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editing

I returned from Necon this past Sunday. Necon is the Northeastern Writers Conference which is for horror writers but what I learned applies to any writer. The conference was held in a conference center in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

I was on one panel: Heroes Like Me: The Importance of Representation in Genre. There is more of a problem with representations of women in horror fiction and films than in romance or erotica. I’m happy to see that strong female characters who aren’t doormats or shrinking violets are much more popular in romance and erotic fiction now than they have been in the past. Women in these stories know what they want and they go after it. Sometimes, especially in the billionaire genre of romance, the heroine is inexperienced and rather naïve, but I’ve noticed she comes into her own as the story progresses. The hero often learns quite a bit from her. Hero and heroine are on equal footing in many of the stories.

Other panels included Guest of Honor interviews, Collections, and Editing. I was especially interested in the editing panel since I enjoy writing for anthologies. Some of the panelists were editing anthologies I had submitted to. I managed to snag some fine guests for my podcast Into The Abyss With Elizabeth Black. I took July off and I’ll start up shows again in August.

The best part about Necon was the same thing I liked about the Stanley Hotel Writers Retreat – socializing. Everyone was friendly and on equal turf. The casual atmosphere was very relaxing. I didn’t have to pay $50 or more to talk to an author and have him or her sign a book. There was a pre-Necon party I attended at one guest’s house. I saw old friends and made new ones. The BBQ ribs and chicken were delicious and I even had stuffed clams. You can’t live in New England and not eat stuffed clams. There were gatherings in the outdoor courtyard every evening with saugies, which are hot dogs well known in Rhode Island. They’re longer than most hog dogs and they have casings. They were delicious on the grill. I mingled and chatted which isn’t easy for me since I tend to be on the shy side. I talked to other writers about what they were working on. I did not ask the editors of the anthology I submitted to when submitters would hear back. That would have been in bad form. I know the rejections and acceptances will come soon enough. The networking opportunities were very good.

I liked Necon and I will attend again next year, money permitting. I do highly recommend writers attend conferences and conventions when they can. Some good ones are Viable Paradise, Clarion, Readercon, Arisia, and the RWA convention. Some of these cons include agents and publishers. The opportunity to pitch yourself is more than welcome.

K D Grace

I love editing. Always have. I know many writers don’t share the love, but I think editing is one of the sexiest parts of the writing process. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that, for me, if the editing process doesn’t feel like good sex, then I’m not doing it right.

Take it off!

Since I’m not precious with my words, one of the first, and probably easiest parts, of editing is taking it off. What I mean by that is stripping my WIP, undressing it, getting rid of unnecessary paragraphs, sentences, phrases, even whole chapters — anything superfluous or repetitive. I need to be sure I don’t repeat what’s already been said or what doesn’t need to be said. I need to trust my readers’ intelligence. They’ll get it the first time. Readers are as anxious as I am to get on with it, to get to the good stuff. That means I need to pop the story’s cherry and move on to the main act. So my first editing goal is to undress my work, get it down to the story beneath, to what really matters, what will turn my readers on. My job, at this point, is to expose that story and then let it seduce me. If it can’t seduce me, then it’s not very likely to seduce my readers.

Tweak, Touch and Play

Once I can see what’s underneath, what’s really there, then I can begin tweaking, touching-up and playing. This is the time-consuming part. This is the point at which every single word matters. I learned how important each word is by writing shorter stories. When you have only 2K, every word has to matter – even more so with something as precise and boiled-down as poetry. Writers of novels – myself included sometimes forget this because we have a whole novel’s worth of words to play with. This is the point at which I remind myself that I’m making love to the story, and I want my readers to be seduced by what I’ve written. Every word is an erogenous zone. Every phrase can be stimulated and heightened and engorged until it literally bursts with meaning, with intrigue, with seduction for the reader.

Beware of Distractions  

I don’t want phones ringing or knocks on the door from the mailman when I’m having sex or when I’m editing. I don’t want anything that will pull me out of the moment. I especially don’t want anything that will pull my readers out of my story. That includes distracting words, actions that are out of character or excessive use of words and phrases. (My inner goddess definitely frowns on that sort of thing.) That also includes replacement words. I’m far less likely to be pulled out of the story by multiple uses of breast, and tits than I am by globes, orbs, mounds, hillocks. Fingers, fingers, fingers, please! Digits are for numbers and for anatomy lessons. If I can’t find a word that won’t distract the reader from the seduction, then I’ll try to rephrase.

Exploration

While exploration is a part of the tweak, touch, and play process, it’s also the place where I discover hidden meanings, hidden tidbits, sometimes whole bits of story that need to be teased and written or rewritten and brought into focus. I can’t count the number of times I’ve discovered depth in my characters, secrets, quirks, emotions I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t made the effort to make love to my story during the editing process. Exploration is searching out the little moles, the scars, the sensitive spots that turn the story – and the reader — on.

Bring it to Climax

All of this effort is heading for the big climax, the pay-off — the story version of the Big O. While that’s true, the story is also about the journey, making it last, sustaining the pleasure and building it. The biggest part of editing, for me, is making sure that the journey, the tweak and touch and play are so gripping to readers that they’ll want it to last just a little longer, just a few more pages. I don’t know about you, but on a great read, I find myself slowing down near the end because I don’t want it to end. I want to make it last, even as I can’t wait for the pay-off. I need to have that experience while editing my own work or how can I ever expect the reader to have it? I need to feel that journey to the very end, right down to the blaze and fireworks of the climax. After it’s over, when I’m basking in the afterglow, I need to feel slightly bereft as the experience lingers in my mind, hopefully, long after the fact.

If I feel that way at the end of the editing process, then I’m confident I’ve done my job as a writer, and it’s now time to lean back on the pillow, have the imaginary cigarette and ask my readers, ‘was it good for you?’


By Mikey Rakes

When to use pronouns and when to use names can be tricky in any fiction writing, but with same-sex stories, editing can become critical. This is one of my pet peeves and something I also struggle with as a writer of male on male erotic thrillers. Sometimes I have to put myself in the reader’s seat to understand where the confusion can come from and sometimes I’m surprised how even accomplished writers can fall into some pronouns pitfalls.

Many writers have an all-encompassing view of their world and who is moving around in that special space. On occasion, we forget the reader can’t see the big picture. Editing is something we’d all like to have someone else do, but as writers it is our responsibility to make the manuscript the best possible product before we send to our editors. Unless you’re writing and publishing, of course, in which case: it’s all you, baby!

