how to write erotic fiction

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The Independent Culture
Afew months ago this newspaper published a report from the autumn conference of the Guild of Erotic Writers.

Three days later, the mail bag was bursting with a letter from a man in Cyprus, wanting more information.

A month later, the correspondence generated by the article had doubled, with an inquiry from a lady in Shropshire. Clearly The Independent had tapped into something big.

Hoping, then, to pre-empt, rather than elicit, any further avalanches of mail, we now bring you details of the Guild and how it can help you to quicken a thousand pulses, and stiffen your bank balance.

The Guild was set up by Portland Publishing, part of Northern and Shell. They publish a number of titles, including the unshockable swapshop that is Forum and the glossy top-shelf Penthouse.

Until recently they also owned Erotic Stories, a bi-monthly collection that ceased publication last autumn. It was partly in response to the huge number of unsolicited, and often inept, manuscripts received by this title that the Guild was conceived. Erotic Stories may be gone, but membership of the Guild continues to swell, with more than 200 members hoping to cash in on one of the UK's fastest-growing literary genres.

Subscribers receive a quarterly newsletter, full of tips for the inexperienced eroticist. For instance, many new writers, it says, struggle to lend their detailed account of an erotic encounter the air of a genuine short story. In order to do so, they give the end a twist.

All well and good. But the dramatic effect is ruined if the twist in your tale has all the shock value of the twist in a pig's tail. For example: man seduces beautiful woman, only to discover that "she" is really a "he" - an inordinately hackneyed proposition, apparently, even before The Crying Game.

So one tip is, if you want to twist, twist hard.

A popular way to overcome the initial creative block is to nick someone else's idea. The guild offers advice on this, too. If you are going to borrow, or indeed steal outright, from the literary canon, then be sure your chosen work is out of copyright (ie, 70 years have elapsed since the author's death).

Then you can go right ahead and write Sherlock Holmes and the Harem of the Baskervilles or Robinson Cruise-O and have only assassination attempts by cranks to worry about.

The use of an established persona will certainly save you a good deal of tiresome character development, enabling you to get right on with the sex. Whether or not anyone will believe in a Sherlock Holmes gripped by heterosexual lust is another issue, but it is as well to leave yourself some challenges.

If the character you want to explore is still protected by copyright, then parody may be more appropriate (and legally safer) than outright theft. And it can be a lot of fun.

How about The Sex Files, with Mully and Scolder getting fresh with a UFO? You can spoof characters in books, films, comics - and guarantee a built-in audience.

Once you have decided on your characters, the Guild's main advice, unsurprisingly, is to make sure they have lots of sex.

Don't be embarrassed. Don't shut bedroom doors. Readers of erotic fiction want to know what it looks like and what they're feeling. This is not to say that building sexual tension and using creative metaphor are not on. They are. But there comes a time when you have to plunge in, and enjoy.

Assuming you have got what it takes, the Guild will also help you find a publisher. They'll tell you which are in the market for beefed-up romance and which won't get out of bed for anything less than handcuffs and whips.

And should you start to get fed up with rejection letters, they will even take a look at your manuscripts, and give comments and advice (for a small fee).

There is certainly a lot of fun to be had from it all. I know - I've been dining out on Limousine Lust ever since it was published in Erotic Stories in 1993. And even if your efforts are in vain, all that typing is good for the wrist.


The Guild of Erotic Writers, Northern and Shell Tower, City Harbour, London E14 9GL (0171-987 5090)