Minding the Middle: How to Keep Going When There Are No Guarantees

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I’m someone who can’t stand being in the middle.

Whether it’s waiting for the doctor to call or the editor to respond or that guy I like to text me back, I am anxious, impatient, and filled with self-doubt. Constantly questioning, “Am I doing the right thing?” and “Is it going to work out?”

I just want to get to the end, dammit! I just want to know.

Of course, the only way out is through and when you are in the thick of it—which is most of the time—there are only two options: Quit or keep moving.

What the hell made me decide to pursue a writer’s life? A life most famous for its uncertainty, lack of guarantees, and no autopilot option. A writer must always be present. They must always be on.

Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

I try and make a trip to the local Red Cross every few months. Bleeding isn’t the problem. I’m a master bleeder. I can slice my head open and bleed all over the page.

Sometimes, I even bleed in patterns that make me think, “Yeah, this is what it’s all about.” You know that feeling.

I’m not talking about that feeling.

In fact, I’m talking about the exact opposite of that feeling: the stretches of time when you can’t even recall what that feeling feels like, and then you feel like shit.

The thing is, if you spend all of your time chasing the highs, you won’t learn to appreciate the lows. Hell, let’s not even go that far. What about the in-betweens? The middles. Those obligatory words sandwiched between “Once upon a time” and “the end.” When the phrases dripping from your fingers don’t hit the page or the screen in the right order and you find yourself thinking, “If only someone would just pat me on the head and say, ‘Don’t worry, it’ll all be worth it.’”

But, of course, there are no guarantees. Not in life or art or love or anything else, for that matter. You don’t have to be an artist or entrepreneur to know that feeling or to have felt the absence of it. Writing just happens to be my thing, but for you, it might be something else. Perhaps it’s caring for children or baking pies or preparing tax returns (no, really). Whatever twists your noodle.

And when the in-betweens seem to stretch on forever, when you have no clue if the light at the end of the tunnel is an opening or a speeding train, you can do one of two things:

You can quit, or, keep moving.

Sometimes it’s okay to quit. There’s no rule that says you absolutely must see this project through. Some pieces are better left on the drawing board or as an incomplete word document in the badlands of your laptop’s hard drive.

The problem with quitting is that it’s really just another kind of limbo.

And it might be the closest thing we have to a guarantee: if you stop dancing, painting, writing, baking, singing, etc.ing, you can rest assured that you’re probably never going to experience that feeling again—at least, not from that particular activity.

For some people, that might be okay. Personally, I’ve come to prefer the agony of the middle to the sad certainty of a premature end.

Learn to love—or, at least, like—limbo. Make friends with the middle. Be grateful for being betwixt. There are no sort cuts and in the space between birth and death, all we have is the meantime. All we have is now.

Now is the time for mistakes and masterpieces but you won’t make either if you’re too busy mourning yesterday or obsessing over tomorrow.

Today, I finished the first draft of the 6th chapter of my novel-in-progress, which doesn’t sound very impressive until I clarify that there are only going to be 8 chapters, plus an epilogue. So far, this almost-book is the longest thing I’ve ever written and I’ve learned so much in the process of writing it that, when I go back and reread the first chapter, I cringe at all of the glaring mistakes (en vs. em dashes, adverbs galore, dialogue tags, etc.). At the same time, that’s how I know I’m heading in the right direction: the later chapters are noticeably better; therefore, I must be doing something right.

If you find yourself stuck in the middle, go back and take another look at where you started. Listen to the very first song you ever recorded; take a look at the initial draft of your business plan; go find a photo of the first wedding cake you baked—you know, the one that resembles the Leaning Tower of Pisa covered in fondant. Sometimes it takes a bird’s eye view to give us a clear perspective on how far we’ve come. If your middle is in any way better than your beginning, then you know you’re heading somewhere.

And that somewhere might just be the end.

Keep going.


