Tuesday, June 7, 2016

From No Ideas to Too Many Ideas

Back when I was an unpublished writer, I struggled to come up with ideas.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.


  1. I think it's a good sign that you've really gotten the ideas flowing. It's tough to keep track of it all, and tough to have the discipline to finish stuff when there's always new stuff going on in your head, but I think it's good to have more to choose from.

    Back when I worked at a national magazine, I always walked into pitch meetings with my ideas prepared at a three to one ratio: three ideas for every one story I hoped to land. That worked out pretty correctly most of the time, and I just let go of the two rejected ideas.

    I try to hold onto my ideas for stories and books much more, but maybe it's okay for some of them to float away, too.

    Also, I had to laugh at the pen name creep. I write under three names myself, and I also have had ideas sometimes that make me feel I might need a fourth... lol :)

    Best of luck with all your stuff!

    1. I have a loooooot of story ideas that I decided were trash (mostly because they were more of a scene than a story) -- I don't know if I go 3-to-1, but maybe 2-to-1. :)

      I've loosely thought of some stories that might fit better under a fourth erotica pen name, but I'm starting to think that's one too many. ;) I might just have to make one pen name branch out in a new direction for a little bit...

  2. Wow, Cameron- I am amazed at your output. Such energy! More power to ya, dude!

  3. I'm also incredibly impressed by your productivity, Cameron. However, I think you're going to eventually reach a limit in subdividing your persona according to genre. Why do you think that is necessary? Are readers really so sensitive that they're going to freak out if they pick up a book that's a bit different from the previous one you wrote.

    I will say that I would definitely burn out if I tried to write for a living. The pressure would totally kill my creativity.

    But you know what? Readers might not even notice. Maybe I could churn out the same basic book over and over, and still make sales. Maybe more sales than I do now (not that this would be hard...)

    I find that thought depressing ;^(

    1. M. Christian works quite successfully in many genres under the same name. Although he may have other pen names that I'm not aware of.

    2. As a reader who enjoys your books, Lisabet, I'm totally bummed that your sales are depressing to you. I've come to terms with the fact that mine are, but then I have so little time that I have to choose either writing or promotions. I know which one I prefer to do!

    3. Hi!

      Cameron (pen name #1) is exclusively gay and tends to focus on longer works.

      I eventually wanted to branch out into straight stuff, and going much shorter, so it really didn't fit with my Cameron pen name, so it meant starting pen name #2. (That pen name also ended up doing some gay stuff, which sells better than the straight stuff it was intended to focus on.)

      I liked the high output of pen name #2 with the short stories (no more than 6000 words) and as I was thinking more about it, I had some really explicit and dirty gay stories in mind that would absolutely not be allowed on Amazon... so I decided to create a third pen name that is "unapologetically gay" and really into the fetish and kink -- like waaaaay more than anything I've written so far. So that third pen name was kinda needed.

      I hope to stop there.

      For my sci-fi and thrillers that I have on the go (very slowly), they may be clumped under one non-erotica name rather than separate names. I think it's okay for those two genres to mix. (But I want them separate from erotica because I don't want people thinking it's erotic sci-fi or erotic thriller.)

      Thank god my partner is a writer/editor too -- we just sit in the same room on our laptops for hours on end on our own work. I wouldn't be able to do this if my partner was not into the same thing.

  4. I've learned to write my ideas down while they're fresh. Because sometimes I won't get back to them for literally years!

    1. I've got a few back burner ideas that have been around for years now too... :)

  5. Cameron, I hope to be able to retire someday...hopefully to someplace quiet, near a lake, so husband can go fishing while I write all day. I envy the time you have to write.

    And once you open you publishing house, I may try to write a more erotically charged piece, to submit to you...though my own brother told me I'm "hopelessly vanilla." But what does he know, right?

    1. Sometimes vanilla (but still erotic) can be super hot. It doesn't always have to be about kink and fetish and wild sex acts. The absolute hottest sex scenes I've read have been between lovers having standard sex (but fuelled by passion). They were rather vanilla, but so well-written that I was *cough* hard *cough* the entire time. One of those stories I'm thinking of was a lesbian story and as a gay man, I was not expecting to be so aroused in a scene with no dicks.

  6. Cameron, we continue to be amazed at your energy. I hope you never burn out.

    1. :D I did burn out a bit for the first few months of this year, but I'm back in the swing of things! Thanks!


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