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.

 

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The Value of Writing

Ever wanted to carve out a career as a writer? Writing is one of those skills that gets seriously undervalued. Take this little example I copied from a jobs website… (Some of the words have been changed.)

I need a romance story of about 50,000 words to be written before the end of July. Elements that MUST be included in the story are Bad Boy/Alpha, Motorcycle Club Romance. Sub-elements, character descriptions and the plot will be provided.

I am looking for an excellent writer who not only can supply FULLY EDITED work, but is also experienced in character development, dialogue and plot development that can hook a reader. Again, any work submitted should always be error free.

The proposed budget is between .01-015 per word (cents, not pennies) but I have been known to give excellent bonuses. PLEASE NOTE – content should be creative, high quality and 100 percent original. If you decide to accept the job offer, you agree that you will own no rights to the work or parts of the work and you understand/agree your name will not appear anywhere on the work. I would retain all copyrights to these stories. It cannot be used for portfolios or as samples for other clients.

The candidate must be experienced with this type of writing, be a NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKER and have excellent spelling, grammar and punctuation. I am looking to create an ongoing business relationship with chosen bidder(s). I have many future projects in mind. Hope to hear from you!

Lordy.

So, not only must you come up with 50,000 original words in five weeks, but you will need to have them professionally proof-read and/or copy edited. It is nigh on impossible to proofread your own work when it is this length. You don’t own the copyright, and you’re now allowed to use the content in samples. And all this for $800.

Potential senior photos of Thomas.

“He tilted his head to the side, pushed up from his chair and looked at me askance…”

No, it’s not a description of the man in my life contemplating some request I have just put to him, it’s three of the terms I over-use.

A quick find check of my latest manuscript revealed a lot of askance staring, too many push-ups from chairs and a surplus of head tilting. My vocabulary is shamefully limited at times.

This kind of over-use of words and terms is something a professional editor would pick up on, no doubt, but in the meantime I am relying on the ‘find’ facility in Word and an online thesaurus to come up with alternatives.

How often is repetitive anyway? If it’s an ‘askance’ every 10 pages or so, is that too much? Or does it demonstrate that my character is puzzling to others and they have a need to look at her, askance, frequently?! Maybe they should simply be puzzled from time to time.

Do you find yourself using certain phrases (particularly descriptive phrases) repetitively? Any advice for the remedy?

 

Pic thanks to Nic McPhee on flickr.

Expendable of Course

This one is a little bit naughty… I’ve got a publisher so b****ing about agents and their seemingly impenetrable world is a moot point. However, from time to time, I can’t resist the odd narky comment…

No? No, no no no no no no ad nauseum...

No? No, no no no no no no ad nauseum…

Dear Ms Birnie, thanks for submitting your manuscript to Expendable Agents Inc. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit our requirements and you are not a celebrity so we can’t take it any further…”

‘May we take this opportunity to wish you blah blah,’ thought Edie, deleting the message, not bothering with the ‘Many thanks for letting me know’ reply. Nowadays, she figured she didn’t need agents to know she was a nicely brought up gel.

Agent rejection number 25, however, hadn’t reckoned on one thing. Edie lifted the phone – “Ann-Louise, Jane and Rejoice – are you still in the hit woman business…?”

 

Clearing the Decks – And Trying Not to Puke

Words, words, words

Words, words, words

Recently, I heard someone opine that the first draft of a novel was basically a ‘word vomit’.*

Ooh, I get what she meant, but as someone who has just written the first draft of her first book, ‘word vomit’ made me want to cry. I must endeavour to toughen up if hearing some other person’s description of the writing process makes me react in such a pathetic way.  It was not a personal comment on my own attempts, for heaven’s sakes!

Having triumphantly typed out ‘The End’ almost 14 days ago, I have ignored The Book ever since. I didn’t dare look at it and, as I had really galloped towards ‘The End’ at the rate of knots, not caring about casualties such as spelling, grammar, credibility or sense, I certainly feared to view it again.

So, adopting my best school prefect voice, I said to self today – “You MUST look at this. You MUST read it again. You MUST change stuff if necessary.” So in between writing bathroom blogs and bugging the editors of air conditioning websites (yes, really), I read Book Part 3.

And, er, it was not quite as bad as I feared… Now, next week’s Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is reading parts 1 and 2. And perhaps putting chapters up on Readwave and asking for feedback.

Declutter – It’s Good For You

In another bid towards encouraging creativity (or putting off bidding for jobs online – you decide…) I finally got round to clearing out the spare room. I now have the dedicated office I promised myself way back in April. It’s a minimalist space where creative energy will flow, uninterrupted by endless tripping over of piles of washing in various states of dryness and dodging piles of paperwork. That’s the theory!

A women’s magazine I’m rather fond of (Woman & Home) had an article about de-cluttering in its latest edition. The aim, apparently, is to own no more than 100 things if you want to be free. Store all your music, books and pictures on your PC or online, go for a capsule wardrobe and the rest is easy. Idly, I wondered to myself, do ‘toiletries’, ‘skincare’ and ‘make-up’ count as three things, or should one count up the individual items? If the latter is true, I may well have reached the 100-item limit five times over. Woe!

Just to demonstrate that I can do a 100 limit, I did recently write a piece of flash fiction. It was for a competition. I didn’t win, or get mentioned or anything really, but it’s the taking part that counts, don’t you reckon? Here it is:

I’m a Deelan – Oh My Lord!

