Coming to a Conclusion

By Rose B. Thorny (Guest Blogger)

As writers, we all know that there
comes a time when we have to end it all.

Whether we’re plodding, strolling,
prancing, or hurtling towards the inevitable, we know it is precisely
that… the unavoidable conclusion that we must reach if we’re
going to have a marketable product, even if we don’t actually sell
it for money. By marketable product, I mean a story that satisfies
someone other than the writer. The way I see it, the point of
writing a story is to tell a story you have inside you, but the point
of finishing it is to share it with others.

That last part is the gamble, though,
isn’t it?

Not long ago, I was involved in a
discussion that arose from a writer saying, essentially, that she was
“stuck” part way through a major project. Part of the discussion
touched on where, in stories of any length, one is likely to get
stuck, and I gleaned that it is not unusual for authors to stall when
their stories are reaching the conclusion. If it had occurred to me
at the time, I would have taken a little informal poll just to get a
ballpark percentage, rough data on the number of writers who stall
near the end of their projects.

Of the stories I’ve started and not
finished, the majority of them are close enough to the end – beyond
the major turning point – that I realize that point is where I have
stalled. It isn’t that I don’t know how the story is going to
end, because I have a very clear vision of the where and how of the
conclusion. Of the stories I’ve written and finished, though, I
think about how much easier it seemed to be to finish them before
I’d had any successes.

The more stories I wrote and finished,
the harder it became to finish them. While I was writing the final
act of my later stories, I’d write a sentence or two and then I’d
feel paralyzed. I’d have to get up and walk around, look out the
window at the bird feeders, or get a coffee, then I’d sit down and
write another sentence, then maybe do a chore – put on a load
laundry, or walk out to get the mail (and that’s a fifteen-minute
break, because out to the mailbox is a quarter-mile hike) then sit
down and a few more words. It got really bad when I’d watch myself
writing two or three words and then being so antsy I’d have to get
up and move around for ten or fifteen minutes (taking deep breaths
and feeling totally wired), before I could sit down and write another
few words. I reached a point where it really just wasn’t fun. It
was all anxiety about writing the perfect story.

I’ve thought about this a lot, just
to try and analyze what’s going on in my brain when this
unfortunate impasse occurs.

I’m not going to get into the
mechanics of writing and how, if such a thing happens, you should
just sit and write, write, write, even if what you are writing is
crap. I don’t believing in writing crap on purpose, the same way I
don’t believe in making a crappy dinner on purpose, even if I’m
cooking just for myself. If it’s crap, it isn’t the story I’m
writing and all I’d have, if I did that, is a good story with a
crappy ending, which, I think, is why I’m subconsciously afraid to
continue on to the conclusion in the first place – the fear of
writing a crappy ending. To me, a crappy ending means there wasn’t
much point in writing the story at all.

I’m also not going to be shy about
saying that when I’m writing what I consider to be a good story, I
sincerely believe it is a good story. My gut tells me
it’s a good story. Of course, I don’t know if that’s misplaced
confidence, or an example of perfectly appalling hubris, or pathetic
self-delusion, or, by some weird twist of fate, true. I do know that
when I read and re-read (and re-read) the story, up to the point
where I’ve stopped, I find it entertaining. I think, “This
is a story I would read right to the end, if someone else wrote it.”

And that’s when I wish someone else
had written it… and finished it!! I think that if someone
else had written it, they would have known, in advance, what the very
best slam-bang ending would be, the one that would have the readers
saying, “Wow…just wow.” I know what the ending is going to be,
but I think what happens is that very special fear creeps in. It is
the fear that the conclusion will not live up to the rest of the
story, that it will be a disappointment, not to me (because I can
self-delude with the best of the self-delusional), but to the reader.

With the stories I’ve written and
finished, I thought the endings were good, but before I heard
that from anyone else, first I would think it’s good and then I’d
start thinking, “No, it sucks. Everyone is going to hate this.
Why did you even put it out there?” And then I’d get the
feedback and it confirmed that my initial gut reaction was on track –
the story, including the end, was good.

And that is the bigger picture:
Writing a good story and finishing it and having it
acknowledged as worthy by one’s peers and other readers. That’s
great, when it happens, but then the next story is all
conclusion, by which I mean that before I’ve even gotten a few
hundred words into it, I’m already thinking, “This is going to be
a disappointment. I won’t be able to do it again. Even if the
story line is good, the ending is going to be a letdown.” I can’t
help but think that any success is a fluke and the odds of flukes
continuing are not good.

Conclusions mean, to me, that I just
have to keep getting better and better and better, but, in my
experience, at some point, there is no better, there is only a “this
is as good as it gets” plateau and after that, it’s just like the
boiling point of water. The only thing that happens when water
reaches the boiling point is that it starts evaporating. But there’s
also no sitting on your laurels, because, well, that’s what
everyone says… don’t sit on your laurels. The implication is
that sitting on your laurels is the equivalent of failing. So what’s
the alternative? Keep going, keep boiling that water in the pot.
Keep proving to everyone that you’re as good as, or better than,
your previous success. Keep walking along that edge. Keep that gut
of yours clenched and those hands shaking and your heart pounding
with anxiety wondering when the fall is going to come. Rest on your
laurels and you’re a has-been failure, who loses all respect, or
keep going knowing that, eventually, you’re going to fail anyway.

This isn’t just the ravings of an
insecure, anxious wimp.

Very few published authors, whose work
I enjoyed initially, maintained a level of quality and anticipation
that has kept me coming back for more. Of course, there were/are
some, a few, who have maintained the momentum, but so many others
started out writing stories that had me gripped to the end and then
something happened. Somewhere along the line, while their subsequent
stories held the promise of, “Yesssss, that was a fabulous read,”
the conclusions became predictable, and then, even the stories became
repetitive and predictable, and the endings a yawn I saw coming.

I don’t want that to happen to me,
but if it happens to so many oft-published professionals, with so
many years of writing under their belts and so much more experience,
how can I possibly expect it not to happen to me? Why would I
be an exception to that? What would make me think I’m so
special that I believe I would be? And that creates the specter of
being a disappointment, the image of a has-been that nobody cares
about or even remembers. “Yeah, what’s-her-name was good to
start, but then, pfffft… she lost it. What was her
name, anyway? Well, doesn’t matter.”

The conclusions become harder and
harder, because every ending means a next beginning and the doubt is
always present that there will either be a plethora of
three-hundred-word beginnings, or no next beginning whatever, because
all of it, and not just the slam-bang endings, will have dried

Okay, so if you’ve read this far,
you’re probably thinking, “This is the most downer blog piece
I’ve ever read on ERWA,” and, perhaps, you’re right, but bear
with me. Just keep reading a bit further… I’m almost done.

I started a story, way back in
September of 2012. Just as I reached the turning point of the story,
the part that heralded the conclusion, I stopped. Over the
subsequent months of 2013, I went back to it regularly and re-read
it, edited it (and by edited, I mean embellishing or changing
phraseology, or finding a better word, or rewriting sentences –
nothing major, just touch-ups), but never added to it following the
last sentence of the story as it stood when I’d stopped. I really
enjoyed re-reading the whole story over and over. I couldn’t see
much at all wrong with it, and still don’t.

While it is unfinished, though, it
holds all kinds of promise. I think the fear is that once I finish
it, it won’t live up to the promise and, if I put it out there and
it’s a flop, I will have neither the energy nor the inclination to
do it all over again. The second fear is that if I put it out there
and it is not flop, what do I do next? The expectation will
be that the next one has to be even better, and if this one took over
a year to write, and it’s good, how long will it take to write an
even better one? I mean we’re not talking novel, here. I’m
talking about a story that is, at this point, just under 14K, and
it’s taken me fifteen months to get that far.

But here’s the upshot. I did
get over the first hurdle of the conclusion. Over the past winter
break, when I had thirteen days mostly to myself (if you don’t
count getting up every two minutes to tell the new puppy, “Get
down,” “No, you can’t have that,” “Drop that,” “Here,
play with your toy instead,” and ask “Do you need to go out and
pee?”), I actually sat down and wrote the pivotal scene that
presages the final act of the story.

If I can do that, then I can finish the
story. And if a neurotic, anxiety-ridden, over-analyzing
perfectionist with crazy-ass self-esteem and insecurity issues can
finish a story, anyone can.

The End.

About Rose

Rose B. Thorny (the “T” is often
silent) has been a denizen of ERWA since 2005. She has been
published in the anthology, “Cream, The Best of the Erotica Readers
and Writers Association,” and boasts stories in Volumes 7 and 10 of
Maxim Jakubowski’s “Mammoth Book Of Best New Erotica,” plus
stories and poetry in ERWA’s Treasure Chest. By day, Rose is a
not-exactly-mild-mannered administrative assistant. The rest of the
time, she is all over map trying to focus on writing, cooking, art,
photography, wildlife and running the homestead with her husband, all
the while, looking after three cats and now a new puppy. Rose is
also an ERWA Storytime editor; she loves the thrill of reading work
by the promising new writers who make ERWA the coolest hotspot in
literary erotica.

The Perils of Perfectionism

By Lisabet Sarai

“The good is the enemy of the
Anonymous proverb

I’m sure most readers have encountered
the maxim above. The point? That it’s a mistake to be satisfied with
“good enough”. By exerting only the minimum effort needed
to fulfill the requirements of some task, you’re missing out on the
opportunity to produce something truly great.

Personally, I subscribe to this
philosophy―up to a point. I believe that when you commit yourself
to something, you should be willing to devote 100% of your effort to
meeting that commitment. That means not making excuses (except of
course in extreme situations like illness or family crises). It means
seriously applying yourself to the problem you’ve shouldered,
spending whatever time is realistically necessary to solving it.

In the so-called real world, I’m a
teacher (among other things). Nothing upsets me as much as a student
who’s happy just to “get by”. That sort of student is wasting
his own time as well as mine. (Please pardon my choice of pronoun. I
don’t mean to imply that this pattern is limited to males.) I don’t
know why he bothers. Sure, he may get a passing grade, but aside from
that, what will he have to show for the months he’s spent in my
class? I’d much rather put my own effort into a poor student who is
really trying to understand the material despite the difficulties
than a more talented individual who isn’t willing to work.

So I definitely think it’s important to
do one’s best―up to a point. At the same time, as an author, I’ve
seen many examples of the perils of perfectionism. I have writer friends who
have been working on the same novel for years, rereading, revising,
going through periodic crises of confidence about whether their book
is really worth publishing. It’s sad. I feel like shaking them.
“Stop already!”, I want to say. “Submit the darn thing! You
can’t publish your work unless you submit it!”

New and aspiring authors, pay
attention! You can’t publish your work unless you submit it. Which
means that at some point you have to stop polishing your prose and
say enough is enough.

The French playwright Voltaire is
credited with the reverse of the saying above: “The best is the
enemy of the good.” When it comes to writing, I think this
statement holds a good deal of truth. There’s no such thing as a
perfect story. If you’re like me, every time you re-read one of your
manuscripts you see some change that might improve it. Don’t give in
to the temptation. Decide ahead of time how many drafts you’re going
to do and stick to that decision. Otherwise, you’ll get bogged down
with one tale and never get a chance to write the others that are
clamoring for your creative attention.

One thing I’ve learned is that it’s not
worth agonizing over a single book. You have to submit it, let it go
and move on to your next. If I don’t like what an editor or publisher
has done with something I’ve written, I don’t get my knickers in a
twist. There are more stories where that came from, or at least I
hope there are. This attitude helps me deal with rejection, too.
Maybe I’ll find another home for a rejected tale. Maybe I won’t. In
any case, I need to move on.

Readers are hungry. You have to keep
them fed with a continuing stream of good material. Good, not

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not
excusing sloppiness, poor grammar, spelling errors or wildly-veering
point of view. If you’re a professional writer, you have a
responsibility to learn your craft and apply it to the best of your
ability. The fact is, though, the more you write, the more you hone
your technical skills. If you get hung up revising one work to death,
you’re missing the opportunity to keep learning.

Compared to many authors I know, I do
relatively little editing. I rarely do more than two drafts. I do
have a tendency to edit as I write, reviewing and modifying material
from my last session before settling down to attack the day’s goals,
so my first draft is probably more highly polished than some
authors’. I’m also pretty good with the nuts and
bolts―grammar,spelling, punctuation and the like―so I can focus
on higher level issues like characterization, pacing and emotional
impact even during the initial pass.

Deadlines are a huge help, by the way.
If you’re new to the writing game, let me assure you: deadlines are
your friends! Once you’ve made a commitment to submit a work by a
particular date, you can pace yourself. You can make rational
decisions about how much editing is feasible. You’re not likely to be
caught in the perfectionist trap.

So now I’ll make a possibly
embarrassing admission. I just submitted a 17K story after producing
only a single draft. Am I being lazy? I don’t think so―and in any
case, I didn’t have a choice. I’m leaving in two days for a three
week foreign trip, and I promised the story by October. Plus I have
more deadlines stacked up when I return. It will simply have to be
good enough.

In any case, I’m pretty happy with it.
I’ve found that my best stories tend to be the ones that I write
quickly, the ones where inspiration carries me along. This tale is no
literary masterpiece, but it fits the call for submissions to a T.
And, after reading the blurb, the publisher has asked whether I’d be
willing to write a 60K novel based on the same characters.

I’m going to wait a while before I
commit to that deadline! 

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


Babysitting the Baumgartners - The Movie
From Adam & Eve - Based on the Book by New York Times Bestselling Authors Selena Kitt

Affiliate Disclosure

Disclosure: We use affiliate links on our site. What are affiliate links? Affiliate (or partnership) programs are created by businesses (like Amazon) that pay sites (like ERWA) for referring visitors to the business. Affiliate programs pay the referring site a percentage of products purchased via the affiliate link. You can help keep ERWA alive and kicking by doing your online shopping for books, movies, sex toys, etc., via ERWA affiliate links. Help support ERWA.



Pin It on Pinterest