A prime example of a bit of a mix up came from a book I just finished reading, where the author started the paragraph with Character #1 doing something and in mid-paragraph changed to the ‘he’ pronoun, but although confusing, the ‘he’ was clearly Character #2.

Sex scenes are tricky, too. He came. He jacked him off. He felt sooo good inside of him. Which him? Him one or Him two? Or how about this one: ‘She exploded all over her fingers.’ Is this a masturbation scene? There was a Heather and a Sarah at the beginning of the paragraph, so who exploded on whose fingers? This type of ambiguity has a tendency to confuse the reader and pull them from the scene you worked so hard to write.

Poor pronoun placement can kill a sex scene. I hear all of you right now: but we can’t be using their names ALL THE TIME! No, you can’t, but you can use them more freely than usual when writing same sex stories. It’s important your readers know who is whom seamlessly, so they aren’t having to think about it. How you construct your sentences and paragraphs can help tremendously. If you start out a paragraph where Randy is nuzzling Jonas’s cock, don’t jump to Jonas enjoying it without establishing Jonas’s experience in a new paragraph.

Randy nestled his nose into Jonas’s wiry pubic hair and inhaled deeply. He loved the musky scent of his man after practice, just after wetting down in the shower, but right before any soap hits his luscious skin. Those moments on his knees, the water rushing over his head, and his lover’s cock caressing his cheek are what Randy tucks away into his memories locker. In his mind, he knew this affair wasn’t destined to last. He’d savor what he could and be happy in the moment.

Here we are clearly in Randy’s focus. But what if we took the same paragraph and added a little bit:

Randy nestled his nose into Jonas’s wiry pubic hair and inhaled deeply. He loved the musky scent of his man after practice, just after wetting down in the shower, but right before any soap hits his luscious skin. Those moments on his knees, the water rushing over his head, and his lover’s cock caressing his cheek are what Randy tucks away into his memories locker. In his mind, he knew this affair wasn’t destined to last.  He’d savor what he could and be happy in the moment. He slipped his dick inside his mouth.

The last line sounds a little funky, eh? We know it’s Randy. Or we think we know it’s Randy, but are we sure? We have to deduce that Randy slipped Jonas’s cock inside his (Randy’s) mouth. But what if our next sentence is: Jonas sucked him hard. Now how do we feel about it? About the pronouns? The names? Are we sure we know what is happening? Are they now in a sixty-nine?

It may seem that I’m making this out to be something odd, but I’ve read many stories that are far worse in terms of pronoun usage and keeping the characters straight. Look at the paragraph as it stands now, before editing:

Randy nestled his nose into Jonas’s wiry pubic hair and inhaled deeply. He loved the musky scent of his man after practice, just after wetting down in the shower, but right before any soap hits his luscious skin. Those moments on his knees, the water rushing over his head, and his lover’s cock caressing his cheek are what Randy tucks away into his memories locker. In his mind, he knew this affair wasn’t destined to last. He’d savor what he could and be happy in the moment. He slipped his dick inside his mouth. Jonas sucked him hard. He rocked deep into his throat, almost triggering his gag reflex before pulling back out. He was in heaven.

See how easily the scene can get out of control? In the writer’s mind it’s clear, but on the page? Yeah, not so much. So how do we clear it up? Edit. Edit. Edit. One edit isn’t enough, but we all get sick of reading the same thing over and over. So, take it in chunks. Break up your editing into small, easily manageable segments, such as just the sex scenes (I like doing the fun stuff first). Just remember, sex scenes aren’t the only place where your pronouns can get muddled.

Also, remember that it’s okay to use the character’s names. Just don’t overuse them. Take a look at the revised paragraph.

Randy nestled his nose into Jonas wiry pubic hair and inhaled deeply. He loved the musky scent of his man after practice, just after wetting down in the shower, but right before any soap hit his luscious skin. Those moments on his knees, as the water rushed over his head, and his lover’s cock caressed his cheek were the memories Randy tucked away every time they were together. In his mind, he knew their affair wasn’t destined to last. He’d savor what he could and be happy in the moment. Calloused fingers grazed his chin and Randy looked up into his lover’s lazy gaze. The lust in those heavy lidded eyes made Randy understand what Jonas wanted. Randy wanted it too. So he allowed Jonas to tilt his jaw open and slide his dick inside. The taste of Jonas in his mouth was heaven. Randy sucked him hard and Jonas’s hips jerked, rocking him deep into Randy’s throat. Jonas almost triggered Randy’s gag reflex before he pulled out to glide his cockhead along his tongue. God, I love being on my knees for Jonas. For Randy, being used was a part of the turn on, and from the sounds coming from Jonas’s throat, he enjoyed using him.

We didn’t give up on using the pronouns, but attempted to place the names in such a way as to keep the picture clear. Deep first person thoughts can be useful as means to keep things straight as well. Used sparingly, they can be quite effective for conveying strong emotion.

If you read your work out loud, or have a program that reads it for you, it can be helpful in determining what sounds best to your reader’s ear. I don’t know about other folks, but I see and hear the words of the books I’m reading in my head. Sort of like watching a movie with subtitles: if the subtitles are messed up, it throws the experience all outta whack for me.

When you begin writing, focus on simply getting the story on the page, and worry about the mechanics later. Remember, however, that you don’t want your reader pulling back at a crucial moment. Sex scenes are more than a way to titillate the reader. They must help to move the story along and expand the reader’s knowledge of the characters involved. Sex scenes enable the reader to understand your characters and grasp their normality. We all realize when we first fall in love the reality is…we fuck like bunnies. Sex is a part of life. In the case of same sex couplings, in our writing, we must be hyper-aware of the use of pronouns. Help the reader understand what he/she is doing to him/her, and your readers will love you for the extra effort they may never realize you’ve made. Make it seamless, baby.

What To Take In

by | Oct 15, 2015 | General | 7 comments

The second time I thought about giving up writing, I was 16 years old. I had been thinking of myself as a writer for half my life, ever since the third grade, when I was in my first writing workshop. I carried that sense of self long after I left the writer’s workshop program in my elementary school. Until I took a summer writing workshop.

