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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?
Itís 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 Writersí 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

Sexy on the Page
by Shanna Germain

Ten Turn Offs:
The Big No-Nos of Erotic Fiction

Shanna GermainIn addition to writing a lot of erotica, I edit quite a bit of it. And when I put on my editorís hat, I often find there are three kinds of submissions: good ones, filled with hot sex and great writing (which get an instant yes from me); bad ones filled with clichťs and beginner mistakes (which get an instant no and a suggestion to join a critique group); and almost-there ones.

The almost-there stories are the ones which have many things right about them, but which fall short in other areas. These are the ones that go in my "maybe" file. Which basically means that I want to read them again before I make a decision. And, it often means that surrounding events will have an impact on my decisionóAre we short on stories this month? Then Iím more likely to accept it. Do I really have the time to tackle this story and make it into a great story? If not, then itís likely to be rejected.

Writing an almost-there story is a good place to be, because it means youíve moved beyond the basic mistakes. But itís also a difficult place to be, because the mistakes are more subtle and thus harder to find and correct.

To me, these mistakes are divided into two categories: sex-specific no-nos and general story no-nos. Because this is an erotica column, Iíll keep the focus on the sex-specific mistakes. Here are what I see as the top ten erotic no-nos:

No Way!

One of the most common mistakes I see is sex that is just not physically possible in this world. Some parts just donít go together, or they donít go together in the way that the author describes them. If youíre unsure whether the penis bends that far backward or if a dildo can bonk the babyís head during sex, be sure to look it up before you put it in your story.

Not Likely

Does your female character come just from bumping against someoneís zipper? Are your characters having anal sex without lube (or with something thatís a poor lube, like water)? These are the kind of implausible acts that will throw a discerning reader right out of your story. Readers need to trust that you know what youíre talking about, or they wonít suspend disbelief and keep reading. You can get away with implausible acts, if you acknowledge them. "She was the first girl Iíd ever been with who was that sensitive" or "Doing this without lube was a stupid idea, Brad realized."

Theyíre Doing What?

This is unclear sex, where the reader is scratching her head and trying to figure out exactly what the characters are doing and what position theyíre in. Being clear is especially important when youíre breaking a readerís expectation; a good example is anal sex. Most people assume this is done doggy-style, but many heterosexual and homosexual couples prefer to have anal sex with the receiving person on his or her back. So, be sure to say "Erik lay on his back and put his legs up so I could see his asshole." If you donít know what the kind of sex youíre describing actually looks like, watch a porn, ask your friends or try it out at home.

Eek, Too Much!

Writers also go the other way and over-describe what their characters are doing. This can be not only boring, but itís also confusing, because your reader doesnít know what to focus on. Does it matter that his right thumb and pointer finger are tweaking her left nipple? Or is it more important that he is tweaking her nipple? Focus on the important body parts and movements and trust the reader to imagine the rest.


Sometimes sex is just, well, unsexy. And I donít mean this in terms of topics. After all, one readerís squick is anotherís favorite fantasy. What Iím talking about is something much more subtle. Itís in the authorís tone and the way they write about their characters. Iím amazed at the number of stories I read where the author doesnít seem to delight in sex or has no respect or love for their characters. Be careful; if you have issues about certain kinds of sex or about people who partake in certain sex acts, you might want to steer clear of writing about those. Youíd be surprised how much of your own prejudices come through on the page.

Overly Perfect Anything

This, for me, is the difference between erotica and porn. Porn has characters who are perfect (or who display a physique that is perceived as perfection). Erotica has characters who have imperfections. These can be physical or mental, and they are what make the charactersóand the sex they haveócome alive for readers. If youíre writing about a Pamela Andersen look-alike, sheíd better be deeply bruised in the inside, or your reader may not care enough to keep reading.

Dangerous (And Not in a Good Way)

Erotica doesnít always include safe sex. It is, after all, a fantasy world that weíre creating here. I donít always include condoms and dental dams in my stories (and when I have, Iíve had editors remove them, saying that they detract from the sexy feel.).

Yet, there are some general common sense things that should avoided. The one I see most often is when a couple is engaged in anal play and they switch to vaginal play without washing themselves and/or switching condoms or toys. Another common mistake is putting a submissive character in real danger, such as leaving them tied up on the bed while the other character drives to the store. The difference, for me, is that many readers wonít notice if you leave out the concept of safe sex. But they will notice if you put in something thatís dangerous.

Whatíd You Call That?

When you describe a characterís anatomy, itís important to get all the pieces-parts correct. Vagina is not an all-encompassing word for the female genitals (in fact, the vaginaís inside; vulva is the word used to collectively describe the external female genitals). Know the difference between testicles (the male counterpart to the female ovaries which produce sperm and male hormones) and the scrotum (loose pouch of skin that holds the testicles). Itís also important to know which slang terms relate to which organ of the body, so you donít have readers imagining the wrong body part.

Whatíd You Call Me?

There are a lot of terms that are used within specific sex communities. Using these terms incorrectly can ruin a storyís authority. Do you know the differences between a dom and a top? How about a transsexual, a transvestite, a cross-dresser and a boi? If youíre not a member of the community that youíre writing about, itís a good idea to research the proper terms, both out of respect to the community and to be sure you get it right.

Goody Two Shoes

As with everything, all of these rules are made to be broken, so donít follow them too closely. The truth is, you can get away with anything as long as you knowóand admitóthat youíre doing it. If youíre trying to show control or domination, anal sex without proper lube might be the way to go. And if your character doesnít know the difference between her vagina and her labia, that tells us something about her character. However, if you as the author, donít know your perineum from your asshole, then that tells your editor something about youóand it isnít a good thing.

Luckily, we live in a culture today where sex information is both abundant and mostly correct. There are number of great books, online sites and communities that will help you learn the proper terminology, safe sex options, bodily functions and everything else you need to know that will take your story from an almost-there to a yes.

More Places to Get It Right

Coming in July:  Climactic Moments: Putting together your first draft.

Shanna Germain
May/June 2007

"Sexy on the Page" © 2007 Shanna Germain. All rights reserved.

About the Author: Shanna Germainís erotic stories have appeared or are scheduled to appear in dozens of publications and anthologies, including Absinthe Literary Review, Aqua Erotica 2, Best American Erotica, Best Bondage Erotica, Cowboy Lover and She is a fiction editor for Clean Sheets and 42Opus, as well as a poetry editor for the American Journal of Nursing. You can see more of her work, erotic and otherwise, on her website,

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'07 Book Reviews


A for Amour / B for Bondage
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Best Women's Erotica '07
Review by Ashley Lister

The Butcher, The Baker...
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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
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Whalebone Strict
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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...
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Review by Lisabet Sarai

Lesbian Erotica

Iridescence:...Lesbian Erotica
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Sex Guides

The Path of Service
Review by Ashley Lister

Secrets of Porn Star Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Touch Me There
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Concertina: An Erotic Memoir...
Review by Rob Hardy

Daddy's Girl
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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...
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In Praise of the Whip
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Insatiable: ...Porn Star
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Letters of a Portuguese Nun
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Mississippi Sissy
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Ron Jeremy
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Virgin: The Untouched...
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The Year of Yes
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