.’ You have to find your way – we have to find our way – and you may find it easiest to do one, two or all three of those things.

But there’s also something to be said for leaving the damn thing the hell alone.

A lot of writers in the Smut Marathon, myself included, have been picked up on our use of grammar, and I’m afraid that’s something I don’t have a lot of time for. Grammar matters. Spelling matters. But when you’re telling a story, what matters most? The story.

In the last round, I voted for pieces that had a distinct plot, because that, to me, is the real challenge of writing something in a hundred words. Do you have a beginning, middle and end? Can I feel your story in my gut? Because, unless your sentences are so long that I have to revisit them to make sense of what you’re trying to say, unless your grammar and/or spelling are noticeable enough to pull me out of the story? I’m going to let it go.

I’m not a judge of the SM, obviously, so maybe it’s not my place to say, but I worry about the number of writers who’ve taken the grammar feedback – and seemingly little else – to heart.

In real life, I’m an editor. I’m trained and I work for a company that takes itself pretty bloody seriously. I don’t edit fiction, which is why all of this comes with a proviso, but I do know how to break a piece of work down and prioritise the right stuff.

I’m not paid to look at grammar and spelling on my first pass through anything. No company wants to spend its money having someone get this stuff perfect until the structure, the body of the thing, is in place. The same goes for fiction. I’m not saying spelling and grammar don’t matter – they do, they’re what make work look polished – but the idea, the plot, the characters? They matter so much more.

On Sunday, I shared At Peace, the original micro fiction I wrote for round two of Smut Marathon and ended up not submitting. Maybe I made the wrong choice, maybe I didn’t (Little Pyromaniac, my alternative piece, did absolutely fine), but two things struck me:

  1. In general, people who follow my blog, rather than the Smut Marathon, preferred At Peace
  2. There wasn’t the huge gulf in opinion between the strengths of the piece I edited to death (LP) and the one I barely, if at all, touched (AP).

Which brings me to the key point of this post. I said, after round one, that I wanted to take more risks, and Little Pyromaniac is the riskier of the two stories, in method, if not in content. It’s a perfectly fine story but I interrogated every word to the point of exhaustion. At Peace is the story that came from my heart, so maybe it’s no wonder it’s more raw, and seems to resonate more.

That rawness has a value. It has an energy. It’s drenched in you as a writer. Don’t clean your writing up so much that you wipe all the you off it.

I wanted to end with something I’ve been sharing on Twitter a lot recently, a piece of advice given in a writing workshop by an author whose work I love, Garth Greenwell. He said, ‘No good comes from listening to the opinion of people who are unsympathetic to your project,’ and it’s the most sensible thing on feedback I’ve ever heard. People who sympathise with your project will criticise it, as they should, but they’ll have good to say about it too. You’ll know.

In the early rounds of the Smut Marathon though, I feel like it’s harder to know. The challenges are fun, but they’re short – who knows what your bigger project is? (Although shout out to the judges who pointed out where they could see the potential for one).

All any of us can hope for – in the next round or any of the remaining seven – is that out there, among the voters, there’ll be people who are sympathetic to our projects.

Listen to them. And the rest? Let it go, and keep writing.

#FreshlyPolished: The Entries

The full list of entries to my #FreshlyPolished competition. Entries will be added as and when they’re submitted. Closing date is TBC, so there’s still time to enter. Enjoy!

  1. Coral Reef by @innocentlb
  2. Mint Candy Apple by @ella_scandal
  3. Barbados Blue by @hannahlockhardt
  4. In Stitches by @Kats_my_Name__
  5. Leading Lady by @mollysdailykiss
  6. Sexy Plunge by @His_Cub
  7. Frock ‘n Roll by @jillyboyd
  8. Cute as a Button by @IAmAnnaSky
  9. Passport to Happiness by Ruby Estella
  10. She’s Picture Perfect by @fdotleonora
  11. After School Boy Blazer by @notsosexintheci

Sex and disability – Eroticon 2016

As I said in this post, I promised a long while back that I would put my Eroticon slides up here, for the benefit of people who weren’t able to attend, as well as those who want to refer back to them for any reason.

The slides can be accessed by clicking on the link below, and the bullet points underneath summarise what I said in the session. Below that, you’ll find the reading list I handed out, a TED talk I think everyone should watch, and below that, two posts that I know were written after my session. If anyone else has written anything disability related as a result of my session, or if you choose to have a go at the exercise at the end of the presentation, please do let me know and I’ll link your piece up to this post, if you’d like me to.

