How To Win An Erotic Fiction Competition

A typewriter, which no-one uses to write stories anymoreSo, in the wake of the FTG erotic fiction competition, I’ve compiled a list of tips for all those aspiring erotica writers hoping to get their name up in lights.

This list has arisen after hours of reading dozens of great, good, ordinary and downright awful sex stories. Behind it is my experience as a writer, journalist, editor, English Literature graduate and dirty pornographer.

By the way… some of this was written as I was reading through the slush pile. I may sound a little agitated at times.

Write About What Turns You On
If your story doesn’t have you sliding off your seat as you write it, chances are you won’t be turning on the judges either. The old adage of “write what you know” can perhaps be extended here to include “write what gives you the horn.” Expand on your fantasies. Put passion and fire into your story and make the reader feel every emotion and every sensual experience.

Go Beyond Blow-By-Blow Sex Descriptions
A graphic or extended description of the sex act does not necessarily equal a good erotic story. In fact, when you are the 59th story on the list, it makes you a prime candidate to be skimmed over by the judges. There is so much more to sex than putting tag A into slot B. Often, it’s the anticipation of sex, or the psychological aspects of it that really garner a reader’s attention.

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Provide Perfect Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation
For goodness sake. You are trying to impress a judge, trying to show that you’re a talented writer. Spelling mistakes just make you look stupid. Putting commas in the wrong spot make you look inept. Illogical use of apostrophes will just piss of the pedants. Your story has to be picture perfect when it comes to these simple basics, or you are starting from the back foot. It’s hard to enjoy a story when you’re distracted by bad spelling or punctuation. By all means, use the spellchecker, but then proofread your work.

Avoid Those Cliches
Now, I’ve seen various definitions as to what constitutes an erotic fiction cliche. Some people can’t stand all those Mills and Boon euphemisms like “manhood” and “heaving bosom” while others baulk at descriptions of pearl-like clits and “steaming love tunnels.” I think in this case I will have to demur to this impressive list compiled from alt.sex.stories.

Create Strong Characters and a Story Arc
Give them some flaws. Nobody wants to read about some Jenna Jameson clone with DD boobs or perfect Adonis-types with ten inch penises. Provide your reader with someone with whom they can empathise, characters that will allow the reader to put themselves in the story. Give your heroine a kink, or a phobia, or a problem and then let her explore that. Good pieces of erotic fiction use sex as a focal point for a larger journey, be it emotional, psychological or even physical.

Don’t Engage in! Insane! Use of! Exclamation Marks!
Yes, sex is exciting, but that doesn’t mean that every sentence needs to end with an exclamation mark (or six). Best to simply use the “!” when someone is actually exclaiming something.

Pick Your Tense and Stick With It
“The train is stopping as Jenna’s breasts heaved. ‘I’m so horny,’ she will sigh.”
Now, campers, did you spot the error there? Use of the correct tense helps your story to make sense. It doesn’t matter if it’s past, present or future tense, as long as you use it consistently throughout the story. I should also add:

Pick Your Point Of View and Stick With It
In a short story, multiple points of view can be problematic. Never switch from one person’s point of view to another’s with each paragraph. It’s confusing, it dilutes your character’s experience within the story, and it’s simply a sign that you’re not a very good writer. By all means, switch POV via a line break or “mini chapter” within the story, but only if it helps to further your plot or story arc.

Come Up With A Good Title
A memorable title can really help your story to stand out from the crowd, especially if it’s unusual. You do, of course, need to make sure that your title is related to the story somehow. Oh, and if you can’t be bothered give your story a title at all, perhaps you need to rethink your stellar career as a writer. Which leads me to:

Follow ALL The Competition Rules
Now, I know it’s a drag that contests so often have interminable lists of rules but they’re there to prevent the judges from going certifiably insane. Your quest to prove that you’re a literary genius can be seriously set back if you show that you cannot read or follow rules. Check and recheck that you’ve jumped through all the necessary hoops.

Respect The Word Limit
It’s there for a reason. It takes skill and wit to tell a story in a restricted number of words. What’s more, it takes a lot longer to read a 3000 word story than a 2000 word one. Show your respect for the judge’s precious time by keeping within the limit.

Make Life Easy For Your Judges
Include your contact details with the story, including your penname and real name. Make sure your email address works. Include a word count on your document. If you’re emailing an attachment, make sure it’s in the right format and easily readable.

For Pete’s Sake: It’s NOT “Vagina”
Use cunt. Use pussy. Use vulva. Use clit. Use labia. Use “throbbing temple of Venus between her legs.” Just don’t use the word “vagina” when you mean pussy. By all means, use “vagina” when you’re talking about a woman’s actual vagina, but anything else is just wrong. Yes, that’s a personal bugbear of mine, but it also sounds very unimaginative when you use it in a sex story.

If You’re Writing As The Opposite Gender, Be Careful
By that I mean, make sure you write appropriately for that gender. For example: if you’re a guy writing as a woman, don’t describe yourself as “busty” or lovingly talk of your luscious breasts. No woman ever talks about herself as if she’s a magazine model.

A Few More Tips (And Gripes)
* Please remember that women do not have multiple orgasms for no reason
* Using the term “finger her” to describe clitoral stimulation sounds kind of crass and juvenile. Pick a better phrase.
* Don’t resubmit the same story from last year, or a re-written story of the one you’ve already tried. It’s not going to work.
* Don’t just make up words. Shakespeare could do it, but he wasn’t trying to win an erotic fiction competition.

And now I must conclude with two lines from submitted stories that just made me laugh. I’m not going to say who wrote them, I’m just going to put them out there for your reading edification.

“It’s alright,” she countered noting my attempts at modesty, “I saw you as I was strolling past and was drawn to your uninhibited naked abandon.”

“Abigail was so desperate that she almost bent over to lick herself out. ”

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16 Replies to “How To Win An Erotic Fiction Competition”

  1. Great advice and thanks for sharing it. It’s amazing how many writers out there, of erotica and otherwise, who don’t follow the basics of good writing. :~

  2. A good place to start is the Erotica Reader’s Association:
    http://www.erotica-readers.com/
    They have a great section of resources for authors.

    Alternatively, search Google or Yahoo with the term “short story contests” and you’ll find a few places that offer listings, like Writer’s Digest.

    You may wish to join a writer’s site like that as well, they can be very useful.

    Good luck!

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