When I look at my writing I can see a definite progression in terms of what I write, and in (my perception) of how good it is. I have no idea whether I’ve actually improved as a writer, or by how much, but when look back over my ‘career’ as an erotica writer, I can see differences between the old stuff and the new stuff, and to my mind, the new stuff is generally better, or at least, more satisfying for me as a writer.
I can also see (or feel) definite phases in this progression: periods where my writing improved very quickly, and periods where it plateaued, or where I wrote several stories in a row that were at a similar standard. The interesting thing is that I think I know what one of the major factors in improving my writing is. Put simply, whenever I write a ‘long’ story (i.e. something novel-length), the stories I write after that are markedly improved on the ones I wrote before.
I’ve only published two novels under this pen name (Penny Meets the Neighbors and A Bit of Rough), but in both cases I can see the before-and-after effect. Penny came early, and I’d already improved a lot before writing it (I have a long, unpublished story to thank for the first step in my progress as a writer, which helped me go from awful to adequate. Penny was responsible for the leap from adequate to competent!) The run of stories that included 1, Coverlid Place, Meaningless Masturbation? and Farmer’s Daughter Threesome all came immediately after writing Penny and they are so much better than the stuff I was writing before. (Some of Horny Mandy was written before Penny, and some of it afterwards. I think I can see the difference).
The next phase came with the writing of A Bit of Rough. Again, it’s not the novel itself that marks the difference: it’s the stories that came afterwards. As far as I can tell, there is something about the discipline and effort required to write a long piece of fiction that just improves my craft a lot, and I notice the effect in my subsequent work. To me, it feels like An American Affair and The Sin of Love are just totally different in execution to the earlier stuff.
Interestingly, there is a ‘hidden’ novel – something I released under another pen name – in my writing career, which came out between The Sin of Love and The Other Side of Town. Possibly the difference is more subtle, but I can see the effect (the progression in my writing) of it in The Other Side of Town and Islands. Neither of these stories sold well (in fact, they’re my worse selling stories by a long way) but they’re both ones I really, really like, with, I think, some of my strongest characters and fullest character development (hint – they’re worth a second look!) Maybe I learned something from them though because the two subsequent stories (Poolside Threesome and The Captured Warrior) have been far more successful (by my standards), and I think I maintained the quality of my storytelling at the same level.
I haven’t written a novel since the ‘hidden’ one, and although I currently have no plans to do so (I’ll write another post soon about what I’m planning to write in the coming months), it should be easy to see why I often think I should make the effort to write another novel!
Finally – I don’t know if this qualifies as ‘writing advice’, but based on my experience, if you want to take your writing up a level, one thing that might work is tackling a big, long writing project that challenges – in other words, have a go at writing a novel!