My fiction writing style at 16 was spare, short vignettes that packed a punch and were mostly dialogue. It may not surprise you that they were mostly about sex. Openly, clearly, about teenage girls having sex outside of romantic relationships. Often casual sex, with strangers, or in the context of connections that were purely sexual. They were not erotica, and they didn’t describe sex in detail, they just referred to casual sex as if it were a regular part of teenage life, and depicted the ways that sexual dynamics worked.

Of course, they made adults uncomfortable. In particular, they made my fiction writing teacher in that summer workshop uncomfortable. I can still see his face, when we met about the first story I turned in. It was about 3 pages double spaced, almost completely dialogue, depicting the negotiation of a sex date over the phone between a teenage girl and an older teenage boy. Any description was focused on illuminating the ambivalence of the girl during the negotiation.

My teacher very earnestly asked me to expand the story. He said that when reading it, he didn’t understand the choices that the characters were making, and wanted the story to show more of what was going on inside their heads. It sounds like a reasonable critique, doesn’t it? A request for deeper characterization, more illumination of the internal, those are all good things, right?

I spent the next 6 weeks rewriting that story for him, adding more and more and more. It never was enough. (How could it be?) By the end of that summer writing program, I had a draft of the story that was twenty pages long, and felt like I was a horrible writer. Those twenty pages, that he said were in the right direction but still hadn’t gotten there, didn’t feel like my writing. In my own judgment (what I had left of it after trying to internalize his for weeks), I couldn’t see how they were better than my original draft. The additions felt like they’d ruined the story, over-explained everything to death.

I was lucky enough to have relationships with writers, and later that summer, gathered my courage to show both versions of this story to a brilliant short story writer who was a good friend of my mother’s. She saw what was going on, almost immediately. She helped me to see that there is a power in not explaining things. It does something important. It can be a hugely valuable component to your story.

She helped me to understand that my teacher had been wrong. There was nothing deeply wrong with my original story (though of course it could use a bit of polishing and tightening, as most do). In fact, she thought it was actually pretty damn good, and the spareness of it was one of the beautiful things about it. What had been wrong, this whole time, was that the story made him uncomfortable.

The problem he had with my story wasn’t about the need for more characterization, or for deepening the reader’s insight into the context of this moment of negotiation. The problem was with the content of the story. In the late 80s perhaps in particular, it was scary to contemplate a teenage girl writing stories about teenagers having
purely sexual relationships and casual sex with strangers, where love wasn’t in the picture. The content of the story freaked him out. But when he offered editing feedback, it came in this seemingly reasonable request: to explain.

Recently, I’ve had a lot more editing feedback than usual, from a range of sources. I’ve taken a couple writing workshops this year, gotten beta reader feedback on a short story collection and a novel in progress, and gone through an editing process for a collection that came out this month. There have been a number of moments when I’ve recalled this early experience. Because to receive editing feedback is to consider: What do I take in? What do I use?

One of my red flags in editing feedback is a request for more information, for explanation. While that summer writing workshop was my first experience with this sort of feedback, it was not the last. And I’ve found that often that request says more about the reader and their discomfort with the text, than it does about the actual text in question.

Let me give you some context. My queer kink erotica and erotic romance stories often center trans and genderqueer characters. They often center trauma survivors claiming their desire. My work is deeply influenced by my long history as a fat activist and frequently centers fat characters. My more recent work has been focused on centering disabled and sick characters. Moreover, my work is written specifically for queer kinky readers who are trans, genderqueer, fat, disabled, sick, and/or survivors.

These are insider stories, focused on bringing folks that are often marginalized, to the center of the story, as character, as framework, and as intended audience. Insider stories don’t often explain themselves, not about the basic everyday parts of life. Because they are written for folks who know those sorts of things already.

Reading insider stories can be deeply uncomfortable, if you are not on the inside. You don’t understand some of what is going on. The language being used by both characters and author may be unfamiliar or seem to have meanings that you don’t know. Folks like you may be perceived or discussed in ways that feel judgmental or incorrect. It may be difficult to picture the people or what they are doing, to see the places in your mind, or hear the voices. You don’t understand why the characters are making the choices they are making, their choices or thoughts or feelings don’t seem to make sense.

All of this difficulty parsing the story may be really disconcerting, especially if you are used to reading stories that center folks like you. It’s hard work, to read the stories, and you might assume that reading fiction shouldn’t feel like work, so therefore the writer must be doing something wrong. Accepting that you (and your knowledge, cultural context and framework) are not at the intended center of a story can be a pretty intense experience, especially if it is unfamiliar. The discomfort that it brings can often lead to a deep desire for more information, more explanation, more language that explains this to you, and centers your reading experience so that you understand.

In short, sometimes when we read insider stories, we want to change them so that we are the intended audience, because it’s too uncomfortable not to be.

Nisi Shawl is well known for her brilliant work on writing the Other, writing about folks that are different from you or different from the dominant paradigm. (That’s how she defines the Other, in the book she co-wrote, Writing the Other.) When we read insider stories, and we are not on the inside, but are used to being on the inside, we
are often reading the Other. In Shawl’s essay on reviewing the Other, she says:

“Reading the Other is rewarding work. Yet it is work. A lack of engagement, a push into unknown
territories that encounters no resistance, is most likely a clue not that something is missing, but that something is being missed.”  (emphasis added)

That’s why it’s important to consider what you are taking in, in terms of feedback like this. Because the feedback may be more a sign that a reader has missed something important in your work, than a sign that something is missing from your story.

When I receive feedback requesting more details, more explanation, these are some of the questions I consider:

  • Where is this request coming from? Is this person part of my intended
    audience?
  • Are the areas in which they are asking for more explanation or details
    ones where a character is different from them, or related to the character’s
    experiences of marginalization or oppression?
  • Do they seem to be asking me to explain everyday common experiences in
    great detail?
  • Does it seem like the feedback is trying to shift the audience of the
    story?

Let me give you a specific example. One of my
stories
has a group BDSM scene where a superfat femme trans guy bottom is tied to a sling that is rated for his size and a bunch of disabled fat tops of varying genders and sizes on mobility scooters are circling him, poking him with their canes. One of the pieces of editing feedback I received about the story was that a particular reader could not picture this moment in the scene, and wanted more description, more explanation. The reader wanted me to help them see the action more clearly, because they could not picture how the people would look as they were moving.

On its face, that feedback might be quite useful. The scene might not be drawn as clearly as it needed to be, the characters might not be described as clearly as they needed to be. Certainly group scenes are a challenge, and it’s completely possible that things get lost.

