Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings aren’t your average set of best friends. First off, together they wrote the bestselling erotic romance Beautiful Bastard— under the shared pen name Christina Lauren. Though the original idea began as Twilight fanfiction, their stories quickly evolved into scandalous adventures of their own design.
The women have come a long way from their fanfiction days: Constantin Film acquired the film rights for Beautiful Bastard last year. Their newest release, Sweet Filthy Boy—featuring a recent college grad’s Vegas wedding and subsequent summer abroad with the very attractive French lawyer she married—marks the first book in their Wild Seasons series. Here, the authors offer up their top five tips for writing erotic romance.
Just the other day, we looked over our Romantic Times Convention panel schedule and Christina said, “Can we just admit we don’t know what the hell we’re doing?”
Of course, Lo said yes. The first rule of writing is reckless honesty. The second rule of writing is wine. (Rule two often aids rule one.)
The truth is, we never sat down intending to write erotic romance. We started out writing fanfiction and never expected anyone to read the stories we wrote. We knew we liked reading about kissing in books, and sometimes wanted a lot more than kissing, so when our kids were asleep and we were insomniacs, we sat down and just wrote whatever story was in our heads. Turns out, we’re piglets! But in the historically deep and always evolving world of erotic romance, we are still newbies, and get a little squirmy at the idea of giving advice to anyone since when we finish a book, we still look at each other like, “WHAT WAS THAT THING WE JUST DID?”
The funny thing about this is we love to talk about erotic romance, love to read it, and once we sat down to do a Top Five Tips post, we found that we really had a lot to say.
1. Write the book you want to read
If you’ve ever met someone else who likes to read erotica and erotic romance, you know that what works for one does not always work for another. Don’t like purple prose? Don’t like the word “cream”? Shudder when you read “throbbing”? Prefer to read “cock” over “dick,” unless it’s in a male POV? Honestly, there are as many opinions as there are readers out there. Instead of trying to figure out how everyone else is writing it, write what works for you. If you like it, there’s a good chance there are plenty of people out there who will like it, too. Besides, if you try to write something that uses language that doesn’t feel natural to you, it will show in the writing.
2. Move the story forward, even with all the sexytimes.
Probably one of the most common (and often undeserved) criticisms of erotic romance is that it is “porn without plot,” and there is too much sex and not enough story. The truth is, a well-written sex scene can have more emotion in it than an entire novel filled with yearning looks. It’s just that good sex has emotion woven in.
It isn’t just insert part P into part V; it’s what they’re thinking, what they’re saying. How they’re breathing, what they’re doing with their hands and their eyes to communicate the experience of it. This works if they’re angry, or desperate, or relieved, or even bored. All of the physical descriptions are great, but it’s also critical to make sure you tend to your characters’ emotions, too.
3. Don’t be afraid of the tropes.
“I don’t want to write a Boss-Intern/ Brother’s-Best-Friend/ Dirty Secretary/ Rich Dom/ Sexy Stranger book because it’s already been done a million times.”
Well, yes, most of these tropes have been done a million times and it may feel impossible to get yours read by the masses. But consider this: The tropes never been done by you. If you have a voice that has never been heard, a take on a situation that has never been written, then why don’t you let yourself try it out?
Besides, these plotlines are tropes for a reason. We love them—shotgun wedding in Vegas, anyone?—because it’s fun to see them done differently, and in a new voice. Sure, sometimes what makes a book great is that the plot has never been seen before. But there are plenty of romance readers who love these tropes and simply adore seeing them done in a different way.
Don’t be hard on yourself if the story that keeps coming back to you is a secret romance between a Duke in 1880’s England and a servant girl. Clearly there’s a market for it, and if the story is begging to be let out of you, then listen to the muse. The worst you can do is gain experience and write a story that you love to read. And maybe you’ll write something that everyone loves to read.
4. If you want to “go there,” then by all means: GO THERE.
If you’re going to write erotic romance, you may as well go ahead and let go of any of your shy or uptight notions about kink, fetish, and slang words for sexual anatomy. Because if your book is going to have The Sex in it, go big or go home. When you let yourself really get into it, and you embrace the piglet side, you will eventually write the scenes you think might be just a little too dirty, just a little too ‘out there’ for someone else.
The same thing we said about prose in #1 works for scenes as well: What works for one may not work for another. The flip side of that is if you think doing maneuver X with your mouth is sexy, chances are there is someone else out there who does, too. So get over being embarrassed or shy and let your piglet flag fly. See if you can make yourself blush.
5. Close your eyes and go.
Maybe because we’re idiots, we tend to edit our sex scenes way more as we draft when we type with our eyes open. If you find yourself questioning every word you write, close your eyes. Imagine the scene, let your pervy side run free and see what comes out.
Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of long-time writing partners/besties/soul mates and brain-twins, Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, New York Times, USA Today, and #1 international bestselling authors of the Beautiful Bastard series. Some of their books have kissing. Some of their books have A LOT of kissing. You can find them online at ChristinaLaurenBooks.com, or at @seeCwrite and @LolaShoes on Twitter.