January 31, 2011

Why Writing Erotica is the Best Thing You Can Do

I am not a writer by any stretch so I wouldn't dream of attempting to give any advice on such matters. If you want writing advice, go to Lauren. She's got all the good tips like 'stop randomly capitalising words' and 'shimming isn't a word'. She's a gold mine of information.

I do, however, enjoy writing and it used to be the feather in my academic bonnet between the ages of about 6 and 14. I managed to impress teachers with an early aptitude for creative writing, which distracted them a little from my appalling maths skills and retarded drawing ability (1). But somewhere along the lines, I must have got confused and came out of university with an art foundation and a maths and physics degree. Writing disappeared backstage during those dark years.

But I still enjoy writing, and in recent times I've been trying a few things out again (reducing my comic-load in the process) so when I spotted a writing competition on twitter, I went and checked it out. It turned out to be an Erotic Fiction Competition (2) for a women's magazine called Filament ("the thinking woman's crumpet"). I toyed with the idea in my head for a bit, never really wanting to commit, as writing about sexy times could be pretty embarrassing. But then I kind of got into a dare with a lady on twitter so I wrote the damn thing.

I won't go into the plot or who-did-what-to-whom here (just in case), but I will tell you a little bit about the experience.

Firstly: everything sounds like a bloody innuendo while you're writing it. "I was up late last night"; "you've got to get it in by the end of the day"; "fucking hell". Everything.

Secondly, and most importantly: it was the hardest (!) thing I've ever written in my life. Not in the sense that I was writing about sex and that it was awkward and cringeworthy, though it was. Once you commit to writing erotica, you're going to have to accept you're going to have to write about sexy bits and sexy actions; you get over it pretty quickly. No, it was difficult because you quickly come (!) to realise that the whole sexiness of sex is that it's an unspoken language. And a language without words doesn't work well in written form.

I'm sure there are some people that get their rocks off with dirty talk in the bedroom or with an endless stream of verbal instructions ("do this"; "do that"; "put it there"; "let's do it this way", etc) but in the world I'm familiar with, everything is a lot more subtle and spoken in actions, expressions and suggestion-by-touch. I might be the statistical whisker here, but whatever - it's my story (3).

This is coupled with the fact that sexy anatomicals... aren't sexy. Vagina sounds like something you'd floor your kitchen with. Penises and breasts are too clinical; cocks and pussies are too vulgar; boobs and willies are too silly. Even Vagitionary (4), the thesaurus for female anatomy stayed mostly within the vulgar/silly/clinical groupings.

And this is exactly why I found the whole experience so rewarding (though the result was utter cack). I really had to think about what I was writing. It reminded my of my French lessons: the teacher would encourage us to keep talking if we didn't know the right words, 'Talk around the words,' she'd say. 'Describe what you're talking about if you don't know the word you want.' This is what I had to do here: I had to talk around all the anatomical words and sexual acts and terrible, terrible dirtiness and describe everything as emotively as I could without getting too explicit. Because, in my opinion, explicitry (that can't possibly be a word) isn't sexy.

In working this way, you think a lot more about what you're doing and what you're trying to do. And it's bloody hard (!). Not only that, what do sexy feelings actually feel like? You can't just write "orgasm" or "sexy rumblings" throughout, you have to emote the whole feeling to the reader. I spent a lot of time staring into space trying to think of that the actual physical feeling of sexual interaction felt like. It's like trying to describe the colour blue (5): a fundamental sensation that can't be broken into smaller feelings. And furthermore, I wanted to tell it from a woman's perspective - it is a women's magazine, after all.

All in all, it was a journey fraught with obstacles that taught me a lot about writing, so I'm very glad I did it. And I'm very glad I never, ever have to do it again.

(1) I use retarded in its naissant sense, meaning that I was slow to figure out how to draw and colour properly. I still remember that beautiful day in year 5 when I finally figured out how to colour in the lines and the class congratulated me. I am not making this up.
(2) http://bit.ly/dKljuE
(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Box_and_whisker
(4) http://gregology.net/Entertainment/Vagitionary
(5) 7.5*10^15 Hz. Sexy.

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