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Why Writing Erotica Is So Hard (no pun intended!)

erotica001They do say that Erotica is the easiest fiction to write. I don’t know who ‘they’ are but, speaking as a writer of erotica for over 15 years, I’d say that ‘they’ are only partly right. True, it’s pretty easy to write a story if you don’t care much about your audience. If you don’t think about being exciting and interesting for the people who have to read what you’re writing, putting words on the page is just about as easy as vomiting.

I read somewhere that there are only supposed to be 28 different stories in the whole of fiction. In Erotica, it’s probably far less: after all, we don’t have the luxury of explosions and shoot outs (though, on second thoughts, perhaps we do :)).

A male friend of mine used to write porn for British skin magazines back in the 1970s. Stuff like readers’ letters, and ‘true life confessions’. He told me there were 12 basic stories on the list the pornographers’ sent to their writers for guidance. Because these stories were aimed at the people who bought the magazines — predominantly blue collar/ working-class, middle-aged men — most of the scenarios involved someone like that being seduced by an attractive younger woman. In the parlance of the times, she would be a ‘nympho’. Someone who found uneducated, middle-aged, sweaty, men attractive. Presumably only a nymphomaniac would fit that bill.

My friend (now a respected author) gave me a couple of examples: a plumber is called to a house to fix a leaky radiator. The ‘woman of the house’ greets him in her underwear and demands he gives her immediate sex. A bus driver discovers a single woman asleep at the end of his route. When he tries to wake her, she reveals that she finds him unbelievably attractive, and demands sex. It’s basically the same story, different locations.

You could call that kind of short fiction ‘writing by numbers’. The modern equivalent of the ‘readers’ letter’ is the Amazon erotic short story. Amazon and Kindle have revolutionized fiction writing and publishing. It’s like the Punk Revolution all over again. In the old days, an  editor decided who was a good enough writer and who wasn’t. Now the editors have been removed from the process. Anyone can now write and publish a book. It’s generally a wonderful thing, but it does mean that there’s loads and loads of low quality ‘tat’ online.

Nowhere is the situation worse than in the world of Erotic Fiction…

Someone – usually a man – decides to make stacks of money writing erotic fiction. He hears that women are the best customers, so he hones in on that market. For some reason, all men who do this seem to think they have to pretend to be a woman. They think of a name that, to them, sounds sexy. Something like Trixy Two-Tits or Mary Pussy-Holes: those may be extreme versions, but you’ll find similar examples on Amazon.

As a woman, I’d want to tell them that women might quite like to read stories written for women by a man. They might even be more forgiving of minor faux pas, if the man was upfront about not being ‘one of them’. But they never ask!

I write the type of stories I’d like to read. Maybe I’m a sick, perverted bitch, but I like to read about younger girls being fucked by older guys. That’s how I lost my cherry: to a man over three times my age! As far as I know, I’ve not been adopted, nor have I ever had sex with my father, but the idea of an authority figure (stepfather, policeman, whatever) having sex with a virgin turns me on. So, that’s what I write about.

One of my books got a 2-star Amazon review that said: “The sex scene was good. Now having said that, the rest was absolute drivel. What kind of girl is okay with how this little story ended? None, that’s how many. Hey authors, get your crap together and at least make the stories ‘graspable’ if not believable.”

Well, Cindy, this kind of girl was fine with the ending, because she fucking wrote it!

Here’s the book in question. Please tell me what you think.

You can download it for free here:

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Thanks | Writing Contemporary Romance & Erotica

Thanks to all 10,821 people who downloaded Discipline: Book One of the 50 Shades of Surrender Series from Amazon yesterday and propelled it to number 3 in the Erotica chart.

Contemporary Romance & Erotica Chart at Amazon

When something like this happens it kind of makes it all worthwhile.

Writing Contemporary Romance & Erotica

Writing Erotica and Contemporary Romance novels isn’t as easy as it sounds. The first thing to appreciate is that many readers are rigid in their expectations. They know what they like and if they don’t get it,  you can expect a scathing one star review on Amazon. If you get too many bad reviews it can kill your books stone dead. Amazon take into account what their customers say, and they will stop promoting any books that appear to be actively disliked.

Most people agree that Contemporary Romance can be applied to novels set in the modern day or in any period after World War II. There can be lots of sex or no sex at all. The stories I write tend to have lots of sex in them. That’s because I write ‘Erotica’, which is defined by Wikipedia as:

Erotica (from the Greek ἔρως, eros “desire”) is any artistic work that deals substantively with erotically stimulating or sexually arousing subject matter. All forms of art may depict erotic content, including painting, sculpture, photography, drama, film, music or literature. Erotica has high-art aspirations, differentiating it from commercial pornography. Another category is Amateur Pornography which includes non-commercial works.
Curiosa is erotica and pornography as discrete, collectible items, usually in published or printed form.

