#12: Deconstructing my writing process
In which I go behind the scenes...
*Obligatory holiday season promotional messaging about the option to gift a subscription of ‘She Dares To Say’ to anyone who you think might be interested.
And to make things more ‘official’ you can also download a PDF gift to send on to your giftee.*
As always, if you enjoy these essays please do consider becoming a paid subscriber yourself – if you would prefer to make a one-off donation, feel free to send a contribution via PayPal.
You can also show your enjoyment without spending £££, by liking, commenting or sharing 😃
[Image description: Text ‘Deconstructing My Writing Process’ on navy blue background with a lilac paintbrush stroke highlighted segment]
People sometimes ask how I decide what to write about and what my process looks like, so this month I’ll indulge those folks and describe it a little for you all.
I work to a content calendar – set by me – where the release dates are fixed, but I regard content itself as flexible. I planned the bare bones of December’s content back July, and reached out to a writer for the guest piece then.
[Image description: Text from Almaz’s content calendar ‘December 2021
Title: TBC Content: Book round-up??? Publication date: Wednesday 1 December 2021 Postscript December 2021 Title: POSTSCRIPT: December 2021 Content: TBC Publication date: Wednesday 8 December 2021 Guest post December 2021 Guest Writer: Lotte Hiller Content: Essay on book culture through description of Lotte’s book club Publication date: Wednesday 15 December 2021’]
I’ve been trying to forge a connection between my personal essay and the guest writer’s essay, so since the this month’s guest piece be on book culture, I decided to muse on a similar theme for mine.
This essay was supposed to deftly incorporate these talking points:
The comfort I get from lists-writing in my journals, with reference (including images) of my teen diaries.
A segue to books read during 2021 (mentioning focus on sex and pleasure research).
Explanation of ‘Bad Sex awards’.
Eention of my appearance on the Girls on Porn podcast in 2020 where the hosts and I chatted about sex scenes in literature
And then a deconstruction of my favourite sex scene in Sally Rooney’s new novel Beautiful World, Where Are You
However, a week out from the release date, having already spent eight hours (double my usual length of time) working on the draft, I hadn’t been able to weave each of the parts together in a coherent way. I was fretting as it’s so frustrating when swirling ideas don’t coalesce according to the timeframe available.
Here’s what I had for the first two bullets in the list:
“I’m someone who take a lot of comfort from list-making. As a teen it would be lists of school enemies, celebrity crushes, voices I found sexy, what kind of attributes I wanted in my life partner, repertoire I’d played with my orchestras, books I’d read, new food I’d tried and loved, night clubs I’d sneaked in to, people I’d shared sexual experiences with.
Reading those lists back is always visceral experience, where imprints of those memories become activated throughout my body. It can be quite overwhelming to feel all of the past versions of myself so keenly, and it’s especially jolting to realise that some of least attractive elements my selfhood, ones I’d assumed I’d grown out of and left behind, are still very much observable facets of my personality.
[Image description: Pages from Almaz’s various handwritten journals]
(Redacted because what’s written is simply to embarrassing/incriminating for public consumption.)
It can be difficult to read over a description of how a crush “deliberately ignored me the whole night, even though I was stood right next to [redacted], who’s [name of crush]’s next door neighbour and has hung out with us before” and feel a rush of years old embarrassment and disappoint. And then, a split second later, realise that I’m still that girl who crushes hard and finds herself unreasonably upset when the dynamic isn’t reciprocated in the very specific way that I’m looking for.
These days, I still very much find that keeping a log of the books I’ve read (and, actually, the people I’ve shared sexual experiences, but I haven’t needed that particular notebook for well over a year now, as I’ve been experimenting with abstinence. I’m still not sure what my main takeaways are since I still talk and think about sex and pleasure every day for my work…) is a really useful way chronically my intellectual life.
Having logged every single book I’ve read since the Summer I left school in 2007, I can see where my careers aspirations lay, how frazzled by the reading load of three novel-based units one Semester at Uni (April 2010, 17 books read) and where my […]”
I was then flailing around on the page with just fragments of sentences, such as:
“Throughout 2021, I’ve almost exclusively read non-fiction as I’m researching and writing my own non-fiction book.
[Bad sex awards…]
It’s also the time of year literary world is currently holding their breath to see who will be awarded this year’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award.”
I had an OK description of the podcast episode, with fab accompanying imagery:
[Image description: Promotional image for the ‘Girls on Porn Podcast – Two women with touselled shoulder-length brunette hair look seductively at the camera. They are framed by text ‘Girls on Porn with Rachel and Laura’]
From 33:09mins–44:45mins we talk about the abysmally unsexy passages form recent Bad Sex in Fiction awards, and then spend the remainder of the episode (from 47:44mins) discussing out favourite literary sex scenes. I’ve since emailed Rachel and Laura to let them know that if they haven’t already, they simply must read Sally Rooney’s new novel Beautiful World, Where Are You as there are plenty of hot, realistic sex scenes in there.
My personal favourite is the 1,200-words of prose on pages 179–181, unencumbered by the conventions of traditional prose style which, normally, would feature paragraph breaks speech marks and a new line each time a character begins speaking.”
Then I was going to include pictures I’d taken of my copy of the book, open at the pages featuring the sex scene, showing my notes scribbled in the margins. I’d taken some test shots one evening, which are below, but hadn’t yet got round to taking well-balanced, aesthetically pleasing pictures of the pages in natural light.
“I LIVE for this prose style of for sex scenes. All the usual pumping, grinding and thumping verbs or clinical anatomical nouns simple don’t feature in Rooney’s work. Instead, the vividness come through via the truth of sexual encounters; revealing both the intimancy and the messy minutiae of having sex.”
[Image description: Page 178 of Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney, featuring underlined segments and margin notes scrawled in pencil]
[Image description: Page 179 of Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney, featuring underlined segments and margin notes scrawled in pencil]
[Image description: Page 180 of Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney, featuring underlined segments and margin notes scrawled in pencil]
[Image description: Page 181 of Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney, featuring underlined segments and margin notes scrawled in pencil]
And I hadn’t worked out how I was going to end the essay, nor thought about the words I was going to spotlight in the’ glossary’ segment either. So in keeping with this week’s ‘Work in Progress’ vibe, I’m just going to stop here.
[Image description: Text ‘POSTSCRIPT’ on a navy blue background with a lilac paintbrush stroke]
The ‘POSTSCRIPT’ segment for paid subscribers will drop on Wednesday 8 December. To receive this extra mailout, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid subscription.
[Image description: Text ‘PRODUCED BY’ on navy blue background with a lilac paintbrush stroke]
I’m Almaz Ohene, a Creative Copywriter, Freelance Journalist and Accidental Sexpert.
Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Available for commissions. Info via almazohene.com/contact-faqs.
If you enjoy this content and would like to support please consider becoming a paid subscriber of ‘She Dares to Say’. If you would prefer to make a one-off donation, feel free to also send a contribution via PayPal.