by Willsin Rowe
Like most people who embrace the insanity of chasing writing as a career, I’ve defined myself around it from an early age.
My first writing to achieve acclaim came about in Year 4, when our teacher explained limericks and asked us each to write two. I still remember the unbridled joy on her face when she read mine and realised I was the first in the class to have nailed it all–the rhymes, the rhythms and even the payoff. That moment, more than any other, was my gateway drug.
So considering the vast majority of my work these days is in erotic romance, it’s clear my work has changed since then.
But on a less literal level (although an avidly alliterative one), I should probably focus in on the arc of my grown-up writing.
My first published book arrived in 2006, through a contest I won. Any time I read back through that story I can see plenty I’m still proud of, but far more cringeworthy moments than I’d like. And those cringeworthy moments mainly come about from a lack of discipline. There are so many darlings in need of killing.
My second moment of importance–possibly even an epiphany, though let’s not get too overblown here–came about almost at random. In 2010, on a whim, I decided to take part in Alison Tyler’s “Smut Marathon”. This was a flash fiction contest. There was more to it than that, but its importance lies in its flash-ness.
Already having spent 20 years striving to craft songs, I found the concept of flash fiction fascinating (Agh! Alliteration! Again!). It also turned out to be a writing form which resonated with me. The act of distilling concepts into as few words as possible, and of conveying an unmistakable meaning while still only implying it…damn, but I love it. And it’s an element which informed all my writing from there on in, no matter what length.
And my third moment of importance actually came about thanks to the Erotica Readers & Writers Association. I found two pieces of short fiction on the website which resonated with me greatly.
The two pieces were “Girls’ Night Out” by Giulia Cosentino and “A Taste of Jessica” by T.D. Fallon. They’re both FF stories, which is something I’m kinda fond of (who’da thunk, right? A dude wot likes girls snogging). What struck me most about both those stories was how they seared like flash fiction, yet sang like novellas. And the power of them came intrinsically from how much the authors left out. It was a light bulb moment, especially when held up against my then-newfound love of flash fiction.
When I first started treating writing as a serious part of my life, I lacked self-confidence. And there was an unwitting element of brittle arrogance in there, too.
I knew I could write short and random. Poems were a specialty (ribald and humorous, particularly…stay tuned for more on THAT!). But I didn’t trust my ability to construct an arc, or to craft characters, so I overcompensated. That lack of confidence led me to describe actions and feelings in more detail than was necessary. Brittle arrogance told me it was vital that all readers interpreted my words in JUST THIS WAY.
It was only with the growth and learning described above that I learned the true value of a story: that above all it’s far more a connection than a creation. We might think we’ve created a story, but many times it’s nothing more than a gateway drug to the vast imagination of the person reading it.