Tips for Amateur Writersbysobstory©
Little-Known Yet Somehow Obvious Tips For Writers
I my experience as both an editor and a writer, I have come across some very common, but little-known, stylistic errors.
One thing that most people don't seem to understand is how to transform everyday, hum-drum, blah writing into something enjoyable.
Most often, the major problems with a story's readability are style related. Grammar is easy to fix, just buy a grammar book.
Style, on the other hand, is not so obvious. The good news is, you don't need to be Shakespeare to write an entertaining piece of smut, just a fairly intelligent human being with Internet access.
So, I have compiled a list of diagnoses and cures that I most commonly prescribe to amateur writers. Please note, this is not a complete grammar and style guide. I recommend getting an actual book for that.
Problem 1: Clunky writing
So many people do not know this! One of the most important things to do, especially while editing, is to use as few words as possible.
I know that on a site like Literotica, where there is a minimum word count, you might be hesitant to actually delete as much as you can, but you must.
The rule of thumb is, look at every single sentence, and ask yourself, "Is it necessary?" If it is not needed for plot, characterization, setting, theme, or symbolism, into the trashcan it goes.
But wait! Don't actually throw that into the trashcan! I'm talking about your "writer's trashcan." A "writer's trashcan" is a Word document I like to keep where I can save all of my favorite non-necessary phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and more!
If there is a sentence that is so completely, universe-shatteringly beautiful, but bulks up your precious writing, put it in here. Maybe you can use it later, in another story.
Now, obviously this tip isn't universal. Writers such as Joseph Conrad are so descriptive that by the time you finish the book, you can barely remember anything about the real world!
However, if you are that good, this is not the article for you. In fact, most of the following rules are like that. Feel free to throw them out the window if you know you can do better without them.
Problem 2: Vocabulary/Description
Vocabulary and description is tricky. There needs to be a balance. Some writing has so little description that it is impossible to visualize what is going on. This type of writing tends to be very clinical and detached.
USE YOUR SENSES!
In erotic writing, your readers will want to feel as if they can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell what is going on.
Here is an example from a (so far) unpublished story of mine:
"His brawny hands cupped her plump rear, marveling at how it could be soft and round yet muscled at the same time.
Her eyes, pitch-black and lined with a fringe of featherlike lashes, fluttered shut as a moan of ecstasy escaped her lips. The color rose on her high cheekbones, the coffee-and-cream skin reddening.
Pulling her closer, he leaned in to gently kiss her the hollow of her neck. His hands roamed up her strong back to nestle into the dip of her waist. She could feel his excitement hard against her groin, right at the place where thigh met hip."
Now compare it to this:
"He took her rear end in his hands, examining its feel and texture.
Her eyes closed as she vocalized her sexual arousal. Her tan skin blushed.
Pulling her closer, he kissed her neck. His hands moved up and down her back. She could feel his erection against her thigh."
Essentially, these two passages tell the same story, the characters going through the same motions. However, isn't the first one better? Yeah, I thought so. In addition, a good amount of description is a great way to up your word count.
Huh, you might ask. Didn't you just tell me not to stick words in willy-nilly to up word count?
The answer is yes! Description is not expendable! One of the main purposes of erotica is to arouse your reader and description such as this fits the bill perfectly. It adds to your story stylistically, so it stays. Just don't use so much description that it overwhelms your reader.
On to vocabulary, a surprisingly simpler topic.
The one rule of thumb about vocabulary is to not use any word that you got solely from a thesaurus. The thesaurus is a wonderful tool if you use it right. I mostly like to use it to jog my memory. Generally, I only use synonyms I am familiar with. I will, say, look up "sheer." My results are:
What to do, what to do? If you don't know "diaphanous," as most won't, don't use it. If you use a word that you don't know the subtleties and nuances of, you risk embarrassing yourself. The English language is so subtle, even close synonyms can have slightly different meanings.
"Thin" and "see through," while perfectly acceptable, are a little boring, don't you think?
Personally, I would use "gossamer" first, then "filmy," then move onto "thin" and "see through," if you still need them.
Another important vocabulary tip! Try not to use the same word over and over! This is why we use the thesaurus.
Problem 3: Unconvincing Characters
Okay. I am not going to go into a whole big spiel on character development here. Honestly, I could do a whole article on that, and my head hurts. So, I recommend taking advantage of the many online "character templates."
A "character template," or "character questionnaire," is basically a form providing all of the back-story on a character. It will tell you the way he looks, his family history, his secret fears, dreams, and desires. Look for a form with a lot of questions.
Now, a good form won't simply write your characters for you, but it is a step in the right direction. It can help you figure out what motivates your characters to do what they do.
Importantly, you don't need to fit every piece of information in your story. That would fall under the "bulky writing" category. Use as much as you need in the body of the story and use the rest to get to know your characters better. As their creator, you should know them as well as your best friend.
Here is a great character template I use. The questions are culled from many different sources:
Marital Status/Sexual Preference:
Weight/Body Structure/Physical Faults:
Speech Patterns/Frequently Used Phrases:
Both Happiest and Saddest Moments:
What is this character's major goal?
Why is this goal so important to this character?
Are there any events in the character's past that affect the significance of this goal?
Describe your characters life till now, motivations, family situation, pet peeves--anything that comes to you:
What is the one thing in the world your character would do anything to avoid? Why? What has he already done to avoid this? What do you see him doing in the future to avoid it?
What is the one thing in the world your character would do anything in the world to have? Why? What has he already done to try to obtain it? What does he hope to try in the future?
If your character has a job, is he or she good at it? Does he or she like it?
What are your character's bad habits?
If you asked about his or her greatest dream, what would your character tell you?
What's a secret dream that he or she wouldn't tell you about?
What kind of person does your character wish he or she could be? What is stopping him or her?
What is your character afraid of? What keeps him or her up at night?
What does your character think is his or her worst quality?
What do other people think your character's worst quality is?
What is a talent your character thinks he or she has but is very wrong about?
What did his or her childhood home look like?
Who was his or her first love?
What's the most terrible thing that ever happened to him/her?
What was his/her dream growing up? Did he/she achieve this dream? If so, in what ways was it not what the character expected? If your character never achieved the dream, why not?
In what situation would your character become violent?
In what situation would your character act heroic?
Gah! This is a little overwhelming, right?
Relax. You don't need to use all of it. Just answer what you want.
Problem 4: Confusing Plot/Plot Holes
Have you ever read a mystery book and realized, wait, if the detective had to surrender his gun at the security gate, then how is it possible that the murderer got onto the plane with the bomb?
Or, and I have seen this in poorly written pieces, suddenly, the loverboy in a piece of smut goes from having passionate sex with his wife Brenda to having steamy hotness with his wife Lori.
Just PAY ATTENTION!
To wrap up:
Thanks for reading. As I said before, this is not a complete guide to style and grammar, but merely a short compilation of some of the most common yet overlooked errors amateur writers commit.