This extract touches on another question I’m often asked: What’s the difference between Erotica and Pornography? Back to Wikipedia for their answer:

Distinction is often made between erotica and pornography (as well as the lesser known genre of sexual entertainment, ribaldry), although some viewers may not distinguish between them. A key distinction, some have argued, is that pornography’s objective is the graphic depiction of sexually explicit scenes Additionally, works considered degrading or exploitative tend to be classified by those who see them as such, as “porn” rather than as “erotica” and consequently, pornography is often described as exploitative or degrading.

This seems to say that erotica cannot be degrading or exploitative. So, where does this leave erotica that describes acts in which people are deliberately humiliated or subjugated as a form of sexual stimulation? In other words, the kind of stuff I write?

Aside from having to work out whether you’re writing pornography or erotic fiction (I claim the latter), another problem the writer is presented with is how to describe the sexual act. At first thought, the answer may seem obvious: he does this, she does that, and so on. This would be fine if you’re talking about someone building a clock or baking a cake, but when it comes to sex there are so many more things to take into account.

For example, what is each of the people involved thinking? How do they react when A does B to C? What do are they feeling? There will be smells, textures and emotions that have to be described in order to convey the full meaning. In short, writing about sex is deceptively difficult. When it’s done well no one notices, when it’s done badly, the results can be appalling. In my view, that was the secret of the hugely acclaimed 50 Shades of Grey. E.L. James is very good when she writes about sexual union.

Here’s a clip about “pure romance” that starts with prolific UK author Barbara Cartland. I wish I could write as fast as she did:

Just Published: Discipline: Book One of the 50 Shades of Surrender Series

discipline_cover_smallThe first book in my new 50 Shades of Surrender series of erotic romance novels is finally available on Kindle. Although I shamelessly used the “50 Shades Of…” tag to suck in new readers and let them know roughly what to expect, there’s no connection with E.L. James‘s phenomenal bestseller. And, despite sharing a surname, we are in no way related.

Discipline is a 41,000 word novel set in New York City, that looks at a young woman’s exploration of her sexual attractions and desires. The story starts when young English actress Abigail Bennett arrives at an audition for a part in a shampoo commercial. Abi has become disillusioned with her life. Partly by her lack of success as an actress and partly by her lack of love life. She’s only 22, but Abi feels that life is slipping away from her. She’s young, sexually innocent, and a stranger in the Big Bad City.

Abi’s plight mirrors my own experiences in New York, twenty years ago. I arrived a naive, young model and expected the world to fall at my feet. That’s really where mine and Abi’s  lives separate. I found minor success and returned to England wiser but not a lot richer, whereas Abi meets Roxy Royale and has her life turned around and upside down!

Roxy Royale is a couple of years older than Abi, and the brash New Jersey girl is everything she’s not. Roxy is confident and sexually experienced. She’s heavily into the BDSM scene and performs at a club owned by the dashing, debonair and very dominant Dominic Grigio. Abi meets and falls in love with Dominic, and her roller coaster ride begins.

Discipline is the first part of a series. How many I eventually write is open to discussion, but right now two more are in the writing and plotting stage: Submission (April 2014) and Conquest (July 2014).  I’m also going to write a series of shorter stories about Roxy’s sexual exploits.

I’ve been submissive in the bedroom for as long as I’ve been sexually active. I find it hugely exciting to be taken in hand by a dominant male. For the last fourteen years, this role has been taken by my husband. Before that, I had some wild experiences, which I’ve shamelessly drawn on in my writing. At the heart of these books is a basic Romance Story: will girl capture boy and manage to keep him for herself? Dominic Grigio is a gorgeous hunk of a man and a great catch, but he also runs a successful business that includes a BDSM club. Can Abi overcome the obstacles and make Dominic her own? Will she be drawn into his world of sexual pain and humiliation? That’s really what this book is about.

There’s plenty of bondage and punishment sex, some of it quite extreme. And a sub-plot involving Abi’s late father, who is revealed as a spy for the British Government. He died in mysterious circumstances under suspicions of corruption, and Abi is asked to help clear his name. With Discipline, I’ve gone all out to create an Erotic Romance story that makes you want to read on and find out what happens. If that sounds like the kind of book you like, I hope you’ll download it from Amazon and enjoy. If so, please leave a review to let everyone know what you think.

Here are some links to Discipline at Amazon stores around the world:

or go to your local Amazon site and search for B00HQ912KK in Kindle.

Welcome To My Website

Thanks for stumbling on my new website. It’s brand new at the moment, but I’ll be updating it and building it up all the time. Please return for regular blogs on subjects that interest me. I am a woman who has given up her job in order to write Erotic Romance fiction in the general area of 50 Shades of Grey. When I read E.L. James’s bestselling ebook I was excited and intrigued. As you’ll probably see from the content that is to come, I am a sexually submissive woman in the bedroom, but strong and powerful when dealing with the outside world.

My favorite authors of the moment are S.K. Quinn, Sylvia Day Maya Banks, Marisa Bennett, Jamie McGuire and Gillian Flynn, though this changes all the time.

Please bookmark this page and stand by for action.

Visit the About Penny James page to find out more about me and you can email me via the Contact Me page.

Here’s a great interview with E.L. James recorded at an event at SoHo House, NYC: