I attended a local writers’ group for the first time last week. Before the date, I’d debated whether or not I would own up to writing smut. Of course, I blurted it out during my introduction, because, A: I can’t keep a secret, and B: I love shocking people. It’s fun.
Well, the theme for the meeting was, “What are your favorite books on writing that have helped your craft,” or something like that. We all brought in a book or two, and said why we liked them, and passed them around. Many were poetry-related books, as this group seems to have an abundance of poets.
For my part, I considered bringing in a now out-of-print book that I’ve had for at least a decade—long, long before I started writing erotica, back when I figured someday I might write romance and saw this book at a great price and snapped it up. Already I had my romance/erotica lines blurred; my sex/love boundaries woefully screwy. Story of my life.
My internal smut-sensors must have been telling me something, though. I always did read Playboy and Hustler for the articles (and look at them for the pictures) when I was a kid, stumbling upon an uncle’s or friend’s father’s stash.
Mercedes Ambrus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It was written in the stars that I would write about people buffing the wood and falling in love. Ahhh, sweet romantic lust (see, I still mix the two together).
So, anyway, I digress. The book I was talking about before I was so rudely interrupted by myself was “How to Write Erotica” by Valerie Kelly. Yes, this book is dated—it came out in the eighties and, yes, you can almost picture the big hair and chicka-bow-bow music in the background when you are reading the excerpts. But, for something over 20 years old, it’s aged surprisingly well. True, the list of publishers is obsolete–don’t buy it for that (and, incidentally, it’s available used for about a buck plus shipping on Amazon from various sellers. Note the condition of the book before purchasing, as you never know if the previous owner was using it for stroke material–it could happen.)
The book is an interesting read, start to finish. Valerie Kelly illustrates the how-to’s of erotic letter writing, short-shorts, longer shorts, and novels–all still relevant structures for today’s authors. “The Marketplace for Erotic Fiction” section is more a history lesson on erotica, at this point, but I think it is still fun reading for anyone interested in the business to see how it has evolved in the past twenty years. It’s still evolving. Who knows what is ahead? If history repeats itself, as they say, I’ll be ready with my leg-warmers and my copy of HTWE.
Anyway, Kelly goes into the basic formula for story-telling (Plot, Character, The Setting, The Climax, POV, The Denouement). This section is still valid, as are the parts about tense, pacing, and making things sexy (yeah, 80’s sexy is still sexy).
Even Kelly’s advise on query letters can be modified for today’s electronic submission process. True, we don’t need to know about 20lb paper or SASEs anymore, but skip it, or read it just to appreciate how much easier we have it now. When I was your age, I had to walk to school in five feet of snow. Actually, I took a bus.
Finally, Kelly has exercises to inspire your creativity. Need a jumping off point? Close your eyes and pick one. Her glossary and list of sensual words at the end are tré useful. I’ve penned in my own additions at the back of the book.
So, that was a rather lengthy book review, it turns out. I give “How to Write Erotica” 4.5 stars and the coveted Vale Smutty Stamp of Approval.
And to answer your question, I did not bring it to my writer’s group (and good thing–there was a rather suspicious character present who may have absconded with, and defiled my book).
I brought “Self Editing for Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne and Dave King. I like that one, too, even sans any juicy bits.
Now, for a little exercise of our own. Pretend this is a writer’s group meeting. I’m the creepy guy leering at you. What book/s do you recommend for your fellow authors? Don’t worry, I’ll only borrow them until the next meeting. Sorry about any pages that might get stuck together…