So you want to write stories…

  • Posted on August 30, 2016 at 2:23 pm

By Cheryl Taggert

Hello again, dear readers. Yes, it’s that young (isn’t almost 34 still young?) woman who obsesses about writing again. Recently, I finished writing chapter 50 of I Was the Daughter of a Porn Star, and I commented on the site that I had completed that much of the book, despite the fact that the work has been posted only through chapter 43, as of this writing. (Chapter 44 posted the day after I wrote the first draft of this blog entry, which I am now working on to improve.)

Then something occurred to me. Most readers think once a first draft is done, that’s all there is to it. The fact is, the work has just begun. There is so much more that will take place with that chapter before you, the reader, see it. Some of our readers will submit a story to us, and we will make suggestions. Usually, these suggestions are seen for what they are — our attempt to make what is a good story better. Other times the author will not be willing to tackle a re-write for a variety of reasons, and that is fine as well. Life sometimes gets in the way of writing for many people, especially in this genre if the author’s significant other is, shall we say, unaware of the author’s fantasy life as it regards our type of erotica. However, rarely do we post a story if the author is not willing to fix what we see as some problems with the work. In fact, I don’t recall that we ever have. The truth is we all experience those problems when writing, and if we want it to be good, we take the time to do the re-writes.

I teach English in the U.S. to seventh graders, or young students who are probably reaching their 12th or 13th birthdays at some point during their school year with me. One thing that is certain is that as writing students (part of my curriculum involves writing), the hardest lesson my students learn is that a first draft is good for two things, and two things only: several re-writes or the trash bin. I say this because a first draft that does not see at least some editing is worthy of the trash bin. On the other hand, a first draft that undergoes several close readings with corrections, deletions, and additions to the text will usually garner a good grade for my students, or in my case, a good chapter or story, or at least one that is better than it was after the initial draft was written.

I am fortunate enough to have two very good authors who function as my “readers” to help me improve my writing for this site. They are, in essence, my editors, just as I am one of their editors. Before it is posted, they read what I’ve written, and I read what they’ve written, and we all make suggestions to improve the work. Sometimes I will reject a suggestion and provide a reason why I am rejecting it, as do my partners. The explanation is nearly always accepted and we move on.

Here are some examples of actual notes I have received from Naughty Mommy and JetBoy. They would include, before the comment, a copied and pasted sentence or three that is the subject of their note to me, which I am leaving out since I don’t want you to see what is sometimes some awful writing on my part:

  1. The first part of the second sentence is clunky. I suggest something like… (A suggestion of a re-write is noted here, and if I agree with the note, I will either use the suggestion or something else will occur to me that I think is even better than the suggestion.)
  2. You have “as” three times in the last sentence.
  3. This sentence feels somewhat clumsy… but a simple rearrangement of the words will make it right.
  4. Suggest streamlining this by cutting “the man who is,” to eliminate repetition.
  5. Two very similar references to getting into trouble… I’d change one of ‘em.

These are only five notes from only ONE of my partners/editors, and they all concern only one chapter. There were a total of ten notes on this chapter from this person (who shall remain unnamed, even though it is one of two people).

I ended up rejecting the last note in the list above because of what, exactly, I wanted to emphasize in the sentence/paragraph. We are always free to disagree with a note as long as we have a good reason for it. I explained myself and received an email agreeing with my decision.

Here are a few more, just to show you we sometimes write things that are less than stellar.

  1. This was somewhat difficult to parse. My suggestion is to revise it as… (Again, a suggestion was offered here.)
  2. There’s a word or two missing here, I think, after ‘how’. Also, you have four sentences in a row in that paragraph starting with ‘She’.
  3. I was mystified at first by this sentence, unable to figure out who the ‘mother’ was. It took a minute for me to recall the characters and relationships. My suggestion is to either offer a little more help to the reader there, or simply remove the second half of the sentence altogether. The latter might be best. Stick with the story instead of the distracting aside.

As you can see, overuse of a word or phrase is often a problem for me. I can’t tell you how many times I get a note similar to the second part of #2 above or #’s 2 and 4 in the first set. This happens because sometimes I am writing quickly and not really thinking about how I’m wording something. I just want to get the basics of the plot down before the situation along with what I’m wanting to do with it disappears from my brain, which can happen when you are thinking quickly about something and your mind is racing along at breakneck speed. (At least I hope my mind is doing that, which is an element of when I am “in the zone” as a writer, where the story seems to be writing itself.) Therefore, such problems are to be expected by any author.

All three of the chapter notes in the second set of suggestions above were dead on, as were the other three notes this person wrote that I didn’t share. When I looked at what I had written, I was in complete agreement with the notes. Of course, we sometimes get right to the point with each other because we have learned to work together and we know that we each respect each other’s writing immensely. The notes above are examples of just how direct we are with each other. I like that about my colleagues. They don’t tiptoe around me, they get to the point. If it’s clunky, clumsy, or difficult to follow, they tell me without mincing words. I appreciate the direct honesty from them. Furthermore, I feel I am a much better writer than I was a year ago because of our association.

