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2006 Authors Insider Tips

Beyond the Basics
With Tulsa Brown
The 30-Second Solution
Backstory vs. Flashback
Intimacy Begins With "I"
Hit the Ground Running
Make the Reader Leap
Meaningful Dialogue
Pulling the String
Central Image
Elegant Smut
Better Plots
Bitch Power

The Write Stuff
From Ashley Lister
Predefined Your Goals
Spell Ink Miss Takes
Plotting & Planning
Character Building
Speech Therapy
Talking Sense

Two Girls Kissing
With Amie M. Evans
Intro to Lesbian Erotica
3-Dimensional Characters
Submitting for Publication
Five Year Writing Plan
Setting Up Your Plan...
The Power of Naming
Language of Lesbian...
Sexual Description
What Can I say?

Hard Business
From Greg Herren
What Are Your Priorities?
How to Edit an Anthology
Follow the Guidelines...
A Cock is Just a Cock
But is it Still a Story?
Who Am I Fucking?
Potential Material
Rejection ...

The Business End
By Kate Dominic
Effective Cover Letters
How to Lose Contracts
Contracts: Agent Issues
Contracts: Read It!
Double Duty Bios
What's Sex?

Literary Streetwalker
By M. Christian
Ground Rules for Writers
No Muse is Good News
Effective Cover Letters
Location, Location
Say Something!
Dirty Words

The Erotic Book Docter
By Susie Bright
Marketing Your Book
Submission Concerns
Promotion Strategies

2006 Smutters Lounge

Pondering Porn
With Ann Regentin
Babes & Hunks of Erotica
Fantasy, Reality & Rape
Selling Ourselves Short
Selling Smut in Motown
The Frankenstein Bride
Frankenstein Revisited
Porn and Perfect Shoes
Porn's Passionate Pull
Instruments of Joy

Get All Worked Up
With J.T. Benjamin
Orwell's Eerie Parallels
Redefining Marriage
The Porn Menace
High-Quality Porn
About Profanity
Dirty Laundry
Big Brother


Wrong Reasons to do SM
by Midori

Beyond the Basics
With Tulsa Brown

The 30-Second Solution



We all have one in the drawer: that short story that just doesnít seem to sell. The plotís smart, the sex sizzles, maybe the theme even strikes resounding universal chords. Yet somehow it always lands in our Ďrejectedí pile.

There can be many different reasons why a good story isnít accepted, but hereís something you can check immediately: the length of the paragraphs. When a paragraph exceeds about seven typewritten lines, youíve broken the Ďmagicí 30-second containment. Simply put, that means it would take longer than half a minute to read out loud.

You guessed itóthatís the length of an ad. Blame radio, blame television, videos and the web, but for the last 80 years or so, human begins have been Ďprimedí to receive a new idea every 30 seconds.

It isnít just fiction that has to pay for the advertising revolution. Milo O. Frank wrote a best-selling business book, How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less, that focused on oral presentations as well as written communication. The bottom line was the same. People are most receptive to information when it comes to them in ad-sized bulletins, regardless of what that data is.

I can hear the purists howling now. What about Dickens? Flaubert? Fitzgerald? Even contemporary novelists and short story writers have paragraphs longer than seven lines, for Peteís sake. I donít disagree. Some of the most exquisitely-crafted writing comes to us in dense blocks of print, whole pyramids being assembled on the page. But you have to assume the worst-case scenario, that the editor who sees your story is jaded, cranky and overworked. You want your story to be as inviting as possible, and shorter paragraphs subliminally suggest brisk, vibrant storytelling.

This is because a reader has an emotional response to the Ďvisual pageí before he ever begins to read. There are many writers who I think are wonderful, but whose blocks of print fatigue me at first sight. I have to force myself over that initial hump of resistance before I can become caught up in the story. An editor who doesnít know your work might not give you the extra time.

I must admit that I came to the 30-second revelation by default. My first training was in advertising, writing radio commercials, where the framework beat itself into my psyche through constant use. Several novels, two screenplays and many short stories later, I still feel that bell ring in my bones when I go over the time limit.

Does this mean you should never break the seven-line barrier? Of course not. But my advice is to save your longer paragraphs for moments of intensity: great emotion, luscious description, soul-wringing revelation. Not only will it feel like a luxurious amount of space to express your idea, but youíll send a subliminal message to the reader: this is longer, itís important.

Why not try it, just to see the effect? First print a copy of your unsold story and look at the visual layout on the page. If you have paragraphs that exceed seven typewritten lines, pare them down ruthlessly. For an even longer block of print, try to break it up into separate ideas. Most of the time youíll find that youíve knit two or three ideas together, each of which could stand alone. And donít be afraid of short paragraphs, those that arenít much more than a single line. The visual variety is like a dash of salt.

Afterwards, read both versions. Did the story lose that much? What happened to the pace? No matter which version you finally keep, itís a good exercise in editing, pacing, and visual impact.

The 30-second solution wonít turn a poor story into a good one, nor is it right for every mood: some stories cry out for a leisurely, dreamy stride and itís part of what makes them wonderful. But itís worth being aware of how subliminal factors affect a reader. After all, you canít fight the media, so why not use its techniques? And perhaps the itíll be the extra edge your story needs to push it into the ĎSold!í file.

"Beyond the Basics" © 2005 Tulsa Brown. All rights reserved.

About the Author:  Tulsa Brown is an award-winning novelist who has also written for film and media, and has led many writing workshops for adults and young people.

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