What better time to pen an erotic novel than during a global pandemic? Sounds tasteless when I put it like that. But if there’s ever an occasion where a need for escapism and distraction is imperative to one’s sanity, this might well be it.
Having had my third baby, I decided that aside from all the usual stuff mums do, I fancied some kind of challenge to occupy my brain in a healthy way. Prose has never been my forte – I’ve had a short story published (you can buy the excellent book in which is was included here (Write Short Stories and Get Them Published by Zoe Fairbarns) but other than that, I’ve never had much confidence with lengthy lit.
So, a novel it would be. But I panned all ideas for more serious war-torn love stories in favour of one of my favourite genres (which I refuse to call a guilty pleasure) and write my own work of erotic fiction.
Mills and Boon are the kingpin publishing house here and they offer lots of very strict guidance which I found helpful in pinning me down – ahem.
My target: 50,000 words
My deadline: yeah! [chuckles]
My story: landscape gardener and scorned beauty falls for millionaire Italian lothario. Except (and here’s the cunning bit) all is not as it seems (not actually cunning at all).
I had a lot of laughs at myself, but I REALLY got into it, and even started believing in my characters. I nibbled away at it, bit by bit, sticking to the allotted wordcount for each designated chapter, until I reached the target wordcount which fell neatly in line with the conclusion to my story. I then printed it (quite a tome, as it turns out – actually needed bulldog clips instead of staples) and put it in a drawer for a month. I then went back to edit. And far from being embarrassed and cringing at my own writing, I was actually pretty proud of what I created. I still am.
So I sent it to M&B, just for the rejection slip which I could frame and put in my downstairs loo. But what followed came an extremely polite email full of specific guidance, which I DID NOT expect. I agreed whole-heartedly with all the nice editor lady said, I made some notes and then I put it back in its drawer.
I plan to revisit my project at some point in the future. I don’t plan to hide it from my children, as filthy as it is in some places. I think they might get over any initial embarrassment to think it was quite cool that their mum decided to set a rather naughty goal and clearly have some fun in the process. Am I deluded? Probably.
But the point here is that I learned something from this:
- It’s good to set yourself a challenge
- It’s important to believe in what you are doing, even if you have trouble taking yourself seriously
- You don’t have to be the best at what you’re doing to enjoy the process
- Having fun is more important than anything
- Reading/writing erotic literature is something we shouldn’t be coy about. Forget ‘Fifty Shades’ (although cudos for getting the world to take notice), have a dabble with ‘The Story of O’ for something that’ll actually make you really sit up and listen. ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’. Judy Blume’s ‘Forever’ (every teenager girl should know all about Ralph before they venture into the real world). There’s loads of brilliant literature in this genre, so have a dabble. Why not try writing your own scene? You can burn it after if you want to, but you might just find you surprise yourself during the creative process.
Now, go and wash your hands 🙂