But. Here’s the thing. I have been part of queer fat activist community for over two decades. When you hang out with and date disabled fat folks, you often see mobility scooters, likely more than one in a group. Imagining how a group of fat folks move on scooters is not a challenge for me, because I’ve seen it, many times. This story is an insider story, for fat activist queers, particularly for disabled fat activist queers. It intentionally does not make a big deal about how people move on scooters, because it’s a regular part of life for the intended audience.

It makes sense that it might be hard to picture, if you didn’t have that experience. And this reader did not, wasn’t coming from an insider experience in their read of the story. I would think differently if they had been, because they would be part of the intended audience. Instead, after careful consideration, I concluded that this particular reader was treating these characters as Other, and likely attempting to re-center the audience of the story to folks like them.

One way to spot this is within the questions themselves. Outsider questions often hone in on aspects of difference and make them more Other, so that they require explanation. They sound like:

  • “Can you explain what that looks like?”
  • “I don’t get why anyone would do that. You need to show us why she made that choice, because it doesn’t make sense,”
  • “How does x work exactly? The story doesn’t make it clear.”

Or sometimes they will speak from an expert place about an experience that they don’t know personally, telling you how Other a detail of the story is, or how it is factually wrong, like

  • “I mean, I’m familiar with x, but I don’t think your readers will be, so you might want to explain that a little more,”
  • “I can’t imagine that x group would ever do y. My friends who belong to x group are always careful not to do that.”

Now, I don’t want you to think I’m saying that all feedback asking for more detail or for clarification should be dismissed. That kind of feedback can be incredibly useful. I just urge you to consider where the feedback is coming from, and not to automatically take it in. Especially when you are writing insider stories.

Insider requests for more details about that moment in my story could sound something like:

  • “I tried to picture me and my friends circling him on our scooters, and I was confused as to why there wasn’t a logjam, or how they cleared enough space in the dungeon that folks didn’t cross their path. Could you maybe give that more context, or maybe add a fumbling moment to make it more realistic?”
  • “I wanted to get more of a visual sense from the bottom’s perspective of what they looked like as they passed. I know there were a lot of them, and he was mesmerized by the sound of the scooters, but I imagine he might also be entranced by a look in someone’s eye, or the way someone’s hair moved. I think those moments of desire from the bottom are super important when you are writing disabled tops. Could you add a few more details like that?”

These questions are quite different, and very much worth considering.

Part of the litmus test for including more details could be: What would those details add to the story,
and for whom? What would leaving out those details add to the story, and for whom?
And, then to follow up those answers by considering: What do I care about here? What is my project? Who am I writing this for?

Sorting Out

by | Sep 26, 2015 | General | 2 comments

by Jean Roberta

This weekend, I have several big jobs to do, and I’m fairly sure I won’t finish them all. Unfortunately, none of them involves writing fiction.

1) I need to make a dent in my To Be Read list of books for review. The book that is most accessible to me physically is a hardcover anthology of fabulous (in every sense) lesbian sci-fi, just out from Lethe Press. In due course, I’ll post my review somewhere on-line, with a link on Facebook.

2) I really need to finish writing a first draft of my proposal for a book project for the university where I teach, so I can get time off to work on it. This book, which already has a publisher, will be about censorship, broadly speaking, not only the official kind imposed by governments but the mob-rule kind imposed by organizations which supposedly rebel against governments. The publisher wants me to focus on eyewitness events, for which I was present or involved. Egad. I have a mass of material that needs to be summarized in a logical way.

3) I need to start reading the pile of student essays that were handed in to me on Friday. The essays are on the short stories I’m teaching in a first-semester English class. The student efforts I’ve seen so far are not completely garbled, or incoherent, but they need work. It’s my job to explain how they could be improved, not because I want students to say exactly what I want them to say, but because I want them to express themselves as clearly as possible.

4) Later today, an expert in decluttering (who runs a business doing this) will arrive to help me tackle the basement of my house, which reminds me of a jungle or a war zone full of landmines. Ms. Declutter is a friend of my stepson, and she has been polite about the mess so far. I’m afraid we’ll probably have to take everything out of the basement to make sure we can find and destroy all the black mould. (I killed a large patch of it with bleach last week, and was lectured by my whole family for doing this without a mask or gloves.)

Looking at this intimidating to-do list, I see what all these tasks require: discrimination or judgment. Writing anything, fiction or non-fiction, requires the same skills that enable a person to create order in a house. What’s important needs to be identified and put in an appropriate place. What’s less important needs to be used to support or enhance the important stuff. What is not needed has to be discarded without mercy. No “maybe I can fix it and use it later.” If it’s taking up too much space, it has to go.

Reading an amazing collection of sci-fi stories, most by veteran writers, and then reading the writing of undergraduates in a mandatory English class, is a study in contrasts. Good writers demonstrate by example what works and what doesn’t work.

To show what I mean, here is the opening scene of “Eldritch Brown Houses” by Claire Humphrey in Daughters of Frankenstein (Lethe Press):

“This is Salem at its oldest and spookiest: cold fog off the ocean, daylight dimming early, gables and gombrels looming at odd angles. I’m gazing out from the upstairs window of the Corwin place, from beside a case of age-yellowed cloth dolls. The streets are empty except for the tail-lights of a single car, receding.”

Don’t you want to read the rest of this story? All the details in this paragraph, from the physical atmosphere to the vintage architecture to the aged dolls to the one modern car that is going away, combine to create a unified effect.

By contrast, a typical student essay reads somewhat like this:

“I am going to write about a story called “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman which is in a big book for my English class. This story was written in the 18th century.
[Note: students often confuse the 1800s, or nineteenth century, with the one before. It’s all in the past, and who cares about the difference?]
This story has a first-person viewpoint. It is about a woman who is depressed because she just had a baby. Her husband is a doctor named John. They go to stay in a house in the country for the summer. Some people think the house is haunted, but I don’t think so.”

Do you want to read the rest of this essay? Please, for me? I didn’t think so. Note the scatter-gun effect. What does the viewpoint, the character’s depression or the husband have to do with ghosts, or the illusion of ghosts?

In my comments on the student assignment, I will have to be more articulate than the student. I will have to explain that all the information in the opening paragraph can be used in some way, but it all needs to support the student writer’s thesis, that this story is NOT about ghosts. The widespread perception of contemporary readers (from the time of first publication) that the story IS about ghosts – or even demonic possession — needs to be debunked.

