From Margin to Mainstream: Why Erotica Matters
It’s Wednesday, which is on its way to being officially renamed in the U.S. calendar of holidays as “Cait Reynolds Blogs for Kristen Lamb” Day. Denny Basenji, however, thinks it should be renamed “Curly Tail Problems” Day.
Announcing that you write erotic romances is certainly a conversation starter. Or stopper. Depending on your audience. Explaining that this is your livelihood and that you are proud of it will get you reactions from, “Wow, that’s cool!” to, “So, when are you going to write a real book?”
Let’s just get something straight, right off the bat. Erotica today is not “porn in pretty dresses.”
One of the first ground rules for taking an objective look at the changing face of romance publishing is to separate the quality of the writing from the message of the content.
The message of today’s romance, erotic romance, and erotica novels is that women are free to associate themselves (and pay the money to buy the books to drive this point home) with sexually experienced, sexually adventurous, and sexually knowledgeable heroines. Heroes today are expected to spend as much, if not more, time focused on the heroine’s pleasure than their own.
While certain tropes like the Cinderella rescue persist, the nature of their portrayal has changed. For example, you now find the Cinderella rescue scenario played out in LGBTQ romances as much as heterosexual romances. Often the “heroine” is just as or more successful professionally than the “hero” (regardless of gender or orientation).
Heroes now have room to be complex, and heroines can genuinely be strong. Erotic romance novels fearlessly explored issues of mental illness, adoption, divorce, depression, anxiety, socio-economic differences, even while so-called “mainstream” books were still tip-toeing around sensitive topics.
The readers of these erotic romances are a truly diverse group, and people are starting to take note of this sociological change (and you can thank good ol’ “Fifty Shades” for the mainstream media attention erotic romance has gotten).
But who are the writers of these books? These are men and women who sit down, day in and day out, and put fingers to keyboard to produce these stories. I am one of them.
I used to be tremendously embarrassed by the fact that I wrote erotica. I felt like everyone was always expecting me to use it as a “stepping stone” to my “real books.”
Well, guess what? The books I write as Fiona Blackthorne ARE real books. I lost sleep, tweeted, swore, chatted, paced, dog-walked, typed, ground my teeth, wrote notes on receipts, and sketched out entire storyboards for these books. I had to submit them to my publisher, Siren Publishing, wait for them to be accepted, then go through an intense, fast-paced editing phase that would leave your head spinning. Then, there’s all the marketing work I had to do to get my website up and running, and promoting my books.
Yes, I work from home, and yes, I can start my day in my pajamas. But my workday starts at 7:00 a.m. and doesn’t really stop until I go to bed. Sure, I can change the laundry in between chapters, but you can bet I’m still working through a paragraph in my head. Yes, I have a flexible schedule. That just means that if I need to work from 7pm to 2am because my day was already full of other stuff, then I’ll suck it up and work from 7-2.
You want to know what it’s like to write a sex scene…or seven for a book? Sometimes, it’s a delightful literary challenge, because I never want to write a sex scene the same way twice. I always am looking for different words, moments, things to notice, ways to enhance the experience for my reader. Sometimes, it’s good fun for *ahem* me as well.
Sometimes, though? Sometimes, it’s like pulling freaking eye-teeth. You can get really tired of writing sex scenes. You always have to be on your guard against dropping into the mechanical and clinical just to get through it.
Then there are those moments when you are thinking to yourself: “Okay, about 700 words left in the chapter. That means if I can get her to her climax, then, hmmm, no, that won’t take enough words. He’ll have to stop just short of it. Oh, and then he can actually pick her up and put her on the bed. That’s about fifty words right there. Then maybe he ties her up? That could be a good hundred words or so, and I could finish this goddamn scene in 500 words after that.”
Yeah. It happens.
Then, I remember Anais Nin, Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, and I am strong again.
Erotic writing has been around for as long as the oldest profession has been around…and when people couldn’t read or write, they carved things on walls and painted them in caves. Clearly, something that is so deeply tied to our biological drive for survival and procreation deserves attention, study, and respect, not dismissiveness or judgment.
This is why I am teaching a class on writing erotica. We write the stories that are the mirrors reflecting the changes in society’s sexual mores and gender roles. Good, bad, indifferent, it is our writing that helps to push boundaries, expand horizons, and drive acceptance.
Who are the writers of erotic romance? Why do they write this when they could simply leave out all the sex? What are the blessings and consequences of this life? For once, it’s time to tell our own stories.
Baby, It’s Hot in Here!…a Sizzling New Class from Cait Reynolds
Price: $45 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, August 4, 2017
Erotica is one of the most difficult genres to write.
Wait. No. Erotica is one of the most difficult genres to write well.
From pacing (literally) to placing, this class is gonna go…deep. Yeah. Couldn’t resist. In all seriousness, how do you handle the paradox of writing a book with compelling characters and interesting story when it’s really about sex?
The answer is this: good erotica is not about sex. It is about seduction and intimacy. In this class we will cover:
- Understanding why readers choose erotica, what they are looking for, and how to both deliver and guide them to wanting more;
- How to apply and adapt standard plotting structures to erotica;
- Creating a story that is interesting enough to sustain a full-length novel;
- Developing characters that are complex, memorable, and desirable;
- Avoiding repetitive, mechanical sex scenes;
- Maintaining the heat throughout a book;
- How to push yourself to write better and use quality as a unique marketing strategy;
- Bonus: history, fun facts, and trivia about literary erotica through history!
A recording of this class is also included with purchase.
In a world of a gazillion forgettable erotica books and romance novels, let Cait help you stand out in the one way no marketing can compete with: hot, unique stories that turn readers into fans who will BEG you for more!
You get the class (recording included in price) with Cait plus one hour of personalized one-on-one consulting regarding YOUR story.
You get the class (recording included in price) with Cait plus two hours of personalized one-on-one consulting regarding YOUR story and a detailed edit and critique of one sex scene up to 2,500 words.
About the Instructor
Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in the Boston area with her husband and four-legged fur child. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn’t cooking, running, rock climbing, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes. Learn more at http://caitreynolds.com.
For the month of AUGUST, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
****And MAKE SURE to check out the NEW CLASSES classes below (including writing layered characters and strong females) and sign up!
Summer school! YAY! We’ve added in classes on erotica/high heat romance, fantasy, how to write strong female characters and MORE! Classes with me, with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds and award-winning author and journalist Lisa-Hall Wilson. So click on a tile and sign up!