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The Intimacy of Editing

by | Jan 21, 2018 | General | 7 comments

Want to discover an author’s most cherished fantasies?

Edit a collection of his or her erotic stories.

At this point, I’ve edited books featuring the erotica of seven different authors: C. Sanchez-Garcia, Amanda Earl, Bob Buckley, Teresa Wymore, Remittance Girl, M. Christian, and Daddy X. And I can tell you (if you were to ask), quite specifically, what turns each of them on. There are few activities as intimate as working with an author to sharpen the emotional focus and heighten the erotic intensity of his or her tales.

Of course, in editing a multi-author erotic anthology (which I’ve also done a few times) you’re also exposed to the contributors’ erotic visions. However, a single story might not tell you much about what personally pushes an author’s buttons. The best erotic authors, indeed, learn to mask their own kinks and preferences to some extent, in order to avoid being too repetitive. For instance, I like to push myself to create stories that do not include any BDSM content, both to prove I can and so my readers don’t get bored.

Still, I have a reputation for writing a lot of D/s, because that’s one of areas of sexuality that I find most arousing myself. A reader was recently astonished by my Asian Adventures series, which (so far) does not include any sort of power exchange. “For all the scary BDSM all over your author pages,” she wrote, “I had no idea you had such sweet lipstick in you!”

When you’re confronted with 50-60K of an author’s work, the patterns become obvious. Of course I’m not going to embarrass my former collaborators by telling you what they like, from an erotic perspective. You’ll have to buy their books, if you are curious. Even so, you might not appreciate the common themes or activities as much as I did, serving as their editor. This is because an editor reads each story many times, in many versions. Furthermore, as an editor I got to see the author’s reactions to my suggested modifications, which tells me a lot about what is and is not important to him or her.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my authors’ heads. I’ve waded through their imaginary sexual worlds, tweaking a clause here, clarifying a construction there, all the while watching their characters deal with love and lust. Sometimes I feel as though an author and I have actually been lovers. That’s not true of any of the individuals above, but it could be without too much of a stretch. I have to confess I have had erotic dreams about some of them. My unconscious reacts to the intimacy of the editor-author relationship, even if I consciously distance myself.

It’s funny, because my authors’ fantasies don’t always align with my own. Nevertheless, the close interactions involved in editing give me enough insight that I can vicariously appreciate the erotic charge in their stories, despite the fact that the themes or stimuli don’t push my personal buttons.

I wonder whether all editors experience this sense of intimate connection with their authors. Perhaps my experience has been closer and more intense because I too write erotic fiction. Or maybe it’s because I’m editing stories about sex. Perhaps editors of non-sexual genres remain more distanced from their clients.

Somehow I doubt it, though. We authors expose ourselves through our fiction, regardless of genre. We reveal what makes us tick. And editors need to get up close and personal with those revelations in order to do a good job.

About the Author Lisabet Sarai

Sex and writing. I think I've always been fascinated by both.

Freud was right. I definitely remember feelings that I now recognize as sexual, long before I reached puberty. I was horny before I knew what that meant. My teens and twenties I spent in a hormone-induced haze, perpetually "in love" with someone (sometimes more than one someone). I still recall the moment of enlightenment, in high school, when I realized that I could say "yes" to sexual exploration, even though society told me to say no. Despite being a shy egghead with world-class myopia who thought she was fat, I had managed to accumulate a pretty wide range of sexual experience by the time I got married. And I'm happy to report that, thanks to my husband's open mind and naughty imagination, my sexual adventures didn't end at that point!

Meanwhile, I was born writing. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, though according to family apocrypha, I was talking at six months. Certainly, I started writing as soon as I learned how to form the letters. I penned my first poem when I was seven. While I was in elementary school I wrote more poetry, stories, at least two plays (one about the Beatles and one about the Goldwater-Johnson presidential contest, believe it or not), and a survival manual for Martians (really). I continued to write my way through high school, college, and grad school, mostly angst-ridden poems about love and desire, although I also remember working on a ghost story/romance novel (wish I could find that now). I've written song lyrics, meeting minutes, marketing copy, software manuals, research reports, a cookbook, a self-help book, and a five hundred page dissertation.

