Monday, December 27, 2010

The Challenge of Romance

I'm weird. Okay, that's not news to anyone who hangs around this blog. This struck me yesterday though, with particular force. Why? Because yesterday I realized that I find it much easier to write graphic erotica than to write erotic romance.

I find this odd because I've read many blog posts by my colleagues, who say that they found it tough, at least at first, to add explicit sex scenes to their romance stories. I'm just the opposite.

I spent eight days struggling to write 16K words for my most recent romance submission. Meanwhile, yesterday I banged out a 5K erotica short story in about six hours - with time off to make and eat lunch and to read the newspaper! Why was did one story go so smoothly while the other bogged me down?

Both stories are (I hope) erotic. At least, they both contain explicit sex. The romance, a ménage, is in fact more extreme and transgressive than the erotica. Both have (I hope) well-developed characters. Certainly, the erotica I write depends as much on character and plot as the romance. I find purely physical sex boring; whether I'm writing erotica or romance, I'm focused on the characters, their emotions and sensations, fantasies and fears. So where does the difference reside?

It might just be the fact that I'm more used to writing erotica. That was my primary genre before I moved into the romance world. But introspection suggests that is not the main reason.

To be honest, when I'm writing romance, I think I worry too much about whether I'm following the conventions. I wonder whether I'm doing enough to show the emotional bond between the characters. And I find myself censoring my language, concerned that my sex scenes might be too raw for romance readers. (In fact a few reviewers have faulted my sexual language for being overly "hard" or "strong" for their tastes, particularly in M/M encounters.) If I'm writing erotica, I feel like I can let go. In romance, I find myself holding back.

The tension and the self-censorship slow me down, I think. To write freely, you have to feel free, and I still don't feel that way when I'm working on romance. It does not come naturally. A good deal of the time, it's more work than it is fun.

In truth, I think my erotica is better written than my romance. This is rather discouraging, given the amount of time and effort I've invested in marketing myself as an author of erotic romance. But I'm not ready to give up yet! I do think I'm learning. And I really want to be able to write the sort of books that readers say they can't put down. So I'll grit my teeth and try to relax (!) and have fun. I'll focus on the love and let the sex fall where it may. And maybe, at some point, I'll be able to produce 5K of romance in an afternoon as easily as 5K of erotica.

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