While emailing back and forth with another erotica writer this week, I’ve made another discovery about my writing that relates both to my love of longform writing and why I am not that good at shortform writing: I like to write stories by including clues to set long-term plot points up.
The first step is admitting you have a problem.
Some of this stuff I don’t even notice until I examine it later. An avid reader who likes to over-analyze my stuff excitedly pointed out how he liked how I wrote Chris’ character arc in GBM by setting him up as the guy forcefully making sure he got to live in Aaron’s house, “establishing the character that would later get in trouble for invading people’s personal lives like he invaded their house.” I didn’t consciously write him living there for that reason. It was just the way the story played out in my head. But looking at this reader’s weirdly extensive case, I can’t help but admit it makes sense where he’s coming from.
This is all well and dandy to identify for one’s style, but it also comes with a few realized weaknesses. I used to really like the TV show Doctor Who before Steven Moffatt took over as the head writer, largely because he wrote the show for long-term payoff and would make subtle hints and pieces of lore in one season only to be explained 3 seasons later. Now, if you can pull that off well, it can be really effective, but that’s not the only variable that one needs to consider – the readers need to still be invested three seasons later, sometimes fueled only by the promise that things will pay off eventually.
I can only imagine how many readers stopped reading GBM partway through. I started it in 2016, for goodness sakes. And for them, I don’t get to be over the shoulder explaining Chris’ motives and why it’ll all make sense later, or even to promise to them I’m building a world. If one only read the first one or two chapters, Chris would seem like a quirky character for the sake of me writing a quirky character. And they’d be right – if they chose to not see the story through to the end, which is their right, to them, the story would be shoddily written and a little lacking. And that’s a flaw in my writing. I don’t get to claim my story is better than it presents itself to be just because of what I haven’t released. Let’s say that I died or gave up writing before GBM was finished. Would I still get to cling to the ‘don’t judge it before it isn’t finished’ excuse? Not at all. If a story is bad, it’s bad. If a chapter is bad, it’s bad. As a writer I don’t get to hide behind another better-written chapter and claim that this retroactively fixes things if a reader doesn’t care.
So what should I do? I could write solely for people that want to see my stories through to the end, but I also release my writing chapter-by-chapter and can’t count on people always feeling the same way about my writing as me. For that reason, writing for long-term goals is what I would call a flaw in my writing. I can still give subtle hints at other stories and the lore of my stupid stories without making the stories seem half-baked without reading the whole thing. Arguably that’s what good writing is – good from many angles – and I have yet to become a good writer for that reason, but I’ll never stop doing my best to improve. I’ll talk to you all next week.