On Thursday I came home from work, disheartened.

My cat didn’t greet me at the door, but a handsome stranger was waiting in my kitchen. “Bobbee,” he said, “do you recognise me?” I shook my head. “Who has kept you company all these lonely months? Who has slept on your bed every night while you cried yourself to sleep?”

“You are Jazz?!” I exclaimed. “My cat?”

“I’m a deelan,” he said, “a human who can change into a cat and you are one too. Look!”

He clicked his fingers. I changed into a cat.

If any of you have your own examples of flash fiction, I’d love to read them so please feel free to post in the comments.

 

*LinkedIn – the writers and editors group. Very good for brain storming, and asking for advice on the creative and the more prosaic, such as ‘hey, what printer do you use and why?’

8,000 Words Comin’ Atcha!

I promise you the ones I wrote were a bit more interesting than this.

I promise you the ones I wrote were a bit more interesting than this.

Fiddle-de-dee!* Ladies and gentlemen of my esteemed audience – from out of nowhere (it seems) another 8,000** words has appeared.

Gracious heavens! The wretched writer’s block is blissfully obliterated and my self-imposed 3rd August deadline for finishing the book looks do-able once more.

Oh, but despite my lack of superstitious beliefs do such carelessly-uttered confidences signal an inevitable crash? You might encounter me next week with a cheery, “Hey, how’s it going? You were charging ahead great guns last week! Is another 8,000 words in the bag and The End in sight?”

To which I might mutter (bad-temperedly and shame-facedly): “Ah. Well, ahem, this week we are looking at rather reduced productivity. It’s a matter of… five words. And three of them were the result of re-reading old chapters and discovering I had missed out the odd ‘a’, ‘the’ and ‘but’.”

I am also contemplating my top of the range (not) printer and wondering how on earth it will cope with my attempts to print out 300 or so pages post novel completion. Repeatedly. I fear for my toner cartridges – I sense they are sprinters and not marathon runners. I’m definitely going to need to see this baby in the flesh (so to speak) and thus be able to survey the many, many typos that will surely jump out to me as I view the words on paper.

An additional concern! Who among friends and family can I further cajole into reading my book and reassuring my ego that it is ok? (Or suggesting in a kindly way that I should not have given up my day job after all.) I may further test patiences when I ask them to re-read said book, having swapped chapters around and added bits in.

All in all though, it’s a wonderful feeling when The End is in sight. Mucho excitement threatens to over flow in the Highheelsandpinkglitter household. Life beyond the laptop is contemplated and I may dust off my running shoes.*** Veuve Cliquot beckons…

 

 

*From out of nowhere too I appear to have developed a penchant for peculiar turns of phrase.

**8,771 words to be exact. Now I may go and write precisely 229 words to take this week’s total up to 9,000…

***Once the heat has died down.

The Sun-kissed Freelancer

This sunbathing station was not set up until at least 1,000 words had been written, oh no it wasn't...

This sunbathing station was not set up until at least 1,000 words had been written, oh no it wasn’t…

Ah, the sunny day is the enemy of the writer hmm? We who are already experts in the art of procrastination gird our loins, set up our laptops in the far corner of the room, hidden away from any hint of sparkling and enticing sunshine outside and buckle down…

Still, beats working in an office though! So here I am trying to carve out my living as a freelance writer and keep myself in wine and cat food*. There are kind souls who have contacted me and offered me their advice a la blogging tips to make money, so thank you the two Joe’s (Warnimont and Seeber), Glenn and the Daily Phil; I do find your newsletters most useful.

Then there are the freelance sites, elance and People Per Hour where I can flog my services to the whole wide world. “Yes, yes, I promise I can write about almost anything, I’ll make it original, it will pass Copyscape no problemo and, thanks to my skills with key words and SEO techniques, three trillion people will find your business as a result of my words!”

(And of course buy whatever you are flogging…)

Blimey, selling yourself is hard work though and occasionally dispiriting especially when hirers post jobs where they will pay you $2 or less for 500-word articles… (Seriously).

Having written some 50,000 words of my own book – a fantasy adventure aimed at young adults – I dilly dally with tidying up those pages most days. I had got a bit stuck; two-thirds of the way through and I had bored myself, I hated my characters and I wished them out of my head for ever. “You lousy lot,” I muttered to myself, “stop bothering me with your foolish adventures and your lacklustre dialogue!”

Then I found myself a writing buddy – a gent with far more experience than I who has written books and screenplays before and we began exchanging emails about the writing process and even – gulp! – swapping chapters. I challenged him to write a synopsis for the remaining part of his book and then thought I had better take my own advice and write one myself.

Off I went and researched the narrative arc, investigated the seven plots and looked into characterisation. Et voila, a synopsis was born. I swapped it with my writing buddy. He made an extremely good suggestion and pointed out where the story didn’t exactly work. I gave it to my mum. She was kind and constructive, as the best mums should be.

So, I now have the complete story in my head and on paper. Better keep writing hmm?

And now for a little interaction… I’d love to hear from you if you have any tips on writing a book and what forces you to keep going when motivation is lacking?

 

*Reader, fear not. Life has not deteriorated to the level where Whiskas whets my appetite on a daily basis. It’s just that as well as myself and husband, we do have one greedy cat to feed.