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Confessions Of A Literary Streetwalker

In case you might be wondering what I’ve been up to lately, check out this link to the articles I’ve been doing for the great Future Of Sex site. Other things brewing, but writing about the sexuality of tomorrow has been a blast!

PENIS, COCK, DICK, MEMBER, ROD, ETC. 

Erotic writing isn’t any different than any other form of writing: you still need a plot, characterization, description, a sense of place, suspension of disbelief, and so forth.  Thinking otherwise will only put training wheels on your writing, which – believe me – readers and editors can easily pick up on.  If you sit down and try to write a damned good story, that happens to be about sex or sexuality, the result will generally be much finer artistically than an attempt that’s just tossed off.  The instant you approach a story as just anything, you’ll demean yourself and the reader. The bottom line is that there really isn’t much of a difference between a great erotic story and any other genre’s great story.

One difference between erotica and other genres is that erotica doesn’t blink: in just about every other genre, when sex steps on stage the POV swings to fireplaces, trains entering tunnels, and the like.  In other words, it blinks away from the sexual scene.  In erotica you don’t blink, you don’t avoid sexuality; you integrate it into the story.  But the story you’re telling isn’t just the sex scene(s), it’s why the sex IS the story.  Something with a bad plot, poor characterization, lousy setting, or lazy writing and a good sex scene is always much worse than a damned good story full of interesting characters, a great sense of place, sparkling writing and a lousy sex scene.  The sex scene(s) can be fixed, but if the rest – the meat of the story itself – doesn’t work, you’re only polishing the saddle on a dead horse.

Aside the lack of blinking, the other difference erotica and other genres is repetition: a lot of people preach that it’s poor writing to use the same descriptive word too many times in the same section of writing.  In other words:

The sun blasted across the desert, scorching scrub and weed into burnt yellow, turning soft skin to lizard flesh, and metal to rust.  Outside LAST CHANCE FOR GAS, the radiation of the explosion had turned once gleaming signs for COCA-COLA and DIESEL into rust-pimpled ghosts of their former selves.

Parked outside LAST CHANCE, there was a rusted pickup collapsed onto four flat tires, the windshield a sparkling spider web under the hard white light of the sun’s explosion.

That wasn’t terrific, but the point is – aside from the poor metaphor of the sun as an explosion – the word rust springs up a bit too much.  It’s not that bad a description, but having the same word pop up repeatedly comes off as lazy, unimaginative, or simply dull.  To keep this from happening, many writing teachers and guides recommend varying the descriptive vocabulary.  Now you don’t need to change rust to corrosion or decay or encrustation once you’ve used it once in a story, but if you need to use the same kind of description in the same paragraph or section, you might want to slip in some other, perhaps equally evocative, words as well. 

But let’s go onto that exception for erotica.  In smut, we have a certain list of words that are required for a well-written erotic scene: the vocabulary of genitalia and sex.  If you follow the Don’t Ever Repeat rule in a sex scene, the results are often more hysterical than stimulating.

Bob’s cock was so hard it was tenting his jeans.  He desperately wanted to touch it, but didn’t want to rush.  Still, as he sat there, the world boiled down to him, what he was watching, and his penis.  Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore.  Carefully, slowly, he lowered his zipper and carefully pulled his dick out.  Unlike a lot of his friends, Bob was happy with his member.  It was long, but not too long, and had a nice, fat head.  Unlike the rods his friends rarely described, his pole didn’t bend – but was nice and straight.

It’s another bit of less-than-brilliance, but, hopefully, you’ll get the idea: if you follow the non-repeat commandment, you’ll quickly run out of words to describe what the hell’s going on in your story.  With women’s anatomy it gets even worse: I’ve read a lot of amateur stories that go from cunt to pussy to quim to hole to sex … somehow turning a down-and-dirty contemporary piece to a story that should be called Lady Rebecca and the Highwayman

It’s more than perfectly okay to repeat certain words in a story – especially an erotic one – if other words just won’t work, or will give the wrong impression (is there anything less sexy than using hole or shaft?).  My advice is to stick to two or three words that fit the time and style of the story, then rotate them: cock to dick, pussy to cunt, etc.  Some words can also be used if you feel the story is getting a bit too thin on descriptions  – penis, crotch, groin, etc. – but only if kept to a very dull roar. 

