Quality erotic writing sets the bar high and by making it a goal you raise your own sights even higher. Reputable editors of literary erotica choose stories which have extraordinary wordcraft, plot and characterization. Many short pieces have daring experimental slants. All their pieces are unique, but are bound together by intelligence and creativity. All their choices display a unique ‘voice.’ That’s what makes them premier—the voice of the writer and the structure of the work. And yes, the stories are hot.

Want to get into a lauded collection or magazine? Read what that press publishes. Take your cues from their existing content.

What else can you do?

Read. Read something other than porn, even. (There’s a thought!) You don’t know what you don’t know. It can be a disadvantage. The best writers in any genre are voracious and catholic readers. Take a course in creative writing. If you really don’t know what makes for great fiction, take a course that will teach you how to discern the difference. I am stunned by the number of wannabe writers who have no foundation in reading or writing. None. Alice Munro? Who’s that? Never read Hemingway. Joseph Heller? Didn’t he do a screenplay? Who is Nadine Gordimer? Never heard of her either. Robertson Davies? Why should I care? (Even pulp writers are good writers—they can tell one heck of a story and may well find a place among the literati of the future).

What’s a clause? Why are you bugging me about fractured sentences and dangling participles or ending my sentences with prepositions? What the fuck does that have to do with writing a sex story? These people figure that if they have sex they can write about sex and all they need is to splat some body parts and some jamming into a ‘story and they’ll be wildly popular and loved the world over. Not generally so. Learn to create fiction the same way you would build a house—from a prepared foundation, through the structure and design to the finished product with doors and windows to admit you, allow you to enter and view its world. Then write and write some more.

Join a critique group. Take in criticism. Turn critiques to your advantage. If an accomplished member of the group helpfully suggests that you make changes, then make them. Your story and your writing will benefit. You will need to have a thick skin. You will really need this once you are dealing with editors, anyway. Get your ego out of the way and your work will benefit from it.

Know your market. Know your own writing. Who are you trying to reach? Some people are good at writing for the Weekly World News; some know they belong in the New Yorker or Vanity Fair. Who are you? When you know what your goals and your capabilities are, you will see your writing find its natural place, and so, then, will the acceptances come.

Don’t send them something that needs a thousand style and grammar adjustments—they’ll shit-can it and for good reason. Forget about a story with a predictable plot, plodding language, paper-cut-out characters. Don’t over-write nor “tell” the story. “Show” it. Wow ’em. Even a scene—a searing, slamming jackhammer-fucking scene can be exalted by words. Some ask, “Well, what does “show and tell” mean? What’s the difference?” Telling a story is reporting it. “She was a 38DD blonde wearing a tight blouse and she was horny.” Well, ok… but the same information can be conveyed by saying that, “Her blouse was too tight. It shifted over her breasts, swollen with her arousal. The motion, enhanced by her restlessness, disturbed her nipples; too sensitive already…” Got that? It’s a far richer experience. If you want publication in a quality venue you had better stop composing like a cheap letter-writer in a cheesy porn-mag. It’s the truth.

Read your work out loud. Awkward phrasing, punctuation, grammar and other glitches show up when you do this.

Write what you know. Again, who are you? Be honest. Be daring. Free your imagination. Write like you know you are hot shit. Let go of the rails. By this I mean, don’t censor yourself. Censoring is more than just thinking, “I can’t say (write) that. Censoring yourself is also about lack of confidence in laying out the words. Trust your intuition. Let the words tumble out. This is the creative part of the process. You can trim and edit, later. One of the most remarkable things I’ve experienced was a recent e-mail exchange with another writer in which we engaged in a sort of ‘slam/jam’—zinging off hot, smokin’ words—about 4 exchanges in under sixty minutes in which we wrote whatever came to mind and played off of each other’s messages: a sort of cyber-sex, with vaulting imagination. It was all free-fall, over-the-top and decidedly one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had since becoming a writer. It was fresh, unrehearsed and uncensored in both senses. My mind was fired up as much as any other working part of me. Let yourself GO. Fresh works.

Don’t cling to the idea that a sex story has to be porn-y in order to succeed. I still think the underpinning of the best erotic writing is subtle, metaphoric, poetic. Some of the most powerful images in erotica are created by words that rattle in the brain long after the page has turned, and this is not so much about the sex scene described as the way it is described. You can sexualise, eroticise the ordinary—and create something extraordinary.

Collect publishers rejections—they are badges of honour. A rejection doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve written a dog—it may simply be that it’s not something that is suitable for their needs at the time.

Tell the truth. Write Well. Tell a helluva story, beautifully held together with layers of meaning and words strung together that will make the reader sigh with envy. Get into the heads of your players. Show us what they think, see; smell. What motivates them? Make us care. When we inhabit the bodies and minds of your characters we experience their stories first-hand. Your sex story is their sex story is our sex story.

Make someone want to become a writer because of your writing.

Elevate your craft and the standards of sex writing everywhere. Serious writers do this. Readers need this. Get them off, and do it in high style.

Helena Settimana

“Get Them Off, And Do It In High Style” © Helena Settimana. All rights reserved.