Scruffy jottings about Asking for Trouble
This is a page of my notes on Asking for Trouble plus some tiny scraps of paper detailing scenes from the novel. When I’m trying to figure out the structure of a book, one of my methods is to summarise key scenes, both written and unwritten, on pieces of paper and make a big, messy jigsaw on the floor. The jigsaw never gets completed (especially if I’ve forgotten to shut the cat away) but it helps shape the story and shows me the direction I need to go in next. Some scenes get deleted; some never get written; some are inspired by the jigsaw because, like I said, the jigsaw is incomplete; it has holes.
I love this part of novel writing. You can have two or three elements in the story which refuse to connect or a lone fragment that surely belongs to the horror novel that’s been on the back burner for years or a sex scene which is actually a short story in its own right. Stuff happens when you do the jigsaw. It can take days, weeks even. You number the scenes, put them in an envelope, get them out again the following day.
I find the best magic comes from the biggest problems. You might find a perfect way to connect those seemingly disparate elements. You might have to sacrifice one of your favourite parts for this to work. You might have to accept they won’t connect except in a feeble, forced way and then you have to do the big, strong thing and let go! Get rid! Delete! But always, always, something new is born.
This really feels like creation to me: what was once a miserable piece of carpet tormenting you through a hole in the scrappy jigsaw is now an amazingly hot piece of dialogue brimming with sexual tension and desire. And it’s just begging to be written!
Why am I telling you this? Because Alison Tyler has a wonderful new blog, Scruffy Jottings About Filth, featuring a fascinating – and expanding – array of smut writers’ notes. I sent AT a couple of pages of notes relating to my latest novel, Split. Then I got to wondering if my note-making style had changed over the years.
Asking for Trouble, my controversial and bestselling book, was published ten years ago. Yes, ten! It’s never been out of print, has been number one on Amazon UK’s erotica charts and still regularly hops up and down the top twenty. Sales have recently been gathering pace in the States as well. (Hey, what kept ya?) Anyway, later in the year, I’m going to have a party for my porn and you’re invited!
But look, my scruffy jottings have barely changed in the last decade: same handwriting, same type of notebook and pen, same dark and twisted fantasies! So Happy Birthday me! Here’s to knowing what you like while also staying open to exploration – but not so open that your likes fall out!