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writing advice

Squirrel!

Looky there. It’s a flying rat.

I know you already knew it.

It was here that I knew that Colonel Plum did it in the bathroom with the pipe wrench and “WHAM!” That is how it happened.

I have some type of attention deficit disorder; however, I have not been diagnosed, but I do know…

SQUIRREL!!!

Write over it.

Ok. Wait.

Where was I?

I ain’t got no clues present to get me back to the beginning, but I don’t want to start at the beginning because it is way too long ago and I can’t catch you up to speed.

Anyway, this was to get you to understand that holding the audience’s attention, maintaining good grammar and the story structure are the three very important parts to writing a story. The audience is your fan base and beyond. You know not to tell your audience anything unless it will not come out. Your audience is who you write for and make sure that the plot moves along. Make sure that you’re writing for your intended audience instead of trying to please everyone.

We always talk about speech tags and their overuse of speech tags like “she hissed,” “he snapped,” “she stammered,” get irritating fast. Likewise, reading a character’s name too often in dialogue can be a turn off. Avoid more than the occasional “um” or “well,” or “er,” and keep dialogue realistic, but more coherent. Also, make sure the words that are grammatically correct. IF the language that you are relaying your story in is not your first language or you’re not completely fluent, make sure to get assistance.

Your writing style, tone, character motivations, or even plot might begin one way and, unintentionally, change at some point in the book. Be especially aware of small details like names, occupations, physical descriptions of people or places, which can all fall prey to inconsistencies over the course of 300+ pages. Something to look at for writing style is “Eats Shoots & Leaves” by Lynne Truss and reading a few articles from Michael Hauge will assist in this category.

Make sure that when telling your story begin at a point that can be referenced back to in the story. Chronological stories are good, but there are some times the chronological order of the story will not bring the story to where it needs to be. If all the good stuff happens at the beginning, or if nothing exciting happens until the end, your reader will be frustrated with the rest of the book.

This is what gets me. Knowing when and where to begin your story. There are some that say that you should begin your first major plot point within the first 25% of your story or you can jar the balance of how the story arc falls. Some say that you can start your story chronologically and then work backwards to the event. Within each set of “rules” there is always time. Time is a factor in everything. If you give the audience too much too soon, then there is nothing else to read. If you make the audience wait until the last chapter to find out anything, you may lose your audience. You want to provide just enough, but no one ever knows when to say when and that is why we have editors.

I have gotten better at finding a balance in the information that I do provide my readers; however, that is after a lot of help from people in ERWA who help hone my skills for writing. There are other resources that can assist you if you have not subscribed to our Storytime List and those resources are:

“Damn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative” by Chuck Wendig and “The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface” by Donald Maass.

There is a TedX video that brings in circularity, symmetry and a few other things to light for writers. That link is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUT6GQveD0E (I do not own the rights to this video, I am just sharing it.)

All in all, in order to write something that someone else wants to read, make sure that you can capture and keep their attention, make sure your vocabulary fits your scenery, that you are aware of small detailed changes so there are no mix ups, and start at a good place in the story so that it can keep going and then finish it with something memorable.

SQUIRREL!

Made you look!

 

 

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, her two cats, a plethora of birds, a squirrel, and a chipmunk. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page. Sign up for her newsletter.

Read her short erotic story Babes in Begging For It, published by Cleis Press. You will also find her new novel No Restraint at Amazon. Coming soon: Happily Ever After: A Collection of Erotic Fairy Tales. Enjoy a good, sexy read today.

 ___

Last month, I talked about using Twitter to maximize your author presence. This month, I’m going to talk about using Facebook to do the same. I prefer Facebook to Twitter because it’s more interactive and I don’t have a word limit on what I write. I also am in touch with all my writer, editor, and publisher friends on Facebook.

I have an author page but I don’t use it. Never got much use out of it. I prefer my regular timeline. I spent about a decade building that page so that’s where I hang out. I use my name alone but some authors include the word “author” with their names. Example: Elizabeth Black – Author.

My current profile picture is of one of my book covers. That works well to identify me. You could use a book cover or a recent head shot. I change profile pictures every month or so to keep things lively.

My banner is a photo of some of my book covers plus both of my pen names; Elizabeth Black for erotica and romance and E. A. Black for horror and dark fiction. My banner is eye-catching and it gets my point across that this is my page and here are examples of what I have written.

Like I said about Twitter, don’t make all your Facebook posts about your book. Endless book spam turns people off.  Talk about things that interest you. I talk about my cats, baking, the beach, gardening and much more. I also talk about my progress with my writing. Sometimes I’ll include an excerpt from what I’m working on to pique interest. A healthy mix of fun stuff and book stuff will inspire people to come to your page and talk to you. Ask questions. A few days ago, I posted about cotton candy grapes (yes, they are a thing and they really do taste like cotton candy). I asked if anyone had eaten them and if they liked them. Responses ranged from “Delicious!” to “Eww!” LOL That’s how you get a conversation going.

Update daily or at least frequently. I update several times per day. I also respond to other people’s timeline posts. Some writers talk about politics on their timelines. I don’t. I want my timeline to be neutral ground. In my opinion, it’s risky to talk about politics on your timeline since you may alienate potential readers. Not everyone feels that way. If you want to cull your friends list, go on a religious or political rant. That guarantees you’ll lose a few friends. Sex, on the other hand, is game. Talk about it all you like, especially if you have something very interesting to say.

I’ve found that Facebook groups are by and large a waste of time, especially author groups. They are primarily book spam dumping grounds and no one reads them. You aren’t going to find readers on Facebook groups. If you are able to find groups where there are conversations, jump on them. Granted, they’re probably all writers but you can meet some interesting and valuable people in those groups. Organizations and events may have their own groups. I’m in a few horror groups that are busy. Keep in mind book promo may be prohibited except under specific circumstances. For instance, Wednesday is Pimp Your Book day in one of my horror groups. Writers are to keep their pimping to that particular post.

Facebook has its limits. For instance, the number of people who actually see your posts is quite small but use that to your advantage. It’s possible to meet people in the industry on Facebook and they often have valuable and interesting things to say. Like their posts and comment. Facebook is best when you use it to have conversations whether on your timeline or someone else’s. I’ve met many publishers and editors as well as authors on Facebook. Not agents, though. That’s Twitter.

Above all, enjoy Facebook. Don’t let it be a time suck and don’t let negative posts depress you. Read only what you want to read and engage those people. While Facebook  has its limitations, it can be useful.

My name is Larry Archer, and I’ve been asked to be a guest blogger at ERWA. Hopefully, I’ll write something that may be of interest to those who read and/or write erotica. On my first post, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my ideas on writing, myself and how I got here.

I’ve been writing smut since 2012 and have self-published 24 erotic novellas and novels to date. I write what is colloquially called stroke porn, but I’d like to think it has somewhat of a plot. My stories are generally pretty heavy on the sex side and generally get decent reviews.

While most of my stories stand on their own, the Foxy & Larry stories typically involve the same set of core characters and will often have a storyline that continues from story to story. Since my stories are always heavy on the sex part, don’t be surprised if someone gets laid on the first page. But I’m still working on how to do that on the title page.

I always have self-published my smut and personally believe in self-publishing as the best avenue for myself as a practical method of getting my stuff out there. I’m somewhat different from authors who go the print or anthology route. I’ll give you my reasons why and leave it up to the reader to make a decision for themselves if they are trying to make a choice on which way to go. There is no absolute right or wrong path to take, and so you can decide which way to take. I’ve done one 300 page print book to better understand that process, but that’s worthy of a blog post all its own.

A little background on Wifey and myself, we are swingers in real life and have been in the Lifestyle for some time. A lot of the things we’ve seen and done may very possibly show up in my stories, with the names changed to protect the guilty, of course. In fact, most of the reoccurring characters in my stories are based on real people that I know and are portrayed as closely as I can make them and still protect their privacy.

One of the reasons I do this is to add variety and a different perspective to my stories. I think authors often write using their personal beliefs and by using “real” people as a starting point, it adds a different slant on things. As an amateur psychologist, I find it fascinating to study other people and being in the Lifestyle brings me a lot of patients to lie on my couch.

Our lifestyle adds a different outlook on my writing as I approach stories from a different direction from other authors and hopefully, it’s of interest to my readers. While I realize that we’ve taken a different path than the average couple, I’m not here to convince you into doing the same.

My views on life and things, in general, may also seem a little skewed for a lot of people, so just remember there is always the off button if you don’t agree with me. I’ve been told that my sense of humor is a little strange, but I can’t do much about that either.

We are a committed couple, which may not seem to agree with our lifestyle but you’d be surprised at how few divorces or cheating occurs among our friends. We don’t consider sleeping around as cheating since we are always in the same house and never do things like end up at Motel 6 with Tom Bodett, because he always keeps the lights on.

Not trying to dwell on convincing you and your spouse to get in a pile with a bunch of naked people but simply that you may have to take my advice on life with a grain of salt.

My stories generally revolve around the swinger lifestyle as I have experience in it and have always found it to be a lot of fun. Most generally have a lot of sex in them from start to finish but very little drama. For the most part, our experiences have been positive, and for that reason, my stories don’t include cheating, fighting, or divorce which is common in a lot of swinger related stories from other authors. So typically my stories are all HEA, well except for parts with my wife and her whip!

I write some BDSM but generally no noncon, underage, or family stuff. Not that I have any objections to them, but I have enough trouble staying out of Amazon’s Adult Dungeon without trying to thread that needle. I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a pen name to write more hardcore smut under SmashWords and other more forgiving sites but right now just don’t have the free time to manage two different pen names.

I do not have any formal training in writing beyond Technical Report Writing in college and personally up until I started writing smut, hated to write. What I’ve found is that I really enjoy the process and typically write from the seat of my pants, or completely off the cuff. If you would happen to read one of my stories then treat my use of the English language with forgiveness.

My good friend and fellow writer, Lisabet Sarai is always trying to fix me, which I’m afraid may be a losing battle. She’s been trying to teach me how to write correctly, and it has been a struggle. Since I never had any formal training in writing, breaking my bad habits have been difficult. In many cases, I’m not convinced that the “correct” way is always the “right” way, but I’m always open to new things. Well, except for the time my wife got a new whip and a pair of real handcuffs from one of our cop friends. My butt hurt just from thinking about it and was glad to offer the services of a girlfriend, whose into that kind of thing, “Thanks, Gretchen.”

I’m told that I need conflict, resolution, someone to hate, and someone to love, but typically my stories have none of the above except maybe someone to love, but that’s touchy as, beyond our spouse, we shouldn’t be loving on anyone.

It probably seems strange to straights, but we have a fairly strict moral code even while we are coveting our neighbor’s wife. I’m allowed to screw someone, but I better not get caught giving a foot massage as that would put me in the dog house for sure.

Kissing is another no-no. We frown on kissing the opposite sex as kissing is personal and generally verboten. Certainly, you can kiss someone but don’t spend an hour examining their tonsils. A big percentage of the women are bisexual and kissing between women is encouraged and not considered cheating but a spectator sport.

My story is like a lot of other writers, I was reading smut on Literotica one day, and the thought hit me, “I can do this!” Fast forward five years and yet my new Range Rover is still sitting in the dealer’s showroom, but it’s been a fun trip.

Initially, I started writing about what we’ve seen and done in the Lifestyle and used Foxy and Larry as it was coming from a first-person perspective. Now some twenty plus stories later, if I’d been smart I would have picked different names for my regular main characters. This was one of my faux pas, but that’s water over the bridge.

The fictional Foxy and Larry own a strip club in Las Vegas, The Fox’s Den. Clever play on words don’t ya think? Most of my swinger stories involve the strip club as it’s a good place for everyone to take their clothes off and easier to work in than the Bridge Club.

We have several cuckold-Hotwife couples as friends in real life, and their alternate selves typically inhabit our stories or serve as a bad example of what people should not do at home. Cuckold – Hotwife couples are a study in itself and have a relationship that is surprisingly common. The common joke among swingers is that “straights” have no idea what is going on around them.

Foxy and Larry in the stories are as true to life as I can make them. Possibly a little more over the top but still true except for owning a strip club and having more money than God. They are a reasonably correct picture of a happily married couple who dabbles in the dark side.

We were lucky to fall in with a good group of people and learned the ropes from pros when we got into the Lifestyle. That’s a blog post that I keep telling myself to write and probably will one of these days.

My Thoughts on Self-Publishing

Why do I self-publish? The simple reason is cost and control. Every time you pick up a book or someone who’s written Writing for Dummies, they generally advise you to get an editor, get a cover designer, get, get, get.

