Racy Writing – Dos and Don’ts with Kelly Favor
So you’ve decided to try your hand at writing erotica—why not? It’s a very popular genre right now, and selling like hotcakes. Bestselling novelist Kelly Favor, author of the wildly popular For His Pleasure series, took the time to share some thoughts, answer some questions, and provide a few Dos and Don’ts for the beginning writer.
Start fast, and stay in the “now.” Open with a scene that grabs readers’ attention and establishes the main character, and also establishes the “sexiness” of the story.
That doesn’t mean you need to start with a sex scene, but it means that you want to foreshadow or in some way indicate that there is some racy content to come. However, it’s important to also establish character at the same time—make certain you’ve instantly made the reader feel that they want to know more about this person and this situation.
From there, it’s all about developing plot and character, as any writing in any genre must do. Keeping the pace fast and the plot moving is really important for beginning writers, since many struggle when the plot isn’t moving. Newer writers have trouble writing sharp dialogue and sometimes their scenes will ramble and become dull if they don’t have plot points moving things forward.
There aren’t really tricks per se; they’re more conventions or “notes” that one must hit in order for the writing to appeal. It’s like being a musician—you have to understand the music you’re playing and you must hit those notes and stay on beat. If you go off rhythm or you start to hit the wrong notes, it becomes a mess.
However, if you know your own limitations, then you can write a very simple story with simple characters and still create something exciting and highly palatable for reader, just like a musician might play a very simple song that still pleases the ear.
The Don’ts are sort of the reverse of the Dos. Don’t start slow. Don’t start with tons of backstory. Don’t “info dump”, which is when a writer needs to get information about a character out and they just dump it wholesale on the reader. Backstory and the like should be interspersed throughout a scene or multiple scenes, broken by dialogue and action, so that the information doesn’t bog down the flow of the story.
I find that beginning writers struggle a great deal with writing naturally. Many of them overwrite, using “big words” in order to sound more literary, or because they feel it makes the prose more interesting.
I tell writers that if you would never speak this way in real life, don’t write it. Good writing is conversational, easy, and mostly simple. Yes, there are writers who have a more complex style, but they tend to develop that over time and usually they have a very strong vision.
Most writers—myself included—benefit from keeping things simple.
What distinguishes a great racy read from a dud?
It’s the same in any genre. A great read holds your attention, and makes you care about the characters. A dud tends to be dull, unoriginal, and lacking imagination and risk. Good writing, in the end, always involves some level of risk.
Every great story needs to have some element that stands out. Some great stories have great dialogue, some have great characters, some have exciting plots with twists and turns. You don’t need every element to be great. However, a great story has at least one element that soars, and typically more than one element that soars.
What would you want would-be writers to know?
Writing is really a craft, and that it’s not as mysterious and serious as many would have them believe. You need to work hard and study books and become excited and passionate about writing, but you don’t need to be snooty and you don’t need to be perfect with your prose. You need to learn to be a good storyteller, because that’s what writing is.
I think there is an overemphasis on trying to “great,” and trying to be a genius where every sentence is perfection. Readers don’t really care about perfection. They just want to be entertained and transported. Learn to do that and you’ve got the essence of it.
Also remember that things will continue to get tougher and more competitive, but good writers can succeed. It’s important to understand, however, that being an indie writer means also being a good businessperson. Many writers seem to be struggling, in my opinion, to be both good writers and good businesspeople.