One of the best ways to avoid this problem is to describe parts of the character’s anatomy rather than using a simple, general word.  For example, lips, clit, glans, balls, shaft, mons, etc.  Not only does this give you more flexibility, but it can also be wonderfully evocative, creating a complex image rather than a fuzzy impression of the party going on in your characters’ pants.

 

The bottom line is what while there is a core similarity between a good erotic story and any other genre, there are a few important stylistic differences – and, as the old saying goes: viva la difference!

In case you might be wondering what I’ve been up to lately, check out this link to the articles I’ve been doing for the great Future Of Sex site. Other things brewing, but writing about the sexuality of tomorrow has been a blast!


Thinking Beyond Sex

Say you’ve written an erotica book. What’s more, it’s a quality
erotica book, which is to say that it isn’t just about positions,
sensations, steamy looks, and lingerie. It has an engaging setting,
multidimensional characters, and a plot. It’s well written and seeks to
do more than turn the reader on. Hurray, and congratulations! I’ve
said it before, but it certainly bears repeating: this is an incredible feat.
There are very few people in this world that could have done what
you’ve done. Take a moment to luxuriate in your success.

Done luxuriating? Good. Now you’ve sent your book out and
congratulations (part two), you’ve managed to find a publisher for
your novel—this is no mean feat, especially these days. So now
you’ve written a book, you’ve sold a book, and soon it’s going to be for
sale.

Now is the time you must do something very important, and it may
surprise you, given the genre in which your book is written.

Don’t. Think. About. Sex.

I know, I know—a bit weird, right? After all, you’ve written an
erotica book. So it seems more than natural that you’d want to reach
out to sexy, kinky, smutty, erotica venues—and well, you should. But
after you do that, you should really try and reach out to places a bit
more … tangential.

Let me explain: erotica is a fine and dandy genre (I’m not
disparaging it), but it’s also a bit limiting. In erotica, your book is one
of dozens, and every last one of them is clamoring to be the center of
attention. Sure, yours is different—for whatever reason—but in the
erotica world, your book is common first, and special second.

Let’s say, for example, that your book is about a soldier during
World War II. So why aren’t you thinking about your book being a
World War II book? Sure, you know you wrote it as erotica, and
that’s certainly essential to the book’s allure, but its more than that,
see? Try reaching out to soldier sites and World War II sites (and
authors, forums, and such). Sure, there’s a damn good chance your
emails and announcements will be ignored, but if someone does respond then your book will really stand out: a World War II book—
but an EROTICA one. Wow! Unique! Different!

In fact, I’ll bet if you really looked at your book, you could find
several places to branch off. Is it a love story? Then it could be
romance. Is there a mystery involved? Then it could be—well, you
get the idea.

Here’s an important detail. You should absolutely tweak your
announcements in a way to reach these different audiences. Instead of
“erotic” and “explicit,” try “sensual” and “stirring”—play up your
book’s connection to their world: a sensual tale of a love and
intimacy set in the latter days of World War II … that kind of thing.

Yeah, I know that sounds like another bit of Madison Avenue
trickery, but keep in mind that for many people, the whole idea of a
book with any kind of sexual content is a brain turn-off. You have to
get them to see your book more broadly—as a bona fide story, rather
than merely a sexual tale. The only way to do that sometimes is to
squeak it in under their radar. No, I’m not saying you should lie, but
what I am saying is this: why get the door shut in your face before
you’ve even had a chance to say one word about your cherished
novel?

Thinking of yourself as an erotica writer and your work as nothing
but erotica will limit you as well as your publicity opportunities.
Look beyond that simple label, and so will readers. You know your
book is more than Dick In Jane; you know there’s something special
about it—so why not use that uniqueness to open a whole new world
for both you and your works? Not only will this outlook give you a
possible new audience, but you’d be shocked by the number of
connections that also could emerge from stepping into other genres
and interests. Someone who never would have dreamed of reading
so-called smut suddenly has their eyes opened—by you, with your
wonderful book.

So try and use the imagination you’ve developed in your writing to
expand more than just your storytelling: try expanding on other
possible places for exposure—and other possible places for you to
grow and develop as a writer. 

In case you might be wondering what I’ve been up to lately, check out this link to the articles I’ve been doing for the great Future Of Sex site. Other things brewing, but writing about the sexuality of tomorrow has been a blast!

Why Not?

Every writer gets frustrated, especially when they’ve been rejected for stories that seem to be just what the editor was looking for: smart, stylish, deep, interesting, heartfelt, and all the rest. It was a sure winner, right?