It makes you wonder how they got started? Mom and Dad said, “Honey, here’s fifty thousand dollars, start writing porn stories.” I don’t think so, that’s maybe the 1% but the 99% of us, say to ourselves, “I wonder if I could write smut? But will it be okay to take my husband’s beer money to hire an editor?”

The problem with this approach is typically simple, you write a story that you may give away or at best sell for $2.99 yet you have to lay out hundreds of dollars in support help to get your story out the door. I’m an engineer by training and taught to make decisions by weighing good and bad options.

If you are a new writer, and unless you have a rich uncle you probably don’t have a bunch of money squirreled away to pay for all this help. Note that I didn’t tell you that you shouldn’t have an editor, cover designer, advertising firm, and publishing house to cover your back but that for many people and me, this is not financially viable. At some point in the game, you need to at least break even or hopefully make money.

I think most people who are reasonably intelligent can handle the job with minimal outlay until you get rich and famous. At which point, money is no object, and you can just hire everyone and retire. But until that point, you’re going to have to carry a majority of the load yourself.

The days of 4 and 5 figure monthly sales died years ago before everybody, and his brother started writing a book. I hate to burst your bubble, but 50 Shades was probably the last break out hit that made any real money, and my Frenchie could write better than that with one paw tied behind her back.

According to a recent survey, 80% of self-published authors make less than $1,000 per year or roughly $100/month. But before you hang yourself with your mouse cord, there is hope. First, go out an get a real job to keep the wolf away from the door and write in your spare time or have a generous spouse. If you’re a glass-half-full person, then you can say well what about the other 20%?

If you really want to be successful writing smut, beyond writing something other people want to read, is publishing on a regular basis. You should publish at least once a month, and before you fall down laughing, I’m telling you what I recommend and not what I do. My publishing cycle is typically every few months, and I fully realize that I don’t publish often enough but work and our social schedule eat up a lot of my keyboard pounding.

The search engines will typically throw you under the bus after about a month so don’t despair if your ratings fall off the cliff in 30 days. It’s like the old saying, “Publish or Perish.”

What I do is carry my laptop with me virtually 24 hours a day. Then when I’ve got a few minutes, I whip it out and type some. With many businesses that provide WiFi, you can get a connection most places or use the HotSpot feature on your phone. Be careful with logging into a public WiFi and disclosing personal information.

Publishing is sort of like wealth in the United States, just a handful have most of it while the rest of us have to scramble for their next meal. Sort of like your dream to play for the Harlem Globetrotters, and you’re five foot tall, while possible it will probably be a stretch.

As my Dad always tells me, “Faint heart never sold a vacuum cleaner.” Which in plain English means, be realistic with your assumptions but always try as hard as you can to achieve your goals.

Assuming that you sell your masterpiece for $2.99, typically the top price for a novel or novella, your takehome is about two bucks a copy. Out of that you have to deduct any costs you encounter such as cover design, editing, Internet porn, etc. Unless you can get your wife to strip off for the cover picture, your one fixed cost is likely to be the stock photo used. Your wordprocessing and photo editing software can be free if you use public domain software or a few hundred dollars for more professional products. One of my goals is to help you get into the game at the lowest cost.

Your first target should be to figure out if you can write or not. If writing were that easy, everyone would be Earnest Hemmingway or James Patterson. If you haven’t already joined ERWA, then do this next as you’ll have a host of other writers who can offer encouragement and advice in the craft of writing.

A lot of us started our initial publishing career at Literotica or a similar site that allows you to publish your stories for free without all of the problems of getting a cover, correct formatting, etc. You simply publish a plain text story and hope for good reviews.

I recommend this to new authors or those sticking their toe in the deep end of the pool for the first time. You get feedback and have to go through most of the process while skipping the hard parts.

As an engineer by training and not an English major, I am brutally aware of my shortcomings with the English language, and so you’ll rarely see me correct your sentence structure unless it’s so atrocious that even I recognize it. As I like to say, I always thought that when you had a dangling participle, you needed Viagra.

One of the things I hope to help people with is the mechanics of creating your masterpiece. Things like using the correct tools and getting started in a way that minimizes the grunt work required to publish. There are a number of things I’ve discovered which may be of interest to people. It’s not sexy but a job requirement.

A simple example is publishing to multiple publishers. We will typically publish to Amazon, SmashWords, Excessica, Apple iBooks, B&N, Nook, and others. The simple process of creating separate versions for each publisher can eat up a lot of time that could be better-served writing or jerking off.

Just try forgetting to delete a reference to SmashWords in your document and see what happens when Amazon catches it.

Well, I’ve killed enough electrons for now and will return control of your laptop back to you. See you next month on the 24th. Let me know your thoughts.

Larry Archer – LarryArcher.com

by Jean Roberta

Over the years, I’ve read a lot of advice on how to write, what to write, and how to promote it. Some of that advice has been contradictory, while some of it might have been brilliantly relevant to current trends, and for particular writers who are not me.

During the Feminist Sex Wars of the 1980s, I was warned by sister-feminists that “porn” was a male writer’s genre, and that its goal was to reduce live women to objects, or sex toys without wills of their own. There was evidence to support this theory, and “jokes” about the sexual abuse of women have not disappeared from the culture. They probably never will.

However, I discovered that sexually-explicit fiction is as diverse as fiction in general. In fact, since most human beings secretly or openly want sex in some form, it’s hard to imagine a narrative about humans in which sex is absent. In some cases, the sex shows up in a central character’s dreams and fantasies. In nineteenth-century fiction, it often shows up in Latin/legal terms. (“They were caught in flagrante delicto.”) In “literary” fiction, the sex used to appear in euphemisms (“And that night, they were not divided”) and metaphors (“The earth moved”).

Since the sex is already there, I thought, coyly lurking between the lines, why not bring it out into the light so we can see it? If the sex is meant to violate the will of one or more of the participants, an explicit description makes that clear, and readers can respond.

Writing about sex felt thrilling when I first tried it. I knew that most of my relatives, not to mention friends, coworkers and other acquaintances, would probably disapprove and consider me misguided at best, but it was still a big relief to describe things I had actually done as well as things I had only imagined. Okay, I thought, call me a slut if you want, but if you never think about such things, why do you read my stuff?

The Erotic Readers Association (as it was called in 1998, when I joined) was a great source of support. Other members consoled me when I complained on-list that my stories seemed to disappear into the Bermuda Triangle when I sent them off to editors in response to calls-for-submissions. (My first three erotic stories had been “accepted” in the 1980s by a small publisher that mailed me a letter, then immediately went bust.)

