Archives for category: Getting Published

You’ve done creative writing classes with a teacher who’s been published in ‘Woman’s weekly’. You’ve let off a stinking poem or two. You have a half finished screenplay under your bed that Spielberg would send over a private jet for, (Oh! if only he knew about it!) and now you are wondering: have I got what it takes to write erotica?

Its not an entirely stupid question.

The success of Harry Potter meant children’s publishing got a massive shot in the arm as publishers and public alike realised what how brilliant (and lucrative) children’s books could be. So, it is with Mr Grey and Anastasia. The publishing and reading world await the next shagging sensation. Erotica is ‘in’. You can bet your ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, that right now, thousands of hopeful people across the world, are banging out something. And some of them might be writing a bit too.

So what are the essential qualities of the erotic writer and how do they differ from writers of other genres?

I was going to say simply the ability to write interesting sentences but in the light of recent best-sellers, I’ve decided to scrub that. Ha ha. It is clearly more important to create interesting, possibly sympathetic, characters and, if its your thing, a good, page-turning plot. So far, same as in other kinds of writing but where it differs, naturally, is an interest in “the sex thing”. Obviously, the erotic writer must be, as they say on dating websites, “open-minded”. If the erotic writer feels that what they are doing is wrong then this will shine through their work (in a bad way). I don’t know the religious make-up of the top erotic writers but I’m willing to bet my copy of ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ that they are not practicing Catholics. I’m not saying practicing Catholics can’t write brilliantly, (God forbid) I’m simply suggesting extreme romance writing isn’t for you.

The erotic writer clearly needs to do the sex thing as much as possible: we call this ‘research’. However, I’m not a believer in write what you know. You don’t have to know about orgies and dragon butter to write about it – you do however have to find all that interesting. Write what you care about, and you can’t go wrong.

The next essential quality of the erotic writer is to be well-read. You should have some sense of the history of rude-writing from Anais Nin and Henry Miller to Black Lace favourites Portia de Costa and (shameless plug) Tabitha Flyte! And here, allow me to make a small digressive joke: the erotic writer must know his Dickens from his dick and his Hardy from his Hard-on.
Ho hum.
The erotic writer doesn’t leave anything to the imagination. He or she knows that the devil is in the details. He or she should also be able to swear like a navvy and he or she should be prepared to sign a contract promising never ever to use coy phrases like ‘inner goddess’ or ‘sex’ where other, better, words would do.

It also helps to be an orphan. Not really – one dead parent will do. Honestly, my mum would have done her nut about my career choice. She would have been sat at my shoulder. “O-kayyy, so Sally, is the one who’s shagging the big fellow but she prefers his wife and…ooh darling, you know Mrs Johnson’s daughter is training to be a doctor.”

Does Annie have what it takes to be the next EL James, or is she more of a PD James kind of girl?

A subversive streak is another job requirement. You don’t have to be a steam-punk trustafarian living in a squat in South London but I’ve never met an erotic writer yet who doesn’t, in her own, sweet way, stick one finger (the middle) up at the system. I suppose its the same with most writers, whatever the subject matter. You have to be interested in revealing the hidden, in exploring and busting taboos. All writers are outsiders, looking in and exploring what they see. Erotic writers are outsiders too, although they are looking in the bedroom window in particular.

It’s imperative to have thick skin. You need the hide of the rhino if you are to read some of the reviews on Amazon. Especially the ones your “friends” insist on writing. The response is even worse if you make the mistake of writing in the first person, the “I” because everyone will think it’s actually you. Sigh.
They say if you left a monkey at a computer for 1000s of years, eventually it would produce the works of Shakespeare. I believe if you did the same with a rhino then he would eventually produce ‘The story of O’. (If he didn’t squash the computer first.)

Could he be the next publishing sensation?

Finally, in this day and age, it’s important to have a USP. For those who aren’t expert in marketing-squeak, USP is your unique selling point. Just as Delia is associated with pre-mashed food, and Heston Blumenthal, rats arse ice cream, every chef needs a signature dish and so too does the erotic writer.
So if your thing is a toe in the hoo-haa or perhaps “water-sports” (not in the dating site sense of the word), then don’t be afraid to explore this in your d’oevre. What you may find, to everyone’s amazement, is that niche is no longer niche and before long Marks and Spencers will be stocking your bestselling book alongside waterproof sheets and nail clippers.

