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'08 Authors Insider Tips

Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Epublishing: A Different Way
Choosing an Epublisher
Your Milage May Vary
Understand Your Contract!
Reasonable Expectations

by Louisa Burton
The Publishing Biz
Critiquing: To Give and ...
Commerical vs. Literary...
Antiformalism for Fun &...
So You Want to Write a Novel
The Story Idea
Planning Your Novel...

The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
5 Steps to Success
Opening Passages
Let's Get Critical
Writer's Block
Learning Lessons

Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Be a Finisher ...
Listen to Your Characters
Conferences: Act Now ...
Starting an Erotic Story
Exercises & Writing Prompts
Revising & Rewriting
Copy Editing
The Manuscript Critique
How to Submit Your Work
Reading as Craft

Guest Appearances

Adventures in e-Publishing
by Lisabet Sarai

For the Love of Man
by Laura Baumbach

How to...Influence Editors
by Alison Tyler

Marketing your e-Book
by Brenna Lyons

2008 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
Role Play
Busy Doing Nothing
Picture of a Fish & Chip...
What I Did With My Summer

Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
Naughty Cookies...
Tie Me Up, Please …
The Smut-Writer’s Holiday
Never Trust the Narrator ...
Compare and Contrast
Following the Pen
Naked at the Farmers Market
Iím Easy, But Iím No Slut
Good Girl Gone Bad
Pleasures of the Dark Side
Slow, Spare and Sexy

Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
Raising Daughters
Jamie Lynn
The Good Old Days
Election '08
Traditional Marriage
Campaign 2008
Free Will

Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Masturbating on SSRIs
Sex and Disability
Besides Ourselves
Adjusting our Contrast

Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Sex Is All Metaphors
Turn-ons and Squicks
Sexual Truth
Fickle Muse
Porn, Erotica & Romance

Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Alison Tyler
Ashley Lister
Debra Hyde
Donna George Storey
Jeremy Edwards
Kristina Wright
Rachel Kramer Bussel

Erotic Hot Spots
by William S. Dean
Interview with Tilly Greene
Interview with Devyn Quinn

Getting Graphic
with William S. Dean
New Times for Readers...
The Future in Words ...
Interview with Fantagraphics

On Writing Erotica

The Accidental Pornographer
by Lisabet Sarai

The End of Innocence
by Lisabet Sarai

Get Them Off in High Style
Helena Settimana

So, You Want To Write Erotica?
by Hanne Blank

Web Gems
Hot Movies For Her

By Louisa Burton

So You Want to Write a Novel

I can save you a whole lot of time and effort here if I just repeat the famous advice of Lawrence Block from his book, Writing the Novel:  “If you want to write fiction, the best thing you can do is take two aspirins, lie down in a dark room, and wait for the feeling to pass.”

Ah, but you don’t need no stinking aspirins, do you? You need to be a novelist, and you need it bad.

Trust me, I can relate. Before that first contract, I spent several years in feverish, monomaniacal pursuit of publication. Yes, I was a desperate aspiring author, hungry for that first sale, and I’m not ashamed to say it. Hunger focuses your attention. Focused attention yields results. If you don’t have that fire in your belly, you might want to pause right now and seriously consider whether you’re up for the significant time and effort it takes to complete a novel of publishable quality and shop it around. Because it’s a project that will consume you, physically and mentally, day and night, for quite a long time.

If your answer is, “Hell yeah, would you please just shut up and get on with it,” then read on.

When people ask me what they should concentrate on in order to become a novelist, I tell them to read. The love of reading is a lot more important to a writer’s success than the love of writing. Not that it’s not a wonderful thing to enjoy the process of creating stories—it is—but it isn’t necessary. There are plenty of authors who, like Dorothy Parker, hate writing, but love having written.

Ah, but reading...

If you want to write fiction, you’ve got to read. Hopefully, you love novels and that’s why you want to write them. You want to transport your reader to a different time and place, take him or her on an emotional journey, perhaps even make a statement about the human condition.

If you love to read, great, keep reading, because it’s your enthusiasm about the written word that’s going to make you a great storyteller.

If you really don’t love to read, you might consider taking those two aspirins and lying down in a dark room until the urge to be a novelist fades away. It’s been my experience, based on my years of teaching writing, that people who aren’t readers tend to produce fiction that’s dull and amateurish no matter how smart they are and how hard they try. There’s something missing—the heart and rhythm of storytelling.