I began getting stories published in anthologies, and I thought the thrill would never wear off. It never completely did, but as Lisabet has mentioned, books are more ephemeral now than we bookworms of the Baby Boom generation ever believed in our youth. Having dozens of erotic stories in anthologies has not made me famous on any level, nor has it provided a reliable income. Thousands of books are published each year, and most of them probably won’t be remembered in another generation.

Besides all that, as M. Christian has said somewhere (probably in a blog post), there are only so many ways to describe sex. Characters, situations and plots can be different in every story, but body parts are limited, and what can be done with them fits into a few categories. I grew tired of repeating myself, and I hesitate to go far beyond my own experience in describing elaborate scenes that might be physically impossible. (And on that note, unclear sentence construction can suggest that a character has three arms, three breasts, or three balls, or that two characters can grope each other from across a room. The logistics of a sex scene have to be carefully managed.)

My age has probably played a role in my desire to write about something other than sex. I doubt if I will ever completely turn off like a burned-out lightbulb, but I no longer feel as if I will just die if I don’t get some. And if I don’t need it desperately, it’s hard to convince myself that my characters do.

In short, I have begun to stray into other genres. According to those who advise writers to discover their “brand” and stick to it, this is a problem. If I have a brand at all, it is clearly erotic fiction.

During the past two years, I’ve written several stories that are not sexually explicit, and most are still unpublished. My story for an anthology that is meant to tweak the imaginary world of a famous horror writer was tentatively accepted, but I haven’t been offered a contract, and this project seems to have no clear completion date. I wrote a queer mystery story for a Sherlock Holmes-flavoured anthology, and I haven’t had a response yet. (In fairness to the editor, he probably hasn’t had time to make decisions yet.) I sent a fantasy story to an editor who said explicitly in the call-for-submissions that the anthology was not meant to include erotica. This editor sent me a flattering rejection (“This was an enjoyable read, but it’s not quite right for this collection”), so I sent the story to a speculative-fiction magazine that rejected it.

I feel as if I have started over. If I continue to write fiction without sex scenes, I will continue to send it to editors and venues that probably don’t recognize my name. The competition might be even more intense than it is in the erotic fiction market, though this is debatable.

I am grateful that the “Writers’ Block” I thought I had when I was responsible for a child and for too much unpaid work, while scrounging for a living, seems to be permanently gone. As Virginia Woolf put it so well, a woman writer needs a room of her own, and I now have several. And while I’m on sabbatical, I’m not distracted by the day job.

What I didn’t expect, and what writing coaches never seem to acknowledge, is that the Muse changes over time. For that matter, individual identity changes over time. As long as that is the case, I’m not sure how more “successful” writers (in terms of royalties and name recognition) manage to promote their “brand” for a lifetime without burning out. That seems to be one fate that ever-changing writers don’t need to fear.
————–

It’s good to be busy.

I just returned from a retreat and a networking evening.
Both events took place on the Massachusetts coast. I’ve decided that I prefer
retreats to conventions now. Less unpleasant commitment and much cheaper, if
you work the retreats the right way. The retreat in Hampton, New Hampshre two
weekends ago was free because it was for members of Broad Universe. That’s a
networking group for women who write speculative fiction (and other forms of
fiction). I worked on Full Moon Fever,
my bisexual male werewolves erotic romance novella I’m turning into a novel. I
also worked on Neighbors, a lesbian
short story reprint for a new submission call about sexy neighbors. I’m also
going to submit a new story for that one. I learned of the submission call from
the Erotic Readers and Writers Association. I get lots of use from this group.

The interesting thing about Full Moon Fever is that it employs “The Other” (or
“The Double”), which is an archetype of twins who are really mirror
opposites of each other but aren’t related at all. They are two people who look
very much alike but they compliment each other. Two men in Full Moon Fever are
dead ringers for each other, but they are very much different. One man, when asked
if he’d like to get it on with his look-alike, says “I’ve always wanted to
have sex in the third person.” Two women, who are lovers, are also
look-alikes who are very different. One is quiet while the other is chatty. One
is pensive while the other is boisterous. I have a thing about “The
Other”. There is another set of opposites in a WIP family saga thriller
I’m working on.  These two women are
mirror images of each other. One is dark – dark hair, dark eyes – while the
other is light – blond hair, eyes so pale blue the irises disappear into her
whites. She looks blind but she sees all. I want to explore this archetype much
more. It’s a fascinating one. Are they related or not? Why is the blonde so
interested in the brunette? What’s her secret? Those are some questions driving
the book.

The Broad Universe retreat was the first retreat where I
actually did any writing. LOL My first retreat was the Stanley Hotel Writers
Retreat last October in Estes Park, Colorado. This one is for horror writers. My
husband and I had such a good time last year we’re returning this year. The
Stanley Hotel is where Stephen King stayed, and the hotel in its then rundown
condition spooked him so much it inspired him to write The Shining. I didn’t get a stitch of work done. I went to talks,
meals, hangouts, and even had some marijuana cookies and cream cake balls since
pot is legal in Colorado. I learned I can’t write worth spit when I’m stoned.
All I do is stare into space, drool and giggle. Someone recommended I eat half
a cake ball (or a quarter) the next time and see how I feel. It would be
interesting to write when stoned. I write when tipsy which is fun. Maybe my
writing will end up looking like James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. LOL

Here are pictures of North Beach in Hampton, NH which was in
front of the beach house where I did my writing. I walked on the beach each morning. Talk about inspiring!

The networking event is called the Writers Coffee House New England and
this month’s meeting was held an hour away from my home at a bookstore. The
meeting room was packed! I met old friends and made plenty of new ones. This
was a networking meet-and-greet discussion event. Although the majority of
writers wrote horror (including myself and this is New England we’re talking
about – home of the witch trials, Shirley Jackson and H. P. Lovecraft), the
advice applied to any writer. I picked up more tips about how to promote my
upcoming releases. I also learned that if I find a publisher for my family saga
thriller, I should write to the agent at the top of my list and pitch my book
before I sign the contract. Say I need an agent to look over and negotiate the
contract for me. Apparently, it’s easier to find an agent for a book that has
already been accepted. That’s news to me. I need to investigate the best
cozy/mystery/thriller publishers and send the book out, but first I need to
divide it in two. It’s a mega novel and far too large to sell as one book. One
agent who rejected me told me that. He was right. But that’s a fixable problem.
My husband came with me. We ended the evening at dinner at a restaurant with about
15 of the attendees. Then, we headed to a hotel where I had booked a jacuzzi room
for under $100 per night. We spent our time soaking and drinking – he Campari,
me Fra Angelico. Now that’s a weekend get-away!

