Thursday, January 29, 2015

Estimating Length

No, not that length. Get your filthy minds out of the gutter. I'm talking about the length of a story.

Most recently, I was working on a short story for a call for submissions looking for spy-themed erotic stories between 3,000 and 7,000 words.

A while back, I had a sliver of a story idea. It was just an opening scene. A woman in a convertible is driving across one of the causeways in Miami. She's an undercover FBI agent and has stolen some information from the bad guy. She notices she's being followed, so she tries to hide the information.

At the time, I had her steal the information on a CD-ROM disc and use her lipstick to disguise it as a music CD. This technology is now obsolete, so I came up with a new method for stealing and hiding the information that worked for an erotic romance. You'll have to read the story if/when it's published to find out how.

While trying to find a place to hide the information, she runs into a guy from high school. He's now a librarian and she convinces him to help her. Worlds collide, sparks fly, and so on.

That was all the plot I had.

Of course, I had to develop the story—fill in the how, why, and what happens next. Most of that evolved from doing character development, including back story that would probably never make it into the final version, and establishing a theme. In this case, the theme emerged: a strong woman can be submissive too.

This particular story developed out of sequence. I had the opening. The scene where she meets the librarian quickly came together after that. Then things became sketchy. I knew I needed a climactic scene with the bad guy, but I wasn't sure when, how, or where that would take place. So then, I thought about how I wanted the story to end. Given the theme, I soon had an ending in mind and wrote a rough draft of the end scenes.

That left me with a beginning, an ending, and a big question mark for the middle. To get an idea of how much room I had to work with, I wrote a rough draft of the opening scene leading up to her running into the librarian. I decided the next scene should be from the librarian's point of view (POV)—to fill in some back story about his feelings for her and to describe her manner and appearance.

At this point, I was at about 1,500 words, so I thought I had lots of room to work with. As I wrote the scene from the librarian's POV, a rough scene breakdown started forming. It looked something like this:

  1.  Opening scene. Rissa's POV. Being followed, runs into Nick.
  2. Nick's POV. Surprised by her appearance, suspects something's wrong, learns she's an FBI agent working undercover as a dominatrix.
  3. Rissa's POV. Spanking scene.
  4. Rissa's POV. At her apartment later. Nick shows up, they talk, things start getting intimate, then Bad Guy shows up wanting her services.
  5. Nick's POV. Hiding in a closet, he watches Rissa play domme with the bad guy.
  6. Rissa's POV. Gets rid of Bad Guy and then Nick pounces on her. They have sex.
  7. Rissa's POV. Morning after. More intimacy develops with Nick.
  8. Climax. Rissa's POV. When, where, how, what?
  9. Ending-part A. Nick's POV. Rissa shows up at his office.
  10. Ending-part B. Rissa's POV. Happily Ever After.

The problem of the climax ate at me for a few days, then I slapped my head and realized I should KISS. (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) I decided the bad guy would just show up at her apartment the morning after and they'd have their big confrontation.

I went ahead with my writing and I was somewhere in the third scene when I noticed I was closing in on 5000 words. Alarm bells went off in my head and I added the ending, which I'd previously written. The word count then became 6,600, leaving me 400 words to get in five more scenes including the climax. I knew that was impossible.

The plot needed to be drastically scaled back and I had to make some serious cuts in what I'd already written. After trimming about a thousand words, I wrote the climactic scene, because that was absolutely necessary, then used what was left for the sex scene between the main characters. Even after simplifying the plot, I still went 600 words over the max word count and had to do more slicing and dicing.

In the end, I had to sacrifice a lot of back story, insight into the main characters, and cut the scene showing the protagonist in her dominatrix role. In hindsight, the original scene breakdown seems ridiculously long for 7000 words. Fortunately, I think the final version works and doesn't suffer for all the things I had to leave out.

However, I find myself in this position a lot—overestimating how much plot I can get into a certain length. I wish there was some formula to determine how much plot you can reasonably fit into a certain word count. If anyone has come up with such a thing, please feel free to share it with me. Hopefully, with more experience, I'll be better able to estimate length and avoid making such major changes.

By the way, the story mentioned above is a 6,993-word erotic romance called "Undercover Desires." It has been submitted to a publisher and is currently under consideration. My fingers are figuratively crossed and I will keep you posted.

All the best,

Ria ;)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


[This is another topic from my old blog that I've rewritten.]

