There are websites, such as the inestimable Erotic Readers and Writers Association, where authors can find lists of publishers requiring erotic fiction. But The Erotic Writer’s Market Guide is more than a list of publishers, websites and content requirements.
I pick up my copy of The Erotic Writer’s Market Guide on a regular basis. The peripheral information—articles on the care and feeding of pseudonyms, the basics of submission and how to write about something you haven’t done (yet)—are entertaining, informative and pertinent to my writing. Some of the information in the market listings section of the book is now redundant. But the information that is there allows authors to make a more refined search on the internet to find exactly what they’re looking for.
For any author interested in writing and publishing erotica it’s vital to have information about relevant markets. Whilst regular writing bibles (such as The Writer’s Handbook or The Writer’s and Artists Yearbook) can be very useful, it’s not uncommon for these mainstream tomes to eschew erotic fiction. Consequently, The Erotic Writer’s Market Guide has to take first place on my list for being relevant, reasonable and what this erotic fiction author needs.
2) The Elements of Style, Strunk & White.
Obviously every publishing imprint has its own house style. But every author should also have their own “house” style. There are many style guides out there: CMS, APS, MLA etc, and they each have their own foibles. On top of this every publishing house will claim to subscribe to one or another of these writing styles—and yet they modify it with their own subtle “improvements.”
The golden rule with house styles is—whatever the editor says should be obeyed. Adopting the rules laid out in Strunk & White’s efficient little guidebook is a good place for any writer to start adopting a consistent style that can be easily adapted to suit the requirements of an interested publisher. Strunk and White advocate a simplicity of writing that is accessible and designed to make life simple for the writer and the reader. There book is nothing short of a necessity for any author.
3) 20 Master Plots, Ronald B Tobias.
In many ways this book shouldn’t be on this list. It can be argued that Tobias suggests a formulaic approach to plot construction and there is no reference made specifically to erotic fiction in his book. However, as an overview of generic plot construction—which can then be used to provide a robust story framework, this book is accessible, interesting and invaluable to anyone intent on producing publishable commercial fiction.
4) Any erotic fiction title that you have thoroughly enjoyed.
I’ve not named names here because this title should be the one you personally rank as THE BEST EROTIC FICTION STORY EVER. My list would undoubtedly be different from the one you create. This title could be a short story or a novel. The medium doesn’t really matter. But it should be a story that you have read and enjoyed repeatedly. It should be a story you have contemplated and thought: I wish I’d been able to write that story.
Keep that story close to hand. Return to it when you want to be inspired. Analyse it to find out why it works so well for you. And use the results of that analysis as a yardstick by which to compare your own writing.
5) Any erotic fiction title that you have thoroughly despised.
By the same principle as keeping a favourite story close to hand, you should also keep an example of the worst piece of puerile trash you’ve ever had the misfortune to read. These books can often be as inspirational and edifying as our favourite titles.
Find a book you despise and read small portions of it on a regular basis. It’s equally effective to analyse stories that don’t work for us because we can ask how these stories fail and how we can avoid such trappings in our writing. Admittedly, it’s not always as easy to return to despised novels and stories as it is to return to favourite stories. But no one ever said writing was easy.
There are other books I could have suggested. Dictionaries are useful: although broadband access and an online dictionary are now equally effective. Thesauruses can be useful, although again, a good internet connection and the use of an online facility can be equally efficient.
This is not to say that there aren’t some perfect books out there from which we could all benefit. This is only to say that, if I was recommending five books for a budding erotic fiction author to keep close to hand—these are the five I would suggest.
“The Write Stuff” © 2009 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.