Dear Readers, today you are in for a rare treat. We have Best-selling Erotic Romance Author Chloe Thurlow in to teach us a few tricks of the trade. And by tricks we mean hard work and a focus on the dynamics of writing in this ever growing field. Are you an author? Are you a reader? Both then, I take it? Well, sit back, snuggle in and sip from a fresh steeped cup of Earl Grey as you get an intimate sneak peek into Chloe Thurlow’s dazzling How-to Guide for Writing Best-selling Erotic Romance: The Fifty Shades of Grey Phenomena.
A well-constructed novel is a puzzle the reader is obliged to work out for themselves. Don't tell them anything – 'The woman seemed to be walking on a cushion of air and every head turned as she entered the room.'
Is she beautiful? Does she have a sexy walk? I haven't said so, but the reader is doing the puzzle. There are books and websites galore with info on show don't tell. Here's my own simple rule:
· She was sad = TELL
· She wept = SHOW
A novel is a promise with no urgency to be fulfilled, an expectation not realized, preferably until the last sentence when there is often a temptation to explain, like repeating the last line of a joke, and the temptation is to be avoided. If they haven't got it yet, they never will.
Good writing is demanding, obsessive; a sickness. It gives you insomnia, headaches, dependencies – coffee, alcohol, promiscuity. There is something in the artist gene that craves the extremes; the view from outside the herd. All artists, all great artists, are monsters and are never fully sated or satisfied.
When you have finished writing something, the creative right side of your brain may feel content, but the hysterical voice on the analytical left screams out as you are about to press send: 'Come on, Chloe, have another read through, one more edit. You can make it better.' When you finally do let go of the book, short story, the essay, the relief is tainted by a feeling of failure – the spur to start again.
Even if you write a best-seller like Fifty Shades of Grey, with all the cash and acclaim comes the acid attacks of ridicule and criticism. A lot of feminists and intellectuals slated the quality of EL James's writing, though their numbers never amounted to more than a few murmurs in the wind compared to the 50 million people who devoured the trilogy and hungered for more, the seeds of the current explosion in erotic writing – and my own decision to write The Fifty Shades of Grey Phenomena.
Having published five novels and penned numerous essays on erotica, I set out in the Phenomena neither to praise nor damn Ms James, but divulge her clever twist on the genre. What she did was write a romance and add the hot sauce of erotica, rather than writing an erotic book with a sprinkling of romance. It sounds simple and the best ideas usually are.
Is the Fifty Shades trilogy a brilliant piece of literature? Best-sellers rarely are. But the books are competent, the dynamic between the two protagonists is compelling, and the sex scenes have the girlie naiveté readers would expect when seen through the eyes of Anastasia Steele. These are essential qualities in writing modern erotica – qualities that can be learned, nurtured and honed until your writing sparkles like the stars.
They say writing has no rules. That's not true. There are rules of grammar, construction, technique. If you want to break the rules, the secret is to know them first. Like playing tennis or learning to juggle, writing grows easier with practice. The more you practice, the better you get. After finishing a piece of work, put it away in a drawer for a week and come back to it with fresh eyes, revise with honesty until you can say: yes, that's good; or no, that's dreadful, back to the keyboard.
I have a test. If I think to myself, Mmm, that will do, those three little words are a warning. It won't do. And I start again.
How do you name your characters? How do you create realistic conflict? When the man takes the woman upstairs to his hotel room, should you describe the room and, if so, how long should that description be? There are no easy answers; often it is a question of what 'feels' right, and acquiring that feeling, that sensitivity is what I set out to distil in my book, making it as much a source of inspiration as well as a guide.
The Fifty Shades of Grey Phenomena contains samples of my own work, excerpts from the Marquis de Sade – from whom EL James owes a debt far greater than most of her readers realize, and pointers on driving your story forward through ordeals, climaxes, turning points and conflict – the engine of all fiction. In May, the book passed 10,000 sales and has received many reviews, the few contained here describing how writers have improved their writing after reading the book.
Liz Adams: "Because I write bestselling erotica, I didn't expect to learn anything from this book. Boy, was I mistaken! Chloe Thurlow's Fifty Shades of Grey Phenomena is a must read for every writer wishing to incorporate sex in their fiction."
KL Prince: "I enjoyed the book and can see an improvement already in my style and refreshing my attitude. I had begun to feel lost but now my rudder is strong and my compass again is true. I shall never stray from my course again."
Elizabeth Woodham: "Thurlow opines that a good writer rarely needs the word 'very' but Chloe Thurlow is very, very talented indeed. I'm so jealous I think I will implode."
Shiralyn Lee: "Chloe Thurlow has certainly given me an insight into writing in the erotic genre. She explains how and what works in the right places. She has used a mainstream best-seller and explained clearly on how it became a BEST SELLER! This book is informative and well worth the read."
To all writers, learn the tricks and remember the secret: never give up.
Twitter - @chloethurlow1