What happens when an author realizes she’s gone too far off the path of sensual romance, to the point that she’s gotten away from the stories that made her love the hero-to-die-for and the one woman who’ll teach him all about love while he schools her in the sensual arts?
A grinding halt, that’s what happened to my muse more than a year ago, when it took many stops and starts and even more tortuous rewrites of my last of nearly a hundred books and novellas for Ellora’s Cave Publishing—a romantic suspense cum BDSM elements that just wouldn’t come together the way my stories used to.
Why? Because Lanie and JD just weren’t up for more than the mildest BDSM play—and her marriage that wasn’t one didn’t work until I decided that she was a beard for her older, gay politician husband. The result? a story that only met EC’s sex quotient with a couple of gay, BDSM scenes between the politician and his lover—and overemphasizing JD and Lanie’s interest in kinky sex when their love life was sensual and loving, not really meant for handcuffs, whips and chains.
FATAL AFFAIR made me think, and go back to some of my first erotic romances. Truth was, most of my early EC books were strictly sensual romances—one man, one woman, working through conflicts to find their happily-ever-after endings.
I took a break and did some thinking–Ann, you write sensual romances, not erotica or even erotic romances unless the erotic part is inserted kink, sometimes more credible than other times. You shy away from menages whenever possible, substituting dystopian, scary stuff in your futuristics for kink that EC readers eat up.
That realization made me realize I needed to go back to my roots. Writing “Rand,” a novella for the MEN OF CALDER COUNTY boxed set last fall was fun, because I wasn’t pushing to get in an unwritten but very real quota of kinky sex and four-letter words. It was the first fun I’d had in years!
Since then I’ve gotten rights back on many of my old EC books, and found that revising them back to what I’d envisioned them to be has been a long journey that has the first two of a seven book series releasing April 6, with thanks to Beyond the Page Publishing, which re-edits and releases authors’ backlists. The first two books are CAPTURE ME and THE CLOSER WE GET. Don’t miss them!
Revisions, both these and five others that I’ve re-released on my own as two single-titles (A VERY SPECIAL FAVOR and BLISS HOUSE) and a series set (ROPED, HITCHED & LASSOED) have been extensive, but I’ve come up with a method that I recommend for any authors who’re trying to clean up (sanitize?) erotic romances that, if not for the forced revving up of the kink factor, would qualify as sensual, sexy but heartwarming romances that fit today’s mainstream guidelines.
Here’s my method:
1) Open the PDF file of the final draft in Word. Delete the cover, credits and end material.
2) Read through the reverted book. Note and fix any egregious errors that made their way into the final draft. Trust me, you will find some unless you had final approval of the FLE or copyeditor’s changes.
3) Use the “Find” function and look up every vulgar sex word you may have used, or that the copyeditor may have inserted without your knowledge. I’ve nothing against using a few, but over a hundred incidences of “fuck” in one novella is a bit excessive. Change all but the most fitting and necessary ones to something less repetitious. In many cases, I found that any reader could surmise from what was going on that they were having sex—substituting “him” or “her” in many cases for “cock” or “cunt” read smoother and kept the scene from sounding as though I’d tried to prove how many times I could use these words in the space of one sentence or paragraph!
4) Read again, carefully. There are some sex acts that don’t need to be repeated ad nauseum. There are also likely to be sex scenes that are pure sex, little or no emotional connection, and practically no furthering of the story, unless you count the fact that they pad word count. Either make the scenes work in context of the story or cut them out.
5) Finally, self-edit what you’ve done. I wrote a little book, SELF-EDITING FOR WRITERS, that you’ll find helpful, both with using your software to make the job easier, and finding your pet mistakes and fixing them the simplest ways possible.
Reinventing myself has given new life to my joy of writing romance! I hope these tips will be of help when you’re trying to revise and reissue your backlist, whether you’re heating up sweet stuff or cooling down erotic romances into mainstream-acceptable stories.
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