I remember when reading Stephen King’s memoirs, there was some insight he gave, and I’m paraphrasing: “A bad writer can become a good writer. A good writer can become a great writer. But a bad writer cannot become a great writer.” In following this, I wrote 9 Tips to get you from Amateur to Less Amateurish which was an outline of writing advice collected from a variety of popular authors. Sometimes, I go back to that article to remind myself of what I’m doing wrong now, and what I should be doing. Now it’s time to move onwards and upwards. I’ve collected some more tips to explain where to go once the quality of your writing is no longer the problem. It’s not as many tips as last time, but still just as helpful.
1. Accept Criticism
This is a big one, which is why I’m listing this first. There are a lot of new writers out there who fall under one of two categories: those who don’t know how to process criticism as anything but negative, and those who are too afraid of criticism to even attempt putting their work out where others can see it. You don’t have to be afraid of what others will say about your writing. And a little forewarning: prefacing your short story or fanfiction with ‘Don’t like? Don’t read.’ is not a good practice. It tells your readers that you’ve received bad comments before, and simply don’t care for them. This will turn people off almost immediately.
Criticism is mostly subjective, and you’ll never be able to satisfy everyone at once. But most people who also write will almost never criticize without providing any helpful advice on how to improve. If trolls and negative comments make you shiver in cold sweats, it could be possible that you’re looking in the wrong place. Websites like Wattpad and Fanfiction.net have a pretty young user base, and that is likely a huge reason for the lower-quality standards they hold for what they consider to be good writing. If you want constructive criticism from experienced writers, I suggest finding a group of other authors closer to your own age group, and with enough experience to provide the feedback you really need. Looking for feedback from a community of underaged erotica writers is not going to get you anywhere, trust me.
2. Use Evocative Words
If you’ve been writing erotica for a while, you know what I mean by this, and also what I’m asking you to avoid. It is the bane of erotica writers and readers when they read a story that describes some of the more intimate bits of one’s body with overly non-intimate names. Words like ‘molten rod’, ‘burning folds’, ‘puffy kitten’, ‘rosebud’, you get the idea. In my previous list about becoming Less Amateurish, I mentioned using the five senses to describe a scene. The words you use to describe what those senses are experiencing is also very important.
You’ll want to avoid using words you’ve used already when creating a description. Specifically, avoid using the same adjectives and adverbs. Nouns and verbs can be repeated within reason, but don’t be afraid to change it up now and again. For this, using Thesaurus.com will become one of your greatest assets. This is especially true if you feel like a certain word may not be exactly how you wish to describe something, but it’s close. Anytime I’m writing something, I always have one tab open just for Thesaurus.com.
In addition, you want to make sure the words you use can accurately convey the image you want the reader to see. To this end, there are some things to remember: equal standard and equal measure. An equal standard is to describe something using descriptors that can be seen in a similar context. If I asked you to think of something as smooth as a baby’s butt, then ask you to think of something as smooth as silk, how far apart are the two things you thought of? Equal measure is to use descriptors that convey an appropriate size, amount, or grade to the image you want. If you tell me that a woman became so aroused that she was absolutely dripping, and left a large, wet, sploch of the bed sheets, well I’m not sure that’s a good thing. I start to picture the pool of fluid left behind if she had been sitting on a plastic chair instead.
3. Understand what you’re writing
You should always write what you know, and that’s certainly true in erotica. I write what I write because it’s what I’m good at, and the stories I write are the stories I fantasize about. The same should be said of you, and you should never feel like you should write a particular sub-genre you don’t feel like you understand. However, it is still possible to write about new sub-genres and topics so long as you take the time to learn about them. For some, they learn by doing. But you don’t need to take up new kinks, or find new partners, in order to know more about them.
This is where research comes in. A good writer will always try to find as much information on a subject as they can so they can portray said subject as accurately as possible. Because if it sounds like plausible and believable to the reader, you come that much closer to making the fantasy seem real. On the inverse of this, I recommend you don’t make any foolish attempts to write a story based on something you don’t understand. Twitter is already awash with people demanding that subjects like transexual erotica be written by transsexuals, and asexual erotica written by asexuals. Best practice: write what you know, and expand on what you know.
4. Read what you want to write
This ties in pretty closely with the third point I made about researching your subject, but I’ve placed this separately for good reason. In another post, I spoke about reading as a means to help you become a better writer. By reading stories that others have written in the genre you wish to write, you create a better idea of the standards, quality, voice, emotions, descriptions, and motivations behind what made that story so appealing to you, and to others. You need to get an idea of what a particular sub-genre should sound like when applied correctly. I often do this by going to erotica sites like LushStories and reading several stories similar to what I want to write.
Besides, reading is one of the best things about being a writer. All great writers started out as readers with dreams of one day writing a best-seller. I would assume you’re no different! I can’t say for certain if I’ll ever write another article about how to take you from good to great, as I’m not entirely sure what that would entail, myself. But maybe one day, one of you will be able to explain it to me. I hope these tips help out at least a few of you and give you the confidence to take your work to the next level.