Someone (sorry, I forget who) once said that writing is what takes place somewhere between the fourth and fifth re-write. I know exactly what that person meant. So please know that we take time with our stories and chapters to try to make them as perfect as we can. If you wish to submit a story to us, we will take you along on that wonderful ride called true writing.

It’s sometimes a scary ride, like a big roller coaster, but when it’s done you realize what a blast you had.

So keep writing! There are many stories yet to tell.

(A brief “P.S.” here to lend my words credibility: I have returned to this blog entry five times to edit it before it was posted, one of those times because a colleague shared a comment he/she felt needed to be addressed, which led to more tweaks by me.)

13 Comments on So you want to write stories…

  1. Poppabear or PoppaClyde2 says:

    Your title reminded me of the catch phrase of a UK entertainer that some of the older members may know, “I wanna tell you a story.”

    Some of you will know, as I’ve mentioned it often enough, that I was a book editor (non-fiction) for many years, and I also taught young people at the beginning of their business careers how to write.

    I completely agree with everything Cheryl says above.

    The inspiration, which gets the words together on the screen (it was paper when I started) is only five per cent of the effort. There’s another 95 per cent of effort in rethinking and rewriting to get any story ready to be offered to your readers.

    Sounds harsh, but it’s true.

    You, and all those who love you, may be entertained by your first efforts at writing, but they’re the baby steps of a would-be athlete. You need to learn and practice much much more to be awarded the title “author”.

    • Cheryl says:

      Thank you, Poppabear! I’m glad to see that someone who has worked in the publishing field professionally is supporting my thesis! The good news is that I love doing the re-writes as much as I love writing the first draft. It’s often during the re-write process that I am able to ‘enjoy’ the story I’ve created. ;)

      I sincerely hope I am earning my place as an ‘author’ of erotica, as well as suspense erotica.

    • sammy says:

      It seems odd to presume such authority (and imagine arbitrary statistics—76.43% of left-handed Irishmen could tell you that) from the perspective of a career in business writing, which I’ve also done, and in which the aim is to effectively neuter or otherwise abandon the tropes and traits of good fiction save clarity and I guess a diluted sense of structure, since you must assume your audience has not the need nor time nor inclination to examine the rest of the iceberg.

      • Poppabear or PoppaClyde2 says:

        I want to assure everyone reading these items that the excellent stories on this site by Cheryl, Naughty Mommy and JetBoy are all proof of the need to rewrite, again and again.

        Non-fiction publishing is not business writing, a category that contains some of the worst writing ever published.

        I tried to teach my students to write clearly and simply and they needed to know that a spark of inspiration was only the beginning. Hard work would deliver clear, simple, concise and well organised reports.

        • Cheryl says:

          Yes, a very big difference exists between non-fiction writing and business writing. Huge, in fact.

        • sammy says:

          I was referring to the teaching of writing to ‘people at the beginning of their business careers’ and not the non-fiction editing (which of course is an entirely different beast). I apologize if I was unclear. I agree with your agreeing with Cheryl on rewriting. My issue was with the paternalism and chestnut support.

          • Poppabear or PoppaClyde2 says:

            Sammy, someone had to teach them. I was invited, because I don’t use jargon and had started writing simple clear news stories in the mid sixties and been improving authors’ copy since the early seventies.

            I’ve thought of myself as a feminist since the sixties (my mother made me one) so would you help me avoid further paternalism, and would you explain “chestnut support” to this ol’ guy?

  2. kim says:

    sigh so much work, but I really am glad you work so hard, cause it makes us cum so hard. thank you for doing it

    • Poppabear or PoppaClyde2 says:

      Kim, my love, you know how much you and Sue mean to me, and to everyone here.

      Your enjoyment of the stories of CT, NM and JB, which you both share so unselfishly with all of us, is what it is all about for all of them and for the other authors who contribute here.

  3. Cheryl says:

    Believe it or not, I was just re-reading this and found where I had done some editing previously and left out an entire word. It said we respect “each other’s immensely.” Even the most obvious things escape us at times.

    This shows that the job of re-writing is never done.

  4. CaptainMidnight says:

    I left a comment elsewhere that this essay is excellent. I’ve written a lot and used to be very proud of my first drafts. But that was because no teacher, or even professor, told me how much I could improve them. (When I was growing up, there were no word processing programs, and I didn’t learn how to type until I went to college.) I especially like it that you are telling your students how much of thinking out, correction of grammar and spelling, criticism and revision need to go into stories, essays and other papers. It can only help them as they go through high school and college. Brava!

    • Cheryl says:

      Captain Midnight,

      I noticed the comment you refer to (and THANK YOU!), which was answered by Naughty Mommy because Lisa and I were on a rather early second honeymoon at the time (early in the sense we’d only been married a little over a year :) ).

      This discovery led me to follow her link to re-visit this blog entry, and upon reading it, I again found something that needed to be changed to clarify subject-verb agreement.

      See? It never ends! :)

  5. CaptainMidnight says:

    Yes, I do it too. I wanted to say “Editing,” forgot where in the sentence to put the word, and forgot to put the word in at all.

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