At the beginning of May, erotic fiction author Richard Bacula set out to complete the "Story A Day in May" challenge, requiring himself to write one story each day of a certain word count. Now that May is over, I wanted to hear all about the process, the stories, and the impact his strict regiment played in his life. You can read about his 2015 May Challenge here.
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1) Where you able to meet your goal?
Short answer: Yes, with an hour to spare!
The last two days of the contest, I had to scramble to catch up, cranking out five stories per day, but I made it under the deadline.
Long answer: Technically, no, because my goal was to write (or finish) a short story for each day in May, with a minimum word count of 2,500 words. I managed to write 31 short stories in 31 days as planned, but there were two exceptions to the minimum word-count:
1. I wrote a horror story for a small press under a pseudonym. It was under 1,800 words, so that’s a technical foul. I’m not counting it because the point of the word count was to make certain that each story was long enough to be its own title. In this case, the word count didn’t need to be that high in order to get published.
2. My short story “Research Assistant Renee” was about 500 words short of the goal, but I do plan to pad it out to the full 2500 words when I hear back from my over-worked volunteer beta-readers. Enough of my other stories were far over the minimum word count that I am quite content to ignore this technical failure as well.
Next year, I plan to word things more carefully, to make my goal more manageable.
2) What struggles did you encounter while attempting to puke out a story of a certain word count for 31 days?
I encountered many struggles, primarily that my FDJ required much of my time and attention, and I wasn’t able to focus my month solely on writing. Toward the end of the month, I had to request a full day off in order to make the goal, and that plus other compromises meant that I took a minor financial hit in order to commit to this project: More hours writing meant less hours actively getting paid.
In the long run, I am confident that the vast increase in my number of titles will bring in significantly more money than I lost.
Similarly, I have certain dogs and certain women in my life that require regular attention, and I have some making up to do in that regard as well. My social life also dropped essentially to nothing for the duration of the month.
Writing-wise, it was a constant challenge to pick not only a story idea that I could write, but one that I could write Right Fucking NOW. Normally when writing even a short story, there is more time to let things sit a bit while you mull them over in your mind. With this project, I had no such luxury. I had to spend virtually all of my free time either sitting at the keyboard actively writing, or sleeping until I was rested enough to write. The pressure of the deadline made me commit a lot faster to plot angles, and to learn to write more freely with fewer hangups.
At the same time, I did make two or three false starts, where I wrote a thousand words or more on a story, then realized that I needed more time to think things through in order for the story to work. I had to put those stories aside, start a new story from scratch, and finish the new story as soon as possible in order to make up for lost time.
The main challenge toward the end was that I was simply exhausted from writing so much about sex and orgasms for such a sustained time. There are only so many ways to describe the sensation of climax, and only so many useful metaphors and synonyms for special anatomy and sensations.
*Fucking Day Job
3) What types of stories did you write and why?
I focused heavily on my “The Serpent’s Gifts” setting, which is a world in which a giant snake flies around the planet, then disappears, leaving random people with superhuman abilities, or “gifts.” It’s a setting that I’ve wanted to expand for a long time now, and it was nice to have the opportunity. It was also quite fun, allowing me to have characters in unusual situations. In writing a sequel to my Werewolf Erotica story Moonheat, I decided to roll that story into my Serpent’s Gifts setting as well, because it gave me a lot of ideas for future interactions.
I also got to finally crank out a series of short, silly stories that I first envisioned a couple of years ago. These would be the least erotic of all my works, since they involve a deranged backwoods would-be-Romeo who goes around seducing inanimate objects such as a tree stump, a rock, and a bale of straw.
I also did some one-off Beast stories, just for fun and to get titles out. These are silly, fun, quick stories, unlike “Satisfied By A Stegosaurus,” which I had the luxury of expending much, much more time and energy on. I wrote one about a woman who wanders into a Unisex bathroom, and ends up having sex with a sleazy unicorn. Another one is titled “One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple Pussy-Eater,” and I think that says enough about that one.
The third was the very last story that I wrote, when I was dead out of good ideas. I follow @MagicRealismBot on Twitter, which generates random Magic Realism plots. I found one that was as follows: A game show host is climbing up the side of an octopus. But she will never get there. I was inspired, and managed to crank out some tentacle-porn involving Greek mythology.
4) Which stories were stronger or weaker and why?
