Thursday, January 21, 2016

Birthday Sex

I know we just had the big New Year’s countdowns and reflections, but my birthday was two days ago; so for me, this is bigger. It presents a candid opportunity to look at my accomplishments to date and my future goals as a writer. A birthday is a serious crossroads. One minute you’re younger, the next you’re as old as F*&k. 

I appreciate that in reality it’s a slow, gradual build up, but something about that number flipping from one day to the next, like a sadistic, surreal countdown to mortality, is humbling.
I thought since I’m twenty-nine (again) I should come up with a kick-ass twenty-nine list—something really mind-altering and profound—detailing all the things I’ve learned as a writer this year. Problem is, I could only come up with three. So, here instead, is my concise, yet enlightening birthday list. In no particular order:

1.  I really like sex. But more, I really like writing about sex and plan on weaving more of that pleasurable tapestry into my novels. I went to a workshop recently that challenged the audience to find ways of incorporating sex into literary fiction. What I mean to say is, in this workshop, we were exploring deep and penetrating (sorry, couldn’t help myself ;) uses of any sexual act or erotic tension to bring a story to a whole other psychological level. I decided that concept sucked balls (really, this is too easy ;) and will continue to write sex to titillate and entertain.

Sex scenes in any story shouldn’t be gratuitous. It has to mean something to the characters and progress the plot, but it doesn’t need to turn my characters’ worlds upside down and rock them to their core… unless it’s a mind-blowing orgasm—then it should totally do that. There is a time and place for deep questions about sex and sexuality in writing, but there’s also a forum to play with the erotic in a fun and sensuous way. I don’t want to change the world, I just want my characters to be very, very happy. 

2.  I need to write more. I’ve been to a lot of workshops lately that tout the need to write prolifically and super fast. These facilitators were throwing around insane numbers like completing six to seven novels a year. Each of these mystical creatures needed to be between 50,000 – 75,000 words long.

When I first started writing, it took me five years to complete my self-help guide, Life: Living in Fulfillment Every Day. At the time, I was working with my beautiful co-author Annemarie, so I blame the logistics of coordination. My second book, which happened to be my debut historical romance Avelynn, took a year and a half to write, and a year and a half to edit. Three years. Not bad. I was clearly making progress. The second book in the Avelynn series took two years in total. Currently, I’m working on a contemporary romance and have lofty aspirations to finish it well before a year is up. But, seven novels in one year? I know incredible writers who can actually do this. And kudos to you. Seriously. I’m jealous.
For those of you interested in writing more, faster… here’s my take away from those educational workshops: outline, outline, outline. I’m a pantser, so this was a tough pill for me to swallow, but I have to admit, I tried outlining a three act structure using Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat for my newest novel: Hot in Aruba, and it helped. A lot. I have a greater understanding of story structure and where the big moments are and why they are there. Once you get the main bits and pieces down in your outline and are ready to write your novel, take a few moments each and every day to get a feel for what you are going to write before you sit down to write it. Make jot notes; use conscious flow. Do whatever you have to do to understand what needs to happen in the scene you’re about to write and why it needs to happen. Figure out your most prolific time of day. Do you write more in the mornings? Evenings? Commit to writing during that time. Use the rest of the day to catch up on social media, for example. Determine your best place to work, where you are least likely to be distracted. Know your strengths and use them.

3.   Debut novels are not always the great big shiny stars you wished they would be. Once you discover this painful, festering gash of wisdom, you have to learn to cope with it. Avelynn, my beautiful book baby, didn’t get off to a great start. It did very well in Canada, but just couldn’t break into the American market. No matter what I did to promote it, not enough people knew it existed. Despite fantastic reviews, including glowing accolades in Canada’s National Newspaper The Globe and Mail, I just couldn’t garner enough attention. There are millions of books on Amazon alone, trying to make yours stand out is like finding a needle in a haystack. Once you come to this startling conclusion, there might be confusion, grief, despair, incredulity, anger, and frustration, but ultimately there will be relief and acceptance. If you’ve made it this far, a good rule of thumb is to understand that a debut novel is merely a gateway, a stepping stone to bigger and better things. The key is to keep writing.

I’m sure I’ve discovered a great deal more writing wisdom in the 365 days since I last encountered such a stark reminder of my distant birth year, but age blurs the memory. I’ll start working on the other twenty-six points as I go along for next year’s 29th birthday post. :D

In gratitude,

Marissa xo


  1. So much wisdom! Sounds like you've had a great year. Happy Birthday!

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