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Ripe FruitThis article is entitled “Write When It’s Ripe”, but I could have easily entitled it “Publish When It’s Ripe” and discussed many of the same issues. We’ll talk about writing first.

How much thought do you put in your story before you sit down to write it? A lot of writers say that it comes to them in a flash of understanding and all they have to do is write it down. Some say it flows across their brain like a movie and transcribing is all that’s necessary. A few report that the story comes to them in dreams. I wonder how much pre-thought goes into those flashes and movies. Do you ever sit down and actually think about what your character would do in this situation, or how to move your plot from Point A to Point B? Quiet contemplation might be part of how you write or it might not. I sometimes plant myself in my favorite chair and stare into space as I work out thorny plot issues and ask myself “how would this character react to a situation like this?”

If you’re a plotter, it is more likely you’ll sit at your keyboard and puzzle out the pieces before writing them. That kind of preparation can get a project started and it can also help when a project is stalled. For “pantsers” (people who write by the seat of their pants—one wonders how they type that way), maybe thinking about plots and character motivations goes on in a background “processor” buried in their subconscious mind.

No matter where you get your ideas, write when it’s ready to be written. I guarantee that if you sit down to write it before you’re ready, you’ll bump into a brick wall. It might not knock you on your behind if you’re a stubborn person, but it will certainly make life more difficult for you. Some thought has to go into the story and you have to be prepared mentally and emotionally to share those thoughts.

As I said at the beginning, you also have to publish when it’s ripe. I run into far too many writers who publish while it’s still basically a first draft. Some use publication as a honing stone, like a critique group of many people. Is a reader going to want a second book from you if they found the first book to be unready for prime time? What kind of taint does that put on your author name? An author has to consider their future as well as their present. (You’d think we’d be good at that, considering how writing a book works.) A reader, whether he or she is paying nothing or 99 cents or, God forbid, $10.99, for a book, is not going to want to put the book down part way saying “this stuff is crapola.” You’re not going to want that either.

Though it might not be a serious consideration for the eager and anxious author of a promising first draft, the impact of unpolished work on the genre/sub-genre in general can be major. If you ask around among interested readers, you will quickly find that erotica novels and many romance novels are frequently thought of as poorly written. This is particularly true of the reputation of self-published erotica. That’s a shame, isn’t it? These authors often have great ideas! But have they published when it was ripe, or just when they were eager to share? Self-published work has a general reputation in this regard, and has had for a long time. Too many readers pass self-published work up because of this reputation; it harms the entire industry.

When is a story ready to make it to the Smashwords “meatgrinder” or to a N.Y. agent? When you have pored over it to death; when you have had it critiqued, copyedited, beta-read, and proofread; when you are totally sick of the project, having read it 10 (or more) times, forward and backwards (yes, really backwards). Ninety-nine point nine percent of us are not literary geniuses who pop out a polished first draft. Even great writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald had to be edited, and extensively.

At the same time, knowing when the book is ready to be published is a tricky balancing act. You need to have confidence in your manuscript. Paralysis when it comes to hitting the “send” button is going to keep you toiling in obscurity forever. Going through the multi-step process I mention above can give you that confidence. You will know that you’ve done all you can do to prepare your precious story to see the light of day—and hopefully a welcome light in a reader’s eye. As George Carlin says, it’s time to “take a f**kin’ chance.”

Write when it’s ripe in your head. Publish when the fruit has matured. Raise your book-baby carefully and nurture it along. It doesn’t matter if your goal is to find an agent or a publishing house or if it’s to go straight to readers, you’ll still need to do your prep work. Writing is a craft, and like any craft, it takes effort.

Thus ends this series on writing a naughty story. I’ve shared my viewpoints, but I assure you they’re not the only ones. I hope I’ve helped you get a slightly better grip on the writing process. If I have, I’m satisfied. If you enjoyed these tips and tricks, please look around my site and see if any of my books might interest you. They’re ripe and ready for picking.

Thank you for following along.

10 Comments

  1. Sorry to be late to the party. This is another fabulous post, Patricia. I guess it’s a good thing that my ideas come fast and furious, but my actual writing is much slower. That way I’m working on one WIP and that gives me lots of time to let the new ideas ‘percolate.” Love that word. LOL My best time is drive time to work. Over half an hour both ways. But you are absolutely right, the time to write or publish must be ripe! Or you will remain a “green” writer (present company excepted LOL) forever.

    • I write fast, but if I didn’t have a style sheet for editing, my stuff would be much less ready to be looked at by other professionals. My early books, especially my first one which is now out of print (thankfully), was particularly dreadful. Not ripe at all but I didn’t know any better.

  2. I’m a panster, but after my first book was published and the awful editing I went though for it, I’m approaching the whole thing a little differently. I’m taking my next book through my critique group one chapter at a time. I’ve also taken it through editpalooza and a hook writing workshop. I’m making sure my ms is really ready before I sent it off.

    Janice~

    • Those “edit dumps” are killer, Janice. It’s a good idea to make up a style sheet with things you commonly need work on and use that when you do your editing before sending the work to the publisher. I also have some MS Word tricks I use to remind me not to abuse certain words.

  3. Great post. I’m a pantster but my head is a plotter. When I sit down to type I have an idea what’s suppose to happen but quite often the characters lead me down another path. But while I’m taking a long walk or a long drive – that’s when my head will play with ideas ro roadblocks I’ve bumped into.

    • That’s so true for me, too, Daryl.
      I do all my best plotting and issue resolution and development while out walking.

      (Especially when it’s warm and sunny – not too hot and not too cold and not too wet – just right!)

    • You must have an organized mind, Daryl. If I didn’t write the plot characteristics down as they reveal themselves, I would soon be lost in a jumble of “what do I do next?” situations. I have to plot it out “on paper,” though my plot notes might consist of 3 sentences per chapter (opening scene, climax, and denouement).

  4. And there I go! *genres* not *genre’s*

    See – edit, edit, edit, then edit again! LOL

  5. Excellent advice, Patricia.
    I always develop my characters and analyse their moves and motives carefully – got to make them as real a person as possible, even in a 2k short!

    Another factor is good plot development – if you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else – and that just may not be where you want to be!! Too dark, too light, insincere, improbable, too frivolous! All kinds of traps and pitfalls await!

    I really hear you on the being ready to publish aspect. I read so much *crapola* out there – good plot, but badly executed, badly written, no grammar or spell checking!!

    The bane of self-published works of all genre’s, sadly!

    • I agree with you, Ashen. I think the poor quality of some self-published work is a total shame. If it’s a few typos, I have no problem with it. Even the Big 6 let some work out with occasional typos. But when there start to be word choice problems or poor grammar, I begin to seriously consider putting the book down permanently. Editors are expensive, however, so you can easily see why a writer working on the margins would skip over that part. Unfortunately, that pretty much relegates him/her to staying on the margins forever.

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