Next month I attend the When Words Count retreat in the
mountains of Vermont. I won my stay at this one so it costs only for food. I’ve
never been to Vermont. This will be my first time. Maybe I’ll run into Bernie
Sanders. LOL I plan to finish Full Moon
Fever
and hand it in to Xcite Books after Xcite publishes my new erotic
romance novel No Restraint. That one
is a corporate and food porn erotica with elements of billionaire erotica. I
plan to write, takes walks on the mountain trails, and relax with some wine
when I’m not writing. We write all day and eat dinner together and chit chat
about our work at night. I’m going to enjoy this.

Finally, in June, my husband and I are attending No-Con. It
was originally Anthocon, a horror convention, but the organizers aren’t able to
do it this year. Two of them moved on. There were four total. They were
nicknamed The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Sadly, Anthocon is no more. Despite
the lack of convention this year, the regulars wanted to get together anyway,
so No-Con was born. It’s just a gathering where everyone can get together and
hang out. We got a great rate on the hotel, which I have to reserve soon. I get
to see everyone I hung out with last year. No pressure of manning tables,
readings or selling books. Just hang out in the bar, eat, and drink and
schmooze. I can get used to this!

I definitely like these retreats and get-togethers. I want
to make a habit of them. If you can get away to retreats, I highly recommend
them. The networking opportunities are phenomenal and I find them to be less
stressful than conventions. Plus, they’re just fun. Fun is always a good thing.

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica,
erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her
husband, son, and three cats. Visit her web
site
, her Facebook page, and her Amazon
Author Page
.

—–

This post is another
article about my time at The Muse
And The Marketplace
writers conference held in Boston in the spring of 2015. The
last time, I talked about writing query letters. This time, I’d like to talk
about pitching non-fiction work to magazines and web sites.

Although it’s been a
few years, I have written for non-fiction publications, including magazines and
web sites such as On The Issues, SexIs, Good Vibrations Magazine, and Alternet.
I’ve written about feminist, sexuality, and relationship issues. I’ve always
found that non-fiction magazine and article writing paid better than fiction
writing. Most of my earnings came from my non-fiction writing, including blog
posts and other work I had written for the British sex toys company Bondara. I actually started out writing
non-fiction articles for magazines long before I wrote my first fictional
story. I’d like to get back into this someday, and the tips I heard from the
speaker at The Muse And The Marketplace who spoke about writing for magazines
will be a great help.

There are many
different types of articles. There are personal essays, investigative pieces,
op-eds. Choose what you want to write. I’m focusing on personal essays and
investigative pieces since I had written both.

One key to writing
for magazines is to make your article personal. Keep in mind that editors
receive pitches for the same topics, especially if they are newsworthy and
current, and you need to make your pitch unique. An example is to tie in an
anecdote to the non-fiction topic you are writing about. Base it on your
personal experience with the topic at hand. This will personalize your article
and give it warmth so that it doesn’t come across as cold, detached, or rote.
When I wrote about the blow
job and Altoids mints
myth for nuts4chic magazine, which was a British pop
culture ezine, I based part of my article on personal experience. I had done
the Altoids bit with my husband with comical results.

So you’ve chosen
your topic and how you can personalize it. What do you do next? Do your
research. That’s what Google is for. Interview people who are experts in the
field or find articles they’ve written. I had visited Snopes, the urban legend
site, to learn more about the Altoids blow job myth. Snopes didn’t have much
and I didn’t agree with quite a bit of what the site said, per my own
experience. Still, the information was useful.

Now, to pitch your
story. First, research magazines to determine which ones would be a good fit. The
Muse speaker recommended Slate for never-before-published writers. I was
already a staff writer for nuts4chic so my article had a home, but I’ve written
pieces that required a cold pitch. I visited Alternet, Slate, and Salon.
Alternet was the best fit for my article about why men fake orgasms.
When you pitch, don’t be vague by stating, for example, “I want to write
an article about why men fake orgasms”. 
What’s interesting to you about the topic? For me, it was unusual that
it happened at all. Most people think of women faking orgasms for a multitude
of reasons. I found sexuality forums where men freely discussed with me their
reasons for faking the Big O. Those interviews personalized the topic and made
it much more specific. Also, specify research and such that supports your
points. I referred to The ABC News Primetime Live Poll: The American Sex Survey.

It helps if you’ve
written pieces similar to the one you are pitching. You may want to include up
to two examples of your writing on the topic in your pitch, whether published
or unpublished. Or do what I do and give links to previously published articles
so that the editor may read at his or her leisure. Proving links prevents your
pitch letter from being too busy and long.

Be prepared for
rejections. The Muse speaker submitted ten times to New York Magazine before
one of his pitches was accepted. I submitted often to Alternet and saw plenty
of my pitches rejected, but some were also accepted.

Find ideas. Read a
lot on your given topic. Hot current topics in the news always make for great
articles ideas, but remember to make yours unique. You may have a hard time
seeing your pitch accepted since everyone and her sister is writing about the
same topic. Take it from a fresh angle – one that hasn’t been tried before.
Write an unpopular opinion on a given topic. The Muse speaker loved to write
about people he disagreed with.

Don’t sell yourself
short. Look that websites and magazines that pay, preferably those that pay
well. I often received upwards of $200 and more for a 1,000 word article.  The problem with “for the love”
sites is that you get what you pay for. Granted, some writers may be excellent
but you’ll also run into substandard, poorly researched crap. You have a better
chance of being in good company with a reputable magazine or website that pays
well. There is a vetting process in paying markets that you may not find in
non-paying markets. There’s always exceptions to the rule, but remember those
are exceptions.

It’s fun to branch
out from fiction into non-fiction. You can gain an entirely new audience who
will not only follow your non-fiction pieces but they may also buy your books.  Jump into the deep end of writing non-fiction.
The water feels great.

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica,
erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her
husband, son, and three cats. Visit her web
site
, her Facebook page, and her Amazon
Author Page
.

