What is the new “Rough Diamonds” category?
You may have noticed a new category you can select when searching for an erotic story on Noveltrove. That category is “Rough Diamonds” and was added for stories that have good content - plot, character development, and action – and that comply with the rules of submission, but have some issues with the mechanics of writing. Most will probably be one of the first stories the writer has submitted. The writer of the story isn’t inept, and in fact shows some promise. He or she just needs a little advice, just like we all do when we start anything new.
Those issues are not taking liberties with the rules of English you leaned in high school in order to make a story more up to date or to add interest to characters by the way they speak. That’s a technique that has been used by writers for centuries and will always be part of the author’s toolbox. The issues are issues that make a story difficult to read or at least not much fun to read.
The purpose of the new category is to identify these stories for readers so those readers can offer constructive comments to the writer about how to improve. Most writers of erotica have never taken any classes in how to write, so they’re doing what they believe is right. If a writer doesn’t know about an issue, they can’t fix it on the next story.
A few words about what constitutes a constructive comment are in order here. This will probably sound harsh, and but because of what can happen when people can make anonymous comments about something, this explanation needs to be direct and easily to understand.
Noveltrove is not Facebook or Twitter or the comments section after some internet news article. The anonymity afforded all readers and writers on Noveltrove is not a license to make degrading or intentionally severe comments about a story or an author.
The type of comment like, ”This was so pathetic I only read one paragraph and then clicked the back button”, doesn’t explain anything about what was so bad or how to make it better. Comments like that are just a very cruel way of intentionally hurting a person who thought they were doing the best they could. Getting a comment like that can convince an otherwise promising writer to never put a finger to a keyboard again.
Those of us who have written erotica for a while know we are occasionally going to displease somebody and just shrug off the resulting inane comment. New writers won’t do that, so we all have to remember how it was when we submitted that first story and what it was like writing it in the first place.
As Ernest Hemmingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is just sit at a typewriter and bleed.”
That’s how it is for a new writer. He or she musters up the courage to write a story, struggles with how to convert the visions in their mind into written words, finally gets it down, and then takes a deep breath, crosses the fingers on both hands and clicks on the “Publish” button. After that, they check the site multiple times a day to see if their story got published, and when it does, they keep checking the number of reads and hoping for a “thumbs up” or maybe even a comment telling them they did a good job. We’ve all done this and probably a lot of us still do.
Most new writers of erotica don’t understand that comments are few and far between on any erotic story site, so they may believe any derogatory comment represents how all the readers feel about the story. In fact, most readers never leave comments no matter how they felt about the story.
Any story that ends up in “Rough Diamonds” will have at least pretty good content and should be treated as such. If you write a comment, first take the time to tell the writer what you liked about the story. I know from experience that reading there is some good in what you wrote goes a long way to helping you accept what needs improvement and why.
So, what type of story might end up in “Rough Diamonds”?
I do read stories on Noveltrove, and here are some of the things I’ve seen.
Really long paragraphs. No matter how well the story is written, it’s easy to lose your place when reading on a computer screen because you have to keep scrolling down. Readers need the “white space” between paragraphs to help them keep track of where they are. Ten lines or less is good for a paragraph.
Sentences that never end. I don’t remember reading a story like this on Noveltrove, but they are written. The writers seem to forget there’s a thing called punctuation.
Long strings of dialogue without some way to figure out who is speaking. This is even worse if there are more than two people having the conversation.
Obvious and frequent word use errors. Some common ones are “there” instead of “their”, “it’s and “its”, and “your” and “you’re”. One misuse is probably a typo, but more than one is just wrong and makes the story confusing to read.
The auto-correcting spell checker. A spell checker will catch a lot of errors, but letting it auto-correct will sometimes generate some difficult to understand text if the word isn’t in the spell checker’s dictionary and a lot of slang terms aren’t. My spellchecker will auto-correct “boobage” to “Bobbie”, and “titties” to “tithes”. Imagine trying to figure out, “Her tithes gave her some great Bobbie”. Proofreading should catch these…if the writer did indeed proofread.
Many typos. Typos are just errors in text that wasn’t sufficiently proofread. One or two are hard to find when you proofread what you’ve written and are maybe somewhat excusable. Several make reading a chore instead of a pleasure.
Switching character names in the middle of the story. It happens when you start out with one name for a character and then change it and forget to change the first part of the story. The reader is reading about Joyce, and suddenly Marilyn is doing everything. A reader will figure out what happened, but the switch keeps the reader from being involved in the story.
There are probably other things that would place a story in the “Rough Diamonds” category, but the important thing to remember is the story isn’t a bad story. It could just use some improvement to make it more enjoyable to read. Reading these stories and the comments will help us all become better writers, and constructive criticism will help generate more good writers.
Yes, you can put your own story in the “Rough Diamonds” category if you’d like some feedback about your writing. Having someone else critique the story is usually helpful. That’s why professional writers have editors.
Some words for those leaving constructive comments.
Constructive criticism is a combination of what is good and what could use some improvement. If there’s nothing about a story that you like, it’s best to just not leave any comment.
Constructive comments should begin with the things you liked about the story. I have yet to find a story on Noveltrove that didn’t have at least some good things, be that a different plot, the way the characters develop, or how they speak. Just tell the writer you think he or she did a good job on whatever you liked and that you hope he or she keeps doing that.
As for the issues, you need only address one or two major issues with the story, not every single thing you might find to be incorrect. The writer will probably re-read the story looking for the one or two issues you wrote about and will find some of the others in the process. Somebody else will point out the things you didn’t comment on anyway.
The critique should come off as helpful advice, not some scathing condemnation of the writer’s command of the English language. We all tend to either retreat into ourselves or become defensive when criticized, and if that criticism is harshly stated, the writer won’t read the suggestions for improvement that should follow.
Those suggestions should be stated as just that – suggestions. Writing, “If you can’t do this, all your stories will continue to be bad”, might make you feel superior, but it doesn’t do the writer any good at all.
Just say something like “I found several spelling errors, and I’ve made the same errors. Be sure to read your story after you copy it to Noveltrove and before you click “Publish”. The spell checker on Noveltrove will find the spelling errors for you. That’s what I always do.”
It’s worth stating the purpose of the new category again. It’s to help writers improve so Noveltrove will have more, not fewer, successful authors who write more, not fewer, good stories.
Now some words for writers who submit a story that lands in “Rough Diamonds”.
Don’t assume your story is there because it’s not good enough to put anywhere else, because that’s not the case. It’s there because while you did a nice job of developing a plot, character development and describing what happens, you need to work on a few things.
In spite of what I wrote above, you’ll likely get a comment or two intended to make you feel inferior. Some people just can’t resist the temptation to tell you they’re so much better than you are. Don’t fall for that. Check the name on the comment to see if that person has ever written a story and if they got any votes or comments.
It’s been my experience that about 99.999% of the time, the person making that comment has never been brave enough to subject anything he or she wrote for anyone else to judge. That should be enough to tell you that comment is worth less than no comment at all. Don’t waste writing time trying to figure out why they wrote it because you never will. They didn’t have a reason except to try to make themselves feel superior to you.
Do pay attention to comments from the writers who have published more than one or two stories and have gotten a few “thumbs up”. They’ve been where you are now, and they understand that writing isn’t easy. They’re not trying to convince you they’re much better than you are. What they’re telling you is what they’ve done to improve their own writing.
Above all, don’t stop writing because you’ll get better with each story you write. Like any other thing we do, practice makes perfect. All successful authors have learned this. I think William Faulkner said it best.
"Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything really good."
Even if your second story doesn’t get a bunch of “thumbs up” and several comments, it will still be better than your first, and your third will be better than your second.
Image by Egor Kamelev, digitally altered, cc0