But first, a quick word about rejection slips. Do they really express how the editor feels about your work? No, they don’t. Now, that doesn’t mean that some editors aren’t being sincere when they send out their rejections—especially if they include a personal message with their generic rejection—but it’s just about impossible for one editor to write to everyone who didn’t make the cut. What’s their answer? Enter the form rejection letter. They can be polite (“Sorry, your story didn’t meet the needs of our publication”), cold (“Your submission was not satisfactory”), sympathetic (“I know how tough this is”) or even rude (“Don’t you EVER send me this drivel again”) but they mean the same thing: better luck next time.

But there is a bright side. Think of it this way: at least that editor spent the time to send those notes out. There are still some cowardly editors out there who never reject; you just hear that your friends were accepted or the book comes out and you’re not in it. At least getting a note—any note—means that you can now send the story somewhere else.

Now then, onto the Great Secret of Being Accepted. Are you ready? You sure? Okay, okay, put the baseball bat down. The Great Secret of Being Accepted is ….

There isn’t one. If there were, don’t you think I’d be selling it? If there were, then why the hell do I still get rejected? The fact is that even though you think, hope, and work really hard to give editors exactly what they want, the decision is still very subjective.

In my own case, I’ve been rejected because:

+ The story is too long by a few hundred words

+ The editor didn’t get aroused reading my story

+ There is already a story selected that’s set in New York City
+ The editor doesn’t like the use of certain words in a story

+ The publisher may object to it

+ Some of the sex is “objectionable.”

Now I’ve never used any of these reasons—either subconsciously or consciously—in rejecting a story, but that’s just me. Every editor is unique, as are the criteria for taking, or not taking, a story. At first, that seems like a situation that should, nay must, be corrected somehow, but that’s just the way the world works. The editor is the boss, and he or she is trying to put together the best book they can, using what stories they got, according to their own call for submissions. If there was a concrete method for selecting stories, we’d have books by machine, and anthologies created by a precise formula. Luckily for the reader, we don’t, but this lack of a more scientific—or at least quantifiable—method for picking stories can be very frustrating for the writer.

If it helps, rejection never gets any easier to give or to get. As an editor, I hate to give them out, but I have to because I feel writers deserve to know whether they made the cut. I’m also in a position of having to put together the best anthology, as I see it. As a writer, I still get rejection notices and will get even more in the future. It’s simply part of the writing life; good, bad, or indifferent. The only remedy I can offer is to keep writing because—as I’ve said before— the only way a writer fails is not when they get rejected but when they stop writing.

And by keeping at it—trying to write each story better than the last one, and never giving up—you’ll stay on the road to becoming perhaps not a great writer, but at least a better one: published, rejected, or not.

In case you might be wondering what I’ve been up to lately, check out this link to the articles I’ve been doing for the great Future Of Sex site. Other things brewing, but writing about the sexuality of tomorrow has been a blast!

Emotional Survival Kit

Please read this if you just had something rejected:

It’s part of being a writer. Everyone gets rejected. Repeat after me: EVERYONE GETS REJECTED. This does not mean you are a bad writer or a bad person. Stories get rejected for all kinds of reasons, from “just not the right style” to a just plain grouchy (or really dumb) editor. Take a few deep breaths, do a little research, and send the story right out again or put it in a drawer, forget about it, remember it again, take it out, read it, and realize it really is DAMNED good. Then send it out again.

Never forget that writing is subjective. My idea of a good story is not yours, yours is not his, and his is not mine. Just because an editor doesn’t like your story doesn’t mean that everyone will, or must, dislike it as well. Popularity and money don’t equal quality, and struggle and disappointment don’t mean bad work. Keep trying. Keep trying. Keep trying.

Think about the rewards, about what you’re doing when you write. I love films, but I hate it when people think they are the ultimate artistic expression. Look at a movie – any movie – and you see one name above all the others: the director, usually. But did he write the script, set the stage, design the costumes, act, compose the music, or anything really except point the camera and tell everyone where to stand? A writer is all of that. A director stands on the shoulders of hundreds of people, but a writer is alone. Steinbeck, Hemmingway, Austin, Shakespeare, Homer, Joyce, Faulkner, Woolf, Mishima, Chekhov – all of them, every writer, created works of wonder and beauty all by themselves. That is marvelous. Special. That one person can create a work that can last for decades, centuries, or even millennia. We pick up a book, and through the power of the author’s words, we go somewhere we have never been, become someone new, and experience things we never imagined. More than anything else in this world, that is true, real magic.

