10 steps to writing an erotic fiction novel.

So you think you can write erotic fiction?


So, you think you can write an erotic fiction book…? Well, you probably can!

If you’re reading this, you might already have a kernel of an idea. Maybe even two main characters (whichever combination of genders float your boat) and a bit of a clue as to where your story is headed and what could happen to those characters of yours along the way.

Now comes the hard bit. How to turn that basic idea into a novel of at least 55,000 words. How do you get from writing The Start, to those much more difficult words – The End?  There’s no denying it’s a tough road and that, at times, even folding the laundry will look like a preferable task to sitting down and writing. However, hopefully the following ten tips will help you along your way:

1. Let’s start by working up your basic pitch. One of the simplest ways to do this is to ask yourself the following questions about your story: who, what, when, where and why. Can you answer all of these questions about your story? If not, you may need a little more time developing your idea before moving on to step 2.

2. Ask yourself the following question: ‘What’s my story about?’. But, wait. Before you answer, what’s it really about? On the surface, your story might be about a female lifesaver’s sexual conquests at a new lifesaving club. But, underneath her sensual romp, your story’s really about female equality and your character’s struggle to work out her true place in a predominantly male environment.

3. Consider the conflict at the heart of your story. What is keeping your main characters apart, or at odds with each other? What will they learn about each other, and themselves, by the end of your story?

4. Now that you have a firmer grasp on your characters and your story, it’s time to outline a basic structure. There are many arguments in the writing community about outlining versus not outlining, but the fact is it’s best to at least learn the outlining method before you write it off.

You could be as successful as E L James – author of the 50 Shades trilogy.

Begin by cutting some pieces of A4 paper into quarters. On each quarter, write down a scene you know will slot into your story at some point (for example, your heroine first arrives at the surf lifesaving club, she has her first sexual encounter at the club etc.).

Hopefully, you’ll come up with quite a few scenes, which you can then organise into Beginning, Middle and End sections. When you’ve done this, it should be quite clear where you have large gaps to fill in with further scenes before you begin writing. You can also move your scenes around to see if they fit better in other sections.

5. Before you get cracking, consider the sex thing. One thing that characterises erotica is the, well, erotic stuff. And writing sex scenes is an art in itself. The first thing to do is to stop thinking about ‘members’ and ‘waves crashing on the beach’ or rising up or doing whatever it is that waves do. When you start writing, begin by using the words ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ at first. You can always go back and change them for less straightforward versions if you need to later on – but there’s a definite trend in erotica (from steamy romance upwards) to have less of the ‘purple-headed warrior’ and more of the ‘penis’ as far as language goes.


Also, as you write along your merry way, remember what it is you’re writing. This is not just a string of visual images (we have porn movies for that) but a collection of feelings. Women read erotica for a range of different reasons (to spice up their own sex lives for one), but the best erotica contains emotion.

So while you’re sitting there trying to work out whether his ‘spear of love’ will be able to slot into her ‘core’ in that particular position, keep in mind that your reader wants to be in the moment with you. Clunky phrasing, an ill-timed use of condoms (and remember that many publishers require that the condom make an appearance) or even just your hero saying ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,’ at the crucial moment of orgasm instead of a long, low, groaned, heart-felt ‘fu-u-u-ck’ can break the mood. 

6. Now, the hard bit. Start writing. The first 15,000 words or so is usually the easiest. You’re excited by your idea, the characters are fresh and interesting and are generally doing what you’ve told them to do. And then you hit… The Middle (dum, dum, duuuuum!). The middle pretty much tests every novelist I know.

Things get murky. The way forward suddenly seems unclear. For beginning novelists this is often because they have not yet realised this is where the sub-plot kicks in. Often the sub-plot mirrors what your story is really about. For our lifesaving heroine, this could be something like having to battle the demons of her past – including a misogynistic ex-boyfriend.

“This is not just a string of visual images but a collection of feelings.”

7. Keep writing. I am not going to lie. Sometimes moving forward in your manuscript is hard. There are tricks you can use to keep you on the right path, however. When that laundry folding is looking like a good idea, I like to get out a cheap little plastic kitchen timer. I set it for half an hour and write like a thing possessed until it dings.

You’ll be amazed at how much you can write in only half an hour and, often, it’s the first half hour that’s the hardest. I usually find I want to continue writing after I’ve pulled the kitchen timer trick. Other things that can help – a writing race with a writing buddy, going to a different location like a coffee shop or library (and not using the internet) and setting daily, or weekly, word targets.

8. Connect with other writers, either by joining organisations, or signing up for a course. The Queensland Writers’ Centre and The Sydney Writers’ Centre both offer a variety of amazing online courses and the Romance Writers of Australia is an extremely supportive environment with many erotic fiction-writing members.

9. Keep writing. Even 100 words per day adds up over weeks and months.

10. Yes, you guessed it – keep writing.

Allison Dobell is the pseudonym of two Australian writers – both Allisons and both widely published, from glossy magazines to adult and children’s fiction. Alice’s Wonderland, their first erotic fiction book, was published by Avon Redon  6 November http://www.allisondobell.com.

Would you ever write an erotic fiction book? Would you ever try?

CONGRATULATIONS to the winners of Mamamia’s own Erotic Fiction Competition!  The Reader’s Choice was The Temple by Rebecca Giono.  And the Judges’ Choice was The Island by Em Anne.  Both winners are invited to submit a finished manuscript to Mamamia Publishing for consideration. Well done!