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Sex and the Lonely Writer

By On May 23 2011, 1:17 pm

Writing is pretty much a solitary pursuit. It’s just the author, persistence and imagination. It’s easy to get professionally lonely. Critique groups provide much-needed human contact for authors like me. These get-togethers have given me access to business gossip. They also provide plenty of writing advice and support. 

The personality of a particular critique group is as unique as the people in them. Some critique groups are run like exclusive secret societies. These associations are highly formal, with a rigorous audition-based application process, limited enrollment and maybe even its own fancy website. Other groups are more inclusive, perhaps part of a non-profit writer's organization like the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

Online critique groups are another option for authors with inflexible work schedules or those living in the middle of nowhere. I’ve always been afraid to join an online group, though. I believe humans (and writers) are more apt to be flippant and cruel when they think they're anonymous.

It's tremendously satisfying to be part of a critique group when there's a grounding in mutual respect. However, that can be tough to pull off when the group writes a variety of genres.

I write (and read) everything from thrillers to science fiction, but I adore romance most of all. I love the intrinsic drama. How do two independent people come together to form a partnership? Erotic romance adds another delicious dimension. The sex now must reflect both the nature of the individuals and the joined character of the couple.

Presenting sex scenes to a critique group brings up a whole new set of problems, though. Sex scenes, even when they aren't graphic, are intimate. A romance writer can easily poke a crit partner’s hot buttons (and not in a good way). I left my critique group after one of my crit partners rewrote my entire sex scene to conform to her vision of feminism. Her rewrite didn’t make sense to me. I believe certain universal human activities, like sex and childbirth, are so profound they transcend social or political ideals.

Striking out on my own turned out to be a good thing. Writing without a hall monitor allowed me to explore the more extreme themes of BDSM erotic romance. Kink layers on lovely interactional complexity. The dynamic involves a measure of power transfer, intensifying the hazards and delights of the romantic relationship.

A few months ago, an online acquaintance from a BDSM community site, sent me a short story to critique. I was flattered she’d asked me because I admire her so much. Her story was a tender, literary f/f tale about wax play. Her work was fabulous. Sadly, I’m probably never going to be able to tell her in person, because she lives on another continent.

But interacting with her made me realize how much I’d missed live author contact. Last month, after years of being a writing hermit, I joined a critique group again. I’m thrilled and happy I did.

I just don’t bring in my sex scenes.


6 Responses to “Sex and the Lonely Writer”

  1. Amber Skye says:

    I think critique groups are just as important for sex scene writing as other types of writing. However, I think it would be way too hard to find people locally who would be compatible as critique partners AND who would be open to the type of erotica I read/write. So that leaves online partners, and you can totally find supportive online people, but I have been very careful – and also lucky, probably.

    There are so many benefits I’ve had to my sex scenes from critiques, from word choice to flow, etc, but the biggest ones of all are ones that come from my own background limitations. In one scene, I had my heroine search for the guy’s condom, but it was pointed out to me that since she was at home and fairly sexually active – wouldn’t she have her own stash? Well, yes, she would! That would be more fitting for her character, but it didn’t even occur to me because of my own background.

  2. January.Rowe says:

    Hi Amber,

    I’m impressed you were able to put together and enjoy an online erotica critique group. Did you know some of the participants by their reputation already?

    LOL about the condom!

  3. Amber Skye says:

    I don’t have anything as formal as a group, although that would be awesome, but I have a couple of partners. So far they both posted on already (though didn’t find one through there) which was handy because (1) we could read each others’ stuff before starting, and (2) we were already comfortable reading/writing about sex and if we did have hard limits, we could verbalize them well. In another public/anonymous crit situation, I clarified in advance that it was explicit erotica and not to read it if it would make her uncomfortable – I am not into shocking people and the feedback would not really helpful for me anyways. Luckily, she was cool with it and was able to provide a wholly different perspective, but still supportive.

    By the way, January, if you ever need a crit partner, look me up :) I just broke the rule about non-published authors propositioning published ones, I know, but hey – it can be lonely at the top :)

    I have really felt like erotica authors are missing something – a place to gather and find supportive writing buddies. In fact, I have just kept looking for it, assuming someone will have already made it, but it doesn’t seem to exist. It’s different enough from other genres (and oft looked down upon) that it’s hard to jump in to generic writing forums. Hmm, something to think about for when I have time…

  4. Amberia says:

    I’ve always wanted to join a critique/writing group but wasn’t really sure where to find one or how to go about joining. From what I’ve read on other blogs, these groups are like families and being an outsider butting in would just be too awkward.
    What groups would you recommend?

    • January.Rowe says:

      Hi Amberia,

      The group I belong to is associated with a non-profit writer’s organization in Colorado. Critique groups often have high turnover, so don’t be afraid to investigate, thinking it’s a tight family. At its best the group is a tight family, but there’s no reason you can’t join. The awkward part is letting people read and comment on your precious work!

      I have joined various groups on the recommendation of friends of friends, and have even observed local groups I found on the internet.

      Good luck!

  5. [...] Samhain Publishing :: Writing :: Sex and the Lonely WriterSex and the Lonely Writer. By January.Rowe on May 23, 2011. Writing is pretty much a solitary pursuit. It’s just the author, persistence and imagination. … [...]

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