Session notes and slides

Sex and disability – Eroticon 2016

  • Start by trying to identify what the author is trying to say about disabled people in each of the books/films on slide 2. The answers are on slide 3. All of these are ways in which disabled people have historically been portrayed in fiction which should now be avoided.
  • Look at the TED talks on slide 4. All, with the exception of ‘I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much,’ have the keywords inspiringfascinating, courageous, beautiful. These are the words able-bodied people tend to associate with disability – but ‘inspiration porn’ is just as damaging as any of the old-fashioned stereotypes, because it treats disabled people as examples, not as people.
  • Slide 6 shows why The Theory of Everything is a great example of how to write disability (although it’s important to be aware that some disabled people object to the use of an able-bodied actor to play Hawking). Stephen Hawking has more than one challenge in his life – the conflict in the story centres not only around his disability, but also his relationship and job. i wrote about the film in more detail here.
  • Don’t be tempted to make disability the character arc in your novel – very few disabled people do get cured, or end their lives, or completely come to terms with their body in the space of the time period covered by a novel or short story. Make disability part of their character, but not a part that necessarily has to be resolved or changed. Give them a plot other than their disability.
  • Slide 11 is the intro to a writing exercise using this amazing Girl on the Net guest post as a prompt. Look at how in the post intro, Girl on the Net doesn’t focus on the disability at all – the writer is disabled, but the focus is the lift, the snogging, the botanical gardens. Do any of these things inspire you? Can you take the post as a starting point and flesh it out to make it a full length short story or piece of flash fiction with a plot arc, rather than a vignette, as per the original post?

Recommended reading

10 Things Fiction Writers Need to Remember About Disability (1-5) http://blobolobolob.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/10-things-fiction-writers-need-to.html

10 Things Fiction Writers Need to Remember About Disability (6-10) http://blobolobolob.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/10-things-fiction-writers-need-to_10.html

Dear able-bodied partner…
http://www.autostraddle.com/dear-able-bodied-partner-331837/

Disabled gentleman
http://rebelsnotes.com/2015/06/disabled-gentleman/

Every body: glamour, dateability, sexuality & disability | Dr. Danielle Sheypuk | TEDxBarnardCollege
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PwvGfs6Pok&feature=youtu.be

Getting it wrong – writing disability in fiction
http://visibilityfiction.com/getting-it-wrong-writing-about-disability-in-fiction/

I am not here to inspire you
http://starsandspirals.co.uk/not-your-inspiration/

Kaufman, M, Silverberg, C, and Odette, F. The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: For All of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain, and Illness, Cleis, 2007

Kink praxis
https://xanwest.wordpress.com

Know me where it hurts: sex, kink, and cerebral palsy
http://www.autostraddle.com/know-me-where-it-hurts-kink-cerebral-palsy-226077/

Leandra Vane – disability & sex stigma
http://www.hotoctopuss.com/guest-blog-leandra-vane-on-disability-and-sex-stigma/

Moving beyond the stereotypes
https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/moving-beyond-the-stereotypes/

Silent stares and rude questions: the disability minefield
https://ninachildish.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/silent-stares-and-rude-questions-the-disability-minefield/

Why we have to create more disabled characters in children’s fiction (yes, it’s about children’s fiction, but the advice at the end applies more widely)
http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/dec/08/why-we-have-to-create-more-disabled-characters-in-childrens-fiction

Writing the Other
http://meloukhia.net/2012/06/writing_the_other/

Stella Young: I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much


Posts inspired by the session

Unusual Liaison – Rachel Kincaid
http://rachelkincaid4.blogspot.fr/2016/05/unusual-liaison.html 

Disability and sexuality – writers we love: Hot Octopuss
https://www.hotoctopuss.com/disability-and-sexuality-writers-we-love

e[lust] 85

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Photo courtesy of Cheeky Minx

Welcome to Elust 85

The only place where the smartest and hottest sex bloggers are featured under one roof every month. Whether you’re looking for sex journalism, erotic writing, relationship advice or kinky discussions it’ll be here at Elust. Want to be included in Elust #86 Start with the rules, come back September 1st to submit something and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

 

~ This Month’s Top Three Posts ~

Use
Hot
The Case of the Purloined Panties

 

~ Featured Post (Molly’s Picks) ~

The Inspection Zone
Date with prey

 

~Readers Choice from Sexbytes ~

Voyeur

*You really should consider adding your popular posts here too*
All blogs that have a submission in this edition must re-post this digest from tip-to-toe on their blogs within 7 days. Re-posting the photo is optional and the use of the “read more…” tag is allowable after this point. Thank you, and enjoy!

 

Erotic Fiction

Alleyway
After Dark
Night World Flash Fiction
THE PUNISHMENT ROOMS
HELPLESS, BOUND AND SUBJECT – Part 1
Temper temper
How to Start Super Sex
Nobody Comes Looking For Me
it was time to play

Erotic Non-Fiction

Cunnilingus. The Most Special Intimate Kiss
Nastya is nasty
“Do you want to cum in my mouth?” A Memoir
Humiliation: Raylene’s caning 2

Thoughts & Advice on Sex & Relationships

Come as you are…
A Case for Good Men
Changing Labels
10 Commandments of Courteous Casual Sex
The Aftermath
I miss you

Thoughts & Advice on Kink & Fetish

Formative Kink: “Tanya, the Lotus Eater”
At his feet
Consent In Gorean Culture

Body Talk and Sexual Health

Manicured

 

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Mirror

  
Demandez. It was the buzzword of their relationship at the start.

