Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Merits of Writing Erotica

As I'm sure everyone who isn't dead or in a coma knows, erotica isn't really a publicly accepted genre in spite of the sheer number of sales dwarfing entire other literary genres. The focus on sex is seen as lesser, as sinful, while horrible acts in books not classified as erotica get away without even a mention. Is the graphic rape and murder in a crime book any less sexual because the book isn't classified as erotica?

Up until recently, I have been blessed with friends who either don't care about these general societal views, or don't share them. What people I don't consider friends say is not something I usually care about very much, unless it impacts me directly. As such, I managed to more or less be free of the stigma associated with erotica. But, we must all eventually face these things.

Someone I considered a friend started talking to me about what I write, and then presented the typical snobbish opinion about what writing anything sexual is. A lesser form of the craft of writing. Not up to the standard of "regular" genres like Fantasy, Sci-fi, Mystery or whatever.

"Well, fantasy has their big standards, see Tolkien etc. But erotica is young or not published in the same way as the others, so it's new and exciting. And ... you'd probably gain more writing standard stuff. Gaining a good base, you know. Getting to know the more established forms."

Beyond the simple (And make no mistake, very annoying) snobbery, there are several misconceptions in this statement. Since I feel like it reflects a decent part of why people think writing erotica is somehow lesser, I decided to address it in a blog.

1) Erotica and standards

Erotica is a much-maligned genre that major publishing houses don't want to associate with. Only select publications touch it, and those cannot keep up with the real demand. And as we all know, when there's a need, someone will try to meet it. This has resulted in a tremendous amount of erotica written that never comes near the selection process that publishers have in place, by authors who have little to no idea about how to write compelling literature.

Regular publishers get a LOT of submissions, and around 2% of submitted work makes it through. Have you ever read a published book you thought was kind of bad? Chances are, you have. And that was considered in the top 2%. Such a selection process, especially these days with the internet and eBook markets blooming, was never standardized for erotic works. This means that the 98% of work that never would've seen a publisher is now free to be spat out for all to see.

What does this mean?
- There is a lot of sub-par erotica out there.
- This has nothing to do with erotica as a genre, and everything to do with its circumstances.

2) Erotica is "new and exciting"

Erotica is as old as, or older, than any other currently accepted genre. Erotica is not a sign of the current downfall of our society, or something that has come about because sex sells right now. The first erotic works appeared thousands of years ago. Hell, there have been archaeological finds from ancient Egypt suggesting that there was the equivalent of a Men's Magazine in those times.

What does this mean?
- Erotica is as old as language and writing.
- Sex is a part of life, and always has been. It is frequently shamed and hidden away, but never disappears.

3) Erotica and Writing Development

The assumption here is that erotica is a less advanced, less fulfilling, and less difficult genre to write. The underlying insult to both the author and reader, here, is that anyone could write "He cums in her cunt" and it's instantly worth buying as erotica because writing erotica is easy. As I'm sure anyone who has read some selection of erotic works can tell you, that's simply not the case. Writing erotic work does not mean that shifting perspectives, lacking basic grammar and spelling or a complete lack of sensible plot development become excusable.

The fact of the matter is that in order to write good and great erotica, the writer has to know just as much as the writer who focuses on Fantasy, or YA. Characterization does not become less important because you don't fade to black. The structure, plotting and dramatization of the events in your story do not somehow become easier to write because you have two (or more) character doinking at one or several points in the work.

What does this mean?
- Good erotica sexual elements to enhance the story.
- Erotica is just as developing for a writer's skills as any other genre.

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