What’s In a Word?
I don’t have any great words of wisdom to pass along to the readers this week and since my latest book, Storm Shadows, was just released a couple of weeks ago I’m pretty much promoted out. Not having a clue what to write about, I rummaged through the “Possible Posts” file on my blog and chose a few of the topics I’d been meaning to write about for a long time.
Today’s topic has to do with why I write what I write—or really, why I don’t write in a certain genre anymore. The first book I ever sold was written as a sensual romantic suspense. Since I’m something of an introvert when the time came to actually try for publication, I decided to submit only to e-publishers. An e-book, I thought, was the perfect path for a loner like me who hates to go out and meet people face to face. They offer an author the opportunity to promote her work from the security of her own home, hidden behind the veil of cyber-space. It sounded like a perfect fit.
The problem came when I started researching e-publishers; most of them wanted erotic romances or erotica. My book was sensual and didn’t qualify but I didn’t let that stop me, I submitted it to five e-book publishers. Surprisingly, I received offers from two publishers but there was a catch; they both wanted me to add more sex scenes and in those scenes I needed to use more explicit language to make the book more erotic. I figured why not and signed with one of them.
I was going to be published! Needless to say I was ecstatic…until my book came up for editing. I had a wonderful editor, but I felt very uncomfortable doing what the publisher wanted me to do. It wasn’t the sex scenes or even the amount of sex; it was the “words” I had to use to convey that “erotic” feel.
Since then, I’ve seen more than a few discussions on-line about what makes an erotic novel…well, erotic. A lot of conclusions are reached, some I agree with, some I don’t, but based on my one-time experience with writing erotic romance, I’ll tell you what it boils down to for me. It’s not the number of sex scenes or even whether the sex takes a front-seat to the romance in the book, it’s the words used during those sex scenes that makes the difference.
Now that I write mainly sensual romance, I tend to stay away from those words. Like the late, great George Carlin and his Seven Dirty Words You Can Never Say on Television, I have a list of words that I’ll never use in a love scene.
No, I’m not going to list them here but if you’ve heard Mr. Carlin’s list, quite a few of his words show up on my list too. And I’m not saying I won’t use the words elsewhere in the story. After all, quite a few of them work great for insults or exclamations or even to express sarcasm or disgust or convey some other feeling, but I’m just not comfortable using them in love scenes.
If you’re an author, you’re often told to “write what you know.” That’s good advice, but I also believe a writer should “write within her personal comfort zone.” And in my case, that means leaving out those particular words or phrases that, for me, take the romance out of a love scene.
There’s another old saying that comes to mind when I think about this; once is never enough but for me, in this case, once was more than enough.