Not only is it a good idea to read a lot of books, it’s important not to get into a genre rut, reading almost all science fiction, or whodunits, or literary fiction, or romances, and rarely venturing further afield. If you’re serious about authoring good fiction, you should really read a wide variety of novels. Even if you aspire to write whodunits, if you only read whodunits, you’re going to have literary tunnel vision. You’ll end up constrained by the conventions of that genre, and you’ll hesitate to push the envelope in the ways you need to push it in order to create something really new and fresh and exciting.

So experiment a little. You can learn so much from other types of literature, as well as from non-fiction. Literary novels will help you to explore issues of theme and style. The occasional romance novel can illustrate ways of developing sexual tension that might be just what you need for the love story subplot in your technothriller. History books are great for reminding us that truth is stranger than fiction. Biographies will help you to develop complex characters with interesting backgrounds.

And don’t just read books. Read the newspaper every day. Subscribe to lots of magazines and read them. Read the cereal box while you’re eating breakfast, read advertisements and analyze why some ad copy is amazingly persuasive and some forgettable.

One benefit of all this reading is that it will help you to focus in on just what it is you want to write. There’s an old adage that you should write what you know. In reality, it’s a lot more important to write what you like to read. If the books that really spin your wheels—the ones you can’t put down, the ones that really transport you—are cozy mysteries, or literary coming of age novels, or historical romances, then maybe that’s what you were meant to write.

Not that your personal experiences don’t matter. Every story we write is a synthesis of something new out of our own memories and experiences. But that doesn’t mean that if you’re a teacher, say, you can only write books about teachers, or if you’re a lawyer, you can only write legal thrillers. The personal experiences that are most important when it comes to writing fiction are the deep emotions we’ve experienced that we can then tap into for our stories. You can research the rest.

Many people, when they first begin writing, want to write just like their favorite author. More often than not, it’s Hemingway. My feeling about this is that you can love Hemingway—I love Hemingway—but when it comes to writing another Moveable Feast, all I’ve got to say is, don’t try this at home. It won’t be Hemingway. It will be pseudo-Hemingway. You’ll be a Hemingway wannabe, and there’s nothing in the literary world that gets quite as many eyeballs rolling.

Another pitfall to avoid is the temptation to write in a trendy subgenre—say, chick lit, or a vampire romance—not because you love it, but because it seems to be the hot thing right now. You can’t fake true passion for a particular type of story. If you’re trying to write to a perceived formula, it will show. And bear in mind that the books being published right now were probably bought around a year and a half ago. The editors and agents reading your all-the-rage novel have been slogging through similar manuscripts for a couple of years or more. Yours will have to be stellar to stand out, and even then, you may be out of luck. Publishing insiders have their thumb on the pulse of what’s selling right this very minute and what’s not. They’ll know well before you will whether that particular type of story has run its course. If it has, your submission gets tossed on the reject pile.

Besides, greatness never comes from following a fad just to get into print. It comes from tackling a subject for which you feel real excitement, and doing it in a fresh and unique way—your way.

Does that mean you should just follow your muse and to hell with market considerations? Not quite. Yes, you should avoid jumping on bandwagons that aren’t a good fit for you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to the bigger picture. If your goal is to be a working novelist who makes a living from it, you would do well to write in a genre that’s healthy and has a broad readership, and steer well clear of those that are flatlining. For example, as of this writing, pure horror has been a hard sell for some time. Ditto gothic romances and family sagas. I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t write that epic multigenerational tome if you’ve just got to get it out of your system. I am saying it will be a tough sell. Not impossible, especially if it’s brilliant, but tough.

Needless to say, your chosen genre should also be one that you genuinely love, and with which you’re very familiar because you’ve read so much of it. Or, if you have a story inside you that doesn’t fit into an existing genre, or that’s a fusion of two or more genres, you might want to just do your own thing. The advantage: if you’re really excited about your break-the-mold story, that excitement will come through in the writing, and the agents and editors who read it will feel it, too. A truly great, compelling novel will probably find a home. The disadvantage: it might be a harder sell simply because the marketing folks at publishing houses, who have a great deal of input as to what gets bought, tend to green-light the books that fit neatly into one genre or the other.

