I Wanna Be a Writer

I have always had writers blood, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized it was stronger than I believed. You may remember in a previous post I shared that I suddenly had a recollection that I made a concerted effort to be a writer when I was in my 20’s. You may wonder how I could forget such a thing, but this is common for me. There are huge chunks of my memory that are gone. Poof! While some have come back, my pdoc believes some of my memories are likely lost forever.

One difference, between now and then, is that in my 20’s I planned to write the Great American Novel. I had no doubt that my novels would rank up there with the works of Hemmingway, Steinbeck and Salinger. I didn’t have a desire for fame and fortune. I just believed I was that good. These days my desires are different. I want to have fun writing and to do that means I write what I like to read. The genre I like most is mystery. Not police procedurals, not suspense and not little old ladies concluding that the murderer was Colonel Mustard in the drawing room with a candlestick. I love good old fashioned P.I. stories. Give me Sam Spade over Jessica Fletcher any day.

Money Makes the World Go ‘Round

The impetus for the novel I’m writing was money. I know that’s a terrible reason to become a writer, but I want to become a productive member of society again and earn some bucks. I must say that I don’t worry much that I’m receiving government aid. Hell, I never complained about the money being taken out of my paychecks and I feel it was people like me, those unable to work, who the money was taken for. What I don’t like is that my money from disability puts me below the poverty level and I don’t like not being a productive member society – basically having a job. Since both my pdoc and my therapist don’t believe I’m able to work a 9 to 5, and I guess I agree, then maybe I can be successful working from home. My pdoc and therapist agree, with great enthusiasm, that writing the novel is excellent for me.

Why Erotica?

A friend and I were discussing what I could do to work from home when she brought up erotica. She mentioned a friend who wrote erotica and was making a full-time living from it. I thought about it and was concerned about pumping out poorly written novels that happened to have a lot of sex. I talked myself through it and realized that I was making an assumption that erotic novels are all poorly written. In addition, even if they are poorly written, what rule insists that mine would have to be. What about a well written, good story about a lot of sex? That is where I began.

Why Not Erotica

My first step was to write an outline. I came up with a plot and filled in the cast. Once that was done, I started writing a very rough draft and quickly ran into a problem – I fell in love with my cast. I loved them enough that I decided I don’t want to write erotica. They deserved better than that. (I guess I’m still prejudiced) I decided to skip the erotica, and just write a damn good mystery. Sure, there are sex scenes, but to me there is a big difference between an erotic novel and a novel with erotic scenes.

When I meet with other writers, I’m frequently asked who my target audience is. My answer has always been the same. I tell them that I’d like to believe that anyone would enjoy my book, but overall my target is primarily gay men. When I give this question serious consideration, I’m not so sure the first part is accurate. Is there really a straight, middle aged man in Boise, Idaho, who has a wife and two daughters, yet buys mystery novels with primary gay characters who do have some well described sex scenes? Maybe, but not likely. Some, but not many.

So, What the Hell am I Writing?

One of my favorite M/M (male/male) authors is Josh Lanyon. In her (yes, her) excellent book, “Man, Oh Man: Writing Quality M/M Fiction,” she wrote,

I prefer to write for character first, story second, and sex a distant third.

When I read that I exclaimed, “That’s it! That’s exactly what I want to write.” In other words, I am not writing an erotic mystery novel. I am writing a mystery novel that has erotic content. Big difference.

My desire to complete this novel has multiplied ten-fold. I’ve done my research, and I’ve studied other novels, but for now I know the path I’m taking. I’m now writing the best damn mystery novel I can, that happens to have a primarily gay male cast who like to have sex. Most importantly, I’m having a helluva lot of fun in the process and I believe that’s the most important part. If it wasn’t fun, what would be the point to continue?

Good characters? Plot? Genre? What’s the first thing that you look for when choosing a novel?

20 comments on Erotica

  1. I’m so SO so dang impressed with your dedication and obvious passion to write!When I do choose a novel, I’m drawn by the genre first. I haven’t been reading many novels for the past couple years; my focus has been on memoirs. I think that it’s great you’ve done your research and you’ve checked out other novels….and best of all, you’re having fun.