When you write a story, you have created something that no one – NO ONE – in the entire history of history has done. Your story is yours and yours alone; it is unique and you, for doing it, are just as unique.

Take a walk. Look at the people you pass on the street. Think about writing, and sending out your work: what you are doing is rare, special, and DAMNED brave. You are doing something that very few people on this entire planet are capable of, either artistically or emotionally. You may not have succeeded this time, but if you keep trying, keep writing, keep sending out stories, keep growing as a person as well as a writer, then you will succeed. The only way to fail as a writer is to stop writing.

But above all else, keep writing. That’s what you are, after all: a writer.

****

Please read if you just had something accepted:

Big deal. It’s a start. It’s just a start. It’s one sale, just one. This doesn’t make you a better person, or a better writer than anyone else out there trying to get his or her work into print. You lucked out. The editor happened to like your style and what you wrote about. Hell, maybe it was just that you happened to have set your story in their old hometown.

Don’t open the champagne; don’t think about royalty checks and huge mansions. Don’t brag to your friends, and don’t start writing your Pulitzer acceptance speech. Smile, yes; grin, absolutely, but remember this is just one step down a very long road.

Yes, someone has bought your work. You’re a professional. But no one will write you, telling you they saw your work and loved it; no one will chase you down the street for your autograph; no one will call you up begging for a book or movie contract.

After the book comes out, the magazine is on the stands, or the Web site is up, you will be right back where you started: writing and sending out stories, just another voice trying to be heard.

If you write only to sell, to carve out your name, you are not in control of your writing life. Your ego and your pride are now in the hands of someone else. Editors and publishers can now destroy you, just as easily as they can falsely inflate you.

It’s nice to sell, to see your name in print, but don’t write just for that reason. Write for the one person in the whole world who matters: yourself. If you like what you do, and enjoy the process: the way the words flow, the story forms, the characters develop, and the subtleties emerge, then no one can rule what you create, or have you jump through emotional hoops. If a story sells, that’s nice, but when you write something that you know is great – something that you read and tells you that you’re becoming a better and better writer – that’s the best reward there is.

But above all else, keep writing. That’s what you are, after all: a writer.

Value

Money, bucks, dough, dollars, legal tender, the green stuff: I’ve got some news for ya, folks. Being a writer, you are just not going to be seeing a lot of it.

I know that’s tough to hear, but that’s the reality. The number of folks who make even just a living wage at writing is too damned small. Hell, I can’t do it. In fact, no one I know can do it, and I know quite a lot of writers. The few that come close are usually pretty high on the profile scale: novels, screenplays, those kinds of really big things—and then a lot of those big things.

Not that writing for a living is impossible, but I find way too many folks start out writing thinking that being Stephen King and million dollar advances are right around the corner. The spiel I usually give about writing and money is that it’s possible to make money, fun money, but it just isn’t enough to live on.

It’s true in erotica as in other genres—even though, yes, sex sells. But what shocks beginning erotica writers even more than the lack of funds coming their way is this: to writers, especially erotica writers, money isn’t all that important.

Now, wait a minute; I don’t mean that writers shouldn’t get paid, or that payment shouldn’t be fair. What I mean is that money, for a beginning writer, shouldn’t be a major motivation for either writing or deciding where to submit a story for consideration.

For instance, just like everywhere else in life, money does not equal quality. Lack of it, not being paid a lot, does not mean a publication is not worthy of your work. Similarly, a high-paying market doesn’t mean a quality book, magazine, or site.

When building a body of work, while money is nice—very nice— it’s most often not what other writers, publishers, and editors will notice when they look at your cover letters. Saying that you have stories in Big Boobs Monthly, Leathermania V, or Transsexual Hookers in Trouble might mean lots of green backs, but it doesn’t spell high quality. Though if you say your work has appeared on a quality and respected site, it might not mean dinner out and a show but it does mean: wow! Respected sites and magazines may not pay, but their editors know a good story when they read one, so to have passed their scrutiny can be worth more than a nice big check.

Sure, I think everyone should get paid—especially if the editor or publisher is taking a lot of money home and not sharing with the contributors involved—but sometimes money is not the only way a writer can be paid. Not to sing the same song too many times, but making connections can often lead to much bigger deals, markets, and opportunities down the road, and only looking at an editor or publisher by what they pay may mean missing much more valuable opportunities later on.

But that doesn’t mean that a writer should throw their work away. Very often I come across writers who desperately want to see their work in print—or on a site—and so will post or send off their work to the first opportunity without first trying it somewhere nicer. Nicer, of course, doesn’t mean big bucks but rather better status or acting as a way to find better gigs. I really recommend writers start out high: try for a book, or a print magazine, or a really superb site before settling for something with not a lot of visibility just to get your story in print, so to speak. It might mean facing rejection (in fact it usually does) but it’s better to try for something big then settle for something small, in life as well as in writing.

If I could sum this up in a simple statement, I guess I’d say that it’s important to remember that your work always has value, even though value doesn’t always equal money.

The Only Winner…

So … contests. In a word: don’t!

(sigh) What IS it with you people? Can’t you just accept the word of an internationally renowned literary authority and acclaimed sex symbol?

Yes, I mean ME. Who else do you think I’m talking about?

Okay … okay … I GUESS I’m going to have to spell it out for you (sigh again). So here goes:

I’ve been seeing a lot of these things lately: send in your stories for this or that competition, and the winner gets published and (sometimes) a bit of cash. The worst of them – and clearly the ones to completely, totally avoid – are the ones that require a fee to enter.

But even the contests that don’t make you pay to play are bad for writers (which means all of you) and bad for writing, in general. Sure, entering a contest might, at first, sound like a good idea: you get to say you won this or that competition, giving you a chance to put a blue ribbon on your resume or in your bio.

But let’s think it through. Writing is hard. Getting a single story published in a magazine, on a Web site, or in an anthology is difficult. Do you need the added pressure of trumping dozens if not hundreds of other writers for a little recognition of (in most cases) dubious authenticity? The odds are not only ridiculously against you, but the rewards are questionable.

It gets worse. Say I’m doing an antho on … oh, I don’t know, sex-on-a-train stories. To get in, you have to submit a well-written story related to that topic. Rarely, if ever, are contests that specific. Most of them are so ambiguous you’ll have absolutely no idea what they are looking for, let alone who actually might be making the final decision and what kind of storytelling they might favor.

Again, think of the odds. As a writer, time is money. Do you seriously want to waste the time it takes to write – or even submit – a story to a contest versus writing something that may, actually, have a chance of getting accepted and published?

Okay, a lot of folks don’t write something new for a contest; most will simply pull something out of their files. But even then, I still think entering a contest is a bad idea. A very bad idea.

Why? Call it part of a personal crusade. Writers always seem to get the short end of the stick – and what’s even worse, we seem to be happy with that short stick, accepting it as our professional lot in life. We get paid very little for a lot of work, far too often have to deal with unqualified editors and publishers, and have to keep going against catty reviews and miniscule pay. Now, a lot of these things won’t be fixed by staying away from contests but think of it this way: are you respecting yourself by entering the shark tank that’s a competition?

Besides, these days even winning a competition means pretty much zilch. There are so many of them, and so many that are practically worthless, that even being able to hang that blue ribbon on your career means virtually nothing. As an editor, I can’t tell you the number of times that a story has been submitted that is … well, in need of a lot of work. But the author has won an award. It’s getting to the point where awards mean that the winner was either the best of half a dozen runner-ups or got themselves a ribbon because their circle or community knew them and not the other entrants.

But the bottom line is that contests really serve one – and only one – purpose, and it’s not to help writers. Competitions are a cheap way to get a person, a Web site, or a magazine a grand dollop of promotion and publicity without having to pay a dime to anyone but the winner. It’s viral marketing under the guise of literary acclaim. Meanwhile, the contest sponsors get all kinds of content that they didn’t have to pay for but from which they will find a way to profit.

You are a writer. That’s a very special thing. Yes, you have to deal with the realities of what that means but there’s no reason why you have to enable people who are only trying to take advantage of your determination and passion. So the next time an invite for a contest drops into you’re in box earn yourself a blue ribbon by doing what’s good for you, as a writer: hit DELETE.

Of all the things to write, I feel one of the all-time toughest has got to be fetish erotica. Gay or lesbian—or straight, if you’re gay or lesbian or bisexual—is comparatively a piece of cake: just insert body part of preference and go with it. For gay erotica, it’s a male body, and for lesbians, it’s a female body. For straights, it’s the opposite. You don’t have to create the ideal man or woman; in fact, it’s better to describe characters that are a bit more … real. Perfection is dull, and can be bad storytelling, but a body with its share of wrinkles, blemishes, or sags can add dimension and depth.