When dealing with a mass of material, in the form of notes, ideas, or physical objects, I need to apply my own advice to myself. What effect am I aiming for? What could be added, and what needs to be pulled out? If I have good material, how should it be arranged for best results?

It’s easier said than done, but just naming the challenge ahead is a good first step.

Other writing instructors before me have pointed out that half the job of writing is editing. Many writers before me have found this part to be the “work” of writing (as distinct from the “play”), but it can’t be avoided, and it can be as much a journey of discovery as the typing of a first sentence.

To those involved in a parallel process of shaping a work of creative writing, I say: Don’t give up! Be equally ruthless with irrelevant details and with the black mould of writer’s block. You are not alone.

By Lisabet Sarai

In addition to writing erotica and erotic romance, I’m also an editor. Over the past decade and a half, I’ve edited three multi-author anthologies, two commercial (Sacred Exchange and Cream) and one for charity (Coming Together: In Vein). As editor of the Coming Together Presents series, I’ve also been responsible for shepherding six collections of short stories by single authors into publication. Right now I’m working with Daddy X (whom many of you will know from ERWA Storytime and Writers) to help him put together his full-length volume The Gonzo Collection, to be released by Excessica in April.

Writing and publishing is hard work. From researching obscure details to wrestling the recalcitrant muse, endless self-promoting to surviving snarky reviews, being an author is not for sissies. You need the energy of teenager, the thick skin of a water buffalo and the self-discipline of a saint.

Sometimes, though, I think that the editor role is even more difficult. If a book you write sucks, that reflects on you alone. When you’re the editor, on the other hand, you hold the fate of others in your hands. It’s not just your own reputation that’s on the line. Your colleagues depend on you to polish their work and make it shine. If the book crashes and burns—gets horrible reviews, or turns out to be full of errors—you take the authors down with you. That’s a heavy responsibility to bear.

Hence I have to be far more careful editing others’ work than self-editing my own. After all, I can rely on my editor to catch those typos or repeated words or slips in logic that I don’t see no matter how many times I review my manuscript. When I’m the editor, there’s no backup. If I miss some mistake, nobody else is going to find it—except, of course, critical readers.

The trickiest part of editing is keeping a light touch. The utmost delicacy is required. Sometimes I want to suggest significant revisions, to improve clarity or flow, to tighten a description or enliven some dialogue. I have to hold myself in check, recognizing that every author tells a story differently. There’s a very real danger in editing—especially when the editor is also an writer—that revisions will dilute the author’s distinctive voice. Some changes I could recommend might improve the work from a technical perspective but do violence to the author’s characteristic style. There’s a constant temptation to impose my own vision on the manuscript, especially when the author’s approach to structure, language and punctuation differ from my own.

I hope Daddy X won’t mind me using his work as an example. I love the boundless sexual enthusiasm in his stories, the wacky scenarios, his over-the-top descriptions and his sly humor. At the same time, his prose tends to have less continuity than mine. Where I’d put in a scene break or an explicit bridging paragraph, he’ll jump from one outrageous set of events to another without batting an eyelash. He also tends to make far heavier use of dialect than I’d feel comfortable with. And he seems to adore ellipsis and interrupted speech. It’s rare for his characters to get out a full sentence that doesn’t include an em dash or two.

If this were my book, I’d strip out eighty percent of the ellipses. I’d avoid using “ain’t”. I’d add transitional paragraphs to clarify the shifts in point of view, and I’d never have a character emit vocalizations like “Anh” or “Ooooowee!” or “Ogeg.”

But it’s not my book. It’s Daddy’s book, Daddy’s stories. If I were to set my red pen loose the way I would on a student term paper, that might stop being true. The resulting book would be more correct, grammatically. It might be easier to read. It would certainly be more conventional. My heavy-handed editing process, though, might well extinguish the spark that makes Daddy X’s work special.

I’m picking on the current book because it’s fresh in my mind, but I’ve felt the same tension in all my professional editing work. I have to constantly remind myself that there’s no one “right” way to write. My job as editor is to refine the raw material of the author’s initial draft without reshaping it too much. Preserving the author’s distinctive voice is as important as fixing his or her grammar.

I know from working with some of my own editors how hard they sometimes push for changes that I think are wrong. The authors with whom I work know they can always push back—that almost every change I make should be viewed as suggested rather than absolutely required. I hope they feel free to debate those suggestions, or simply reject them, if they think those revisions weaken the story they’re trying to tell.

In the end, my name will be on the final result, but I don’t want anyone to pick up the book and think “Gee, this sounds a lot like Lisabet’s prose.” That would indicate a utter and complete failure.

By Lisabet Sarai

A word to readers: this blog post has nothing to do with BDSM. However, it does feature some pain.

A few months ago, inspired by one of my blog posts here, Donna George Storey challenged ERWA followers to take the NWWTHYW challenge. “NWWTHYW” stands for “National Write Whatever The Hell You Want”. We declared March to be NWWTHYW month at ERWA and even established a special blog page for people to share their experiences.

I was pretty quiet during that month. I felt like a hypocrite. Because even as my fellow authors were crowing about setting their muses free and flying high on the currents of their personal visions, I was laboriously twisting and reshaping my most recent novel, trying to fit it into the pigeon hole established by my publisher. While other blog commenters basked in the glow of their creative fervor, I was agonizing about just how much I’d have to cut and rewrite in order to satisfy the submissions editor.

A bit of history is required to understand the situation. Late in 2013 I responded to a call for short erotic romance works (15-20K) on a particular theme. This theme was supposed to provide the foundation for a new imprint with this (highly successful) publisher. They planned to put lots of energy into marketing the series, as it was part of a major rebranding effort.

The publisher was quite specific about what type of story was required: light, humorous, romantic, with a bit of a chick lit flavor. BDSM and ménage were okay as long as things didn’t get too intense. The first few ideas I had didn’t get the editor’s approval, but then I hit on a winning concept and went on to write Her Secret Ingredient. This is a slightly silly story about an ambitious female chef who tries to seduce the devastatingly handsome but authoritarian Frenchman running the cooking network where she’s been hired as a special guest. Instead she snags the rumpled but attractive producer, who turns out to be a closet Dom.

