You would have to have been living in a hole deep underground to miss the recent explosion in popularity of erotic stories and erotic romances. Erotic novels have gone from being discreetly hidden in the far corner of your local bookstore to taking centre stage. In the summer of 2012 chances were that you were either reading the multimillion selling Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, or talking about it, or listening to people talk about it. Even mainstream authors have been upping the steam factor in their love scenes in every genre from chick-lit to thriller.
Commercially at least, there has never been a better time to write erotica. So should we all be picking up our pens and frantically scribbling about BDSM, ménage a trois scenarios and dark, brooding lovers with a penchant for kinky sex games?
Although, if you intend to write for profit as well as pleasure then you need to be aware of trends, it’s never a good idea to write something just because it’s in vogue. For example if you’re a horror writer specialising in tales of the zombie apocalypse, I doubt you would suddenly turn to romantic comedies just because of the success of the ‘Shopaholic’ series. So if your talents as a writer tend towards sweet chick-lit or sweeping sagas and you can’t even read a love scene without blushing, erotica may not be for you. Ditto if you write in another popular genre and decide to chuck in some erotic scenes when normally your characters never so much as kiss. Remember the old adage ‘write what you know?’ Personally I prefer ‘write what you love.’
So how do I know if this genre is for me?
• You enjoy reading erotica and/or romance
• You enjoy writing sensual description
• You’re comfortable writing and talking about sex
With regards to the last point, although some past writers of erotica have used pseudonyms for this particular work and kept it relatively quiet, in this day and age authors are expected to promote themselves and engage with their readers, so unless you’re planning on only yourself and a few select friends seeing your work you will need to get over any embarrassment pretty quickly. In the run-up to publication of ‘Wicked Games’, an erotic BDSM memoir, I was featured in the local paper, had to do an interview on BBC radio and even a reading at an erotica night in London. It was all pretty nerve-wracking and blush inducing, and I love the genre and am proud to be part of it. If you would feel mortified to admit to others that you write erotica or even romance, then you should probably be writing something else.
Perhaps you do write something else, but you want to expand your writing skills and add a level of sensuality to your work. Sex scenes, whether romantic or otherwise, are notoriously difficult to write well, not least because the author feels unsure of how to handle the subject matter. That’s why I wrote ‘Passionate Plots’ – it’s intended to help all authors craft a sexy sequence that adds to the story. The importance of plot is perhaps most crucial here; after all if you’re writing straightforward erotica or erotic romance it follows that the sex is going to be pretty intrinsic to the plot; not necessarily so if you’re writing a thriller or American Western and feel it would benefit from added heat.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the erotic scene should in some way drive the story forward, whether in terms of character development or the unfolding of the central story. No matter how well written your erotic scene, if they’re just chucked in any old where they will detract from the story rather than add to it and you risk alienating rather than arousing your reader. If however these scenes are tied in to the overall structure they can give the whole story that extra oomph. ‘Passionate Plots’ is focused around crafting erotic scenes that are integral to your story, whatever it’s genre, as well as getting down to the nuts and bolts of how to write a good sex scene. It also includes writing exercises for you to try and a list of resources if you wish to take things further (pun intended).
The rest of this post can be found at the rather brilliant how to write shop.