I’m currently searching for an agent for my erotic romance
novel Alex Craig Has A Threesome, and
I have battled with the dreaded query letter. I thought I had done my research,
but after attending the Boston writer’s conference The Muse And The
Marketplace, I discovered I had not written the damned thing correctly. I had
written my introduction, named the book, gave the blurb, the word count, genre,
and then my publishing history and a little information about my prior movie
and TV work.

Turns out I left out an important item – why I am the best
person to write this book. The Muse taught me the proper way to write a query
letter, and thanks to the conference I did get my first request for a partial.
Sadly, that resulted in another rejection, but at least she requested a
partial.

I’m not giving up.

According to book
developer and principle of The Scribe’s Window Cherise Fisher
, who gave the
talk “The Perfect Pitch” at The Muse And The Marketplace, a pitch is
“the transfer of enthusiasm from one person to the next. It’s like a
virus. You infect with your pitch.” Books are meant to entertain, educate,
and inspire/provoke. A pitch is the foundation for your proposal. It’s your
contact with an agent or editor. It’s also about being as clear and concise as
possible to the person you’re pitching to.

Multi-published, Rita Award winning author Shelley
Adina wrote in her article Writing A
Pitch Perfect Query Letter
that there are four parts to a successful
query letter:

The intro

The story (i.e., the back-cover blurb

Your credentials

Call to action

My mistake was leaving out my backstory – why a have a passion
for this particular story. I left out my call to action. I needed to
personalize my pitch. The perfect book is the book only you can write. This
includes your life experiences and your perspective, Reveal what is behind you
for writing this book. Why are you so driven to do it? What’s the story, and
why is it yours to tell?

This article will discuss those four parts of a successful
query letter so that when you write yours, it will be more likely to attract
the attention of an agent if you are searching for one. Your goal, of course,
is representation. Not everyone is on the look-out for an agent, but this
article about writing queries should be helpful to anyone.

The Intro – This
is where you introduce yourself to the agent and any ties you may have. If
you’ve met the agent at a conference, listened to a lecture, or attended a
workshop, this is the time to mention it. 
Familiarize yourself with the agent. If the agent has a blog, read it.
Read any articles or interviews the agent is involved in. If you’re a fan of
the books and authors the agent represents, tell them.

Make sure you write your query in your natural voice since
you want to be approachable. Adina was right when she said, “Your voice is
your brand, so your business letter should reflect it.”

Also make sure you’ve spelled the agent’s name and the
agency’s name correctly. You don’t want to get off to a bad start with a
misspelling.  Your intro should show
you’ve done your homework, you’re familiar with the agent, and your letter
isn’t boilerplate.

The Story
Condense your novel into a concise and attention-getting paragraph or two. No
more than that. This takes some work. Focus on the characters, what drives
them, any archetypes you’re using, the conflict, and what gets the ball rolling
for the characters in the first place. Do not skimp on your condensed story.
This is the meat of your query letter. Your story has to grab the agent’s
attention immediately. Don’t waste words and use words wisely.

Your Credentials
– This is where you talk about why you are the best person to write your story.
You also list any previously published works or awards you’ve received. If
you’ve written a book that showcases the beauty of New England and the Atlantic
Ocean and you’ve lived on the Massachusetts coast for twenty years, mention
that. Is your heroine an art lover and you majored in Fine Arts? Is your hero a
stage lighting technician and you’ve worked as a union gaffer for several
years? All three of these examples are true for me regarding two of my
unpublished novels, my thriller Secrets
and Lies
(which may have found a publisher) and my erotic romance work in
progress Full Moon Fever.

Now, what if you’re a mom teaching part-time at an
elementary school, but your book is about a sleazy but sexy successful con
artist in love with his mark? Let’s assume you’ve done your homework for this
book and you are a romance fan. Mention that you consume romance novels the way
normal people eat meals, for instance. It’s definitely worth a mention if you’ve
done research on famous con artists and their techniques. Has your manuscript
won any contests? That’s a must-mention. Are you a member of RWA or Broad
Universe? Definitely mention both.

A Call To Action
– Your closing should be inviting and it should offer a call to action. Why do
you think your novel is a good fit for this agent and publisher? What is the
goal of your book? To entertain? To teach? What is the goal of your main
characters? Close your query with ease.

If you want to see examples of successful query letters,
check out Writer’s
Digest’s Successful Queries page
. Not only does the page include scads of
very good queries, there are explanations from agents following each query as
to why it was a good one. I’ve learned a great deal from reading those
examples. Hopefully, this learning experience will someday (maybe soon) result
in representation.

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.

—–

Several years ago, I
made the huge mistake of applying for a writing job from an online site that
required a few “sample articles” as examples of my work. I was to
post them on the web site’s forum, and get as many views as I could. I wasn’t
about to write anything new, so I posted my old stand-by article about the time
I tested the Altoids
mints blow job
on my husband. That post alone got more views than anything
else that was posted, and lots of people posted. I posted at least one other
previously published article, which also got an amazing number of views – more
than anyone else. I was confident that I had jumped through all the hoops and
was on my way to paid employment.

I didn’t get the
job.

I didn’t realize
until later that the web site was farming for free content. I did all the
legwork proving the time and product as well as promoting my posts, and the site
didn’t have to do a damned thing. I learned my lesson. I have never again sent
sample articles to any writing job application that required them. That said, I
understand reputable companies need to see examples of my writing to determine
if I’m a good fit. I realize that. Instead of creating new content, I send
links to existing articles so the company may see what I have already
published. Sometimes I get a response, but I usually don’t hear back from those
companies. Now, I don’t bother to send anything to companies asking for sample
articles unless I can provide links. Burned once, shame on you. Burned twice,
shame on me.

Why are writers so
often asked to work for free? Or for “exposure”? Promising a vague
form of exposure is another way of getting free content. There are some things
I do as a means of promotion for which I am not paid. Writing on this blog is
one of them. I gain an audience writing here, and it keeps my name out there in
between books. I’ve written stories for charity anthologies because I like
contributing to a good cause. However, I will not simply give someone a free
story or article just because. No more content farming scams. No more free
writing for web sites that make scads of money from advertising and
subscriptions.

