Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Piers Anthony Blogs If Formal Training Helps Writers Get Agents

One of my readers, Mark Geatches, suggested that I set up a FAQ section for the convenience of readers, which should also spare me the inconvenience of answering similar questions repeatedly. I pondered, and finally decided to do that here. He suggested some questions, and I'm adding more, and will add others as they come up. But be warned; I seem to be incapable of giving a simple answer to a simple question.

Does formal training help new writers get agents? This is the question, so I'll address it, but the simple answer is No. I had formal training, in the form of my BA in Creative Writing, but it still took me six years after college to make my first sale. Agent? An informal group of us aspiring writers queried all the agents listed, and not only got nowhere, some didn't bother to answer. Folks, Parnassus—that is, traditional print publishing, is essentially a closed shop and a Catch 22. Many publishers buy only from agents, and most agents won't even consider unpublished authors. The ratio of aspiring writers to available publishing slots is somewhere south of 100 to 1. As one established writer told me, the fat hogs have their snouts in the swill and they aren't about to let the new little piggies in. So forget about agents; if you're new, you can't get a good one, and you sure as hell don't want a bad one.
So how did I make it? I went first for the magazines, where you don't need an agent, and kept sending in stories for eight years, two during college, six thereafter. Finally, by persistence and luck, I made a sale and a whole $20. Thereafter it was easier, as I gradually became known. I made only a pittance; my wife had to work to support us. Then, faintly known at least by magazine editors, I went to novels, and sold my first novel four years after my first story. But there's more competition today, so I think it's harder for a new writer to break in. That's why I say you need luck: to have your manuscript on the right desk at the right time.
Fortunately today there are better options, some of which I have helped promote, such as self publishing and electronic publishing. So you don't need formal training, or an agent; just write your best and try the new markets and hope to get lucky. The question is irrelevant.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Piers Anthony Blogs on Writing Erotica Fantasy, "Eroma"

As I said elsewhere, I like to try different things, whether in life or writing. This is also true within the several genres I have tried over the decades. While my prior efforts have been mostly in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Martial Arts, Historical, or Horror, in recent years I have tried Erotic, notably with the dirty fantasy Pornucopia and its sequel The Magic Fart, and with the Relationships story collections. I regard myself as a natural story writer who got shunted into novels for economic reason, because it was not possible to earn a living from just stories. Two things are changing that: in my dotage I no longer have to make money from stories, and electronic publishing makes it possible for anyone to publish just about anything. So I have enjoyed writing stories again, of whatever type, but mostly erotic because that's where the main market is. Just as the fondest desire of most folk is to love and be loved, a writer's desire is to write and be read. And loved, of course; critics are not welcome.
I have a huge file of story ideas. Whenever I get a notion, which can be anywhere/anywhen, I scribble a note in pencil so I won't lose it, then later type it up as a summary and put it in my Idea File, where it remains until it gets the curtain call and emerges to fulfill its fondest desire, which is to be written. Sometimes I get amendment notions on following days, amplifying or qualifying prior ideas, which become further summaries. A really hot idea can thus finally amass five or six thousand words and has to be written lest it burst out on its own and cut out the middleman, that is the author, me. But not every idea makes a perfect story. Some are fragments, moods, mental pictures, dreams, or have conceptual flaws, interesting but incomplete. Some are retakes of prior notions, as I realize when I see them formulated. I'm not sure how many times I've had this Great Idea for a situation in which beautiful women suddenly are as eager for sex as normal men are. It's a common male fantasy bearing little relation to reality. Chances are that a lovely woman who says she's eager for sex is actually interested in something else, like ironclad commitment; sex is merely a skillfully wielded tool to corral the man. But some of my ideas in the file are good original notions that ought to be used. To me a story idea is like a living thing; it should not be allowed to suffer without recognition in the dark dungeon of anonymity. Every notion, like every person, deserves its chance. What could I do with these desperate children of my imagination who could not quite make it on their own?
Then I got a bright notion about notions: why not try making these failed story ideas into the chapters of a novel? Such as a virtual-reality game framework where the qualities of avatars are defined by sexual interactions. Or a castle invasion where the Amazonian warrior women—no relation to the bookseller/publisher Amazon, at least not that I know of—can be defeated only by sexually penetrating them deep enough to reach the internal trigger for their orgasm? Or the restaurant wherein the food is seemingly urinated, defecated, or vomited out by the servers. Could this possibly work?
So I tried it, and it did. The ideas did not have to be complete stories; they needed only to contribute to the larger whole. Thus a man and a woman meet as players in the erotic romance game, competitive yet necessarily cooperative, their avatars having sex that their real bodies experience. That is, the game setting may be fantasy, but the sex is fundamentally real. They fall in love as avatars, and complete it in their real bodies. I'm not sure this kind of romance has been done this thoroughly before, but I loved doing it in Eroma. The title is made from the concept: EROtic ROMAnce.
Which raises questions. Can game players really be wired to experience triggered orgasms? Women as readily as men? At such time as the technology becomes available, this game should break records for popularity. The assumption is that when women are freed of the physical and emotional risks of sex, as they are in the avatar state, and provided with a way to get the same instant pleasure from it as men do, they will happily compete. For one thing, they are universally desirable in the avatar state, regardless of their state in mundane life. Now they can be freely sexual in the wildest settings, with any number of partners, have it all on public display, and have no guilt, because after all it's only a game. So women can compete sexually on an even basis with the men, have repeated orgasms, try to win the prize, and become anonymously notorious. Maybe even be acclaimed as the most desirable creatures in the world. Pleasure for its own sake, the traditional male fantasy becoming a female fantasy too. Yes, I think women will like this game as well as the men do, perhaps for qualitatively distinct reasons, but just as intensely. The novel may be a mere prelude to a virtual reality not far in our future. What do you think?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Piers Anthony Blogs About Writing Schedules

One of my readers, Mark Geatches, suggested that I set up a FAQ section for the convenience of readers, which should also spare me the inconvenience of answering similar questions repeatedly. I pondered, and finally decided to do that here. He suggested some questions, and I'm adding more, and will add others as they come up. But be warned; I seem to be incapable of giving a simple answer to a simple question.

How do I write? Do I have a schedule, or wait for inspiration? 

I have a rough schedule. I can't work set hours each day because I have other things to do, like making meals, washing dishes, and grocery shopping, my wife's health restricting her, and I have a reasonably rigorous exercise program that also takes time. But I try to be at my desk from 9AM to 1 PM, and from 2:30PM to 5 PM, and from 6 PM to 7:30 PM. That is, about eight hours a day. I seldom get that much, and of course everything else in the world seems to have better things for me to do than write. Hell, this blog is an example; the time spent on it comes directly out of my novel writing time. So does fan mail. So does reading. So does making love to my wife. Life gets constantly in the way. I'm a writaholic; there is writing, and there is everything else. The two sometimes seem to compete with each other, like day and night. So I may average about four hours a day of actual writing, seven days a week. I write efficiently, and I get a lot done. I have mastered the Muse, being able to summon inspiration at need. So I don't wait for inspiration, I make it wait on me.