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Erotica & Romance: First vs. Third Person Perspective

I recently submitted a story to Delilah Devlin’s tentatively titled “Rogue Hearts: Erotic Romance for Women” anthology call, which I discovered via  Erotic Readers & Writers Association. Overall, I’m quite happy with the story. It’s a bit of a departure from my usual protagonist-geared erotica towards a more couple-oriented romance, but I thoroughly enjoyed writing and editing it. In fact, a lot of my back-pocket ideas are leaning further in the direction of erotic romance rather than straightforward, sexual-awakening-focused erotica—not that the lines don’t blur from time to time.

While crafting this particular story, I found myself struggling with perspective. Specifically, whether to write it in first person or third person limited.

Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

First person allows the reader to experience the story through the protagonist’s senses. It can provide an immediate sense of immersion, which is especially nice for sex scenes, while fostering an aura of mystery because you’re only witnessing the story from one character’s point-of-view.

You can’t truly know the other characters’ motives until they’re playing out on the page.

At the same time, first person can be limiting. What if the story would benefit from another character’s sensory experience? What if you want to hide some of your main character’s intentions? That was my main concern for the Rogue Hearts submission: I wanted my main character to do something unexpected, something the reader wouldn’t see coming.

Third person limited is similar to first person, but with a bit of distance. It’s still focusing on the protagonist’s sensory experience, but you’re not as concerned with, “Can the character actually see/hear/smell/taste/etc. this.” A really common mistake that can be made with first person is describing events that the character can’t possibly be privy to. Such as, someone smiling or rolling their eyes while the protagonist isn’t looking. With third person and, especially, third person omniscient, you’re narrating the story from an outsider’s point-of-view, and that narrator can be as oblivious or knowledgeable as you need them to be.

I asked a friend who reads a lot of romance novels how she felt about first vs. third person and she said that she preferred third because it allowed for a comfortable distance between herself and the protagonist. If the protagonist made a decision that she found displeasing, it would be easier for her to accept that as part of the character’s unique story arc rather than becoming distracted by their (in her opinion) flawed reasoning.

Personally, I can enjoy a story from any point-of-view, as long as it’s well written. Even the enigmatic second person, though I have yet to try it, myself. With digital (and some print) “interactive fiction” publishers like SilkWords popping up across the web, I’m tempted to give it a try, though I’m fully aware that it’s the type of thing that takes a lot of time and effort to master.

So, elusive reader, do you prefer your erotica and/or romance in first or third person? Limited or omniscient? If you’re an author, what’s your preferred point-of-view to write in? Does it vary depending on the story you’re trying to tell? I want to know!

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Who is Woe? Woe is me.

DSC_0019I’ll admit, I get a big kick out of telling people I write smut.

Like, a really big kick.

Smutty smut, with all the good C-words—except “cum” because it doesn’t feel like a real word, but that might change by this time next year when I’ve run out of creative terms for spooge.

Welcome to my first blog post.

Whether you’ve arrived here on purpose via my Literotica profile or Twitter account or if you’ve accidentally stumbled upon “that” corner of the internet, it makes no difference. You’re here, and I’m happy to have you.

I write erotica and, inadvertently, erotic romance. I didn’t start out wanting to write romance but it just kept weaving its way into my work. Whether I’m writing about a student and her teacher, the figment of a writer’s imagination, the extraterrestrial life form that’s possessing someone’s husband, or step-siblings who reunite for a game of hide-and-seek, I can’t escape it.

And I don’t think I want to.

Why do we read erotica and/or romance? Why do we open our minds and hearts to these fictional people, bringing them to life if only for a day or week or however long it takes us to finish a story? (And, if they’re really good, long after we turn the page or switch off our e-readers.)

Because we crave stories. Great stories. Stories that draw us into new worlds or strap us into the psyches of beautiful, complex people. People who feel real to us; sometimes more real than the people we know.

I thought my first novel-length story was going to be a three-part series but my characters demanded otherwise. That has to be my favorite aspect of writing fiction: dreaming up people and letting them play in the sandbox that is my imagination. My next favorite thing is what happens when I set them free to play in yours.

Thanks for stopping by.