Back when I was an unpublished writer, I struggled to come up with ideas. I wrote a sci-fi novel and put it aside, then had a spark of an idea that led to my first erotic romance novel, Autumn Fire. After that sci-fi novel and Autumn Fire, I felt I was out of ideas.
Eventually, I came up with an idea that led to my free short story, Go Deep, and another idea that led to my second erotic romance novel, Silent Hearts. But once those were written and published, I was fresh out of ideas again.
Some time after that, I’m not exactly sure when, the ideas started to flow. But in order for them to flow, I needed a change in my mindset. Up to that point, I’d been thinking of writing as more of an art, something that requires creative vision, intricate plotting, fully realized characters, and a gripping narrative. And, back then, as a relatively inexperienced author, I struggled to write well. (Autumn Fire and Silent Hearts are in desperate need of a rewrite once my contract with my publisher expires.)
But after having written a few things and slowly changing my perspective, the ideas began to flow easier. While writing is and always will be an art, I began to think of it more as a business. In a business, you can’t sit around and wait for ideas to come to you — so I forced myself to become much more proactive in thinking up story ideas. Plus, with having more writing under my belt (and with extensive editing), the process of writing became easier.
That presented me with a new problem — I had far too many ideas, and a lot of them didn’t fit under the “brand” I’d established for Cameron D. James. Under this pen name, I tend to do more narrative-focussed erotica with a touch of romance, whereas some of my story ideas were of the “wham-bam-thank-you-sir” variety with no romance and minimal narrative. Plus, as a gay man, I had this absolutely bizarre curiosity to write straight erotica, which obviously wouldn’t fit under this pen name.
So that led to the creation of a new pen name, one that focussed on straight erotica short stories, but also including some gay erotica short stories (but written from a more straight point of view than what I do with Cameron). After a few months, I was left with a problem — I had some story ideas that didn’t fit Cameron’s brand, nor did they fit the brand I established for the new pen name… so I created a third pen name. This new pen name was explicitly gay and explicitly taboo — it used the same short story formula of my second pen name, but the stories were far dirtier than anything I’d written before and the writing was unapologetically gay.
At this time last year, I had, I think, ten stories published (some were short novels and others were short stories), and that had taken about two years to complete. Now, one year later, I’m sitting at about fifty titles.
Over the past several years, prior to 2015, I’d written maybe 100,000 words per year. It’s a decent output. In 2015, with the huge bump in productivity, I wrote just over 367,000 words. (About 111,000 of that was my sci-fi novel that I had written years ago — I rewrote it in 2015. So that means about 256,000 words were smut, and most of that happened in the latter half of 2015.)
Now that 2016 has come around, I have a new problem, although I hesitate to actually label it as a “problem.” I literally have too many ideas floating around in my head. For my Cameron D. James pen name, I have the next three short novels planned out, plus ideas for half a dozen short stories. For my second pen name, the one that does some straight stuff, I have the next ten short stories lined up and have plans for about thirty more. And for my third pen name, the unapologetically gay one, I have maybe the next fifteen planned out. Oh, and with my sci-fi novel that I’m working on — if I sell it or self-publish it, then I have the next four sequels loosely sketched out… and I’ve got a couple James Rollins-style thrillers rolling around in the back of my head.
I literally have too much going on in my cranium. My writing schedule lately has been about a week and a half on pen name #2 (which is how long it takes me to write a short story lately), a week and a half on pen name #3 (to write another story), and then a week or two on my Cameron D. James pen name. I’m presently working on a short novel and am slowly making my way through it.
My writing productivity used to be much higher. I think I’ve burned out a little bit, as in the fall and winter I was averaging about a story and a half every week, so I’ve slowed down quite a bit. Also, as mentioned several weeks back here on OGAG, I’m in the process of starting up an erotica and erotic romance publishing company — and the amount of set-up and work that goes into this thing before we even open ourselves up to submissions has been overwhelming at times. (It’s part of a larger book services company I’ve started with a friend, so there are a number of other aspects to the business to set up, which is part of the problem.) When-slash-if the business takes off such that I can quit my day job, I expect my writing productivity to spike again.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be a writer with this amount of productivity and suffering from an overwhelming number of ideas. Actually, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be writing about people having sex. I can thank being burned out for that — I was in the thick of working on my masters degree and editing my sci-fi novel and I needed a break or I was going to drive myself crazy… so I wrote about sex. And writing about sex, especially with this output I’ve got going, has made me a far stronger writer than I ever thought I could be. This path into erotica writing was the best choice I ever made.
I always thought I’d be one of those authors that has a sci-fi trilogy and then disappears because he has nothing else to write. I thought I’d have my magnum opus and that would be it. I was so wrong.
Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is Seduced by My Best Friend’s Dad (co-written with Sandra Claire). He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats. To learn more about Cameron, visit http://www.camerondjames.com.