Sep 292011

“The assassin readied himself, beginning first by picking up his trusty revolver and carefully threading a silencer onto the barrel.”

That reads right enough, doesn’t it? You look at it and it sings true. But it’s not. Not because the assassin is a product of my imagination but because, except for one very rare instance, silencers cannot be fitted onto revolvers. So every time you see Mannix or Barnaby Jones facing off against some crook with a little tube on the end of their revolver, keep in mind that it has no bearing on reality.

What does this have to go with smut writing? Well, sometimes erotica writers—both old hands and new blood—make the same kind of mistakes: not so much a revolver with a silencer, but definitely the anatomical or psychological equivalent.

People ask me sometimes what kind of research I do to write erotica. The broad answer is that I seriously don’t do that much true research, but I do observe and try and understand human behavior— no matter the interest or orientation—and add that to what I write. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some (ahem) fieldwork involved.

I’m very lucky to have started writing erotica here in San Francisco. If America has a sexual organ, it’s here. Good example: do you know what the most-attended parade is in the US? Answer: The Rose Parade in Pasadena. No surprise there, right? Well, here’s one: do you know the second most-attended parade? It’s the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Trans-gendered Day Parade. There are 500,000 people—some gay and some not, all cheering for love and sex. It’s more than mind-blowing; it’s truly inspiring. It also shows how sexy this burg is. I should also mention the Folsom Street Fair: 400,000 leather- and latex-clad men, women, and genderqueers thronging through seven blocks of the city.

Sex is not just in the atmosphere here; it’s also a tradition. The Institute for the Study of Human Sexuality is here, and SFSI is here. SFSI stands for San Francisco Sex Information, a completely self- funded sex information and referral system. It works like this: after 52 hours of training (doctors get only something like 15), volunteers are qualified to go on the switchboard and answer questions from all over the country on any aspect of human sexuality without judgment, bias, or giggles. If you call (415) 989-7374 one of these volunteers will answer whatever you ask, or put you in contact with another group who will. It’s a wonderful service and an invaluable resource. You can also check them out at

It’s easy to make the assumption that you’re well informed, but the fact is we are being bombarded by prejudice and simply inaccurate information all the time. The media is getting better at depicting sexuality, but they still have a long way to go. Way too often I’ll read a book, watch a movie, or flip channels, and groan at some cliché being perpetuated: all gay men are effeminate, all lesbians are butch, S/M is destructive, polyamorous people are sex-addicted, older people don’t have sex, couples always orgasm together—the list goes on and on. Many of these things are done out of laziness—but others are repetition of what the creators honestly believe are true.

It’s a very hard to unlearn something you’ve always taken as truth, and even harder to recognize what’s in your personal worldview that needs to be reexamined. My advice is to assume, especially in regards to sexuality, that everything you know should be looked at again. If you’re right, then the worst you can do is perhaps add a bit more to your knowledge, or get a different perspective. But if you crack open a book, or blip to a Web site, and find yourself going “I didn’t know that,” then feel good rather than bad: by doing that, and adding it to your erotic fiction, you’ll help perpetuate accuracy rather than bullcrap.

One more thing you could do is help people. We don’t like sex in this country. Sure, we sell beer and cars with it, but we don’t like it. We’re scared of it. Living in this world with anything that’s not beer and car commercial sexuality can be a very frightening and lonely experience. Too many people feel that they are alone, or what they like to do sexually is wrong, sinful, or sick. Now I’m not talking about violent or abusive sexual feelings, but rather an interest in something that harms no one and that other people have discovered to be harmless or even beneficial. If you treat what you’re writing about with respect, care, and understanding, you could reach out to someone, somewhere and help them understand and maybe even get through their bad feelings about their sexuality—bad feelings, by the way, that more than likely have been dished out by the lazy and ignorant for way too long.

In other words, especially in regards to erotica, you should be part of the solution and not the problem.

Sep 222011

If you get in the lucky position where you have too many paying writing gigs on your plate, you’re going to have to manage your time and stick to the gigs that either pay the most or the ones you really love (hopefully these can sometimes be the same job). When it comes to SEO writing, unlike other writing gigs, you really do have to allot a lot of time to the blogs or articles you are writing.

Now don’t come down on me for saying (which I’m not) that other writing gigs are not as hard as SEO writing, I’m just relating from my experience-which lately has been mainly SEO writing-that out of all the time-intensive SEO writing you are attempting you have to push to the forefront those that pay you the most for your time, or that you love (hopefully these can be the same job…where have I heard that before?)

If you are given specific keywords by a client this writing job will probably easier then if you got to go search for or think-up keywords yourself (I have told you before you should figure these two alternatives into your overall price when first determining the job), but the job that’s easier might pay you less, if your client is a savvy guy or girl. Really, do yourself a favor and weigh your options here.