Ask me. Tell me. No, *beg* me. Say please.

It would help, perhaps, if it wasn’t written on the mirror. That’s how he thinks of the food now as a reflection of him – every roast chicken, every perfect patisserie, every carefully reduced sauce – it’s a slice of him on a plate. 

A slice taken out of their relationship.

Once upon a time, he’d had time for her. Had left the kitchen in fact, that night they met, to ask what she thought of the food. At least, that was what he started by asking. He finished by writing his number on a napkin. 

Napkins are disposable. 

Now, he doesn’t ask her anything, and she doesn’t ask him, either. Not the coupley stuff, like ‘What do you want for dinner?’ (He brings leftovers from the restaurant), nor the ‘Where do you want my cock?’ or the ‘Shall I come in your cunt, or your mouth?’ Where she wants his cock is in the long, stolen afternoons they used to share, not the post-midnight hours they’re confined to now, once he’s showered off the scents of his true love – the garlic, the chilli, the oil from the deep fat fryer.

She might tell herself, one day, that she made a last ditch attempt to save it. She sat in the restaurant, at the table opposite the mirror, and she even dressed like a mistress – all black, red nails, lots of cleavage. 

He stays in the kitchen. 

At six, the first guests start to arrive. She gives up her table to a party of four, and heads home. She should leave a note, she thinks, somewhere where he’ll see it.

When he comes home, in the early hours, there’s a word on the mirror, in lipstick.

Adieu x

Competition (of sorts): Win ‘How a bad girl fell in love’

Seeing as I love a writing competition, I thought the launch of Girl on the Net’s new book was a great excuse to run one, and the publisher have kindly promised me a signed copy of the book as a prize.

As I said in my review, Girl on the Net uses real magazine article titles for each of the chapters in her book – ’13 Scientifically Proven Signs You’re in Love,’ ‘So You’ve Decided to Watch Porn Together,’ ‘How to Seduce Each Zodiac Sign’ – and it’s one of the things I love about it.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to do the same – write a post, fiction or non-fiction, of up to 500 words, using a magazine article title as your title. It’s up to you whether you want to use an online or offline magazine, Cosmo, Caravan Monthly or Homes & Antiques. It just must be a real article title.

If you’re tempted, here are …

… the Rules…

(1) Your post can be fiction or non-fiction.
(2) Your post must use a magazine article title as its title.
(3) The post must (obviously) be your own work.
(4) There is no minimum length for posts, but they must be no longer than 500 words.
(5) You can enter as many times as you want.
(6) You must post the piece on your own blog and post a link to it in the comments section below in order for your entry to be considered.
(7) The competition closes at 23.59 GMT on Thursday, March 24th. Any entries submitted after this point will not be considered.
(8) You consent to me reproducing your post in full if you win.
(9) Should you win, you are happy to share your mailing address with me and Blink Publishing for the purpose of sending your prize.
(10) The competition is open internationally.

If I’ve missed anything, or you have questions, please let me know. Also, I’m taking a Twitter break at the moment, so please share this if you can. It would be good to get as many entries as possible!

Condoms: fictional contraceptive of choice

I’ve written several times (here, for example, and here), about why, in real life, I’d always rather be on the pill. I like semen. I like spontaneity. I like intimacy. To a certain extent, I think condoms interfere with the enjoyment of all those things. But in erotica? In erotica, I think they come in to their own.

There’s been a lot written by erotica writers about whether we have a responsibility to write condoms into our sex scenes, a responsibility to write safe sex. That is not the purpose of this post: this is less what about what we do through obligation to reflect best practice in real life, and more about how condoms can actually serve a fictional purpose.

In fiction, you can almost argue that the pill is the contraceptive of deceit and stability (almost, because right now, helpfully, I can’t think of any specific examples – I thought Gone Girl was one, only to be reminded that what Amy does is worse still.) It’s the form of contraception that women ‘accidentally’ forget to take, or the one they make an active decision to stop taking when they want a family. It feels, to me, more about conception than sex.

Condoms, and other barrier methods, on the other hand, are visceral – though condoms more than say, the diaphragm, since they’re on the outside of the body, not the inside. The pill, the coil, the implant – they’re intellectual decisions, made in a GP’s surgery, out of the heat of the moment, separate, really, from desire. The rip of that foil packet? It screams desire.