Designer Dan
Cassaro
ran into a similar “opportunity” when he was invited by
Showtime – a company clearly needing to rub dimes together to pay for paper
clips – to join a design “contest” he felt was really only a way of
fishing for free content. The contest involved promoting the Floyd
Mayweather-Marcos Maidana boxing match. Those who submitted designs for
Showtime’s use could – to quote the message Cassaro had received from Showtime
– “be eligible for a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas and have your
artwork displayed in the MGM Grand during fight week!” He let Showtime and
everyone else within earshot know exactly what he thought about it, dripping
with sarcasm:

“It is with great sadness that I must
decline your enticing offer to work for you for free. I know that boxing
matches in Las Vegas as extremely low-budget affairs, especially ones with
nobodies like Floyd “Money” Mayweather. I heard he only pulled in 80
Million for this last fight! I also understand that a “mom and pop”
cable channel like Showtime must rely on handouts just to keep the lights on
these days. Thanks a lot, Obama! My only hope is that you can scrape up a few
dollars from this grassroots event at the MGM Grand to put yourself back in the
black. If that happens, you might consider using some of that money to
compensate people to do the thing they are professionally trained to do.”

Why are writers (and
artists in general) so often expected to work for free – or for
“exposure”, as the request is often sugar-coated? Would you expect
your dentist to give you a root canal for free? Do you pay the housecleaner?
The car mechanic? Do your plumber and electrician walk away without monetary
compensation once they do the job you’ve begged them to do because they are
professionals and you are not trained to do the work they do? So why expect a
writer to write for free?

Science fiction
writer Harlan Ellison had plenty to say about those who expect writers to
provide free content. A
DVD company asked him if he’d let them use a very long and very interesting
on-camera interview about the making of “Babylon Five”. He said,
sure, pay me. The woman who called was flabbergasted, as if she expected him to
just fork over his hard work for free – even though she received a
paycheck. Here’s a portion of what he had to say about it.

“Does
your boss get a paycheck? Do you pay the Telecity guy? Do you pay the
cameraman? Do you pay the cutters? Do you pay the Teamsters when they schlep
your stuff on the trucks? Then how—don’t you pay—would you go to a gas station
and ask me to give you free gas? Would you go to the doctor and have him take
out your spleen for nothing? How
dare you call me and want me to work for nothing!”

If you want to read his entire rant – and it’s
worth reading – check out “Harlan
Ellison On Getting Paid” at Print Magazine
. There is also a link at
that page to a video of his rant. It’s from the film “Dreams With Sharp
Teeth”.

Ellison is not alone. This “we won’t pay
you” schtick is something lots of writers and other artists hear. Last
year, hula hoop performer Revolva
was contacted by Harpo, Oprah Winfrey’s company, to perform at Oprah’s “Live
The Life You Want” event
stop in San Jose, California. Revolva was
thrilled –  until she realized Harpo had
no intention of compensating her for hours, effort, or travel. In fact, Harpo
intended to not pay any of the creative workers it contacted, despite the fact
that tickets
to this event cost anywhere from $99 to $999
just to get in the door. The
events producers claimed they didn’t have the budget to pay performers. Yes,
that’s right. A billionaire’s tour didn’t have the budget to pay
performers. If Revolva and the other artists wanted To Live The Life They Want,
they could have it – without being paid for it. She chose to not perform. She,
like Ellison, had plenty to say about being not only asked but expected
to work for free:

“Back
to that spiritual lesson you had in store for me, Oprah. Maybe it’s because my
car broke down, and I’m struggling. Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing this for
12 years, and after all the requests for free or discount work, the one by a
billionaire’s tour was the straw that broke my back. But I thought it through,
and achieving “the life you want” is not always easy. The risks we have to
take, to transform this culture into something more nurturing, involve looking
at the way things are and saying, ‘Hey, wait. That’s not cool!'”

It’s ironic that
this tour of Oprah’s was about realizing your self-worth. Apparently, you’re
worth a great deal – as long as you don’t expect to be compensated in cold hard
cash.

Stories like these
strike a nerve with artists, including writers. They grate my teeth. All of us
get these messages, and they really harsh our cool. It’s almost as if those
doing the asking think artists create the works they create only out of
“love” or an internal drive and have no interest or understanding of
how money works. Granted, some writers do write for the love of it, but not all of them.

As Tom Cruise
said in “Jerry Maguire”, Show
Me The Money!

The corollary to
being expected to work for free is being expected to work for peanuts. We’ve
all seen the calls for submissions on places like Craigslist where a potential
employer requires an assload of work – but will only pay $20.00 for said job. I
just counted three such jobs, including one that called for you to be available on weekends. Nope, nope, nope. The
other way of parting writers from their money are Get Rich Quick schemes – something
like “7 Easy Steps To Getting Paid As A Writer”. Write a book telling
people how to make money writing a book and watch the cash pour in. I’ve seen
these ads on Facebook, and the comments are always some form of “f—
off!”

There is an old
adage in creative work like writing – aim high and work your way down. Aim
first for the pro rates. Aim for the big publishers. Aim for the best agents.
Don’t start at the bottom and work your way up because you don’t think you have
enough experience or talent. Don’t downgrade yourself. Don’t settle and demean
yourself by doing a shitload of work for a paycheck that barely covers a Big
Mac, fries, and a Coke.

The sad thing is there
are plenty of writers and other artists who will eagerly take up these offers.
They tend to be newbies who are so green they don’t know any better. They may
not feel they have a right to ask for money. Or they fall for the
“exposure” line. They see stars when Oprah or Showtime contacts them,
and they happily give over free content only to inevitably get little to
nothing out of it, or at the very least not be compensated in a way that the
very wealthy company can easily afford. As long as these people exist, the free
content farms will continue to thrive. Don’t ask to be paid what you’re worth.
Demand it. You have that right.

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica,
erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her
husband, son, and four cats. Visit her web
site
, her Facebook page, and her Amazon
Author Page
.

—–

I read a Facebook
post recently in which the person talked about Post-Partum Depression that
results when you finish a project such as a story or painting. You’ve given
birth to something you’ve created, and in the aftermath you feel down – PPD. He
wrote that it’s a feeling of emptiness. You don’t know what to do. You don’t
want to watch TV. You don’t want to start something new. All you feel is bored,
restless, and even a little depressed.

Has it ever happened
to you?

I recently went
through a case of PPD when I recently finished writing “Full Moon
Fever”, my (so far) unpublished m/m werewolf erotic romance novel. At
first, I was elated. I always celebrate finishing a project and getting an
acceptance. My husband and I cracked open a bottle of champagne and made
toasts. Granted, I drink champagne all the time, but this called for a new
bottle. Delirious with glee, I spent the rest of the day getting tipsy and
watching bad movies on TV.

