I have said in earlier posts that I ended up writing erotic fiction because that was what I could write from beginning to end. My other stories suffered from sagging middles, me writing myself into corners, and just plain boring me too much to bother finishing. The one exception is a science fiction tale that absorbs me, but it’s a complicated story that takes more straight hours to focus on than I have with multiple jobs and a toddler.
So erotic fiction it is.
I did a lot of market research when I realized this was where I was going. I read tons of guidelines and tons of samples to get a feel for the tone of each publisher. I read author websites, writer forums, and more. One thing I learned is that there are a lot of unspoken rules that as a reader I didn’t necessarily see. But if I wanted to sell my work, I needed to know where those invisible lines were drawn.
For example, I figured out pretty quickly that even in erotic romance the heroine does not have penetrative sex with anyone after she meets the hero. If the heroine is married, she does not have penetrative sex with anyone except her husband. Straight up erotica allows both scenarios, of course, and fantasy worlds have different rules, but if you’re writing erotic romance set in this world, you need to pay attention to those rules.
At least so that when you break them, you do it on purpose. The novella coming out in June came from me trying to figure out how I could justify a girl having sex with two men, and still call it erotic romance. Solution: Both men are her husbands, but one is from a parallel universe. What started as a purely a mental exercise turned into something original enough that the editor in chief of the press said she had never seen that particular plot before. So breaking rules has some big benefits, as long as you’re doing it consciously!
But to people who don’t write this stuff, the conventions are as exotic as the rule breaking. I was talking to a friend about some of the guidlelines for erotic publishing. Since he doesn’t read the genre, he was heartily amused to hear that “human stumbling into fairy ring orgy” was not only a common plot, but one that’s been done to death. I think the one that really broke him was the guideline on many sites that publish paranormal erotica:
* Absolutely no necrophilia. Undead doesn’t count.
Today’s entry in the neverending sweepstakes of shame: Even when I’m talking to other erotica authors, I find myself apologizing.
I’m serious. I need help. To acquaintances, I don’t talk about my writing at all. To friends, I minimize it as porn. To close friends, I both minimize it as porn AND downplay the erotic elements. And to potential colleagues, I apologize for it being too vanilla and not edgy enough.
I write what I myself would enjoy reading, for crying out loud. My entire life has been spent learning that I am not a special snowflake. For every thing I enjoy, there are thousands of other people with the same exact preferences. Millions, even.
I like reading M/F, M/F/F, and F/F. I like reading mild kink and threesomes. But I do not like double penetration, Sam I Am, I do not like it in the can. I do not like the whips and chains, and I do not like the golden rain.
For crying out loud, my entire goal is to write mainstream erotica. I should be thrilled that my preferences are so much in the middle of the stream that I can’t even see the shorelines. Today’s exercise is going to be working on telling other writers what I write, and doing it without caveats or apologies.