Monday, August 28, 2017

3 Things I've Learned from Writing Erotica

I started writing erotic short fiction way back in 1997, when the writing and publishing landscape looked very different. Those short stories were amongst the first fiction I ever wrote. I came to fiction when I was 33, a miserable law student in need of an outlet. Within 3 months of starting to write, I'd quit law school to make time to write even more. I wrote a lot, all of it short fiction of various lengths as well as the occasional article for local newspapers and websites. I wrote in several genres including erotica, fantasy, romance and some mixed genre stuff. But erotica was the primary genre that I published in for my first decade of being a published author and it was the first one where editors consistently asked me to write stories for their projects.

In recent years, I've moved more into horror, dark fantasy and gaming tie-ins under my other name, but still write erotica and erotic romance as Emily. Moving into the realm of gaming tie-ins is what really helped me understand what I learned in all those years of turning out erotic short fiction on tight deadlines to pretty specific guidelines. I was once asked to write a 20k word novella in 10 weeks that had to be vanilla erotica, heterosexual and have a Happy for Now ending, as well as being set in a workplace, as one example. Another was needing to come up with a story that used yaoi as a jumping off and matched yaoi formulas and conventions as closely as possible in an erotica story using a fantastical setting. This tale also had to be 20k words long, but this time, I only had 8 weeks to write it, including research time.

Gaming tie-in writing is something new to me so each project requires some research on my part as well as a clearing of the proverbial decks of other projects to make room for producing something that meets the editor's requirements within the given timeframe. It's challenging and fun to try and match a new audience's expectations in much the same way I've always tried to do with my erotica.

Here are the 3 main things that I learned from erotica that are proving very useful now in this brave new world.

  • Writing to deadline. Gaming deadlines are tight and ideas need to go through pitch sessions. I am by nature a pantser so having to come up with three different stories outlines that are within basic guidelines (with titles!) is a challenge. Then I have to accept that 2 or even 3 of them may be tossed out; for a writer who works hard to get nearly every word she writes published, this is a bit of an emotional hurdle. But there's no time to be a diva or to rest on past laurels: I have to focus on getting done on time if I want my work to appear in a given book or project.
  • Working with fairly rigid guidelines. Gaming has rules and world building and story structure. The audience for tie-ins expects stories that are set in the right world and adhere to the game timeframe and rules. It's like writing for a certain subgenre of erotica, say BDSM erotica with queer female protagonists or vanilla romantic erotica with heterosexual characters: the audience has expectations and you have to meet them or risk throwing them out of your story, perhaps never to return. Just as I sometimes have to do research for my erotica, I've had to do research for my gaming tie-ins to make sure I understand what the rules are.
  • Writing impactful short fiction. After the tie-in pitches are reviewed, and one is accepted (hopefully!), the next step is writing a first draft and...turning it in for editorial approval. This has been a big challenge for me; generally speaking, no one sees my early drafts. I play with them for awhile, write and rewrite, revise, etc. until I think they're ready. Now, I have to produce the same kind of impact writing in a first draft as on a final one so that the editors can see where I'm going with the story and determine whether or not I'm on the right track. One of the main differences is, of course, that I'm playing in someone else's world instead of my own, which is both very freeing and kind of tricky until you get used to it. But both kinds of fiction should ideally inspire play!
None of these things would be comparatively easy for me if I hadn't written erotica first. Erotic short fiction is hot and arousing (impact), may need to conform to strict guidelines and must often be written to publishing deadlines. It's been a great point from which to explore doing something new and to embrace a new kind of fictional challenge. And I look forward to continuing to write both kinds of fiction.

My first gaming tie-in story: "Incarnadine Seas" (written as Catherine Lundoff) appeared in The Cainite Conspiracies: A Vampire the Masquerade V20 Anthology edited by Monica Valentinelli. I've got something else forthcoming in another World of Darkness anthology and some possibilities in the pipeline; more news as I have it.

Some of my erotic short fiction is collected here, in Knife's Edge. More on the way soon!

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