The same goes with motivation, the inner world of your character. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: the trick to writing beyond your own gender or orientation is in projecting your own mental landscape into the mind of your character. You may not know how gay sex, lesbian sex, or straight sex feels, but you do know what love, affection, hope, disappointment, or even just human skin feels like. Remember that, bring it to your character and your story, and you’ll be able to draw a reader in.

But fetishes are tougher. To be momentarily pedantic, Webster’s says that fetishes are: “an object or body part whose real or fantasized presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification.” That’s pretty accurate—or good enough for us here—but the bottom line is that fetishes are a sexual interest that may or may not directly relate to sex. Some pretty common ones are certain hair colors, body types, smells, tastes, clothing, and so forth.

We all have them to some degree. To open the field to discussion, I like breasts. But even knowing I have that fetish doesn’t mean I can really explain why I like big ones. It’s really weird. I mean, I can write about all kinds of things, but when I try and figure out what exactly the allure of large hooters is for me, I draw a blank. The same thing (even more so) used to happen when I tried to write about other people’s fetishes.

But I have managed to learn a couple of tricks about it, in the course of my writing as well as boobie pondering (hey, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon). I’ve come up with two ways of approaching a fetish, at least from a literary standpoint. The first to remember that fetishes are like sex under a microscope, that part of their power is in focusing on one particular behavior or body part. Let’s use legs as an example. For the die-hard leg fetishist, their sexuality is wrapped around the perfect set of limbs. For a leg man, or woman, the appeal is in that slow, careful depiction of those legs. The sex that happens after that introduction may be hot, but you can’t get away with just saying he or she had a great set of gams.

Details! There has to be details—but not just any kind of detail. For people into a certain body type or style, the words themselves are important. I remember writing a leg fetish story and having it come back from the editor with a list of keywords to insert into the story, the terms his readers would respond to and demanded in their stories. Here’s where research comes in: a long, slow description is one thing, but to make your fetish story work, you have to get your own list of button-pushing terminology.

The second approach is to understand that very often fetishes are removed from the normal sexual response cycle. For many people, the prep for a fetish is almost as important, if not as important, as the act itself. For latex fans—just to use an extreme example—the talcum powder and shaving before even crawling into their rubber can be just as exciting as the black stretchy stuff itself. For a fetish story, leaping into the sex isn’t as important as the prep to get to it. Another example that springs to mind is a friend of mine who was an infantilist—and before you leap to your own Webster’s, that means someone who likes to dress up as someone much younger. For him, the enjoyment was only partially in the costume and role-playing. A larger part of his dress-up and tea parties was in masturbating afterward: in other words, the fetish act wasn’t sex; it was building a more realistic fetish fantasy for self-pleasure afterwards. Not that all of your literary experiments need to be that elaborate, but it does show that for a serious fetishist, the span of what can be considered sex can be pretty wide.

The reason to try your hand at fetish erotica I leave to you—except to say what I’ve said before: that writing only what you know can lead to boredom for you and your readers. Try new things, experiment, and take risks. In the case of fetishes, it can only add to your own sensitivity and imagination—both in terms of writing and storytelling, but maybe even in the bedroom.

And who could argue with that?

Flexing

I’m astounded by writers who write one thing and one thing only: straight erotica, mysteries, science fiction, horror … you name it. Their flute has only one note. They might play that one note very, very well, but they often neglect the rest of the scale. Not to go on about myself, but my own moderate accomplishments as a writer are the direct result of my accepting a challenge or two. I never thought I could write erotica—until I did. I never thought I could write gay erotica, until I did. Who knows what you might be great at? You won’t know until you try.

A writer is nothing but pure potential, but only if that potential is utilized. If you only like writing straight erotica, try gay or lesbian. The same goes if you’re queer: try writing something, anything, that you’d never in a million years think of doing. Maybe the story will suck, and that certainly does happen, but maybe it’ll be a wonderful story or teach you something about your craft.

Challenge yourself. If you don’t like a certain genre, like Romance, then write what your version of a romance story would be like. You don’t like Westerns? Well, write one anyway: the Western you’d like to read. Of course, like a lot of these imagination games you don’t have to sit down and actually write a Western novel. Instead, just take some time to visualize it: the characters, setting, some plot points, a scene or two. How would you open it? Maybe a tumbleweed blowing down a dusty street, perhaps a brass and black iron locomotive plowing through High Sierra snow? Or what about the classic Man With No Name staring down a posse of rabid outlaws? Who knows, you might be the best Western—or mystery, science fiction, gay, lesbian, straight etc.—writer there ever was, or maybe you’ll just learn something about people, about writing. Either way, you’re flexing, and increasing the range of your work.

This flexibility isn’t just good in abstract: look at the books being published, the calls for submissions, and so forth. If you only like to write stories that one are particular style, flavor, or orientation, you’ll notice you have a very, very limited number of places that would look at your work. But if you can write anything, then everywhere is a potential market. Write one thing and that’s exactly how many places will want to look at what you do. Write everything and you could sell anywhere.

In other words: try! If you don’t try, you won’t know if you’re any good. Some writers only do what they know and like because they don’t want to face rejection, or feel they’d have to restart their careers if they change the one thing they do well. I don’t believe any of that. If you can’t handle rejection, then writing is not the life for you. Getting punched in the genitals by a rejection slip is part of the business, and something we all have to deal with. As far as a writer’s career goes, no one knows what shape that’ll take, or what’ll happen in the future. Planning a job path in writing is like trying to roll snake eyes twelve times in a row: the intent might be there, but the results are completely chaotic. In the same way, a simple little story can turn out to be the best thing you’re ever written, or an unexpected experiment can end up being a total artistic change.

Playing with new themes, genres, and styles is fun. Experiment on the page, in your mind, and who knows what’ll pop up? Go to a bookstore and pick up something at random, read the back cover, and then spend a fun couple of hours imagining how you’d write it. What style would you use? What kind of characters? What settings? Even sit down and write some of it: a page, or even just a paragraph or two. It might suck, but that’s the risk you always take trying something new—but it also could open a door to something wonderful.

THE HARD PART

Thinking of a story isn’t usually the hard part. Sometimes the plot doesn’t work, or it’s too much like everything else I’ve ever read or seen on the big or small screen.

But other times it just works. On those occasions, I can see the story and visualize it as a series of scenes. Parts of it are so clear they feel as though they were written right in the forefront of my mind. I know it’s going to be good. That’s wondrous.

Writing the story can be challenging, but it’s not really hard. There are times when it’s not what I’ve seen in my head, and it just falls apart: the words fail, the descriptions are tired, the great plot in my mind turns to crap on the page … but then occasionally something else pops up, and something that was almost too small to notice in the original story flares up into a brilliance (if I do say so myself).

Don’t ask me the secret, because I don’t know it. Not everything I write is great and not everything is garbage. If there is a literary legerdemain, it might be that you just have to write ten pieces of crud to produce one priceless jewel. That’s a lot of crud, but when you hold that jewel in your hand and know that you made it, the feeling is indescribable. That’s why it’s possible to keep writing, even when so many of the stories turn out to be awful: you know that if you keep working, one of them could be the special one. But that’s not the hard part.

Polishing and re-writing can be a bitch, but that’s not the hard part either. Sometimes it’s quick and easy: my copy editor can’t find any mistakes, my spell checker breezes through the thing without a beep or a hiccup, or maybe something better pops into my mind for a scene. Then there are times when I kick the tires and the engine falls out: I show it to a pal and that wonderful plot device bores him stiff. Beautiful writing suddenly reads clunky and overblown or just flat and lifeless. Sometimes I read it again and realize that what I thought was a jewel is a mud pie. But that’s not the hard part, because I can put the story in a drawer and forget about it, or try again.

Finding a place to send a story can be hard, but it’s not the most trying part of the job. There are times I work to spec: a call for submissions flashes across my attention, and—bang—the story gets written and sent out. Other times I work just because I want to. These are often great stories, but selling them can be a stone cold bitch. Maybe there’s not enough sex, or maybe there’s too much; maybe there’s too much fantasy/science fiction/horror, or most often, not enough. So the story gets stuck in a drawer somewhere, and next time when one of those calls for submissions comes out, the story goes. Sometimes, they never find a home. Orphaned and unwanted, they sit in my various machines and gather digital dust. That’s sad, but it’s not terribly painful, because occasionally I take them out of their electronic sleep and fall in love with them all over again. Knowing they are there, and that I wrote them, somehow makes it all okay.