About a day later,
the depression hit. It was as if I had come down off a great high. Crashing
describes it quite well. I missed my characters. I longed for the joy of seeing
what kind of mischief they would get into. There were plenty of things for me
to do, including writing a sequel but I felt so spent I couldn’t work on
anything, including my other works in progress.

I had to do something. Anything. This downer had
to go.

After I wallowed in
my misery for a day or two, I made a conscious decision to pull out of it. This
kind of depression isn’t like clinical depression in that I was able to pull myself out of it by
distracting myself. What worked for me may not work for you, but here’s what I
did. First of all, I got away from the computer. For several days, I took a
break from writing. I watched movies and my favorite TV shows. The kitchen got
a workout because I baked. If it’s sickeningly sweet, I’ll bake it. This is the
time I buy new plants for my container garden. If weather permits, I go for
walks on the beach. I finished “Full Moon Fever” in the dead of
winter so beach walks were out but scenic drives weren’t.

For me, the key was
getting out of my head. I needed time to recharge.

Everyone is
different. Responses varied to that Facebook post. Some people didn’t go
through PPD – they celebrated. Others always had new projects in the works so
they were working on something all the time. I’ve done that one myself, but not
always. Some edit or sleep more. Others get out into the fresh air.

Do you suffer from
Post-Partum Literary Depression? What do you do to alleviate it?

by Donna George Storey

Write what you want to write instead of what you think you’re supposed to write.

That’s what I’m hoping to do, as I discussed in my last column here at ERWA, but I know there’s no quick and easy way to make the big switch. It takes time to discard old habits, to trust inner voices, to take risks. As part of this process, I’ve been thinking back to the messages I’ve gotten over the years about “good” writing from teachers, how-to books, famous writers, literary critics. Or in other words, the specifics of my supposed-to’s.

Back when I first started writing seriously, about sixteen years ago now, I was talking with a friend who had signed up for a pricey writing workshop with the former editor of a national magazine that published fiction. She mentioned that this teacher’s highest praise for a student’s story was “this is writing that will last.” And indeed, he urged all of his students to aim to write “something that will last.”

At the time, I took this as simple wisdom from an expert. After all, wasn’t that the dream of every writer—to be so amazingly talented that we attain immortality like Shakespeare? That guy lived four hundred years ago and everyone still knows his name! Of course, as I became more familiar with what the writer’s life really involves in our commercial age, I realized that “lasting” means your book is reprinted many times or that it’s taught in high school or college classrooms year after year. Unfortunately, authors who achieve either of these goals are rare, and in the latter case, most are already dead. Gradually my goals became more modest. I was satisfied—in the best way–if someone told me that my story lingered for a day or so after s/he read it. Perhaps I would never be immortal, but whenever a reader confessed that s/he read a particular story of mine many times for erotic inspiration, I knew I’d made a true connection, the highest praise an erotica writer can hope to hear.

Yet I still believed that there were “important new voices” up there in Literary Land, penning gorgeous and unforgettable literary prose that would earn them a throne next to The Bard for all eternity. I didn’t really question this (I’m now somewhat embarrassed to admit) until very recently when I happened to read a book by Leslie Fiedler, a renegade English professor who both entertained and scandalized academia in the latter half of the twentieth century by embracing popular literature as worthy of analysis. (He is also credited with coining the term “postmodernism” among other things). I originally sought out his book What Was Literature? for an essay on Rhett Butler as a symbolic Black Stranger in Gone With the Wind, but I ended up reading the whole book with great enjoyment. 

I was hooked at Fiedler’s opening redefinition of the classic distinction between literary (high) and popular (low) fiction. He wrote that literary fiction could in fact be seen as “minority” literature, read by few and penned by tormented, introverted male artistes to stimulate the intellect, whereas popular literature was “majority” literature, mainly scribbled by female hacks to drug us with cheap sensationalism. More amusing was his description of popular fiction as “optional,” whereas, for most readers, literary fiction was “compulsory,” as in school assignments that needed professional explication to be understood fully.

But what really struck a chord with me was Fiedler’s insistence that “writing that lasts” is not about the quality of the prose. It is what he calls the mythopoeic power of the story, with characters that live on in our minds long after the beautiful metaphors (if any) are forgotten. This got me thinking about which stories have indeed lasted over time, stories our culture returns to again and again in modern riffs and movie remakes. My Anglo-centric list would include the Bible, some of Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth), Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, A Christmas Carol, Huckleberry Finn, Dracula, The Great Gatsby, and Gone with the Wind. Harry Potter, Twilight, and Fifty Shades of Grey certainly define contemporary popular tastes, but I’d need to reconsider their lasting impact in about 30 years. By this measure, all the towering literary figures of my youth—Hemingway, Faulkner, Bellow, Updike, Roth—are still reasonably famous as names, but rarely read except in class or by a small minority of literati with historical inclinations.

I know my particular list is open to argument—maybe you’d delete Macbeth and Huck Finn and add King Lear and To Kill a Mockingbird–but the specific examples are less important than the redefinition of “writing that lasts.” Because I now see it’s not about the world’s admiration for a writer’s brilliant prose, fresh metaphors, and carefully structured chapter breaks—although many of these works are beautifully written and a pleasure to read because of it. The immortality belongs to the story for its power to connect deeply with readers across cultures and time.

As a writer myself, I was also very interested to learn that Harriet Beecher Stowe was inspired to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin when she had a vision during a church service of an aged black slave being beaten to death by a cruel master. The image rose up in her mind, demanding a novel to be written around it. I also remembered that Charles Dickens was planning to write a political pamphlet about poverty and injustice in the fall of 1843. However, inspired by the rousing response to a speech he gave to a workingman’s club in Manchester, he walked the dark streets of the city, possessed by images of a redeemed miser. In a few short weeks of feverish work, he wrote one of the most retold stories ever, A Christmas Carol.

So what does this mean for a writer who seeks to create works that linger if not last forever? For me it means taking one more step away from writing as ego gratification, as proof of my worthiness or cleverness–because really, let’s face it, no one cares if I can turn a phrase or not. It also means taking one step closer to stories that move me, that draw me in to their magic, that beg to be told through me.

Which stories beg to be told through you?

Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman (recently released as an ebook) and a new collection of short
stories, Mammoth
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey
. Learn more about her
work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com
or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor

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