Publishing Erotica Part 6 – Rewrites and Editing
Click here for Publishing Erotica Part 5 – Writing Erotica
So, still hanging in with me? Good, writing erotica is the fun part. No were heading into the tedious area—rewrites and editing. Now this is the most important step in any writing. Your rough draft is called rough for a reason. It will be littered with grammar and spelling errors. You have all sorts of bad habits that will show through in your text and while you can unlearn them, they love to sneak in.
First off, rewriting is the polishing of the story. Grammar is secondary in this stage. Don’t ignore the grammar. If you spot a mistake, correct it, but your primary concern is the story flow, does it make sense, and will people understand what you are saying.
That one is important.
You know what you’re saying, but do others. Let’s take the example of two women having sex. Amy and Miranda. They’re fooling around, and now things have progressed to cunnilingus. “Amy licked and nuzzled at her pussy, licking through the pink folds, savoring her excitement flooding out.” You know that Amy is not licking her own pussy, but because you used Amy followed by the pronoun her, it muddies the water. Is Amy licking her own pussy? The reader can figure out the context, probably, but it might take them a moment to blink and reread what you wrote.
And that will take them out of the story.
Concise, clear text is important. Make sure your pronouns are right. Make sure what you’re writing is anatomically correct or possible. Pay attention to your dialog tags. Ask yourself if the reader should be able to figure out who is talking. If not, put an “Amy said” in it.
Polishing your story is what you’re doing with your rewrites. Making it say what you want and how you want it. But try not to spend too much time on this stage. You’re writing erotica, not a literary masterpiece. Now don’t be offended. I love writing erotica. I put effort into creating engaging characters and scenario, but I don’t delude myself that I’m nothing more than a pulp writer.
But that’s okay. You’re here to entertain not philosophize.
If you let your doubts or your perfectionism overtake you, you might never get out of the rewrite, editing stage. Spending hours and hours tweaking your story won’t matter if no one reads it because you are not satisfied with its perfection. And erotica readers are far more forgiving of minor mistakes (not major ones) than other genres (like romance). If you have someone who can read over the manuscript for free, a beta reader, and can correct little mistakes, great. Beta readers are wonderful. They get to read your hot erotica, and you get a free set of eyes to look over your manuscript.
It’s a win-win.
No you’re probably wondering why that’s important. “I know my grammar,” you say. “I’m an English major with a filthy imagination. I know the rules inside and out.” And you probably do. But there are limits on self-editing. Thanks to a wonderful phenomenon called pareidolia.
Are brains are amazing. They are powerful pattern recognition computers. They take what are eyes see (a series of still images) and translate that information into a seamless, moving world. Your brain fills in a lot of gaps. It makes assumptions, logical assumptions, about what it sees. Because your brain is a pattern recognition machine, it sees shapes in random noise: clouds, a stain, patterns of a tortilla chip.
It is also what lets us read. Our brain doesn’t actual “read” every letter in a word, often just figuring out the word by the first and last letters then guessing on the context to supply the correct word. You can remove all the vowels and still probably read what is written. Your brain can even miss doubled up words (the the) and only see the word written once. And its worse when you’re the author of the work. You know what you meant to write was “their” instead of “there” so your brain will read what you meant not what you wrote.
The key to self-editing is to combat pareidolia. To shake your brain out of the familiar. There are a number of tactics you can use.
- Word Search: The more you write, the more you learn the same mistakes you do over and over. Thanks to modern technology, you can search for every instance of “there” in your manuscript and double-check if it should be “their” or “they’re.”
- Reading Backwards: Start at the last paragraph of your story and read it through from the beginning. Then move up to the next and so on. This breaks up the story and helps you see the structure.
- Changing the Font: If you change the font from what you type in to a differnet font, something that might even be hard to read, it again disrupts the familiar and makes it easier to read.
- Print the Manuscript: Reading it on paper is different than reading it on the computer screen. I also have found reading it on my Kindle fire is helpful for editing versus on my computer screen.
- Voice-to-Text: Listen to your story being read out by a computer. This one I find the most useful for me, personally. Hearing the text being read helps me to spot missing words (there should be a “the” there or an “a”). It also helps you know if you have commas in the right spot, because the voice should pause there or not. There are funny quirks that happens, but you’ll learn to adapt. I use Natural Reader Free on my PC. Every 1000 words or so (I haven’t quite figured out the exact amount) it pops up an add asking you to buy the full software. But you can click it away.
- Grammar Programs: I have used ProWritingAide.com on my longer works (my novellas) to help clean up my writing. There are other sites like Grammarly and Hemingway App that do the same. The programs will identify passive voice, adverbs, redundant words, cliches, poor diction, missing quotes, missing punctuation, inconsistence capitalization of words, and more. It makes mistakes, so make judgment calls on all its suggestions, but it can help you improve your writing and stop making the same mistakes you didn’t even realize you made.
The last thing you need to do is learn your grammar. When do you use commas, how to use semicolons (try not to), the difference between affect vs effect, everyday vs every day, anymore vs any more, on to vs onto, in to vs into, lay vs laid (this is a fun one), then vs than, etc. There are lots of great grammar sites out there. Read their articles, absorb the rules and the shortcuts to remember them. Work on one problem at a time. Maybe you use too many adverbs, so work on that for a while until you think you’re better. Then move onto another problem. Join writing groups, post in forums, ask questions.
Never be afraid to ask a question. No one will think you’re an idiot. Every writer has made mistakes. English grammar and language is a complex beast.
You’re writing will improve as you create more and more erotica (or other writings). To be successful at short-form erotica will necessitate a lot of writing. So you will have lots of time to improve your craft. Do the best you can and know that erotica readers are there for the hot story and not for perfect grammar. But if you do publish anything longer than, say, 10k, spend more work on the editing and rewrites.
Click here for Part 7 – Formatting the Interior