After this book came out, in late 2013, the publisher asked if I would be interested in writing a novel-length sequel. After a bit of wavering, I decided to give it a try. I wrote a blurb and sent it to the editor. She loved it. So I plunged in, making steady progress. I submitted the book on Valentine’s Day, and waited for a response. I thought the book was pretty good. I’d managed to broaden and deepen the characterization, focusing on a BDSM triangle in which my heroine dominates the French chef but submits to the producer. The plot premise of a series of on-location cooking shows in France gave me lots of opportunities for local color. (Since I took a three week vacation to France in 2013, I had plenty of material!)

This publisher usually turns submissions from their established authors around in a few days to a week. In this case, though, several weeks went by without my hearing anything. Finally I inquired about the status of the book.

Well (the editor said), The Ingredients of Bliss was well-written (a sop to my pride?) but the dark, raw tone didn’t fit well with the imprint. And wasn’t the plot a bit too elaborate for a romance? (In a case of mistaken identity, the heroes are kidnapped by a Hong Kong drug cartel and the heroine must figure out how to save them.) Meanwhile, could I make this be a true ménage, with Emily be equally in love with both of the men (producer Harry and chef Etienne), rather than having her feelings portrayed as ambiguous? Or else could I tone down her relationship with Etienne and focus more strongly on the fact that she and Harry are in love? Readers won’t like her if they think she’s fickle. And while we’re talking about fickle, the fact that she’s attracted to and considering having sex with the villain (who happens to be a dead-ringer for Etienne) is just not acceptable. Oh, and the little hints about F/F attraction to the police officer who’s helping her? Our readers don’t really like F/F interactions in a heterosexual book.

Dark, raw tone? She should read some of my other stuff! Bangkok Noir, or Exposure, for instance. Okay, the book includes a bloody gun battle and an attempted rape (by the villain) with some strong language, as well as a gory but erotic nightmare, but none of this is gratuitous. It all advances the plot and helps develop the heroine’s character.

As for Emily’s “fickleness”, her uncertainty about her true feelings, I see this as the core emotional conflict in the story. While she fights for her lovers’ lives, she’s also trying to come to terms with her dual attraction and to decide which, if either, of the men she Loves. (I deliberately capitalize the word, since I mean “love” in the romance sense of soul-mate/long-term commitment.)

Sure, she’s not in love with the gangster Jean Le Requin, but the plot requires her to seduce him in order to achieve her goals. Given that he looks and even smells like one of her lovers, wouldn’t she react to him physically, even if her emotions weren’t involved?

Meanwhile, what’s with the “too much plot” issue? This is, after all, a novel. Sixty five thousand words. I can’t just fill that up with one love scene after another, no matter how creative the BDSM! I’d get bored, even if my readers wouldn’t.

My first reaction was to pull the book and submit it elsewhere. “This is National Write Whatever The Hell You Want Month”, I told myself. “Why should I compromise my artistic vision to fit the expectations of somebody else?”

I soon realized, though, that the novel would lose a lot if it were not associated with the original short story. So I bit the bullet and did a revision, trying to address at least some of the editor’s concerns. This was pretty tough. My work has a lot of inertia. I revise continually while I am working, but once I write “The End”, the book starts to fossilize. I don’t have trouble modifying a few sentences or paragraphs, but for better or worse, my stories tend resist major structural changes.

In this first round of edits, I removed the part where the villain fingers Emily to orgasm at the Grand Prix races, destroying her fancy lingerie in the process (though I was really fond of that scene). I took out a passage where she’s guiltily contemplating the pleasures of screwing him. I added more declarations of love between Emily and Harry. I streamlined the plot a bit and tried to make the details more coherent.

The modifications were not substantial enough to satisfy the editor.

I tried again, completely removing any hint of attraction between Emily and Jean. I softened the attempted rape scene quite a lot, removing both the most extreme epithets and much of the physical violence. Without being asked, I excised the terrifying erotic dream, which had an extremely dark tone.

Better. Can you try one more time, please? And while you’re at it, could you edit the blurb? It’s a bit long and elaborate and gives the plot away. Can you take out some of the details, to help build suspense? Oh, and it would be good to focus more on Harry and less on Etienne. Don’t want to give potential readers false impressions.

I sent in a third revision. As far as the blurb was concerned, I made some minor changes, but I told the editor that I disagreed with many of her comments. The suspense in this book (I wrote) does not revolve around the kidnap plot but rather around Emily’s ambivalence regarding her two lovers and the roles of dominant and submissive.

Finally, the book was accepted. I suspect that the editor may have been tired of all the negotiation. Or who knows, maybe they really do like it.

Other authors I’ve talked to have told me this is a normal process that they’ve been through many times. However, being asked to do multiple rounds of substantive edits like this was a new experience for me, an experience that I found quite unpleasant. At several points I was tempted to throw down my toys and walk away in a huff.

I kept at it for several reasons. First, this publisher has always treated me very well (and I don’t want to imply that they were anything less than professional and courteous during this process, either). Part of me (the part that always tried to get straight A’s) felt guilty and embarrassed that I hadn’t met their expectations. Second, I knew it would be hard to sell this book elsewhere. I could find a publisher – that wouldn’t be a problem – but despite my relative lack of success, I had targeted this specific imprint and the book would be something of an orphan otherwise.

Still, I feel a bit sheepish after championing NWWTHYW and blogging about “writing commando”. After all is said and done, I guess I’m just another pussy-whipped author, meekly adapting my work to fit the market. (Okay, maybe not “meekly”!) Was this a matter of principle? Should I have stood my ground? Did I betray my Art?

When I get to this point, I have to laugh at myself. I don’t view my words as sacred. I write to entertain myself and my readers, and to explore certain ideas and scenarios I find intriguing. And of course, to make a bit of money, if I can. Yes, these edits skewed the book away from my original vision, but so what? The revised book probably will be more popular than the original would have been. I don’t doubt that it’s closer to what this publisher’s readers want.

After all, this is just one book. I can always go dark, deep and raw in the next.

By Jean Roberta

(Note: My apologies for arriving late. I had trouble posting this piece earlier.)

The word “but” seems wildly unpopular these days. According to television counsellor Dr. Phil, whatever follows a “but” negates whatever came before it. In the context of personal relationships, there seems to be some truth in this claim. When a guest on the Dr. Phil show tells a Significant Other: “I’m sorry I cheated on you, but …” the rest of the sentence is always an attempt to justify the behaviour that the speaker supposedly regrets. When the defense lawyer in a sexual assault case says, “I’m not really saying the victim deserved what she got, but. . .” the rest of the sentence usually implies that she, not the perpetrator, was responsible for an unfortunate misunderstanding. When someone in an on-line thread says, “I’m not racist, but. . “ well, you see the pattern.

