Sex with a Stranger: Chapter One

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Rule #1: No real names

Sadie Van Der Zee stood outside the bar, inhaling the cold air and steeling herself. She felt this every time. The excitement that verged on anxiety. The butterflies that started in her stomach, then fluttered lower and lower. The sense that she shouldn’t go in and the knowledge that she would anyway. She took a final deep breath, patted the dark brown curls that were normally dead straight and stepped in through the street-facing entrance.

Inside it was dark and crowded. The only lights were on the walls at intervals that meant they didn’t illuminate much. The effect was a muted feeling; long shadows fell from the patrons who were standing and over those who were sitting. It made it hard to distinguish features – one dark-haired man looked a lot like the next. But Sadie found the dark-haired man she was looking for on her first scan.

He was standing at the far end nearest the other entryway to the bar, the one that led into the reception of the adjoining hotel. He looked a little different from his photograph – broader shoulders, clean shaven, better dressed – which surprised her a little. Usually, the reality couldn’t live up to the promise. Even Sadie looked better in her online profile than she did in real life. She felt those butterflies again as she thought about peeling his shirt from his shoulders and seeing if they matched what she was imagining. Continue reading

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Practice Novels: Not Just for the Start of a Writer’s Career

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In my late teens and early twenties, I wrote three novels that I like to refer to as my practice novels. At the time that I was writing them, I didn’t realise that I was just practising. It was only after they were complete that I knew they weren’t good enough, they weren’t the genre I wanted to pursue and they were unlikely to ever see the light of day.

I published the sex scene from the last of them, Liberty’s Secret, in 2015 in conjunction with a blog post on writing sex scenes, mostly to demonstrate that I’m not very good at writing sex scenes. It was full of euphemisms, the highs and lows of waves and crashing, and an overblown sense of emotion. Certainly, it was completely devoid of accurate names for genitalia. (That’s one of the big no-no’s of the romance genre I was attempting to write in.) And I published the entire book chapter by chapter on this blog earlier in 2017, just because… well, why not? I hate wasting writing.

I thought that was the end of my practice novels. But when I sat down to watch the movie of Fifty Shades of Grey, despite its flaws, I realised these genres and sex scenes more generally aren’t going anywhere. They are popular. And if done well, they can be important components of plot and character development. So I could continue avoiding them in my writing or I could try to get better.

Yes, more than twenty-five years after beginning my writing career and after publishing three books, I decided to write another practice novel. I had no intention of attempting to publish it for profit, just to improve on this writing area. Continue reading

How to Psych Yourself into Writing a Book

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After I wrote close to one hundred blog posts in 2015 about developing ideas, characters and plots, writing, editing, publishing, marketing and reading, I realised I had written enough to fill a book. And when I collated them all together, I realised it flowed nicely enough to seem like I’d done it on purpose. I’d written a book without even trying to write a book. That’s how Project December: A Book About Writing was born.

After I published Project December, I continued writing blog posts in the same vein but, of course, this time I knew I was heading towards writing a sequel. Why wouldn’t I? It had been so easy last time. I even wrote a blog post called, “How to write a book without even trying.”

The problem was that because I knew I was heading towards another book, it wasn’t going to be the same process. I wasn’t going to be able to write a book without even trying. Because I was trying to write a book.

I set a deadline for myself but as it approached, I knew for various reasons that I was never going to make it. Life, work and other pieces of writing were getting in the way.

Instead of giving up, I told myself that the deadline wasn’t important. I was the only person who knew it and I was the only person who would know it was going to pass by unmet. The important thing was that I eventually finished writing the book, regardless of whenever that time came.

So I just kept writing. I wrote when I had something to say. I wrote when I felt like it. I wrote when I had nothing else scheduled. And before I knew it, in less than two months, the first draft was finished. It only took one month more for the text to be finalised. How, I asked myself, did that happen? How, when I was so sure it would never happen in that time frame? Continue reading

The Fiction Versus Non-Fiction Debate: Is One Better Than the Other?

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I recently spent time with a group of friends I see roughly four or five times a year and one of them asked me how my writing was going, knowing that I was doing it full-time. Well, I told her. Did I have a daily routine? she asked. Just to sit down and start, I replied. And when would my next book be out? In a few months. Non-fiction, I clarified. My next novel would be published in about a year’s time. Oh, she said with a hint of disappointment and then moved onto conversation with someone else.

That “Oh” gave me pause. Everyone else I’ve ever discussed my writing with (which isn’t too many people as I find it a little self-indulgent and difficult to do justice to when I’m the one talking) has had the exact same response, which is admiration – admiration at the fact that I’ve written and published books. After all, so many people talk about it and never get around to doing it but continue talking about it until anyone hearing them talk about it wants to beat them over the head with their non-existent book.

I also found it a little strange because I’ve always thought of non-fiction as a slightly higher, slightly more respectable calling than fiction (not my non-fiction, though, just the non-fiction of others) because it requires knowing what you are writing about (or it should) whereas in fiction you can just make up any old thing. Still, they both require effort and commitment over a reasonably lengthy period of time. Why would one let alone the lesser other (whichever you happen to think it is) elicit an “Oh”? Continue reading

Liberty’s Secret: Chapter Fifteen

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I wrote Liberty’s Secret thirteen years ago when I thought I was going to be a romance writer (before I got bored by the formula). But when I decided that wasn’t the kind of writing I wanted to do, my completed genre novel was essentially abandoned and forgotten. But sometimes I get nostalgic about the path I’ve taken as a writer (and that includes the path not taken). So over the next two months, I’ll be posting it here a chapter at a time.

This is Chapter Fifteen, the final chapter. Continue reading

Liberty’s Secret: Chapter Fourteen

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I wrote Liberty’s Secret thirteen years ago when I thought I was going to be a romance writer (before I got bored by the formula). But when I decided that wasn’t the kind of writing I wanted to do, my completed genre novel was essentially abandoned and forgotten. But sometimes I get nostalgic about the path I’ve taken as a writer (and that includes the path not taken). So over the next two months, I’ll be posting it here a chapter at a time.

This is Chapter Fourteen. Continue reading

Liberty’s Secret: Chapter Thirteen

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I wrote Liberty’s Secret thirteen years ago when I thought I was going to be a romance writer (before I got bored by the formula). But when I decided that wasn’t the kind of writing I wanted to do, my completed genre novel was essentially abandoned and forgotten. But sometimes I get nostalgic about the path I’ve taken as a writer (and that includes the path not taken). So over the next two months, I’ll be posting it here a chapter at a time.

This is Chapter Thirteen. Continue reading