As for finding those places, I have a network of spies and friends who zap them to me, and I spend slow afternoons crawling the web. I look over publications that I think I might like to write a story for, or I might have a stored masterpiece that could work for them.

The hardest part happens after all the preceding come out just right: the idea gels, the writing flows, a perfect market opens up … and then the rejection slip arrives. I say this often, and I really feel it’s true: writing isn’t for wimps. Unlike a lot of other hobbies or careers, writing is just you and your imagination alone in a little room. When that rejection slip comes you can’t blame the back-up band, the guy who didn’t deliver the package overnight, or even God. When that rejection slip comes it’s your work, your imagination, on trial.

There is a commandment I try to follow: celebrate the story, not the sale. Relish the writing, and enjoy getting it right on the page. Focusing too much on publishing puts your happiness in someone else’s hands. I try to put myself in the editor’s place, but even when I recall some of my own decisions as an editor, and when I remind myself how completely subjective those acceptances can be, there’s still that sting. They didn’t like my story. I failed.

Sniffle.

There is a better solution. It really works, and it’s not even all that complex. You will still feel pain when the rejection comes, but if you do this little procedure I can pretty much guarantee the pain will fade.

Keep On Working. Dab your eyes and start again. Think of a story, write it down, try to find a place to send it … lather, rinse, repeat. Do this enough times and I can all but promise that one day you’ll get a contract rather than a rejection. Work, and try to advance: not in paycheck or status, but in the delight you take in writing. Your stories might sit in drawers, they might take up hard drive space, and they might bounce time and time again from one publication to the next, but if you feel good about yourself and your work, then it’ll all get easier and better.

If all you care about is the sale, your writing career will be nothing but a series of rejections broken by the occasional sale. If you stop, breathe, and enjoy the art of writing, then the only hard part will be finding enough time to tell your wonderful stories.

Very few genres have their writers picking and choosing—often very carefully—what words they can, should, or must never use. In erotica, word choice basically comes down to two questions: what’s appropriate to the story, and how important is it to work around limitations.

Believe it or not, certain editors and publishers have a verboten word list that includes certain slang terms or spellings. The question of whether to argue with them isn’t an ethical one. Your preference for cum rather than come or your use of pussy when the editor doesn’t favor it isn’t really the question. Your main dilemma is simply this: how much you want to see your work published? Editors will insist you take it out or publishers will often change the word without your permission, so really, how attached are you to these words?

For the record, I believe an anthology should be consistent in its spelling—so while I respect a writer’s preference for come instead of cum I don’t blink, or blink that much, when my publisher suggests a change so the word is the same in every story. In the second instance, if an editor or publisher simply doesn’t like a word … well, I suggest the editor go into therapy, and that the rest of us simply try not to sweat it when they take the word out. And we can always just not work with them in the future.

Now appropriate word choice: that’s another matter. Certain words either aren’t correct or don’t feel correct in the context of a story. The problem could be historical. For example, the word sex as a term for female genitalia is tolerable when you’re doing a historical piece, but when your character is a Gen-X, Y, or Z person, how appropriate is it? It might be technically correct, but sex is often used as a safe way of describing what’s between a woman’s thighs. My own rule is to use terms that feel right for the character. If someone is depicted as repressed, using words like cunt or twat is jarring. Same for an older man using clumsy slang for his own genitals, like member.

I applaud people for doing research, by the way. Nothing adds a flavor of realism more than slipping in a good word choice for sex or the active biology of sex. One of my own favorites is a 19th century term for female genitalia, Old Hat, because it was frequently felt. Yes, you may wince.

One thing I like to see in a story has little to do with the words of sex and more to do with the view of sex. Assuming that characters in a story set in Nero’s Rome view sex the same way we do today can result in some clumsy word usage. Certain types of sex were rare or seen with disfavor—in the case of Rome, noticing or even admiring women’s breasts in a sexual context was a sign of weakness. Just look at the Pompeii mosaics; the prostitutes depicted—no matter what they were doing—kept their boobies wrapped. Therefore, you wouldn’t want to spend too much time waxing poetic on some Roman woman’s tits if your story was set in that time period.

The bottom line is that certain words and ideas work and others don’t. The trick to picking the right ones has little to do with the power of them at this moment or your own personal preference as it does with their relevance within the story. Naughty words shouldn’t be ones that reach the modern libido but instead be used to continue to keep the reader within and enjoying the story. Because when you get down to it, an erotic story isn’t about the words but rather what you are saying with them.

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica

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