My spouse, as a professional counsellor, agrees with Dr. Phil. She tells me that when I say, “I like X, but . . .” the sentence contradicts itself in a confusing postmodern style.

Allow me to present the case for “but.”

I was delighted to teach a credit class in creative writing for the first time in Fall 2013, at the university where I have taught first-year literature-and-composition classes for (as of spring 2014) a quarter-century. I had offered informal crits of other people’s writing in the Storytime list here at Erotic Readers and Writers, but I was nervous about doing this in an official capacity. How could I judge other people’s short stories, poems, scripts or opinion pieces and assign grades to them without being unreasonably biased in favour of what I happen to like? On a deep level, this question nagged at me: Why on earth should other writers (even those almost young enough to be my grandchildren) respect my opinions? Am I brilliant or famous?

As it turned out, it seemed surprisingly easy to evaluate student assignments by the same standards I use to evaluate academic essays on literature. This is my general checklist:

– What is the purpose of this piece? (In the case of an essay, I look for a thesis, a controversial statement which will be defended with fairly objective evidence, much like an appeal to the jury by a prosecutor/district attorney or a defense attorney in criminal court. Neither lawyer can be neutral, or defend both sides.)

– How does this piece approach its purpose? If this seems to be a mood piece, does it use descriptive language? Does the writer “show” a situation or “tell” about it? What are the advantages of the strategies used, if any?

– Is this piece written grammatically, in standard English? (In the case of an essay, ungrammatical writing automatically lowers the grade.) If a creative piece is written informally, in slang or dialect, is this an attempt to produce the effect of spoken language? If so, does it work? Is the piece a linguistic experiment? If so, is it understandable?

– Is this piece coherent, or does it switch viewpoints for no apparent reason? Is the pacing uneven? Does something important seem to be left out?

When grading the assignments of eager young writers (of stories, novels-in-progress, structured poems, short plays and essays), I found much to admire, but I always had a “but.” Usually I liked the plot premise, but sometimes I found the characters two-dimensional or the dialogue full of cliches. I was taken aback by the number of apparently unintended grammatical problems in student writing. In the case of structured poems, the technical problems were easy to spot. (This is one reason why I gave the assignment). How many sonnets, I asked aloud rhetorically, have lines that vary from eight syllables to thirteen?

So my evaluations usually started with praise for the general conception of the piece, followed by a “but.” Example: Interesting contemporary drama about a dysfunctional family (and aren’t they all, if you look closely?), but do Canadians in the 21st century say, “Mark my words?” (As far as I know, this phrase might still be a part of local speech in some quaint backwater, but I suspect the student was too influenced by the literature of the past.) Or: Exciting, ambitious fantasy story, but how can an immortal character drop dead of natural causes, and why does the invisibility cloak only work on some occasions?

This brings me to a recent discussion in the Writers list, here at ERWA. Someone said that as writers, we can never know why an editor rejected one of our submissions. This statement seems akin to saying that we can never really, really know what another person means. I can agree with this, but I’m not convinced that editors are especially cagy about expressing their true opinions.

I’ve received numerous rejection letters. Trust me. They no longer sting as much as they used to because I’ve also had approximately 100 stories (mostly erotic) accepted for print anthologies, as well as a novella and three single-author story collections. Some of the editors who reject Story A from me (despite my hope and faith that this particular editor will love this particular story) then accept Story B, which I sent in on a whim, not expecting much. As they say, there is no explaining taste. When an editor tells me “I really like this story, but it’s not what I’m looking for,” I usually have no reason to think this message isn’t sincere. I know that editors could usually say more about their choices than they usually do say (especially in rejection messages), but a brief explanation isn’t necessarily code for: “Your writing sucks, and I never want to see any more of it.”

I value the “but.” It’s a useful and meaningful word. Sometimes when I reread my own writing, I use the “but” on myself. (Still love the idea, but OMG, this passage is unnecessarily long and draggy. Or conversely, no wonder this piece was rejected. It has lots of potential, but it’s a fantasy novel in embryo that I tried to squeeze into just under 5K. In its present form, it probably wouldn’t make sense to anyone but me.)

I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I use “but” (a co-ordinating conjunction that balances two grammatical units of equal weight), I hope the reader will understand that I’m really trying not to be obscure, snarky or completely negative. No one’s art – and no one’s life –could honestly be summed up as all good or all bad.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *

By Emilia Mancini (Guest Blogger)

As an editor, I should find that writing comes as
easily and smoothly as breathing. However, I am one of those writers
who has terrible personal ticks—bad habits that become a part of a
writer’s style. For me, the ticks formed early in my writing
career—long before becoming an editor and published author—and
have stuck with me. I fully recognize that I have these issues, but
as personal ticks tend to do, they have been nearly impossible to
break.

One of the worst things I do is use the
same words and phrases over and over. I latch onto a word and seem to
find a way to work it into every paragraph. Several times. This is an
incredibly annoying habit to me as an editor, but as a writer it’s
one that I can’t stop doing. I now edit my work looking
specifically for a word that that wriggles its way in far too often.
In my last book that word was “slid.” He slid down her body.
She slid his cock into her mouth. They slid onto the floor.
I cut
out so many instances of “slid,” I was nearly banging my head by
the time I finished.

Another tick, one that I can’t seem
to get away from, is “filtering”. Rather than just saying someone took
a slow drink, I have a terrible habit of saying something like, “He
watched her take a slow drink.”

If we are in his point of view, of
course he watched her. If he wasn’t seeing her take a drink, we
wouldn’t be seeing it either. There is no reason for the writer to
constantly tell us he was watching or he looked or he felt. Tighten
those sentences up, get rid of those filters, and get right to the
point.

The last bad habit that I just recently
realized I have, is using the word “again.” Okay, I already said
that I fixate on words and over use them, but my abuse of “again”
deserves its own tick. If you have this habit as well, stop. Stop
now. “He kissed her again.” Or “She moaned his name again.”

Again is a lazy word. It’s basically
saying, “I’m too tired or uncreative to find another way to say
what is happening.” If you have to use “again,” constantly
throughout a scene, take a step back and see what can be altered to
shake up your word usage, because I promise you, something can be
changed to expand on what you are trying to express.

