Kristina Lloyd

Erotic Fiction Author

Scruffy jottings about Asking for Trouble

aft_notes2aft2

This is a page of my notes on Asking for Trouble plus some tiny scraps of paper detailing scenes from the novel. When I’m trying to figure out the structure of a book, one of my methods is to summarise key scenes, both written and unwritten, on pieces of paper and make a big, messy jigsaw on the floor. The jigsaw never gets completed (especially if I’ve forgotten to shut the cat away) but it helps shape the story and shows me the direction I need to go in next. Some scenes get deleted; some never get written; some are inspired by the jigsaw because, like I said, the jigsaw is incomplete; it has holes.

I love this part of novel writing. You can have two or three elements in the story which refuse to connect or a lone fragment that surely belongs to the horror novel that’s been on the back burner for years or a sex scene which is actually a short story in its own right. Stuff happens when you do the jigsaw. It can take days, weeks even. You number the scenes, put them in an envelope, get them out again the following day.

I find the best magic comes from the biggest problems. You might find a perfect way to connect those seemingly disparate elements. You might have to sacrifice one of your favourite parts for this to work. You might have to accept they won’t connect except in a feeble, forced way and then you have to do the big, strong thing and let go! Get rid! Delete! But always, always, something new is born.

This really feels like creation to me: what was once a miserable piece of carpet tormenting you through a hole in the scrappy jigsaw is now an amazingly hot piece of dialogue brimming with sexual tension and desire. And it’s just begging to be written!

split_scruffWhy am I telling you this? Because Alison Tyler has a wonderful new blog, Scruffy Jottings About Filth, featuring a fascinating – and expanding – array of smut writers’ notes. I sent AT a couple of pages of notes relating to my latest novel, Split. Then I got to wondering if my note-making style had changed over the years.

Asking for Trouble, my controversial and bestselling book, was published ten years ago. Yes, ten! It’s never been out of print, has been number one on Amazon UK’s erotica charts and still regularly hops up and down the top twenty. Sales have recently been gathering pace in the States as well. (Hey, what kept ya?) Anyway, later in the year, I’m going to have a party for my porn and you’re invited!

But look, my scruffy jottings have barely changed in the last decade: same handwriting, same type of notebook and pen, same dark and twisted fantasies! So Happy Birthday me! Here’s to knowing what you like while also staying open to exploration – but not so open that your likes fall out!

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February 27, 2009 - Posted by | Kristina Lloyd | , ,

11 Comments »

  1. I love the puzzle process.

    I really like the different sorts of notes too, the “rough” (though I daresay much tidier even at their worst than mine at their best) as well as the well refined ones with the color coded markings.

    Brilliant!

    Comment by Craig Sorensen | February 28, 2009 | Reply

  2. Izzit really your birthday?

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

    xoxo

    Comment by EllaRegina | February 28, 2009 | Reply

  3. It’s my *book’s* birthday! My dear little book, which was once just fragments of paper and carpet, is now in double figures. God knows what it will do when it reaches its teens.

    And Craig, yes, the puzzle is great! Looking at old notes has really brought home to me how different the novel-writing and short story-writing processes are. I write shorts in a fairly straightforward, linear fashion. I get into a lot of trouble when I start to think this is how building a novel progresses.

    Different sorts of notes are fascinating too. Notes serve so many different purposes – brainstorming, reminders, creating order, research – that their appearance is bound to vary widely. And when I write notes with a helpful glass of wine (or two), it’s astonishing how quickly my handwriting degenerates. Hmm, would I dare show my drunk notes on here? Maybe I’ll dig some out later!

    Comment by kristinalloyd | February 28, 2009 | Reply

  4. Great post about the puzzle process! When I’m writing, I often have those islands that need to be integrated into a continent–and, as you wisely note, sometimes a particular island that won’t float close enough to the others has to be covered in plastic wrap (calling Christo!) and preserved for another one of my works.

    Happy birthday AFT!

    Comment by Jeremy Edwards | March 1, 2009 | Reply

  5. Happy birthday to AFT!

    I love seeing other people’s notes. Jigsaw method sounds like a very good plan – I sometimes draw out maps of a book/story, which I spose is maybe similar.

    All those plot threads can be hard to keep track of, otherwise.

    Hm, maybe I should try knitting a plot next time!

    : )

    Comment by nikki | March 2, 2009 | Reply

  6. Hi Kristina,

    It’s interesting to see how your stories develop. Do you undertake research too? I am not a writer so hope this question doesn’t sound too daft. Visits, studying a period in history etc? I know you reside in Brighton, did you go and stay in a little village on the moors to get a feel for such a place? For me the sense of place in your stories is really something special.

    Can’t believe it took me 10 years to discover AFT!

    Have just finished DTL – thought it was excellent. The old-fashioned parlance and the dirty deeds make for an interesting contrast! Do you plan to write any more historical novels? I look forward to your next novel, whatever the genre!

