Writing Erotica – Harder Than It Looks

Lousy pun above, hmm?! I thought I’d try my hand at some erotica recently. How hard can it be (sorry!), I thought to myself. No need to worry too much about a plot, just put in TONNES of sex and it’ll be fine!

There’s a real niche market for erotica on the Kindle. That’s why it was invented, really, so people could read dirty books during their commute and none of their fellow passengers would be any the wiser. All the best-sellers appear to be self-published, and their covers have a home-made feel to them. Writing erotica appealed to me, as it seemed like a low-cost way to publish and make money.

A few attempts later, and I take my hat off to the porn writers. I ran out of sex scenes to describe after the first four of ‘em, and I am bored, bored, bored. I don’t mind writing sex scenes, but I’d prefer to write just a few of them and scatter them in a book where they can be stumbled upon and relished for their scarcity.

Once you’ve done your four or five sex scenes, everything else feels repetitive, a rehash of sex scene one or two. And it all gets so contrived. Perhaps regular readers of erotica don’t mind the contrive-ity of it all, but it bugs me. You read something and think, “Oh for heaven’s sake, they can’t possibly have sex here or again!”

I keep thinking of that award that is given out to writers annually, the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction. (Though, luckily for me, it’s only given to high-brow fiction writers, and I don’t put myself in that category.)

This year’s contenders include this one…

He puts his hands on Bianca’s shoulders and slips off her low-cut top. Suddenly inspired, he whispers into her ear, as if to himself: ‘I desire the landscape that is enveloped in this woman, a landscape I do not know but that I can feel, and until I have unfolded that landscape, I will not be happy …’

Bianca shivers with pleasure. Simon whispers to her with an authority that he has never felt before: ‘Let’s construct an assemblage.’ From The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet

The Literary Review chose this one in the end,

The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen

On the stone porch, in the hot, mountain air, we grapple with our clothing, which, in the darkness, becomes as complicated as mountaineering gear. Her black shirt around her neck, mine unbuttoned, our shorts and underwear slid to our ankles, we seem to be moving at avalanche speed and also, unfortunately, with avalanche precision.

So, writing about sex is something most people struggle with. Interesting to note too, that the majority of this year’s contenders are men.

Will I continue to write my own erotica, the imaginatively titled Unnatural Desires? I’m loath to not finish something I’ve started. And a challenge is good, right?

Then, there is that demand thing. As I said, the bulk of erotica available on the Kindle appears to have been written by indies. Maybe the quality control element isn’t so essential here. That’s not to say there isn’t such a thing as well-written erotica, just that perhaps erotica readers aren’t so bothered by the narrative structure and character development?

We’ll see.

Do you have any examples of badly-written sex scenes, or contrarily are there are any writers you think create great sex scenes? I think Fiona Walker does them really well, for example. I’d love to know your thoughts.



25 thoughts on “Writing Erotica – Harder Than It Looks

  1. Yes, I loved her too. Those scenes were terribly earthy. The most recent book had RCB using the words buttery c*** over, and over though, which was dreadful!

  2. Having edited some of this stuff I can honestly say most of the sex scenes had me laughing my head off, and the mark Up consisted mainly of comments such as ‘how many hands has this bloke got?’ or ‘how big are her boobs that he needed both hands to caress a nipple?’. I think the hardest part is finding non-cringey names for genitals that don’t read like a medical dictionary or the wall in the boys toilets at a secondary school.

    • Yes, it’s hard to write without it sounding like directions for a play or film. Love that someone might be so busty they need a bloke with two hands to caress a nipple!!!!

    • Caron, some months ago by chance Emma and I actually had a brief discussion on the best words to use for (a) the sex act and (b) genitalia. Emma had a few suggestions, but they were a little direct for my taste. But I think that says something about how our society sees sex: women can write it about it much more freely, whereas a man writing about sex seems sleazy. It’s interesting that the Bad Sex Award is dominated by men.

      I’m afraid I chicken out and try and leave it to the imagination.

  3. This is a serious question, Emma et al. Do you reckon it’s possible in the current social climate for men to write erotica at all? (Perhaps this is a girls-only discussion, in fact?)

    And Emma, re conventions, I love the idea that someone might have written a Chicago Manual of Style for writing about sex. Can you supply an ISBN?

    • I think men are fine to write it, as long as it’s good! That’s the issue. It’s a really tricky thing to write well as the examples above prove. The Chicago Manual of Stylish Sex might ban stupid euphemisms, such as unfolding landscapes…

  4. It’s definitely not easy. My blog previously has about 10 erotica stories and I deleted them all when I became disillusioned with myself. Probably a stupid move but now I’ve rediscovered the interest to write again I can probably write them better.

  5. Hi! I’ve been writing some erotica based on actual scenes I’ve been involved in. Maybe that is different than trying to write fictional stuff? I wrote part of a short story this morning with a word count of almost 3000 words. And that was only the beginning of that particular episode in real life. It’ll most likely turn into a 50K word story. When I was in my early 20s, some of the Asian girls I dated, were into the “Lifestyle” (aka: BDSM) I learned all kinds of things from them. With that element involved, no lovemaking (or BDSM) scene is ever the same. No restrictions or limits to the amount or type of activity involved. I’ve written probably 20 fairly lengthy pieces about such scenes and none of them are even remotely the same or similar. In other words, no lack of diverse content. Another interesting thing about the Lifestyle, unlike “vanilla” sex, it’s a very honest and open way to interact with your lover. They know what you like and you know what they like and, a big element of it is acceptance. “I know I’m kinky as hell but those things you like to do? REALLY kinky!”

  6. It does get tricky trying to come up with different ways to have descriptive sex, and even coming up with new terms and descriptions. I enjoy trying to top my last scene, but that happen has gotten me into trouble. I’ve had some books blocked on Amazon, and that’s really disappointing after all the time I’ve spent writing them.

  7. I absolutely agree sex scenes are mind numbingly boring to write, and I’ll go further I’d be happy to read adult fiction which contains only ONE sex scene lasting no more than three pages :D.

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