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'07 Authors Insider Tips

by Louisa Burton
Formatting Your Manuscript
Scams / Choosing an Agent
Pitching Your Novel...
From The Call to Published...

Hard Business
From Greg Herren
Who Is Telling This Story?
It’s Work, Not A Hobby
Where Ideas Come From

Sexy on the Page
With Shanna Germain
Plotting Erotic Fiction
Seducing Your Muse
Creating Characters...
Description, Action & Dialogue
Fucking on Paper
Ten No-Nos of Erotic Fiction
Climactic Moments: First Draft
Critique Groups
Revising Your Erotic Story
Finding the Perfect Markets...
Just Submit Already
Rejections and Acceptances

Two Girls Kissing
With Amie M. Evans
Verb Tense Confusion
Coming Up with Story Ideas
Attend a Writers’ Conference
The Fundamentals of POV
Should I Sign That?
Etiquette for Authors
Erotica is Serious Work
No Body Writes for Free...
Shameless Self Promotions
The Myth of Writer's Block

The Write Stuff
From Ashley Lister
The Time is Write
The Beautiful People
A Book by Any Other...
Synopsis: the Necessary Evil
Erotica or Porn?
Feedback Whine

2007 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
What's it like being a writer?
An Apology to Salespeople

Get All Worked Up
With J.T. Benjamin
About Secrets
The Perfect Fuck
About Choices
The Age of Consent
The Kingmaker
Kids and Sex
The Price of Beauty
The G.O.P.
All Worked Up About Hate
Real Men

Pondering Porn
With Ann Regentin
Good Sex: A Physics Lesson
Meet Frankenstein
Thoughts on the Orgasm Gap
The Very Bloody Marys
The Doomsday Erection
Online Threesome Porn

The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister

Feedback Whine

In the past I've often been glib and said that a writer only needs two things to write: pen and paper.  Obviously, I've modified this to suit various circumstances (sand and a stick; snow and a penis) and I've updated it accordingly with technology (a word processing package and a keyboard; a computer and fingers etc) but the point is that I've always maintained writers can manage their craft alone with only the most basic tools. And, in saying that, I've missed out the one thing that is important to every writer: I've missed out mentioning the reader.

I'm not talking here about some esoteric literary theory on the importance of the writer/reader relationship. Does a text exist if no one reads it? Well, I've got titles in the remainder shops that prove without a doubt that yes, a text can exist without anyone reading the damned thing. I've got royalty statements and unread contributor's copies as evidence.

I'm not even talking about the important topic of intended audience. Who do we write for? What's the identity of the implied reader? In my case, the implied reader is a rich and elderly widow who is so impressed by my story she wants to bequeath me her massive estate as a small way of saying thank you. However, I realise my opinion on this one is slightly skewed by my natural greed.

But today I'm talking about the most invaluable reader – the spouse, partner or trusted friend to whom every writer is indebted. I'm talking about the initial reader: the person to whom every writer says, "Have you got ten minutes to read this and give me some feedback?"

(Please note, every writer says, "Have you got ten minutes to read this and give me some feedback?" regardless of the length of the writing involved. The "Have you got ten minutes…?" question is used to refer to flashers that haven't managed a hundred words, as well as epic novels that are too verbose to be encompassed on a single memory stick. We writers are all masters at litotes when it comes to estimating the length of time necessary for a reader to properly peruse and appraise our work. And we understate the imposition we know we are making on initial readers by always asking, "Have you got ten minutes…?")

Initial readers are the undervalued champions that we writers exploit for their thoughts on our creation. Initial readers are the individuals that every writer needs when they are desperate to find out if their hard work has been worth the effort or a waste of paper. And initial readers need to be treated with the same professional skill a writer would use in any other aspect of their creative process.

Whether your initial reader is a fellow writer, spouse, partner, internet buddy or simply a good and trusted friend, there are certain criteria a reader needs to fulfil before a writer imposes on them and asks for an opinion. Given the credentials that are needed for a good initial reader, perhaps the first thing a writer should do is propose marriage.

Mutual Interest

Trust is important because you don't want to ask FRIEND A to read your manuscript, and then discover that FRIEND A has submitted the bloody thing to a publisher under their own name. Trust is also important because, if you're writing erotic fiction, you don't want FRIEND A reading your manuscript, and then going round and telling everyone from FRIEND B through to FRIEND Z that you're a sick and twisted pervert. Trust is necessary before you show anyone the results of your hard work.

Honesty is also imperative. The initial reader is supposed to give feedback, emphasising the good points and mentioning any area that seems potentially weak. Hearing a reader sum up their thoughts with the words, "Yeah. It's OK," is as helpful as having two forks to eat soup. Similarly, having an initial reader say, "I liked it," when they really thought it sucked donkey balls is of no use either. A good initial reader will present their opinions, acknowledging the manuscript's strengths and honestly identifying its weaknesses.

Mutual Interest is needed because the story has to be something your reader would want to read. I've had one reader tell me there weren't enough trains in my stories. Especially not diesel engines. The comment was not overly helpful. I only understood that it was a genuine criticism, and not some abstract metaphor, when I studied the reader's library and saw the walls were dominated by countless tomes on the history of railway engines. Had I known my reader was so sad and train-obsessed I would never have asked them to read a book about wife swapping parties.

Of course, there are some things a writer has to do before imposing on an initial reader. The manuscript that needs studying has to be of the same standard that would be submitted to an editor. Every writer wants more from an initial reader than the comments, "Your spelling is shite," or "Your printer needs the heads cleaning." Grammar, punctuation, page numbering, formatting and all the other layout necessities should be considered before a MS is handed to an initial reader.

And an author should tell the reader what sort of feedback they require. Are the characters believable? Is the plot too simple? Too complex? Is the description effective or intrusive? Is there an area of the plot or background detail where the reader is likely to have specific knowledge? And, if so, can the reader advise if that element has been properly represented in the story, or are their ways it can be improved.

Initial readers are not a valuable resource: they are an invaluable resource. Their opinions are not necessarily cast in stone. It's possible to have a reader dislike a story and still make valuable comments. And it's possible for an initial reader to make suggestions that the author doesn't ultimately incorporate into the finished manuscript. But any writer who uses initial readers should make sure they exploit these invaluable resources with the great care that they deserve.

Ashley Lister
November 2007

Find more of Ashley's Write Stuff in ERWA 2007 Archive.

"The Write Stuff" © 2007 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

About the Author:  Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, Swingers: True Confessions from Today's Modern Swinging Scene (Virgin Books), a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his first title published under his own name.
Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica.  Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto.  He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.
Email:  Ashley Lister

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'07 Book Reviews


A for Amour / B for Bondage
Review by Ashley Lister

Best Women's Erotica '07
Review by Ashley Lister

The Butcher, The Baker...
Review by Ashley Lister

C is for Coeds
Review by Ashley Lister

Cream: The Best of ERWA
Review by Ashley Lister

Cream: The Best of ERWA
Perceptions by Cervo

Coming Together for the Cure
Review by Lisabet

Review by Ashley Lister

F is for Fetish
Review by Ashley Lister

Got a Minute?
Review by Ashley Lister

He's on Top
Review by Ashley Lister

Love on the Dark Side
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Lust: ...Fantasies for Women
Review by Ashley Lister

The Mammoth Book Vol 6
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Naughty Spanking Stories
Review by Ashley Lister

Quickies 1
Review by Angelika Devlyn

She's on Top
Review by Ashley Lister

Sixteen of the Best
Review by Ashley Lister


Amorous Woman
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Boss
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Burning Bright
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Call Me By Your Name
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Ashley Lister

Dark Designs
Review by Ashley Lister

Equal Opportunities
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Angelika Devlyn

Review by Angelika Devlyn

Gothic Blue
Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Ashley Liste

The Lords of Satyr: Nicholas
Review by Helen E. H. Madden

Love Song of the Dominatrix
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Review by Angelika Devlyn

Riding the Storm
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Silver Collar
Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Ashley Lister

Suite Seventeen
Review by Ashley Lister

Sweet as Sin
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Tiffany Twisted
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Top of Her Game
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Whalebone Strict
Review by Ashley Lister

Wife Swap
Review by Gary Russell

Wings of Madness
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Gay Erotica

Historical Obsessions
Review by Erastes

Homosex: 60 Years of Gay...
Review by Erastes

Mammoth Book of New Gay...
Review by Erastes

Review by Lisabet Sarai

Lesbian Erotica

Iridescence:...Lesbian Erotica
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Sex Guides

The Path of Service
Review by Ashley Lister

Secrets of Porn Star Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Touch Me There
Review by Ashley Lister


Concertina: An Erotic Memoir...
Review by Rob Hardy

Daddy's Girl
Review by Ashley Lister

Dirt for Art's Sake
Review by Rob Hardy

Entangled Lives
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Impotence: A Cultural History
Review by Rob Hardy

I, Goldstein: My Screwed...
Review by Rob Hardy

In Praise of the Whip
Review by Rob Hardy

Insatiable: ...Porn Star
Review by William S. Dean

Letters of a Portuguese Nun
Review by Rob Hardy

Mississippi Sissy
Review by Rob Hardy

Ron Jeremy
Review by Rob Hardy

Virgin: The Untouched...
Review by Rob Hardy

The Year of Yes
Review by Rob Hardy