For years, I wrote erotic stories and kinky fantasies for myself and for lovers' entertainment. I never considered trying to publish my work until I picked up a copy of Portia da Costa's Black Lace classic Gemini Heat while sojourning in Istanbul. My first reaction was "Wow!". It was possibly the most arousing thing I'd ever read, intelligent, articulate, diverse and wonderfully transgressive. My second reaction was, "I'll bet I could write a book like that." I wrote the first three chapters of Raw Silk and submitted a proposal to Black Lace, almost on a lark. I was astonished when they accepted it. The book was published in April 1999, and all at once, I was an official erotic author.

At this point, Raw Silk has been reprinted by three different publishers. The most recent version is available from Total-E-Bound and still selling well, I'm pleased to say. Since that initial release I've published more than fifty single author titles in erotica and erotic romance, including eight more novels, and have contributed to dozens of anthologies.

In addition to writing erotica and erotic romance, I also edit the stuff. I'm very proud of my anthologies of literary erotica, Sacred Exchange: Stories of Spirituality and Transcendence in Dominance and Submission (with S.F. Mayfair) and Cream: The Best of the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. I'm also editor for the Coming Together Presents altruistic erotica series. Each Presents volume offers work by a single author, supporting a cause selected by that author. So far we've released seven volumes of stellar erotic fiction, each of which does double duty by making the world a better place.

A lot has changed since my Black Lace days. Black Lace itself has bitten the dust, as has my second publisher Blue Moon. The e-book revolution has made it easier to get published but a great deal more difficult to get noticed. Promotion claims at least as much of my time as actual writing. Speaking of which, I blog regularly at Beyond Romance and Oh Get A Grip, and offer news, excerpts, free reading, reviews and more at Lisabet's Fantasy Factory.

I still get a thrill from writing erotica. It's a never-ending challenge, trying to capture the emotional complexities of a sexual encounter. I'm far less interested in what happens to my characters' bodies than in what goes on in their heads.

7 Comments

  1. Interesting blog post and as a writer, I’ve asked myself if I should broaden my horizons but seem to be unable to escape the topics that turn my crank. I also feel that if you write in similar veins at least you can hope to continue the interest of your current readership. I like to write stuff that turns me on, which I assume you could call audio self-masturbation and certainly from the erotica I write, I lay my soul bare.

    Another thought-provoking post. Thanks.

    • I really think you need to follow your own muse, however dirty her mind may be.

      Also, it’s probably impossible to really get away from one’s own favorite kinks.

      That’s one reason I like editing, in fact — it shows me other ways of looking at desire.

  2. I’ve certainly noticed kinks and trends among those for whom I work as a paid editor. One lady has a thing for uncompromising/sturdy/hard/manly knees. Also a penchant for spanking scenes, so the two go well together 😉

    It is really enjoyable helping writers to stay true to their steam and their hot-spots, while helping them as they expand their erotic writing beyond their primary kinks.

    • Thanks for commenting, Sam. I hoped you would. You have much more experience editing than I do.

      It’s a fine line we have to walk, between encouraging, even amplifying the author’s distinct voice and helping them avoid redundancy.

  3. Great post and very thought provoking. I’ve written a few shorts that I thought were out of my wheelhouse, but when I look back at them I can see an underlying theme, even if the actual sex in the scene wasn’t my particular flavor.

  4. My goal is to make my editor fight to focus on the story. The highest compliment I ever received was from a lady that I had been working with in a bit of a symbiotic relationship. We were each other’s beta reader/editor and used a message board to brainstorm. She left me a message saying that I had forced her to take a couple of breaks to let off steam. That forced me to up my game, which in turn inspired her. The energy was incredible.

    • Hi, Tom,

      It can be a real trip to work closely with another author. Glad you’ve had that experience!

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