    Best wishes, Charlotte

    Comment by Charlotte | March 2, 2009 | Reply

  7. Thanks guys! Jeremy, whatever I’m working on, I always have a file called junkpara (meaning junk paragraphs – back from the days when Word would only allow 8 characters in a file name). I put stuff I can’t bear to delete in there, thinking maybe I can somehow use it later. But I rarely do. I used to agonise about getting rid of stuff I’d written. It felt wasteful, like throwing away wonderful food or a perfectly decent item of clothing etc. But now I see writing as being much more about process. Before I used to see it as being about product or end result. Everything felt precious and hard won. I guess it’s about believing in your abilities or trusting what writing *is*. So while it might pain me to put to sleep a paragraph, a scene, or jeez, whole novels, I know I’m capable of producing something equally good (or shit) in the future. Having said that, if I can cling-film it, I’m super happy!

    Charlotte! Thank you so much! You did me a DTL review on Amazon. Seriously, if you want to send me your postal address (kristina at kristinalloyd dot co dot uk) , I will send you a present! It will probably be smut and some nonsense but I really am grateful you took the time. Thank you.

    Research … I did huge amounts for DTL – and this before google had been invented. I loved writing historical because it’s so imaginatively transporting but wow, really hard work. I’m in awe of people who do this regularly. Writing AFT was such a contrast. I could just go for a walk if I wanted to check a detail. But thanks for your comment on sense of place. That is something I enjoy creating. I was born and brought up in East Lancashire and am familiar with Bronte country, oppressive little villages and desolate moors, all of which I drew on for Split. Puppets was my main area of research – and it was trickier than I’d anticipated. So many museums seem to have their marionettes locked away in a dusty old cupboard, only viewable if you’re doing a PhD in string. Actually, Nikki Magennis’s mum was really useful! Right at the last minute, I had some odd, obscure stuff to check and Nikki said, hey, my mum could maybe help. So I sent a crazy email and got the most wonderful reply, full of incredibly rich detail – more than I could have hoped for. Thanks again, Mrs Nikki Mum!

    Comment by kristinalloyd | March 3, 2009 | Reply

  8. I’ll pass on the thanks to my puppet mother, Kristina!

    also – I have endless saved notes too. It helps when I’m editing and swithering about cutting some words that I’ve got over-fond of – I tell myself, ‘I’ll just put these pretty words here in a special file, okay, and then I’ll use them again later. There! That didn’t hurt, did it?’

    Of course, they get left to moulder forevermore, but it certainly helps the Killyourdarlings process.

    Comment by nikki | March 5, 2009 | Reply

  9. The trouble with notebooks is a}they get filled up,and after the first 20 or so…b) You can’t really ‘shuffle’ more than a few lines without the whole thing becoming indecipherable (very brave giving a public showing of your notes Kristina!) I also tried the bits of paper and carpet method – but I’ve got TWO cats and they had a ‘field day’! Then I recalled my documentary film-making days and the story board. I now use card index record cards (the large ones are best), Blutak, and one wall of my study which I’ve deliberately denuded of pictures, bookcases etc so it’s my storyboard. To date the cats haven’t discovered it (and prefer the curtains for adventure sports anyway!) It also means I can ‘stand back’ and look at what I’ve composed (difficult to do on the carpet unless you’re into Yogic flying or levitation etc!), and at the end of each session I bundle them up, (bottom of wall to top, and right to left) fastened with large lazzy twangers (that’s Liverpudlian for elastic bands) donated by my postie and store ’em in shoe boxes (local shoe shops are delighted to give em away as it reduces their disposal costs) I know it’s all a bit ‘Blue Peter’ – but it WORKS, which is the main thing, and have found it saves me a lot of time compared to the ‘mental maze’ of my notebook scrawlings.(and unless you techies out there thing this is all prehistoric I also use the excellent ‘New Novelist’ software – but tend to use that for the final draft, using the character and plot files etc.for reference. (I love your ‘junkpara’ file Kristina, and have just created one. Ta my darling!)

    Comment by William Gordon | April 8, 2009 | Reply

  10. I like the idea of standing back. I might try storyboarding on the back of a door.

    These lazzy twangers?

    Comment by kristinalloyd | April 12, 2009 | Reply

  11. Just to stop ’em all getting mixed up in the shoe boxes! I tend to use the wall for each chapter, then bundle ’em as described above – the Royal Mail twangers are great as they’re so large I’ve never seen ’em for sale anywhere and I’ve got a plastic bag full of ’em – all for free! Obviously label the bundle before putting in shoebox. Transcribe to computer at leisure, but have been known to put two chapters up if I’m not sure ‘what goes where’ and is much easier on the wall than cut n’ paste ‘cos you can see the whole thing laid out. Hope all that makes some sense!

    Comment by William Gordon | April 12, 2009 | Reply


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