The bottom line: Write the book you want to read, the one you wish was sitting on your nightstand at home, waiting for you to get back to it, and it will probably be a book that other people want to read, too.

So, now that you know what kind of novel you want to write, you’ve got to come up with something to write about—the essential concept at the root of your story. Tune in next month [Septembere] for “First Things First: The Story Idea.”

Louisa Burton
May/June 2008

Louisa Burton's riveting debut novel, House of Dark Delights, won the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best Erotic Fiction of 2007

Read more of Louisa Burton's FictionCraft in our 2008 Archive.

"FictionCraft" © 2008 Louisa Burton. All rights reserved.

About the Author:
Louisa Burton is a multipublished author of some two dozen erotica, romance, and mystery novels for Bantam, Berkley, Signet, NAL, Harlequin, and St. Martinís. A former publishing professional who is in love with the sound of her own voice, she has also taught numerous fiction writing courses and workshops. Way too much info about her current project, the Hidden Grotto series of erotic fantasy, is available at

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'08 Movie Reviews

Almost Perfect
Review by Oranje

The Fold
Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Spooky

Review by Spooky

'08 Book Reviews


Best Bisexual Women's Erotica
Review by Ashley Lister

Best Fantastic Erotica
Review by Ashley Lister

Best Women's Erotica '08
Review by Ashley Lister

Bound Brits (ebook)
Review by Ashley Lister

Deep Inside: Extreme ...
Review by Cervo

Dirty Girls
Review by Rose B. Thorny

Hide and Seek
Review by Ashley Lister

Hurts So Good
Review by Ashley Lister

J is for Jealousy
Review by Ashley Lister

K is for Kink
Review by Ashley Lister

Lust Bites
Review by Ashley Lister

Open for Business
Review by Rose B. Thorny

Review by Lisabet Sarai

Rubber Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Rubber Sex
Review by Victoria Blisse

Seriously Sexy
Review by Ashley Lister

Sex & Candy
Review by Ashley Lister

The Shadow of a... (poetry)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Victoria Blisse

Tasting Her
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Tasting Him
Review by Ashley Lister

Tasting Him
Review by Kathleen Bradean

White Flames
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Yes, Ma'am: Male Submission
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Yes, Sir: Female Submission
Review by Angelika Devlyn


The Art of Melinoe
Review by Ashley Lister

Demon by Day
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Gemini Heat
Review by Ashley Lister

Gothic Heat
Review by Ashley Lister

The Hidden Grotto Series
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The House of Blood
Review by Lisabet Sarai

In Too Deep
Review by Ashley Lister

In Too Deep
Review by Victoria Blisse

Review by Donna George Storey

Review by Victoria Blisse

One Breath at a Time
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Out of the Shadows (ebook)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Rose B. Thorny

Seduce Me
Review by Ashley Lister

Seduced by the Storm
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Serve the People!
Review by Donna G. Storey

Signed, Sealed and Delivered
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Sunfire (eBook)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Templar Prize
Review by Angelika Devlyn

The Wicked Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Wild Kingdom
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Gay Erotica

Review by Vincent Diamond

Best Gay Romance '08
Review by Vincent Diamond

Hard Hats
Review by Vincent Diamond

Review by Kathleen Bradean

Lesbian Erotica

Best Lesbian Erotica '08
Review by Donna George Storey

Best Lesbian Erotica '08
Review by Ashley Lister

The Night Watch
Review by Lisabet Sarai


America Unzipped
Review by Rob Hardy

Best Sex Writing '08
Review by Rob Hardy

Bonk: The Curious Coupling
Review by Rob Hardy

The Book of Love
Review by Rob Hardy

Casanova: Actor Lover ...
Review by Rob Hardy

Dishonorable Passions
Review by Rob Hardy

Flagrante Delicto (photos)
Review by Jack Gilbert

The Flesh Press
Review by Rob Hardy

Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star
Review by Donna G. Storey

The Humble Little Condom
Review by Rob Hardy

Instant Orgasm (sex guide)
Review by Ashley Lister

Man O Man! Writing M/M...
Review by Vincent Diamond

The Not So Invisible Woman
Review by Ashley Lister

Swingers: Female...
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Who's Been Sleeping in...
Review by Rob Hardy