The sheer physical presence of the condom is a great device in fiction – I made my own attempt at writing that here, but it’s better shown, I think, in Kristina Lloyd’s Asking for Trouble, which is my go-to novel for demonstrating how to do stuff well – not least because unlike my fictional take on condoms, it has actual sex! Condoms recur throughout this novel – they’re symbolic…

‘Just a sec,’ I said, and scurried to get a condom from my desk drawer. That had been a real treat for me when I’d first moved in: hiding little condom stashes here and there, making every room in the flat a potential fuck zone. No more having to worry about other people. The whole place was mine.

… but that symbolism works on a very real level …

When he withdrew, I saw the rubber wrinkling on his prick, its teat drooping with liquid. I just hadn’t felt it. I guess my vagina wasn’t concentrating. Thank God one of us is in control, I thought.

There’s so much in those three sentences. The comedown from the out-of-control desire that fuels this sex scene is captured in ‘drooping’ alone, but the fact that Ilya, the hero, puts on a condom despite Beth not realising, and that she goes on to frame that as ‘Thank God one of us is in control’ foreshadows the way that she relinquishes control to him all the way through the novel, and it’s all captured in one perfectly written piece of latex.

Symbolic objects in fiction fascinate me. And condoms lend themselves perfectly to symbolism, whether your characters use them, or whether they don’t. It’s why a blanket insistence that we include them just to remind readers of the importance of safe sex denies the writer, and the reader, so much damn potential.

 

For more Wicked Wednesday, click on the badge …

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Self-summary

I rarely have to force myself to edit down my words online. I’m verbose in reality, but less so on paper, and more often than not I find myself struggling to meet minimum word counts than to come in under the maximum.

Here, I know who I am, because I’m honest, but honest in the moment: what I say is true today, but it might be less so tomorrow. That said, the blog isn’t everything I am, either: it’s love, anger, disability, MH and food – all things that matter, but make up a fraction of the ‘real me.’

Of all the things I hate about internet dating, the self-summary is high on the list. Is it easier to be able to say as much as you want, OK Cupid style, or to be confined to 500 characters, à la Tinder?

So, how would I summarise myself? There’s the stuff that’s true every day: that I won’t have seen that film you’re talking about, that I live on chocolate and wine, that I’m Charlie almost as much as I am RL me, that I have a disability, that I sometimes struggle with anxiety, that I chat, a lot, that I love books, bath oil, and words, that I want children, and hugs, and long walks in the rain.

But there’s also the stuff that shifts. And, as this excellent piece by Jilly Boyd proves, the little details of someone’s life are often far more fascinating than the bigger picture. Some days, I’m a Dairy Milk girl, other days Galaxy. My signature scent is Dior Pure Poison but at the moment I flirt with YSL Opium every time I go in John Lewis, because it matches the way I feel right now. I’m the book on my nightstand, the recipe I return to again and again this month, the track on permanent repeat on my phone, the short story floating around in my head.

I’m all of that, but on Tinder I’m a ‘sometimes scary-seeming, but actually super-soft feminist, working in publishing, baking, writing, and learning to run (badly!) in my spare time.’

It’s not the best thing I’ve ever written.

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***COMPETITION: LIPPIE***

Remember Polished?

Well, I thought it might be time to do it all over again, and I mentioned it to Kristina Lloyd, who has a great new anthology out, and she suggested a fresh take: lipstick.

I’m not a big wearer of lipstick, so instead of my own collection, this competition will be based around the names of classic MAC lipstick. It’s simple – if you want to enter, you drop me a DM, I’ll select a lipstick name for you at random and you write a piece of erotica using that lipstick name as a title. Sound familiar?

There will of course be a prize, the full details of which are yet to be confirmed, but which will definitely include a signed copy of Kristina’s anthology when it’s released in paperback. In addition, I’ll donate £1 to Refuge (up to a maximum of £30) for every story entered – and you can enter more than once.

If you’re tempted, here are …

… the Rules…

(1) Your story must be a piece of erotica and use the name of the lipstick allocated to you as, or as part of, the title. The more creative the story, the better.
(2) The post must (obviously) be your own work.
(3) There is no minimum length for posts, but they must be no longer than 1500 words.
(4) You may request more than one lipstick name and submit more than one story, but you must submit a story for every lipstick name you are allocated.
(5) You must post the piece on your own blog and link back to this post in order for your entry to be counted. If you’re having trouble with the link, DM me or drop me an email and I’ll add your post to the list of entries.
(6) If you don’t have a blog, but would like to enter, I’ll also consider stories sent via email (my email address is here)
(7) The competition closes at 23.59 GMT on Sunday, October 11th. Any entries submitted after this point will not be considered.
(8) You consent to me linking to your post in a list of all the entries once the competition has closed.
(9) Should you win, you are happy to share your mailing address with me (and Kristina!) for the purpose of sending your prize.
(10) The competition is open internationally.

If I’)ve missed anything, or you have questions, please let me know…

Charlie xx