I’m currently rewriting one of my bestselling books (previously titled Samantha and Her Genie, and now titled Perfume Bottle Genie), transforming this reader/reviewer favorite from an erotic paranormal romantic comedy into a mainstream paranormal romantic comedy. (Perfume Bottle Genie will be released this summer.)
Let me tell you, this is NOT an easy task! I’ve rewritten mainstreams, turning them into erotic stories and I’ve done the opposite. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s far easier to add sex to a book than purge it.
Most of my previously published novels began life as mainstream romance or women’s fiction. After being invited to submit to Ellora’s Cave back in 2004, and then to Samhain in 2010, I rewrote some of those books (after getting the rights back), updating them and adding plenty of sex and graphic terminology to spice up the stories to meet the publishers’ guidelines. (I also wrote several erotic romance books from scratch.)
I’d never written erotic romances before, nor had I read any. That meant in-depth research was necessary. I bought a bunch of the most popular erotic romance books at the time and read them, my eyes wide as saucers and my jaw forever dropping along the way. Holy cow! Once I realized what was entailed in creating an erotic romance (all the gasping, groaning, tasting, tonguing, licking, quaking, shuddering, fingering, plunging, hammering, aching, throbbing, and…well, you get the idea) I wasn’t sure I could do it. Never one to back away from a challenge, I knuckled down and began writing.
I was flat-out mortified as I wrote, not at all sure this goody-two-shoes Midwestern girl could manage to pen believably smutty books. But I was determined because it seemed this is what readers craved, and I refused to be an old fuddy-duddy when it came to my writing career. My husband and daughter found it hilarious that I, of all people on the planet, would even attempt such a daunting project and they teased me unmercifully.
That changed when they saw the size of my first royalty check.
While rewriting my mainstream novels, I took great pains to make certain I wasn’t merely slapping a bunch of gratuitous sex randomly throughout the story. I can always spot that in a book and it renders the story unreadable for me. After familiarizing myself with the hot, sultry, sexy lingo favored by writers and readers of erotic romance, I took my time inserting the spicy stuff in the most appropriate best places. Amazingly, it wasn’t too difficult and I eventually became more comfortable writing super sexy stories that still remained, at their core, romantic comedies. Happily (and surprisingly) the positive feedback from readers and reviewers proved I’d succeeded in creating well-written, enjoyable erotic comedy romances…most of which went on to become bestsellers and award winners.
Here it is eleven years later and I’ve totally reversed myself.
The last erotic romance I wrote was released in 2011. After that, I decided to return to my mainstream writing roots. I was burned out from writing nothing but sex for eight years. I found myself groaning (no, not in a sexual way) and complaining as I wrote because, in the midst of a great scene, I reminded myself I hadn’t added enough sex (especially because my publisher’s guidelines had changed, requiring hotter, more frequent, and kinkier sex…which made me squirm—and no, not in a sexual way). I had to cut out the wonderful scene I’d just written and put in a hot and heavy sex scene instead. I also hated having to eliminate interesting side characters like the heroine’s BFF, etc., because they interfered with the main focus of the story—the hot to trot hero and heroine (whether a twosome, threesome or more).
Over the last week I’ve been “de-sexing” my Perfume Bottle Genie manuscript, cutting out over 8,000 words of graphic hot stuff in just the first half of the book alone. I couldn’t be more delighted with the story’s progress. It’s such a joy not having to halt my writing flow to add sex where it really isn’t needed. I love being able to focus on characters, story, and the romance instead. This—THIS—is the way I always wanted my genie story to read!
But de-sexing is no piece of cake. It must be done correctly so the book doesn’t have a choppy feel that disrupts the flow of the story. Sexiness needs to remain but be toned down so that romance, not sex, is the true star attraction in the story. I’m enjoying the process but it’s challenging.
Just when I think I’ve expunged all the naughty bits from a chapter, I’m taken out of the story when I come across some in-your-face explicit terms for body parts, or for a character’s internal musings, leading me on a mad quest for suitable substitutions. I swear to God, nothing writing-related has made me laugh this hard in a long time.
Sometimes (make that “most of the time”) I’m actually shocked at the steamy orgasmic stuff I wrote in my erotic romances. Holy mackerel, was I ever descriptive and detailed! Now as I focus on cutting out all the overtly steamy stuff (I’m saving it all in separate documents for a juicy, funny writing project I have in mind for the future), I’m dazed by the variety of sexual terms, positions and sheer frequency of my naughty nothing-but-sex-on-the-brain characters.
And then I remember that I alone—me, all by my bad self—am responsible for their smutty, slutty, excessively sex-charged personalities.
The realization makes me laugh and cringe at the same time. I’ve decided I must have been channeling some ghostly entity…most likely a nymphomaniac or sex maniac, while creating all those steamy books because there’s no way in hell it could have been me making those characters repeatedly engage in all that aching, throbbing, gasping, hammering…etc. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)
Each time I happen upon another unexpected and outrageously graphic term during my rewrite, I find myself barking laughter because the behavior is so inappropriate for my current mainstream characters. Oh sure, they like sex well enough, and they do get horny, but they’re far less smut-minded. Seriously, shame on that hussy of a heroine thinking and doing all those scandalous, dirty things to the pleased-as-punch hero and his aching, throbbing nether regions!
So anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to lately…obliterating my self-created smut and retooling (nice word for “cleaning up”) my manuscript to the degree that it’s suitable reading material for readers of mainstream fiction.
Writers, how about you? Have you ever found yourself in the same situation? Have you had to de-sex books you’ve rewritten, or perhaps had to up the sex quotient for a book to transform it into an erotic romance? I’d really love to hear about your experiences!