Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Writing Erotica (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Romance author Lisa Lane shares her top 10 tips for how to write erotica effectively.
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As an erotica author, I’ve found that many people have preconceived notions about the art of writing erotica and erotic romance. Before I became well versed in writing the genre, I had misconceptions of my own, and that led to much trial and error as I worked to refine my craft and learn how better to please my audience. 

(On The Edge: The Power of Titillation)

Following are 10 tips I’ve accrued for those curious about writing erotica.

1. It’s not all about the sex—really. 

While sex does play a key role in erotica, the sex itself is secondary to the development of the characters and plot. A good erotica writer knows that, no matter how great the sex is, there still needs to be a good, solid story if one wants to hold a reader’s interest.

2. Dynamics sell. 

Flat characters never go far, but in erotica, you really do have your work cut out for you when it comes to creating believable and entertaining character dynamics. Dashing heroes make for great romance and passionate love-making, but they won’t keep the story going. Think about the characteristics that you find most entertaining, and then brainstorm: Readers like characters who use fun dialog, have a good sense of humor, and make interesting choices. What types of hobbies, beliefs, or interests might help to develop your characters—and give them something in common? The hero must be worth pursuing, and the heroine must be worthy of her hero.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Writing Erotica (But Were Afraid to Ask)

3. Perspective is pivotal. 

Most readers prefer erotica shown from the female perspective unless the work is written specifically for readers of M/M (man on man). If you have an idea for a heterosexual erotic story with the hero taking full lead, consider ways you might revise it to focus more on the female’s point of view. Some (very limited) authors have found success in shifting through both points of view, and it works well in some circumstances, but many editors will frown on the “head-hopping” of internal dialog.

4. Mixed-genre erotica and erotic romance are all the rage. 

While many readers still enjoy straight erotica, mixed-genre erotica is a great avenue to take for writers looking for their niche. Use your literary interests to your advantage and write what you like, letting the erotic aspects work as an added feature to your work. You’ll have more fun writing, and that will shine through to your readers.

5. Know your target audience and make sure you brand your work accordingly. 

Are you writing for fans of erotic romance or other subgenres? Make sure that romance is a strong part of your plot if you’re planning on marketing to erotic romance readers, and make sure you’re clear about your subgenres. Let your audience know what they’re in for before they read your work: if you are including kinky or gay/lesbian aspects to your story, or if you are incorporating audience-specific subgenres such as horror, steampunk, or hard science fiction, be clear about those aspects in your marketing. Readers do not respond well to these types of surprises.

Love in Space by Lisa Lane

Love in Space by Lisa Lane

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6. Don’t be afraid to take chances. 

One point that I cannot stress enough is the importance to be innovative and unique in your erotica. There are only so many ways to write a traditional sex scene, and they can become repetitive and boring. Use your subgenres to your advantage. What is it about your characters or their circumstances that you can use to make your erotica different? What limits can you break, without crossing the line?

7. Don’t be too quick to relieve your audience of the romantic and/or sexual tension. 

Let it build, let it fall, let a heart or two break, and then give the readers what they’ve been waiting for.

8. Great sex doesn’t always have to include love. 

While erotic romance is a hot market right now, don’t underestimate the power of pure, raw, primal sex. It can be fun and interesting to develop characters that make their moves based on pure attraction, the love/hate dichotomy, and revenge or rebound.

(Making the Switch from Romance to Women’s Fiction)

9. Don’t forget the foreplay. 

Just as it is important to build sexual tension, it is also important to make sure your characters don’t jump into the act of lovemaking too quickly. Foreplay helps to add to the sexual tension you’ve already built between your characters, and it makes that final “climactic” release all the more satisfying.

10. Be tactful about your ending. 

Like romance, erotica and erotic romance readers tend to expect a “happily ever after” or “happy for now” ending. Don’t let your audience down by offering them a great story, only to leave them hanging or disappointed by the characters’ outcomes. Even cliffhangers in series need to give the readers hope that all is well, if at least for the time being. If the main couple does not end up together, make sure there is a good reason for it, and that they are better off going their separate ways.

Writing erotica can be a fun and rewarding venture, but as with any genre, there are rules to which the author must adhere. While rules can sometimes be stretched or even broken, knowing your audience and your market will go a long way in helping you to promote your work. Have fun, write what you like, but make sure that you’re also writing with your target audience in mind. Good luck!

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