A couple of years ago, I read Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem! In case you don’t know, he’s the founder of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which comes around every November. For some time, I’ve been intrigued by this idea, but have been scared to death to participate and actually commit to writing a novel in a month. I mean, what happens if you don’t finish -- do they shoot you? Surely, the earth will stop spinning and giant meteors will rain down on my head, right?

Which brings up another big problem of mine . . . fear. Of a lot of things. I’m sure fear will come up again, but back to accountability . . .

Baty suggests that a certain amount of fear can be effective motivation. And having someone to report your progress to can make you write -- so you don’t look like a loser and hang your head in shame when you fail to make any progress. Obviously, I’m paraphrasing.

For a while, I’d been thinking about asking a loved one to ask me every day how many words I’d written that day. I never did that. Mainly, because I was sure I’d regret it five seconds after I did it. My own internal nag is hard enough to silence; having an additional external nag would be even harder to ignore. Especially when it comes to one of my favorite pastimes . . . procrastination.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? To stop ignoring the nag and WRITE!

My first blog -- in which I'd planned to report my daily progress -- seemed a happy compromise. That didn't work out, because after two posts, I ignored that too.

However, this story does have a positive ending. It took a whole lot of kicking and screaming, but every week, I now submit a writing progress report to someone who shall remain nameless. I hated, absolutely despised, this idea at first, but I've been doing it for a month and a half, and I have to say -- it's the best thing I've ever done. I'm writing more and accomplishing more than I have in a long while, because I know I'm going to have to make that report at the end of the week and I don't want to look like a slug.

Anyway, back to my work in progress,

Ria ;)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Getting it Written

[In one of my early posts on my old (now deleted) blog, I mentioned a quote that is significant to me. I've rewritten that post, because I believe it's important and deserves repeating.]

An article I read a while ago -- I can't remember which one -- provided some inspirational, writing-related quotes. There was one that spoke to me so much that I have it written on a dry erase board on the wall I sit in front of every day. The quote is from James Thurber, of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" fame, and it states:

"Don't get it right the first time. Just get it written."
I have no idea in what context he related this brilliance, but it speaks to a major problem of mine -- I have quite a few, by the way. This problem is that I try to write things perfectly the first time. And wanting to "get it right the first time" tends to paralyze me as a writer. I'll have read and reread what I've written here so far probably a hundred times, looking for mistakes and trying to make it perfect. No joke. I probably have a touch of OCD (Obsessive-compulsive discover). Can you have a touch of OCD? And no offense meant to anyone with OCD.

This probably goes back to me doing my high school math homework in pen. It made me work out the problems in my head before putting anything down on paper. Not the best way to write, I’m finding out.

So, every day, I try to live the quote and JUST WRITE!

Meaning, I'm trying to get the characters, stories, scenes, etc. out of my head and just write them down, then worry about editing and perfecting it later. It's hard not to agonize over every word, but I write more when I focus on "just getting it written."

However, I’m not completely over my crap yet, so that’s why I’m first writing these posts on a word processor. So I can edit and fine tune them all I want before posting. Hey, one step at a time.

All the best,

Ria ;)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Take Two: A Reintroduction

A couple of years ago, I started another blog as a way to get my writing butt in gear. My plan was to post my writing progress every day to motivate me. Well, that crashed and burned after only two posts -- for a lot of reasons that would probably bore you.

But now it's 2015, a brand new year with brand new goals -- which I think are more realistic. As far as this blog is concerned, I hope to update it regularly with my thoughts about writing romance and erotica, writing in general, my works in progress, and any publishing success.

Now, for my reintroduction . . .

Hi, I'm Ria Restrepo (pen name) and I'm a writer of romance and erotica -- or a combination of the two. Under other names, I've written everything from literary fiction to political humor and have had some modest publishing success. I've also done some editing. My writing/editing career thus far has had its ups and downs, so I'm basically starting over. As Ria Restrepo, I'm focusing on writing what I love to read, which is mainly romance and erotica.

My new pen name not only gives me a fresh start, but it also better reflects my ethnic heritage -- which is half Hispanic and half almost everything else -- so I plan on sticking with it.

I live in Florida and have spent most of my life here. Despite its many idiosyncrasies -- or maybe because of them -- I love Florida. You can't beat the weather (most of the time) and I have a thing for palm trees. Many of my stories are set somewhere in the Sunshine State.

Now for my writing goals for this year:

  •  Submit at least ten works (short or long) for publication.
  • Finish one novel (60k-100k words) and/or two novellas (10k-60k).

That should be entirely doable, but we'll see how it goes. Wish me luck -- and good writing!

All the best,

Ria ;)