I think that the best overall erotica that I wrote in May, with the broadest appeal, would likely be a series of four stories that I’m collectively referring to as “The Perils of Nadine.” They’re all fun, kinky sex fantasy stuff. In the first story, Nadine is tied up on the bed by her boyfriend, when her boyfriend’s roommate shows up and seduces her. In the second story, she makes it up to her boyfriend by letting him have a three-way with her and the girlfriend of the guy who seduced her in the first story. The stories just fed on each other, with each story coming as a kind of demented sexual consequence of the last. They were all “I Know I Shouldn’t But I Can’t Help Myself” sort of things. Always fun.
The overall best stories that I wrote--the stuff where more was involved than just the sex and the emotions of the moment, are most of my new Serpent’s Gifts stories. Moonheat #2 has perhaps the best emotional connection. Homewrecker has one of my favorite characters that I’ve ever created. Stuff like the two Granite Jack stories, Hard Cash, and Tomday include appealing non-sexual fantasies--superhuman healing and endurance, free money, and free time--that should be quite satisfying to many readers in addition to the arousing sex scenes.
It’s actually easier to pick my weaker story, as I turned out to be so satisfied with so many of the stories that it’s only the very few that I’m discontented with that stand out. I wrote two Pigmalion stories, which are set in my Serpent’s Gifts setting, and which revolve around a mysterious man named Pigmalion who can transform women physically by having sex with them. The first story is essentially about an older women watching a video of this kind of transformation, and while it’s a decent story, it’s nowhere near as arousing as most of my work. The second story more than makes up for any lack of eroticness in the first, but as it sits right now, the first Pigmalion story might need some editing or reworking.
Off to the side is the Tiny Humps A Trilogy, composed of Tiny Humps A Stump, Tiny Humps A Stone, and Tiny Humps A Strawbale. Because they are so unique in nature and tone, some people will consider them to be my absolute, hands-down worst writing, and other people will consider them to be my best writing. They’re absurd, surreal, and as erotic as they could possibly be… given the premise of each story. Beta-Reader reactions ranged from (paraphrased) “Please never make me read another one of these” to “I don’t get it” to “This is the most hilarious stuff I’ve read.”
Overall, they came out almost exactly as I had envisioned them.
5) Have you learned anything new about your writing abilities after partaking in this exercise?
I learned one hell of a lot of things that are too subtle and esoteric to even understand, much less explain. The more you work at any craft, the better you get at it, even if you don’t fully know exactly how or why.
Of the quantifiable things that I learned during this project, I grew better at hitting a specific target length. As I’ve said in other interviews, my first erotic short story--An Innocent Haircut--was intended to be a short and simple piece, but the sex scenes were so involved that it ended up being 9,200 words long. I tend to be very explicit, and that makes it hard to not go well over my projected or intended word count.
I also realized something new about arousal, or learned how to better put it into words. This was through a combination of listening to some of Reed James’ work via DirtyBitPodcast, and through writing the Perils of Nadine series. Specifically: human arousal and orgasm comes from being overwhelmed by a combination of sensation, thoughts, and emotions. Erotica readers participate vicariously in imaginary sex acts, but the best way to bring their arousal to its peak is likewise to overwhelm their senses with arousal triggers.
That’s why some of the best erotica is some of the dirtiest, because of utility of emotions in overcoming resistance to arousal. This is clear in Romance novels, where a minor sex scene can be incredibly arousing simply because of all of the emotional investment that a reader has in the characters. In dirtier erotica, it often comes from conflicting emotion, often from the kind of “I Shouldn’t, But I Can’t Help Myself” kind of setup that shows up in Reed James’ Fingered Next To My Husband and other stories. It’s the emotional equivalent of pain or ice play, where conflicting sensations heighten the sexual experience. In real life, such emotional conflicts are dangerous, but in a fantasy story it simply allows the reader to safely be overwhelmed.
6) What are you plans for these stories?
I’m looking at publishers, if only because I don’t want to have to come up with so much new cover art, and because I’m not very good at self-promotion. I want them to go on sale as quickly as possible, because the sooner they’re up, the sooner I make money, and the sooner I make money the sooner I can quit my FDJ and write full time.
7) What do you plan to work on now that you've met your goal?
Mostly, I’m going to relax. I need to let my beta-readers catch up to all I’ve written, to go over their feedback, and to make some changes and edits accordingly. As I mentioned, I’m also looking for a publisher. Other than that, I’m planning to avoid doing much writing for this month, although I do have a hefty editing project that I’m doing for another writer.
Also, I’ll probably drink a lot.