There are so many ticks and we all have
them, we all have things that define our way of writing that makes
our editors cringe. The trick is to find those problems and correct
them before they make it to the editor’s desk.

Some tips for editing:

1. Walk away and come back later.
Reading and re-reading something you just wrote makes it nearly
impossible to see your errors. Let it sit for a few hours, or days
if you have the patience. When you come back, your brain will more
easily see what is actually on the computer screen instead of what
you intended to say.

2. No, it’s not easy, but try to
read first for content. Fix plot holes and inconsistencies before
getting hung up on technical issues. Pay attention to things like
eye and hair color and the names of secondary characters. These are
things that can easily be mixed up.


3. Read your manuscript again for
grammar, those pesky writing ticks, and incorrect spellings that
have slipped through your computer’s spell check program.


4. One last step, one that can make a
huge difference in how you see your words, is to print the book on
paper. If you have the patience, put it aside for a day or two. Then
curl up and get to reading.

Though these steps are basic and
suggested repeatedly, they are tried and true editing tips that can
make the difference between a sloppy first draft and a solid
submission that an editor, and hopefully a publisher, can really sink
her teeth into. Utilizing all or just a few of these also can help
you recognize and correct your own personal ticks—before your
editor rips her hair out.

Bio

In her “real” life, Emilia Mancini
is a Developmental Editor at Musa Publishing, a freelance journalist
working
for numerous magazines, and a freelance editor/publicist
working with independent authors. She has a double BA in Journalism
and Public Relations and will earn her MS in Publishing from
University of Houston-Victoria in May 2014.

Emilia is published with Musa
Publishing, Liquid Silver Books, and Sweet Cravings Publishing (as
Marci Boudreaux). Her newest release, Seducing Kate, is now available
from Musa Publishing. Learn more about Emilia at
www.emiliamancini.com
or connect at https://www.facebook.com/authoremiliamancini
and https://twitter.com/Emilia_Mancini

By Lisabet Sarai

“The good is the enemy of the
best.”
Anonymous proverb

I’m sure most readers have encountered
the maxim above. The point? That it’s a mistake to be satisfied with
“good enough”. By exerting only the minimum effort needed
to fulfill the requirements of some task, you’re missing out on the
opportunity to produce something truly great.

Personally, I subscribe to this
philosophy―up to a point. I believe that when you commit yourself
to something, you should be willing to devote 100% of your effort to
meeting that commitment. That means not making excuses (except of
course in extreme situations like illness or family crises). It means
seriously applying yourself to the problem you’ve shouldered,
spending whatever time is realistically necessary to solving it.

In the so-called real world, I’m a
teacher (among other things). Nothing upsets me as much as a student
who’s happy just to “get by”. That sort of student is wasting
his own time as well as mine. (Please pardon my choice of pronoun. I
don’t mean to imply that this pattern is limited to males.) I don’t
know why he bothers. Sure, he may get a passing grade, but aside from
that, what will he have to show for the months he’s spent in my
class? I’d much rather put my own effort into a poor student who is
really trying to understand the material despite the difficulties
than a more talented individual who isn’t willing to work.

So I definitely think it’s important to
do one’s best―up to a point. At the same time, as an author, I’ve
seen many examples of the perils of perfectionism. I have writer friends who
have been working on the same novel for years, rereading, revising,
going through periodic crises of confidence about whether their book
is really worth publishing. It’s sad. I feel like shaking them.
“Stop already!”, I want to say. “Submit the darn thing! You
can’t publish your work unless you submit it!”

New and aspiring authors, pay
attention! You can’t publish your work unless you submit it. Which
means that at some point you have to stop polishing your prose and
say enough is enough.

The French playwright Voltaire is
credited with the reverse of the saying above: “The best is the
enemy of the good.” When it comes to writing, I think this
statement holds a good deal of truth. There’s no such thing as a
perfect story. If you’re like me, every time you re-read one of your
manuscripts you see some change that might improve it. Don’t give in
to the temptation. Decide ahead of time how many drafts you’re going
to do and stick to that decision. Otherwise, you’ll get bogged down
with one tale and never get a chance to write the others that are
clamoring for your creative attention.

One thing I’ve learned is that it’s not
worth agonizing over a single book. You have to submit it, let it go
and move on to your next. If I don’t like what an editor or publisher
has done with something I’ve written, I don’t get my knickers in a
twist. There are more stories where that came from, or at least I
hope there are. This attitude helps me deal with rejection, too.
Maybe I’ll find another home for a rejected tale. Maybe I won’t. In
any case, I need to move on.

Readers are hungry. You have to keep
them fed with a continuing stream of good material. Good, not
perfect.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not
excusing sloppiness, poor grammar, spelling errors or wildly-veering
point of view. If you’re a professional writer, you have a
responsibility to learn your craft and apply it to the best of your
ability. The fact is, though, the more you write, the more you hone
your technical skills. If you get hung up revising one work to death,
you’re missing the opportunity to keep learning.

Compared to many authors I know, I do
relatively little editing. I rarely do more than two drafts. I do
have a tendency to edit as I write, reviewing and modifying material
from my last session before settling down to attack the day’s goals,
so my first draft is probably more highly polished than some
authors’. I’m also pretty good with the nuts and
bolts―grammar,spelling, punctuation and the like―so I can focus
on higher level issues like characterization, pacing and emotional
impact even during the initial pass.

Deadlines are a huge help, by the way.
If you’re new to the writing game, let me assure you: deadlines are
your friends! Once you’ve made a commitment to submit a work by a
particular date, you can pace yourself. You can make rational
decisions about how much editing is feasible. You’re not likely to be
caught in the perfectionist trap.

So now I’ll make a possibly
embarrassing admission. I just submitted a 17K story after producing
only a single draft. Am I being lazy? I don’t think so―and in any
case, I didn’t have a choice. I’m leaving in two days for a three
week foreign trip, and I promised the story by October. Plus I have
more deadlines stacked up when I return. It will simply have to be
good enough.

In any case, I’m pretty happy with it.
I’ve found that my best stories tend to be the ones that I write
quickly, the ones where inspiration carries me along. This tale is no
literary masterpiece, but it fits the call for submissions to a T.
And, after reading the blurb, the publisher has asked whether I’d be
willing to write a 60K novel based on the same characters.

I’m going to wait a while before I
commit to that deadline! 

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