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: