The importance of making choices in writing (erotic) fiction
Some more tips from a developing author that might help other writers: If you’re getting in trouble, take a decision to tackle it, or move on to something else. Don’t get bogged down when you’ve written yourself into a corner!
One of my favorite novels of all time is Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon. It’s so stuffed full of quirky yet down-to-earth characters, and there’s a warm comforting narrator who is a writer, so shares plenty of sensibilities with me as the reader.
It’s not remotely erotic, though its handling of characters and personal conflict is useful for any fiction writer. I’d recommend it to anyone, it’s such a wonderful read.
The biggest lesson for me, though, was that writing, as in life itself, is about making choices. Grady Tripp, the protagonist of Wonder Boys, suffers because he shies away from making the choices he needs to make – he lets life take him where it may, and in doing so it gets him snarled in difficult situations. In his writing he also fails to make choices, resulting in a novel that never ends and gets unreadably detailed.
There are so many choices to be made in erotic fiction, too – what kind of story to write, how far to take things, what point of view to take, how do you structure the piece, how do you end it? There are countless.
I have over the years suffered quite debilitating writer’s block. There were a number of reasons for it, but one key reason was that I was afraid of making choices. I couldn’t decide what kind of book I wanted to write, I enjoy so many different kinds of fiction, so I’d start one story then find myself drawn to writing something else, scuppering my original progress.
I’d worry about whether I was writing a story as well as I could, or in a way that best told the story – and unlike Grady Tripp (who doesn’t get blocked), I would end up freezing up, dragged down by this nagging fear that if I wrote something that didn’t work, it would all be a waste of time and I might as well not start writing in the first place.
Recently, I’ve taken a different approach: just make a decision. Carefully, sure; using the bet available information. But make a decision. You can always make another decision at a later date if that one didn’t turn out the way you hoped.
Just get writing – and I find that if a story does grind to a halt, unless there’s an obvious solution, I need to take a decision and move to a different project. I can always come back to an unfinished tale, if a solution presents itself in the mean time. Carefully archive everything you’ve written so you know exactly where to find it, and then move on.
I have dozens of story ideas and half-finished stories in my archive, and every now and then I look back and think of some way out of the hole I was in when I shelved it. If I had more spare time outside my full-time nine-to-five, I’d probably resurrect more of those stories, but there you go.
Practice makes perfect
The important thing I realized is that just by writing, I’m improving how I write, so no writing is ever a waste of time. So now I write, and if I don’t feel like writing my current primary project, I switch to another for a while. Even a half-finished short was of value to me, because it kept me writing.
With longer stories I’ve been writing recently, I’ve been able to skip to a different part to keep writing if I get in trouble, and a solution then presents itself later – the key here is to know generally the way the story is going to go with a little planning (but knowing that the plan can always change).
The important, overriding thing is to keep writing regularly. If you keep doing that, you’ll develop as a writer – even if you don’t think you are.