What Writing is Not

Writing is not stream of consciousness. You can’t open a channel to your brain and let it all pour out on paper.

Ever take a look inside your brain? One hell of a mess! Sentence fragments, improper grammar, and in my case, way too much profanity. If I hadn’t cleaned up my writing before submitting it, I would never have been published. (At least, I’d like to think that! Judging from some of the ebooks I’ve read lately, I wonder!)

I don’t care how good a writer you are, you will never catch every mistake, every inconsistency. If you aren’t self-editing, if you aren’t using a beta reader, you’re submitting a manuscript less publishable than it could be. And if it does get accepted, you will drive your editor nuts. You will make them want to stick a lit torch up your ass, giggling maniacally as they do so. As a writer, you should submit the most polished, professional work you can.

Believe me, no one is perfect! I don’t care how finished you think your story is, I’ll bet you anything it can be improved. I know this for a fact, because I gave AJ my latest manuscript, thinking he wouldn’t find much, and it came back full of comments.

Writing is not aimless rambling. Readers quickly become bored with a story that goes nowhere. Have a goal in mind, make a point of some kind, and make sure your writing takes the reader there.

Writing is not falling back on familiarity. Repetition is KILLER and not in a good way. Watch for crutch words like “that,” “so,” “well,” and others. We all have them. Mine was “just.” Now I watch for it and almost always delete it.

Crutch phrases are common, too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read “…he crossed his arms” or “I drew him closer” because the writer kept falling back on the same safe phrases. By the end of the story, I was ready to throttle someone, preferably the writer. Download SmartEdit, which is free, and see what you’ve been writing. Pay attention, mix it up, be original!

Another form of repetition is when your main character does a lot of thinking and they keep going over the same ground. The reader gets it, trust me. You don’t have to bang them over the head with it. Let the main character think new things or make him stop thinking! And if that character thinks I’m really in the mood for ice cream and then says, “I’m in the mood for ice cream,” you’re not paying attention. Remember to show, not tell!

Writing is not real life. People in books speak better. They don’t say “uh” all the time, or rely on verbal habits like “ya know.” You’ve met those people, right? They end every sentence with “ya know?” They want to make sure you’re listening. It ends up making you want to smack them. It has the same effect in books.

Dialog should be cleaned up some. Make it realistic, but leave out the annoying bits.

Sex is not boring, so why would you write it that way? Gawd, I’ve read some atrocious sex scenes lately. Everyone knows where things go. If you focus on the mechanics of the act, your readers will be bored. What makes a sex scene interesting is how you make it different, and that means introducing things other than Part A sliding into Part B after suitable lubrication. Also, not every act is the best thing that ever happened to either party. If it is, there’s nowhere to go after your main characters enjoy the ultimate experience. Work up to it. Keep sex real! The dick is not a panacea for all world problems, so don’t write like it is.

Make it real. Make it funny. Have them talk throughout. Let them be watched (but not more than once) and interrupted (again, not more than once!). Let them fall out of bed. Maybe one of them will fart at an inappropriate moment. Anal sex is not pristine! Shit, as they say, happens! The biggest erogenous zone is the brain. Engage that and you’ve got them!

About Theo Fenraven

Theo Fenraven happily lives in south Florida, where it is really hot most of the year. Find him on Twitter, Google +, and Facebook by searching on 'fenraven'.
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2 Responses to What Writing is Not

  1. Great post as always. Some of my favorite scenes from smut don’t even involve penetration. I understand it’s the main event, but there’s so much other fun stuff.

    • There really is! I wish more writers would explore those options instead of relying on the same ol’ tired devices.

      Although the scene got out of hand, messy, and silly at the end, the food tasting in 9-1/2 Weeks on the floor in front of the fridge was erotic as hell at the beginning. They could have done so much with that! And didn’t.

      The strip was very erotic, and then she kept laughing, which changed the tone. Basinger should have owned that damn scene.

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