Ok, maybe not M and S, maybe Morrisons.

Diana didn't give a fluck

Diana didn’t give a fluck

The story of how E L James, (or E L Lucky Jim as I like to call her), found success is well-known. She was writing Fan Fiction, her story grew popular, she self published, a huge publishing firm bought it up and her opus is now available alongside chutney and olives for the busy BDSMers at Waitrose. I thought I would write about my experience of getting published as it follows what might be considered a more typical, although increasingly old fashioned, route in to print.

It all began, when I was working as a P.A in the education department of a not very prestigious university. Fortunately, this brain dead role gave me plenty of time to pursue my other keen interests: trying to get a new and better boyfriend and writing the great British novel.

Three years, 70,000 words and the same boyfriend later, my first manuscript was done. I sent it out to every agent in the Writers and artists book who sent my three years and 70,000 words back to me with a “It’s good but not for us,” or “We liked it but we didn’t feel that strongly about it.” They could have been talking about my boyfriend…

I was undetered at first. Like those people who squeak in front of Simon Cowell, ‘whadyouknowaboutthemusicindustry?” self-confidence can carry you a long way. I even made the schoolboy error of submitting my manuscript to the same agent twice. He responded: “I didn’t like this the first time I read it, I liked it even less the second.” But a massive ego can only carry you so far. In spite of wanting it “110 percent” and “all my life” my modern day Pride and Prejudice was not to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

However, one kind agent did respond more helpfully: “Although this isn’t for us,” he said, “I must say the sex was remarkable.” “Really?” I said, hastily retrieving my knickers and with his complement ringing in my ears, I started to find out a little bit more about the world of sex books. There wasn’t a lot to find. Shirley Conran and Jilly Cooper had been and gone. Paedophile priests and shagging siblings in the loft were out of favour. It was all Bridget Jones and dieting. There was however, one company producing erotica for women and by women and once I read these, I knew I had found my writing home.

It soon became apparent the subject matter – fornication- and my style – smart/casual was a match made in heaven. Rude scenarios and fantastic entanglements spilled and pulsated out of me: I couldn’t stop writing, I was insatiable, throbbing, etc, etc, and all the while I was meeting and greeting eminent professors and answering the phone to their students. “No you can’t have another bloody extension”. For the first time in my life, I knew what it was to love work.

You couldn’t say I wasn’t proactive in those days. I sent off the first three chapters and a synopsis to Black Lace, and lo! one hundred years later, Kerri Sharp, the then editor had given me my very first book contract for the novel, Tongue in Cheek.

My advance disappeared within hours. More time consuming was choosing my nom du plume or pseudonym. I wanted something that conjured up the image of a woman in a bubble bath and not a woman with too many cats but it’s a very fine line. I was advised to use the ancient method of first pets name plus mother’s maiden name: this method is commonly applied to porn star name or bank account password but hey. I was Buttons Applebaum. Posh and foreign but not in a good way. However, lady luck was smiling on my erotic writing career, because I soon remembered a neighbour’s gerbil had been called Tabitha. What a gerbil that was!

I added the Fluck, in homage to that great British institution Diana Dors, (formerly Diana Fluck). Sending off my completed manuscript with the cover: Tongue in Cheek by Tabitha Fluck,the pride I felt that moment was second only to the pride I experienced when years later my son was selected to be Inn-keeper in the Nativity. Precious memories!

The powers at Black Lace responded that they liked the name but they “didn’t feel strongly about it”. Maybe, I had crossed the line from picking cat hairs off the sofa and from masturbating in a bath to somewhere else entirely. I don’t know. Anyway, a few hours after that, painlessly but not entirely drug-free, Tabitha Flyte was born.

Jane Austen I wasn’t. My writing wasn’t going to set the world on fire, (I was a different kind of arsonist, fnar) but it might, just might, make for a pleasant evening’s distraction…

samlierens

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