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'08 Authors Insider Tips


Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Epublishing: A Different Way
Choosing an Epublisher
Your Milage May Vary
Understand Your Contract!
Reasonable Expectations


FictionCraft
by Louisa Burton
The Publishing Biz
Critiquing: To Give and ...
Commerical vs. Literary...
Antiformalism for Fun &...
So You Want to Write a Novel
The Story Idea
Planning Your Novel...


The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
5 Steps to Success
Inspirational
Opening Passages
Let's Get Critical
Writer's Block
Learning Lessons


Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Be a Finisher ...
Listen to Your Characters
Conferences: Act Now ...
Starting an Erotic Story
Exercises & Writing Prompts
Revising & Rewriting
Copy Editing
The Manuscript Critique
How to Submit Your Work
Reading as Craft


Guest Appearances

Adventures in e-Publishing
by Lisabet Sarai

For the Love of Man
by Laura Baumbach

How to...Influence Editors
by Alison Tyler

Marketing your e-Book
by Brenna Lyons


2008 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
Role Play
Busy Doing Nothing
Picture of a Fish & Chip...
What I Did With My Summer


Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
Naughty Cookies...
Tie Me Up, Please …
The Smut-Writer’s Holiday
Never Trust the Narrator ...
Compare and Contrast
Following the Pen
Naked at the Farmers Market
Iím Easy, But Iím No Slut
Good Girl Gone Bad
Pleasures of the Dark Side
Slow, Spare and Sexy


Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
Raising Daughters
Jamie Lynn
Utopias
Lust
The Good Old Days
Election '08
Traditional Marriage
Campaign 2008
Free Will


Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Masturbating on SSRIs
Sex and Disability
Besides Ourselves
Adjusting our Contrast


Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Sex Is All Metaphors
Turn-ons and Squicks
Sexual Truth
Fickle Muse
Porn, Erotica & Romance


Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Alison Tyler
Ashley Lister
Debra Hyde
Donna George Storey
Jeremy Edwards
Kristina Wright
Rachel Kramer Bussel


Erotic Hot Spots
by William S. Dean
Interview with Tilly Greene
Interview with Devyn Quinn


Getting Graphic
with William S. Dean
New Times for Readers...
The Future in Words ...
Interview with Fantagraphics


On Writing Erotica

The Accidental Pornographer
by Lisabet Sarai

The End of Innocence
by Lisabet Sarai

Get Them Off in High Style
Helena Settimana

So, You Want To Write Erotica?
by Hanne Blank


Web Gems
Hot Movies For Her

Two Girls Kissing: Writing Lesbian Literary Erotica
by Amie M. Evans

Be a Finisher, Not Just a Starter:
Erotic short story writers working on erotic novels



Amie M. EvansFinishing large projects can be a problem—especially if you are used to working in the short story or essay format. Writing a novel or a collection of short pieces may seem like a daunting task when you have grown accustom to the faster pace of short stories and essays which take less time from start to finish to complete. In fact, one of the problems confronted by beginning and mid career authors who have started their careers as short story writers is that of finishing a long project such as a novel. I have heard from countless authors that they are working on a novel and then, sometimes with humor, they add "if I ever finish it." I can count myself among the short story authors with unfinished novel projects with a desire to finish them.

Of course not every short story writer wants to write a novel and not all finishing-problems are related to novel writing or, for that matter, to folks who start as short story writers. Problems finishing projects are universal and this article contains concepts and steps to help you be a finisher (even if you don't want to write a novel) and give you a better understanding of the writing process which will strengthening your finish-ability.

Here's what I've learned about finishing longer projects.

The Creative Cycle

The creative cycle for any written prose work is basically the same, so let's examine it:

Start: Conception of an idea. You have a concept for a story. This could be a character sketch or plot element. It could be extremely detailed or simple and undeveloped. It may be organic—popped into your head from nowhere—or inspired by your writer's notebook notebook, a call, request or fantasy. Its source doesn't matter so much, what matters is that you have an idea. Thousands of potential ideas swim past us each day, one has caught your attention and now you have the start of a potential story.

Pre-work: Developing the idea. This is done differently by every author I've ever talked to about it. There is no correct way to do pre-work. It can include outlines, character sketches/development, time lines, plot points, etc… Some author's do research into their subject topics, while others create extensive outlines and character sheets. Some simply go for a walk and think about the story idea. Pre-work is anything you do to develop the idea before you start to write the story.

First Draft: Writing the story. You write the story, or more correctly, the first draft of the story. Parts are missing. Some of the prose are rough. If it is my first draft, all of the sex is missing and where it belongs is the word "SEX" in red. But, ideally your first draft should contain most of the elements (from the beginning to the end) of the story you will tell. This is even more important as your projects become longer. That is, the complexity of the first draft of your 6 page short story is less critical than that of your 20 pages short story or your 300 page novel. For novels, it is important to have as complete a first draft as possible.

Second Draft: Rewriting the story. At this point you go back over your draft and fill in the missing parts, smooth out the rough prose, fix anything that needs to be fixed as far as the story, character development, plot elements, time line, etc… is concerned. You will mostly be adding more material, moving sections around, and firming things up during this step.

Third Draft: Restructuring the story. This often turns into a repeat of the second draft process. However, sometimes when doing the second draft you discover restructuring is needed because timelines don't work, subplots got dropped, and critical elements of the story do not work. This step involves restructuring, adding, and removing sections. The larger and more complex the project, the more likely you will actually find yourself restructuring and not just repeating the rewrite step.

Edit and review. This step primarily involves removing unneeded sections and tightening the prose. Minor additions may occur, but at this point you should primarily be removing material. You should be reviewing plot elements, double checking facts, etc….

Copy Editing. This is the step in which you do a grammar and spell check of the entire document. This is a final step and you should not be rewriting anything.

At this point your story is ready to go to the editors. Note that some folks use readers along the way. After a 2nd draft, for example, is a great time to have someone read your work. Some of these steps merge together when you are working on short pieces, but more clarity between each individual step is needed for longer projects—especially novels. Also slight variations in these steps are employed by different authors, this is just a guideline.

Sprinters—vs.—Long Distance Runners*

*It is rare that I am actually able to come up with a sports related metaphor. So, for all of you who are sports fan and are tired of my accessory and shopping metaphors, enjoy!

Sprinters run 60 to 400 meters. They start at full force and continue through the entire run at full force. They practice for top speed at a short distance. Sprinters have X amount of energy to use over a very short distance. Long distance runners run 5,000 to 10,000 meters. They vary their speed over the course of the run, pacing themselves to ensure that they have enough energy to last the distance of the run. While both groups are runners, the two groups train differently to achieve different overall performance goals for different types of events. Both types of running require endurance, strength and skill, but the ways in which these are applied differs for each group.

Short story writers are like sprinters—we come on strong for our six to 20 pages. Its one burst of energy focused on a small space. As a result we are used to finishing a "project" (i.e. a short story) in a given amount of time. Sure, some stories take more or less time then others, but the basic time period from concept to completion is roughly the same. Because of this we develop certain working habits and expectations about our writing and the pay off. For example, I know that I can write a short story in two days if I focus. I also know I prefer at least a week to write a short story and two weeks is ideal—allowing me to complete it, set it aside for a few days, and then return to it for a final review before sending it out.

Novelist (or anyone working on a large project) are more like long distance runners. Their strength is going the distance. Their speed throughout the process may vary, but the key to their ability—like long distance runners—is remaining focused and pacing themselves throughout the course of the project. They are used to a longer haul with no pay off until the end.

Retraining the Sprinter into a Long Distance Runner: Issues of Style
I think it can be especially difficult to transition from the short story format—which is quick and requires less time from start to finish—to a completed novel—which requires a much longer time period to complete. Short story writers are used to "instant" gratification—we are sprinters, not long distant runners—which doesn't mean we cannot train ourselves to go the long haul. We just need to refocus and redefine our approach and style to writing to accommodate larger, long term projects.

Chapters vs. Short Stories
One of the key problems, short story writers encounter in writing a novel is treating chapters like short stories both in form and approach. A chapter is not a short story. It is instead one block/section/part of a novel. A novelist doesn't treat a chapter like a short story (and when they do, the reader knows it). Instead, they pace themselves throughout the process until all of the chapters are written. Do not sprint through a chapter as if it is a finished product. Instead conceptualize the novel as the product and build each draft chapter controlling pace and planning ahead for the next leg of the journey.

Here's an example from my own experience. I tend to slam out a first draft of a short story as quickly as possible except as I've said for the sex then I go back and rewrite the whole thing a few times before I have my finished document. Constructing chapters doesn't work well that way. I need more time producing the first draft of each chapter because rewriting and editing shouldn't happen until I reach the end of the first draft of the novel. Anything could happen in say chapter 8 that will affect what came before it. So rewriting chapter 2 for example before chapter 4 is finished is potentially a waist of time. Because each chapter is interdependent on the one before it and the ones after it, more time needs to be spent developing the entire first draft as the whole document and not focus on them as stand alone parts.

Project Management
Managing short stories is much easier to do in your head then managing a novel. It can be done, many novelist do it. But if you are used to managing 20 pages, five characters, etc… in your head doing the same with 300 pages and 10 characters, etc… may become more of a burden and prevent you from producing rather than a help. Project management skills for larger projects are often overlooked by beginning novelist who are more familiar with writing short stories. These skills include using an outlines or action plans, setting realistic goals, using internal deadlines, and beta readers. Not allowing the project management to turn into THE project is also a critical skill writers need to learn.

Outlines or action plan: Allow you to manage each step of the novel and see the big picture. You can always update and change your action plan as your novel takes shape or leads you in a different direction.

Setting realistic goals: I cannot pound this one home hard enough. If you set goals that cannot be met you are hurting no one but yourself.

Using internal deadlines: Establishing and sticking to internal deadlines allows you to control the project by reducing it into manageable chunks.

Beta readers: Using reliable and knowledgeable folks who read your draft work and provide you with concrete feedback on how to improve it will greatly increase the quality of your finished product.

Steps to Help Retrain Yourself to Be a Finisher

Have some outline or action plan. This can be as simple as chapter working titles with two sentences of what will happen or as complex as a full scale outline with Roman numerals. For this column, I simply list in the order I want them the headings and subheadings and then start writing. This is your map, travel plan, itinerary. It shows you where you are going and hints at how you will get there. You can change it as you go or wander away from it, but have it on hand to help organize your ideas. This stands true for short story collections. A simple outline of two sentence ideas will help you develop a roadmap for the project and give the individual stories a cohesiveness to stand as a better collection.

Project Management. This includes your action plan/outline, but also refers to how you control and organize all of the elements of your project. What that means is how you keep track of not only the plot, character, timeline, and subplot elements, but also how you manage the actual task of writing. Do not allow project management to become its own project, but instead develop systems that work to help you increase your output. I schedule time to write and set realistic goals for each session.

Complete each step before moving on. If you are writing a novel, write an entire First Draft—from Chapter 1 to Chapter Y—before doing any rewriting or editing. Chapters are not short stories and should not be treated as independent entities, but, instead, as small sections of a whole. The exact opposite is true if you are writing a collection. Finish each short story before moving on to the next. Completing the steps in order will help you complete the process.

Set realistic goals and keep them. Your goals need to be inline with the reality of your schedule. Set up a writing schedule that you can actually keep and then set up realistic goals based on that schedule. If you can only devote two hours on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to writing, don't set a goal of completing a chapter a week. Not meeting goals can be frustrating and also bad for your self esteem. Instead of setting up impossible goals you cannot reach, set up realistic goals you can. Allow yourself enough time to complete tasks and reduce your stress level.

Don't multitask. Focus on your long project and avoid the temptation to work on other projects. There are plenty of novelists who also write short stories, poetry, essays, and columns. So you can eventually go back to multitasking, but in order to focus and retrain yourself to be a finisher, don't multitask.

Don't cannibalize your work. If you are working on a novel avoid the temptation to re-work a chapter into a stand-alone short story. At least until you have finished the novel and are shopping it. The creative energy and time that is required to set up a chapter into a stand-alone story is disruptive to the flow and your work on the novel. The same is true of short stories in a collection. While you don't need to rework them, you are turning them into reprints and reducing the value of your finished manuscript. You can always resort to cannibalizing your chapters and collection if you are unable to sell the finished project.

Reward yourself along the way.Reward yourself for completing a chapter draft. Small rewards go a long way. Carrots work so much better than sticks.

Commit to the project. This is true of anything you do. Truly commit to the project with your whole self. If you don't want to write a novel, don't do it. Be happy writing short stories.

Accept that some projects are not meant to be finished and move on. Not all ideas flesh out. Be willing to let go of potential novels that just aren't working.

Things That Prevent You from Finishing

Stress
Physical illness
Lack of time
Low energy
Fear—of failure and for some of success
Disorganization
Over extending ourselves
Poor goal setting
Poor project management
Feel free to add to this list.

This list looks a lot like the list of things that sap your creativity from the column on Writer's Block. Do you see any patterns developing here? These things are evil and generally bad for writers. Avoid them if possible. If you cannot avoid them; learn how to manage them.

Sometimes all you need to do is be aware of the cause of a problem—being over extended, unorganized, etc…— and you are better able to over come or manage it. If you find yourself floundering in the midst of a large project that you are committed to, take a moment to access what is impacting on your ability to finish it. It may seem counterproductive in the moment to take time away from the project, but in the long run stopping and fixing project management problems or reevaluating your deadlines will pay off and help you to be a finisher.

NEXT TIME: Listening to Your Characters

Amie M. Evans
January 2008


More of Amie M. Evans' Two Girls Kissing in ERWA Archives.

______
"Two Girls Kissing: Writing Lesbian Literary Erotica" © 2008 Amie M. Evans. All rights reserved.

About the Author: Amie M. Evans is a widely published creative nonfiction and literary erotica writer, experienced workshop provider, and a retired burlesque and high-femme drag performer. She is on the board of directors for Saints and Sinners GLBT literary festival and graduated Magna cum Laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in Literature and is currently working on her MLA at Harvard.
Read Amie M. Evans' full bio at the Erotica Readers & Writers Association.



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