    Plus writing up a storm the way you’ve been doing is 100% calorie-free, right? (Which reminds me, I gotta check in with you over at Lose It! If I keep up my pattern of the past month, I’ll have to re-name it “Gain It!”. I know the slip is because my deadline is looming, but I’m going to get through this, and it helps to know your support is out there!)

    Keep up the fun and the great work, Bradley!

    1. Yeah, I’ve struggled with the weight over the past couple of weeks too. Stress will do that for me. Thank you for your kind words regarding my writing. I do have a passion for it and I’m having the time of my life, even on the days I stare at my monitor and have no idea what the next word should be. I’m sure your familiar with that.

  2. One of my favorite books is character and plot driven but with serious sex scenes in it that are very steamy, but are not the main focus. It is actually a series, but the first one is less of a standard erotic novel than the rest. It is called Kushiel’s Dart. That’s the only “erotica” book I’ve read more than once, and for that same sex as a distant third mentality. Good luck with yours!

  3. When it comes to novels, my preference is based on the adage “truth is stranger than fiction.” Just take the 2016 US presidential race: as i’ve said many time while watching the coverage “you can’t make this shit up.” So with a novel, considering the time investment it requires of me, i’m not looking for any particular genre or plot. Rather I am looking for a well-told story in which the author leverages his or her characters and the challenges or crises faced to delve into the mysterious phenomenon of ‘human nature’ and the human psyche. A murder-mystery example of this is Mystic River by Dennis Lehane. When I arrive at end of the novel the details of the murder itself or how it was solved are less on my mind than what was going on the heads and hearts of the characters, and maybe more importantly, as i might imagine what will be going on inside them in the future. Erotic scenes in this regard I believe are particularly challenging because the intent to tantalize the reader runs up against those less-than-enjoyable nuances of human desires and impulses below the surface. Chances are a lot of people will tell me that I am missing the whole point of the erotica, it is a form of escapism and it is ruined if the author starts bringing “real life” into it. And all of this could just be a long way of saying that one cannot write a novel for everybody, as you pointed out in your post.

    1. Excellent feedback. I appreciate your comments. Now I have another book on my list…Mystic River.

  4. The best advice I ever heard was: Write what you would want to read. For me that means mystery novel, non-cozy, non-cop/P.I, which is what I’m writing. I don’t mind cop/P.I., per se, but have no experience at either one. I could do vast amounts of research, but I want to get this thing published before I die.

    1. “I could do vast amounts of research, but I want to get this thing published before I die.” I can relate to that for sure, though I admit I love the research. I already have my next novel in my head. To get it right will require a trip to the North Carolina Outer Banks. It could be years away, but I look forward to the trip.

      I am very lucky that I have two friends who are private detectives. One used to be a detective for the Los Angeles police department. The other was an MP in the army. With them, research is just an email away.

  5. I’m thrilled to,read about the process you’ve gone through in writing your sexy mystery novel. I bet there are many straight married family men in Idaho who’d love to read your novel. Plenty of closeted gay or gay curious men who get off on reading sexy man-on-man sex. Hell, there may even be straight women who do, too.

    1. Actually you hit the nail right on the head. Most M/M fiction is written by women and women vastly outnumber men as the readers of M/M fiction. It’s interesting. Now that it’s gotten to be so huge we’re seeing more men coming into the picture as both readers and writers. I don’t care who reads it as long as their entertained.

  6. For me, I have to identify with the character. It doesn’t matter is it’s man, woman or dog. I just have to feel that I can be in its skin. It needs to feel real. And if there is also some good erotic scene in it, better 😀
    And you are right, the most important thing is that you have fun writing it 🙂

    1. Fortunately developing characters is my strength (at least I think so) You can get away with a lot as long people connect with the characters.

  7. Erotica definitely earns income.
    I like character stories, so I’m pleased that’s your focus in writing.
    I do think there’s some open-minded straight dude in Boise who’d read books about mystery gay guys. I think you’d have to make the gay guys relatable in other ways, but since you’re a perceptive guy, I hardly think that would be a challenge. I don’t know if you’ve ever read any of Anne Rice’s vampire books, but those are full of homoerotic nuances and plenty of straight guys liked those books.
    I seriously dislike novels that do not include characters doing all the living. As much as possible, characters should be human, they should eat, sleep, sex, use the bathroom, make us laugh, make us cry, make us worried — otherwise it just doesn’t reflect LIVING.

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