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'10 Authors Insider Tips

Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
Have More Good Sex
I Can Do Better ...
Trying to Get the Feeling
Plotting and Planning
Character Profiles
Discovery Draft
Be Bad to Be Good
E-Book Revolution
Naked for Halloween
Sex With Pilgrims

by Louisa Burton
The Music of Words
The Balancing Act
Your Fictional World
Backstory & Foreshadowing

The Fine Art of Submission
by Shanna Germain
Nailing the Query Letter
Banish the Boring Bio
Becoming a Market Master
Become a Market Master, 2
Backstory & Foreshadowing
Enticing An Editor, Part 1
Enticing An Editor, Part 2
Contracts, Money & More

Serious about Smut
by Vincent Diamond
No More Horsing Around
Short Stuff
Selling Short Stories
Editors' Pet Peeves
Settings: Beyond Time & Place
Beating Up Your Scenes
Selling Your Books in Person
Staying in the Saddle

The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
Broken Rainbows
Talk the Talk
10 Commandments for Writing
Plotting to Avoid
Cover Story

'10 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
St Valentine's Day
Renaming Body Parts
Sex, Cigarettes & Erotic Fiction

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
C. Sanchez-Garcia
Kathleen Bradean
Lucy Felthouse
Neve Black
PS Haven
Tracey Shellito
Tresart L. Sioux

Cracking Foxy
with Robert Buckley
Plenty of Miles Left
Don't Worry, Be Happy
Fly the Unfriendly Skies
Coffee Time
Castrated Words
Virtual vs. Actual Romance
The View from Gallows Hill

Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
The Fashion Industry
The Same Old Same Old
Writing Porn
About the Closet
... About Spirituality
Making Sense of Religion
Worked Up About Monogamy
What's Next
All Worked Up About Nature
Still All Worked Up...

Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Holiday Ghosts
Love and Romance
An "Interracial" Epic
Trying to Make It Go Away
Sexual Etiquette
Sex and Children
People Against Bad Things
Virtual Acceptance
His Cold Eyes, His Granite Jaw
A Flash of Northern Light

The Write Stuff

by Ashley Lister

Plotting to Avoid


The Write Stuff by Ashley ListerA friend recently asked me how I work out plots.

Sometimes I worry that this is a trick question.  If you work out a plot so that it’s appropriate for a genre, that suggests your writing is formulaic. That said, if you don’t work out your plot before you start, you can often end up trailing toward a miserable and unsatisfactory conclusion.  If you’re hoping to get 80,000 words or more of story written, the idea of ending with a miserable and unsatisfactory conclusion is unthinkable.

And so, I have to admit, I plot.  I plot and make allowances for highs and lows in a story.  If a reader has paid good money to read my fiction it’s my job to make sure it’s worth every penny.

The method that works best for me is using a table.

I’m not talking about the sort of table with four legs and a dinner on top.

I’m talking about the sort of table you can create in Microsoft Word (or most other word processing applications).  I start off with a rough idea of the number chapters I want to include and use this figure for the rows.  The good thing about word-processing tables is that rows and columns can always be added.

Then I’ll create a six column table.  Each column has a title.

The first three are for the three most important characters in the story. I need to keep a check on what they’re doing and how they’re progressing through the novel.  If there are more than three important characters I’ll make sure there are more than three columns for characters. Honestly, this is not rocket science.  The most difficult part is usually trying to twist the page from landscape to portrait, so that all the columns can fit on one page.

Each character column shows what the character is doing in a particular chapter.  A character might not appear in one chapter.  That’s a blank box and they’re the easiest to fill in. A character might appear in several connected chapters and then not appear in several subsequent chapters.  If this is a major character, this is a cause for concern.  I seldom let three consecutive chapters pass without ensuring all my major characters have been equally represented. 

The table method of plotting is one of the surest ways to see if everyone is accounted for in an appropriate place within the novel.

The fourth column is there for the story arc.  I want to make sure that events follow a logical order.  Readers seem to prefer that.  The typical romance story follows a simple story arc of boy meets girl. This is followed by the pair wanting to be together, but thwarted by a variety of obstacles.  This is the column where I include those obstacles.  Studying this column I can ensure that each obstacle is greater than the last (so that narrative tension develops) and I can also try to make sure that none of the obstacles appear too contrived.  In the boy meets girl storyline the final row will show them getting together and prepping for a HEA. I’m a soppy and romantic person at heart.

The fifth column is for important details that need to be included in the story.  I add to the fifth column as I go along, and keep referring back to it as I progress. 

And the sixth column is for the sexual content.

It might seem contrived to plot the sexual content in advance, but I like the finished book to be a balanced product.  The first chapter’s sex scene should be a gripping one but, after that, there needs to be some variety.

If I have my heroine involved in a m/f/m three way in the first chapter, I can’t have her then going off to another m/f/m three way in the second chapter followed by a third three way in the third chapter.  It would quickly go tiresome.  After all, haven’t we all grown tired of m/f/m three ways at some point in our lives?  No?  It must just be me.

In my opinion the sex scenes need balancing because readers expect some diversity and a taste of the unexpected.  If it’s the same sex scene repeated, only with different faces, then it soon becomes wearisome.  And no one wants to endure wearisome sex.  We can get enough of that at home without needing to pick up a book.

Of course, plotting doesn’t work for everyone.  Some people find the idea of a laid out plot to be antithetical to the notion of good writing.  Others find that they can’t work to a laid out plot because it means there are no surprises for them to discover whilst they’re writing.  And if there’s one thing that can often kill an author’s enthusiasm for a story, it’s the idea of it not offering any surprises. 

But then there are others, and I count myself amongst them, who heed Yogi Berra’s warning: If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up someplace else.  Personally, I think that outcome sounds intolerable and it’s something I’m constantly plotting to avoid.

Ashley Lister
September 2010

If you have comments or questions about this column, please send them to Ashley Lister

Find more of Ashley's Write Stuff in ERWA 2010 Archive.

"The Write Stuff" © 2010 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

About the Author:  Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, Swingers: True Confessions from Today's Modern Swinging Scene (Virgin Books), a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his first title published under his own name.
Ashleyís non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica.  Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto.  He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.
Email:  Ashley Lister

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'10 Book Reviews


Apocalypse Sex
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Bare Souls
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canít help the way that i feel
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Coming Together...C. Sanchez-Garcia
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Coming Together...Remittance Girl
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Erotic Brits
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Fairy Tale Lust
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Like a Veil
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Peep Show
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Please, Ma'am
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Spark My Moment
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Three In One Blow
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Erotic Novels

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Once Bitten
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The Tower and the Tears
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I Spy a Wicked Sin
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The Royal Treatment
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Special Forces
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A Sticky End
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Wired Hard 4
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Lesbian Erotica

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Fast Girls
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Girl Crush
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