I sometimes have clients come to me with a promise to send a goodly sum to my paypal to begin some seo blogging for the month and while the am’t seems large at the time we need to project into the future how much time this writing is going to take us and if the am’t you are promised is worth that time and if this job is worth you maybe putting others on the back burner. If you are a writer you’re probably not great in math (I suck at math) but really try to figure these jobs out by how many hours it’s going to take you to do them then see what you’re making an hour.

If you do this you’ll be able to weigh your options (if you have them) and say no or maybe later, to jobs that simply don’t pay you enough or take up too much of your time.

Sep 152011

Do you know which POV your story is told in?  Do you know the correct Point of View your story SHOULD be written from?  If you answer first or third person POV, you’re obviously being a smart ass.  Let’s rephrase the question, shall we?

What character’s point of view should my story be told in?

There, this defines the question better.  And the answer is simple.  The main character’s POV.  But what if you have two characters?  Presumably a Hero and a Heroine, since this is Erotic Romance I’m mainly covering, let’s stick with that assumption.  What if you have a villain?  Do we tell any part of the story from that character’s perspective?

This was a question I received frequently when I taught How to Write From the Male POV and create better Heroes.  It’s actually a universal question for many new writers of erotic fiction.  Erotica authors wonder which point of view to write the sex scene in.  After all, much of erotica has a very personal feel to it as the point is to arouse, as writers, is it not?

Many writers assume that during major scene changes, the perspective should change.  They’re half correct.  A lot of writers suggest that we need to know about the villain if there is one, and that character should get a say too.  Again, they’re half right.

The truth is, POV is simple.  Tell the story from the Point of View of the character that has the most to lose. 

What do I mean by that?  Let’s break it down.  In a typical romance novel, we have the hero and heroine and a plot that runs something like this:

Hero meets Heroine (hey you’re hot)
Hero and Heroine end up in bed (light cigar/cigarette)
Argument separates the two (God he’s a jerk/she’s a bitch)
And in the end, something happens that is greater than both the Hero and Heroine’s issues that makes them examine their beliefs and realize they need the other.
Let’s figure this out (I need you/I love you)
HEA/Happily for Now

Throw in a villain and that character’s appearance should be before or during the cigar in the above example.  Considering that much of today’s erotic romance is paranormal or urban fantasy, there is a bad guy waiting to kill off both Hero/Heroine. Add secondary characters and it makes things more confusing for the writer.

Erotica is roughly the same formula but the Happily For Now or Happily Ever After ending is optional.

So what determines whose point of view the story is told from? This is also easy.  For the story to flow without head hopping, let’s use a simple rule of thumb (courtesy of Morgan Hawke

IF the story is under 20k, you simply need ONE character where the event happens to THEM and ONLY them.

IF the story is under 40k, then we have an event that affects two characters.

IF the story is under 100k, we have three characters who get a say, usually because the villain is the one doing shit to the world/universe—including the H/H.

Now that we’ve narrowed that down and fixed the potential to head hop all over the place, thus eliminating characters that are central but not integral for POV purposes, we’re left with the one question:

Who gets to talk?  And we’ll cover that technique next time I have the blog.

Sep 012011

Time for some serious research.  What other authors write in your genres? Where can one buy their book? Are you e-published? Who else is e-published and successful? What are some of the best promotions or marketing efforts you’ve seen for a book? Do book videos work for your genre? Do you understand how the most successful authors manage their careers?

I’m sure you can come up with a hundred more questions about your market as well. It’s vital to ask the questions, explore what other authors are doing, what works and doesn’t work and how far “wide” or “deep” they go with their marketing strategies.

Don’t just look at the publishing industry either. Look around. Everything you buy is being marketed and promoted. What kind of promotions make an impact for you? Can that approach work for your book?

Next, where is your market? If you’re e-publishing, your buyer is most likely on the computer. Exploration for ways to reach them goes further than simply using your platforms, you have to reach them at their platforms. Remember when you read an interesting blog, respond to it. Comment. Become known to the author and they will frequent your blog too. (If one of your “hooks” is dog lovers, you need to connect with dog lovers online. They have blogs. You can respond because you like dogs. After all, there’s a dog lover in your book.) Use all the promotional options open for authors; blog tours, interviews, book reviews.

If you’re both traditionally published and e-published, never forget to find your prospective buyer through your “hooks”. If you don’t know who will want your book, how can you talk to them?

Next time we’ll cover Author Success Tool #5, Publicity.


Deborah Riley-Magnus is an author and an Author Success Coach. She has a twenty-seven year professional background in marketing, advertising and public relations as a writer for print, television and radio. She writes fiction in several genres as well as non-fiction.

Deborah produces several pieces weekly for various websites and blogs. She also writes an author industry blog, and teaches online and live workshops as The Author Success Coach. She belongs to several writing and professional organizations. Her book, Finding Author Success: Discovering and Uncovering the Marketing Power within Your Manuscript is scheduled to be released in October, 2011.

She’s lived on both the east and west coast of the United States and has traveled the country widely.