I have yet to see “Will Write Erotica for $$” on a sign held up by the side of the road, though I live in New England, not the San Fernando Valley. Yet I can imagine someone getting their start in the business of erotic writing that way…
“I noticed the big sign up ahead before I could get a good look at the person holding it: ‘Will Write Porn for $$.’ In front of me on the entrance ramp to the freeway, people were slowing down but not stopping. A guy in a red BMW tapped his horn twice and sped off.
It was a blonde behind the sign. I drove past her and pulled over. In the rear-view mirror, I could see she hadn’t noticed that I'd stopped. I could also see that her jeans fit her way better than I would have expected…”
I could go on, obviously. I could get to the sex within the next couple of paragraphs, or pages … or not get to it at all. Who said I was going to write erotica? Not me. But anyone who has ever written erotica had to start somewhere, and that includes the relatively small number of folks who make a living by turning out prose that turns us on.
We asked seven top writers and editors of contemporary sex writing: “How did you get your start?” Next week, we’ll offer their tips for beginners … and, perhaps, I’ll let you know what happens with the guy and the blonde.
(Over the past 20 years, Alison Tyler has written more than 25 explicit novels and edited 50 erotic anthologies.)
Wow, I think I need to enter my time travel device and go back to the ’80s! I started writing romantic short stories to entertain my friends. I’d ask them to give me a treasured crush (like Sting), a favorite location (say, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk), and an outfit (frayed cut-offs, a pink silk halter). And I’d spin their suggestions into a fantasy for them …
Of course, when I started writing and when I started getting paid for my writing are two different times entirely. I started writing erotica for money when a long-distance beau told me that the letters I was writing to him were as good as the stories he was reading in professional pornography magazines. I took a deep breath, crossed my fingers, and sent my first story to Playgirl.
(Shane Allison has edited many titles for Cleis Press, and been published in numerous anthologies, including Truckers, Cowboys, Best Black Gay Erotica, I Do/I Don’t: Queers on Marriage, and in magazines including Mississippi Review, New Delta Review, Velvet Mafia, Suspect Thoughts, and many others.)
Much of my poetry has always had heavy erotic elements in it, so when I started writing erotic fiction, it wasn’t much of a switch and just made sense in the next chapter of my writing career.
I cannot tell you how much books such as Best American Erotica and Best Gay Erotica helped me and showed me how it’s done, both as a writer and editor.
(Cole Riley’s erotica has been featured in many anthologies, including Intimacy and Maxim Jakubowski’s The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica.)
I got started writing erotica when I got the job as an associate editor at Oui magazine under its editor, Dian Hanson. She showed me some of the finer arts of writing sensuality effectively.
Occasionally, I did the fantasies at the beginning of the magazine. There is an art to putting the reader into the nexus of eroticism … to involve all of the senses, to bring sweat to the brow and fire to the loins. At the magazine, I learned from some of the veteran writers, who had been doing this kind of writing for some time. They also introduced me to some of the classics of erotica. I learned from them as well.
Rachel Kramer Bussel
(SexIs contributor Rachel Kramer Bussel is a senior editor at Penthouse Variations, and a contributing editor to Penthouse. She has edited or co-edited over 25 erotic anthologies.)
I started writing erotica during law school in 1999. I was reading a lot of erotica short stories and thought, I could try this. I saw a call for Shar Rednour’s anthology, Starf*cker, and, at the time, was obsessed with Monica Lewinsky, so I wrote about her and it turned into a short story, “Monica and Me,” which was included in Best Lesbian Erotica. That early validation was thrilling. I remember picking up Best Lesbian Erotica in a bookstore (the first place I’d seen it) and calling the editor, Tristan Taormino, with tears in my eyes.
Nothing can beat seeing your name in a book. From there I just started writing more and more, and challenging myself to go outside my comfort zone.
(Violet Blue is an author, columnist, blogger and sexuality futurist.)
Well, I don’t write erotica, but I do write nonfiction, and a lot of it. I write between 1,500 and 4,000 words every day. I honestly don’t remember how I got “started,” since I don’t ever feel like I will ever get “ended.” I’ve always written something, somewhere.
When I lived on the streets (I was a homeless teen from ages 13 to 17), I kept a journal of poetry and essays. A number of homeless kids hung out around Kinko’s and slept on their rooftop. They let us use their photocopy machines to make ’zines and chapbooks that we later sold on the streets and in the comic book store in Upper Haight.
When ’zines took off, I was in the thick of it, so I wrote for whoever. It was getting a piece published in Filth (Haight’s counterculture paper) that got the women at Good Vibrations to ask me to apply for Susie Bright’s old job (she was their book and video reviewer and copywriter) which had been vacant for years. I got the job. I pitched a book to Cleis, and my career *really* launched. At the same time I started my website and sex blog. Being one of the first was exciting. Later Fleshbot (Gawker) poached me from Good Vibes, though it was based on my own blogging more than anything.
(Richard Labonté is a prolific editor of gay erotic anthologies.)
You know, I’ve never *written* a word of erotica in my life, but I have edited several million, and read many millions more. I was dragged into editing by Felice Newman back in 1996…or ’97 maybe, when the first editor for Best Gay Erotica bailed, and she needed someone who knew writers—which, as a gay bookseller and as a seller of gay books, I did— to toss together BGE 1997. [They’ve] been asking me back ever since, for Best Gay Erotica, and, more recently, Best Gay Romance, and more than a dozen other anthologies as well.
(Kristina Wright has published more than 80 erotic stories, and is the editor of Fairy Tale Lust: Erotic Fantasies for Women, published by Cleis Press in July 2010.)
I reviewed romance novels for several years before I actually got up the nerve to write one. Then I wrote a second one and sold it to Silhouette Intimate Moments. This was before the market for erotic romance exploded and genre lines were still clearly drawn between what was “romance” and what was “erotica.” I remember having to cut one entire sex scene from Dangerous Curves and tone down the language of the rest of the love scenes. I hated that.
A few months after that, while I was taking a break from the soul-wrenching cycle of writing, submitting and having proposal after proposal rejected, I wrote my first piece of erotica. It was little more than a writing exercise to remind me that writing was something I actually enjoyed—a boundary-pushing story I wrote just for fun with no intention of selling it, “Service Entrance.” [It’s] about a woman who gives a man a blowjob and then pays him for the pleasure. I had no idea what to do with this quirky little story, but I knew it was different—and I thought it was good.
At the time, I subscribed to a newsletter called Jane’s ’Net Sex Guide, put out by Jane Duvall. Each edition included a piece of erotic fiction, so I sent my story off. The editor was Adrienne Benedicks, the creator of the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. She bought “Service Entrance” just a few days after I submitted it to her. After that, I submitted it to Marcy Sheiner, who published it in the 2000 inaugural edition of Best Women’s Erotica. One story; two sales in a matter of months. I was hooked on erotica, and knew I had found my niche.
(Editor’s note: Author/editor Kristina Wright moderates The Naked Reader Book Club Discussion forum alternate Tuesdays of each month on Edenfantasys. Discovering Alison Tyler’s first story—a gem in the slush pile—and publishing it while at Playgirl is one of SexIs Editor Judy Cole’s fondest career memories.)
To purchase the Naked Reader Book Club selections, visit the Naked Reader Book Club Store.
|The Naked Reader Book Club||Selections for August 2010|
|Red Hot Erotica, edited by Alison Tyler||Mile High Club—Plane Sex Stories, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel|
|Do Not Disturb—Hotel Sex Stories Edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel|